VENTURA COUNTY WEEKEND : After Early Discord, Symphony Ready to Make Joyful Noise : Past problems aside, New West orchestra gets into the holiday spirit with its cheerful 'Greetings' concert. Other weekend harmonies will also focus on Christmas.


After a stormy beginning, with labor disputes threatening its very existence, the New West Symphony continues this weekend with the second of six official concerts in the orchestra's debut season. There may still be rumblings in the ranks of the orchestra, which music director Boris Brott has taken upon himself to reshape, but 'tis the season to forgive and forbear.

The musical fare of the program, called "Season's Greetings," leans heavily on seasonal pleasantries. Vivaldi's "Four Seasons" and Corelli's "Christmas Concerto" go down easily this time of year. Noted guitarist Liona Boyd will be the soloist on Vivaldi's Guitar Concerto in D. The symphony also promises to regale us with projections of Tiffany stained-glass windows.

* New West Symphony, 8 p.m. Friday at Oxnard Civic Auditorium, 800 Hobson Way, Oxnard, 495-6833; 8 p.m. Saturday at Thousand Oaks Civic Arts Plaza auditorium, 2100 Thousand Oaks Blvd., 449-ARTS.


Chamber Bounty: While a good deal of the county's musical attention has been focused this year on creation of the New West Symphony, with its promise of things bigger and better, there has been a buzz of activity on the more intimate end of the spectrum. Chamber music has increased its profile in the region, largely through the marshaling efforts of the Ventura County Chamber Orchestra, now in its fourth season.

The orchestra itself will perform only three concerts this season, but organizers have extended efforts to leave Ventura awash in chamber music, particularly through the creation of last year's successful Chamber Music Festival in Ventura. The second annual festival takes place May 8 to 12.

Last Friday, one of the Chamber Orchestra-sponsored concerts at San Buenaventura Mission took place before a full house. Soprano Camille King, guitarist Matthew Greif and flutist Carol Lockart, performing in various combinations, provided a well-balanced program under the title "Ethereal Tango," nicely suited to the naturally resonant space. Site and sound enjoyed a happy marriage.

Greif and King opened the concert with Renaissance songs by John Dowland and Henry Purcell and, in a blink of a history-leaping eye, were joined by Lockart for Daniel Pinkham's 1993 "Missa Domestica," a brief, fresh variation on liturgical convention.

Lockart brought the necessary bracing clarity to Bach's Sonata for Flute in C, with Greif in a supportive, continuo role. Later, she and King dignified the spare, floating sonorities of Albert Roussel's impressionistic "Deux Poe mes de Ronsard."

Dusan Bogdanovic's "Diferencias Diferentes" was composed for Greif, who executed the piece beautifully. The work itself, though, basks in Andalusian airs without having a sure sense of where to go, working from an attitude in search of an idea.

Greif brought an easy expressive command to Heitor Villa-Lobos' timelessly beautiful "Bachianis Brasileiras" in its guitar-and-voice arrangement. Further Euro-Latin enticements came through music from Astor Piazzolla's "Histoire du Tango."

The late Argentine was considered the king of nuevo tango, and his music has rightfully gained in popularity in the last decade. At the mission, Lockart and Greif brought a controlled passion to the tango style, with its limits pushed, but never to the breaking point.

Just a thought: Wouldn't it be wonderful to hear one of Piazzolla's orchestral pieces played by the New West Symphony? First they will have to get over their current programming attitude of safety in blandness.


Chorale-ing: Speaking of music at the mission, the Ventura County Master Chorale comes alive this time of year, when massed voices are in special demand.

This Sunday at 4 p.m. and again the following Sunday, the Master Chorale takes to San Buenaventura Mission, with another performance Dec. 16 at Mount Cross Lutheran Church in Camarillo.

The program will feature various seasonal pieces, including Monteverdi's "Christmas Vespers" and Jackson Berkey's "Anniversary Carols."

Tickets are $18; 653-7272.


Getting a Handel: Handel's perennial oratorio "Messiah" will be presented at Trinity Lutheran Church, 196 N. Ashwood Ave., Ventura at 4 p.m. Sunday. What would the season be without it? Call 644-7474.

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