The Music Guild--50 years old and a bastion of conservative chamber music--seems to be experiencing unprecedented growth these days, even in this era of progressive belt-tightening in the arts.
Expansion seems to be Music Guild's pattern in the 1990s. The chamber-music presenter, over the decades having sponsored visits by most of the famous groups in the field, including I Musici, the Guarneri and Juilliard Quartets, the Beaux Arts Trio and the Bach Aria Group, has added venues nearly every season, and its subscription lists have doubled at its home auditorium, Wilshire-Ebell Theatre, from a low point in 1985 of some 500 to its present membership of nearly 1,100. In 1985, when the organization began its growth spurt, its concerts totaled five; in 1994-95, it will present 24 concerts.
In 1991, the presenter expanded to Pierce College in Woodland Hills, and in 1993 to Cal State Long Beach. And now, at the start of Music Guild's 50th anniversary season, manager Eugene Golden announces more growth: Beginning in October, one-hour youth concerts will be given at Cienega Elementary School in the central city.
F ounded in the mid-1940s by radio personality and record- shop owner Alfred Leonard--he of the distinctive Austrian accent--Music Guild for half a century has presented touring chamber ensembles from mostly European and North American sources--the famous quartets, trios and duos of international fame. In recent years, Golden has arranged for guest appearances by resident artists with some of the visiting groups; this innovation, along with regular infusions of music by living composers on Music Guild programs, has been successful.
"Our programming will always be conservative," Golden acknowledges, "but we are not out of touch (with the present)."
The six ensembles that will appear at the Wilshire-Ebell will also each play a daytime concert at the school as part of the new series.
Along with the Ebell concerts on Wednesdays, the groups will play at Cal State Long Beach on Mondays and Pierce College in Woodland Hills on Tuesdays. During the week they appear at the Wilshire-Ebell.
The good news is that Music Guild's expansion, including the burgeoning of Ebell subscribers, has been accomplished without--as Golden's predecessor, the late Dorothy Huttenback, used to point out proudly--government grants or foundation support. Huttenback was also suspicious of relying on large donors with hidden agendas.
From a budget of $38,400 in 1984, the organization has increased its spending to $102,000 for 1994-95. But, Golden says, the loyal subscribers are getting one more concert per season at a price increase of just $1 per event. Subscriptions to the Long Beach and Woodland Hills series (each in a hall holding around 300 listeners) cost $84 for six concerts; in the larger 1,200-seat Wilshire-Ebell, that cost is tiered from $78 down to $54.
The Ebell season begins Oct. 27 with an appearance by the Audubon String Quartet with pianist Mona Golabek, and continues Nov. 30 when the Orion String Quartet hosts violist Heiichiro Ohyama. The Borromeo Quartet "and Friends" open the new year at the mid-Wilshire hall Jan. 18, followed by the Raphael Piano Trio Feb. 15, and the American String Quartet, with guests Brian Denbow (viola) and Stephen Erdody (cello), March 15. Closing the season is the Ysaye String Quartet, with guest pianist Ayke Agus, April 12.
PRESTO: Dancer-choreographer Bill T. Jones, recent awardee of a MacArthur Foundation grant and a 1991 recipient of the $25,000 Dorothy B. Chandler Performing Arts award locally, will complete his latest work, "Still/Here," while in residence at the Wexner Center for the Arts at Ohio State University in Columbus. With his Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane dance company, Jones will showcase the new piece in a series of workshop performances during the next two weeks. The company performs at UCLA next April 28-29, the repertory has not yet been announced. . . . Based on diaries of Richard Wagner, a new radio drama, "Pilgrimage to Beethoven," with Edward Asner and Arye Gross, among others, will be broadcast on KCRW (89.9) Aug. 27 at 6:30 p.m. The hourlong drama has been adapted by Bernard da Costa and is directed by Christine Bernard-Sugy. . . . A sextet of players from the Los Angeles-based ensemble Pacific Serenades will make its New York debut Sept. 24 in the Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall. The players are clarinetist Gary Gray, violinists Roger Wilkie and Connie Kupka, violist Roland Kato, cellist David Speltz and pianist Ayke Agus. They will play works by Brahms, Robert Aldridge and Mark Carlson.