VENTURA COUNTY WEEKEND : MUSIC / SOUNDS : Chamber Music in City Hall? The Idea Simply Sings : A recital by soprano Karen Medrano kicks off a ‘Cameo Concerts’ series in the oddly appropriate Ventura municipal building.


One of the best places to hear chamber music in Ventura County isn’t a parlor, by any stretch of the imagination. It is not a place of worship or a cultural center, per se. Marble-lined and sprawling, it houses policy-makers more than tastemakers.

It, of course, is the looming hilltop edifice of Ventura City Hall. When the musical fare is suitably oriented to reverberant, open-sounding spaces, it can work wonders. Local audiences can hear the venue in action Sunday, when soprano Karen Medrano gives a recital to kick off the “Cameo Concerts in City Hall” series.

Medrano, who lives in Santa Paula, has been heard from frequently throughout the county through her involvement with the Ventura County Master Chorale, the presenter of the concert series. She has been studying with Geraldine Decker, the opera singer who lives and teaches in the area.

Last fall, Medrano’s comic talents were also on display when she played Angelina in the Master Chorale’s staging of the Gilbert and Sullivan musical “Trial by Jury.” Then, too, the venue was off the beaten cultural path--at the Victoria Wedding Chapel.


At City Hall, Medrano will be accompanied by pianist Elizabeth Helms and clarinetist Chris French in works by such composers as Bellini, Mozart and Schubert.

“She has quite a big voice,” said Lee Montemorra, Medrano’s business manager and also a member of the Master Chorale. “She started as a choral singer but has been developing the voice to a point where she can be front and center with choruses or orchestras around here, because her voice is of that quality. We’re quite pleased to be able to present her.”

The “Cameo” series is a continuation of concerts presented in City Hall last season.

Sunday in the County: As it turns out, Sunday is a big day for music in the county. The dance / music elan of Flamenco returns to the Performance Studio in the Livery in Ventura, as Quijote and Company present “Juerga Flamenca II” in two shows Sunday night.

“Juerga Flamenca” translates roughly to a private flamenco party, as is the practice in Spanish flamenco bars. That’s what promises to unfold in this intimate space, which has served as a dance studio, art gallery and various other purposes.

Meanwhile, over the Conejo Grade, the Westlake Chamber Ensemble is putting on its second annual Chamber Music Recital at the Forum Theatre of the Thousand Oaks Civic Arts Plaza. Speaking of acoustically inspired spaces, here’s one.

Musicians will include clarinetist Nancy Bonds, Westlake-based cellist Stephen Custer, Newbury Park-based pianist Edward Francis and violinist Franklyn D’Antonio. In addition to a repertoire of Beethoven and Mendelssohn, Oxnard’s own composer celebre, Miguel del Aguila, will be on hand to reprise the two-piano, eight-hand version of his “Caribbean Bacchanal.”

This work, premiered in Ventura last month, was adapted from a section of del Aguila’s opera “Cuauhtemoc” and is to be premiered in its orchestral version by the Santa Barbara Symphony this weekend.



* SOPRANO KAREN MEDRANO in recital at 4 p.m. Sunday at Ventura City Hall, 501 Poli St.; 653-7282. Tickets at $20 include reception afterward.

* QUIJOTE AND COMPANY’S “Juerga Flamenca II,” music and dance at 6:30 and 8:30 p.m. Sunday at the Performance Studio, 34 N. Palm St. in Ventura. Tickets are $12.50; 643-5701.

* WESTLAKE CHAMBER ENSEMBLE recital at 7:30 p.m. Sunday at the Forum Theatre of the Civic Arts Plaza in Thousand Oaks. Tickets are $10 general, $5 for students and seniors; 449-ARTS.