LACO Concertmaster Margaret Batjer | Courtesy of Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra

Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra (LACO) doesn’t normally play a summer season. But the ensemble is deviating from form this year, and understandably, with a summer chamber music series that’s a first in many ways: The orchestra’s first summer festival, the musicians’ first time back together and playing in months, and some of the first classical concerts in the country since the pandemic began.

The five-concert series, dubbed LACO SummerFest, kicks off this Saturday, July 11, with a performance by concertmaster Margaret Batjer, principal cello Andrew Shulman, and guest pianist Andrew von Oeyen. On the program: Florence Price’s The Deserted Garden and Mendelssohn’s D-Minor Piano Trio. Four more concerts follow, every other Saturday, ending Sept. 5.

It’s new for LACO, though it’s not back to normal quite yet. These will be live performances, recorded at Colburn’s Zipper Hall, but without an audience and with a stage setup that follows local and state health guidelines. Listeners will have to tune in online. Still, LACO Executive Director Ben Cadwallader stresses that SummerFest is new programming, new performances, and “a small but very meaningful step” forward.

And the summer season ahead delivers. The next two concerts continue the pairings with Price’s Adoration and Mozart’s Clarinet Quintet (July 25) and Osvaldo Golijov’s Mariel and Haydn’s “The Bird” String Quartet (Aug. 8). LACO’s bassoonists team up with two of the orchestra’s cellists for a program of duos and quartets on Aug. 22. And the series closes Sept. 5 with string quartet music, kind of — two of Rossini’s Sonate a quattro (Sonatas in four parts) for two violins, cello, and bass.

Each concert will stream for free at 5 p.m. PT on LACO’s website and later be available on demand.