For arts organizations, the pandemic shutdown had at least one silver lining: It gave them time to think and plan. For the six groups that comprise Chamber Music Los Angeles, this meant more time to consider how they might collaborate.
“The pause in concerts gave us more time to organize,” said Camerata Pacifica Artistic Director Adrian Spence. “There have been many more meetings in which we asked, ‘What can we do to present ourselves collectively, and leverage our assets as a collective?’”
The first fruit of those discussions can be enjoyed beginning at noon on Sept. 1, when three concerts go online simultaneously at the Chamber Music LA website in a series dubbed "MusicBox." Each of the MusicBox concerts features performances by two of the six ensembles; each performance will be introduced by the artistic director of one of the other groups.
“The idea is to celebrate the return to live performance, and give people a taste of the range of chamber music that is available (in Southern California),” Spence said. They will be available to watch at no charge through Sept. 7. You can register here.
Collaboration was always the central idea behind CMLA, which was founded in 2017 by the late philanthropist Warner Henry. But prepandemic, there was never enough time or energy to conceive and implement a plan for doing so.
“I haven’t had a break in concert presentations since 1990,” Spence noted.
Spence argues the pandemic produced one additional positive outcome. Over the course of the shutdown, groups have become more adept at presenting concerts online, and audiences are more aware of how to access such content.
Some of the performances being shown are relatively new, while others are from the ensembles’ archives. Camerata Pacifica is digging into its large library of performance videos, while LACO is presenting material from its July concert in Disney Hall.
One concert features Jacaranda Music and Pittance Chamber Music. It will include André Previn’s Four Songs for Soprano, Cello, and Piano, which are set to texts by Toni Morrison, and the 1943 Suite for Violin and Piano by African-American composer William Grant Still.
Another features Camerata Pacifica and the Colburn School. Music will include a Chopin Scherzo, a Trio for Piano, Oboe, and Clarinet by Edouard Destenay, and pieces by Joseph Bologne and Kevin Puts.
The third concert, featuring Salastina and the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, will include Juan Pablo Contreras’s Mariachitlan! and two movements of Mendelssohn’s Symphony No. 4 in A Major (“Italian”).
While each of the groups has a passionate fan base, nearly everyone who tunes in to see their favorite ensemble will be introduced to a second group they have not heard before. “Among the six groups, the amount of overlap between our audiences is tiny,” Spence said. “It’s in the single digits.”
Spence added that the video presentations will not include a hard sell to try to persuade audiences to return to live performances. (Camerata Pacifica’s in-person season begins in October.)
“The virus is not done with us yet,” he noted. “We’re coming back to the stage. Those of you who are comfortable, come and join us. Those of you who are not, there’s no rush. As the saying goes, we’ll keep the lights on for you.”