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LA Chamber Orchestra to Incorporate Visual Design Into Its New Digital Season

October 4, 2020

Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra has an entirely new season. A lot has changed since the group announced its 2020–2021 plans in February, and LACO is keeping touches of the old season while adapting to the drastically different format.

LACO Close Quarters, the orchestra’s 2020–2021 season, is 16 programs, all online, November through June. The series builds on the success of SummerFest, LACO’s four-concert summer season, which garnered more than 130,000 viewers. The setup — shorter programs, recorded at the Colburn School, released every other week online, and free to stream — continues with Close Quarters, but the orchestra is adding in a visual element.

Director, designer, and artist James Darrah oversees the season’s production, taking on the title of “Creative Director of Digital Content” with the ensemble. Darrah’s background in opera is the thing to note. He directed the 2018 premiere of Ellen Reid’s prism at LA Opera, and he’s continuing to work with LA Opera this season. He’s also partnering with Long Beach Opera in 2021, directing outdoor performances of Philip Glass’s Les enfants terribles. This is his first project for LA Chamber Orchestra.

The idea with Close Quarters: Darrah will involve other L.A. artists and filmmakers in producing works that complement LACO’s programming, and those works will be incorporated into the concert broadcasts. The hub for this collaboration is Wilhardt and Naud, a film studio and arts space in L.A.’s Chinatown, the site for what the orchestra is calling a “first-of-its-kind LACO digital studio.”

Now for the music. LACO is translating some of those February plans. There will be a reunion of music directors: Jaime Martín and Jeffrey Kahane take on two of the solo parts — flute and keyboard — in Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto No. 5 (Dec. 18), also Martín’s instrumental debut with the ensemble he conducts. Kahane plays piano for Appalachian Spring as well, with Martín on the podium (Dec. 4).

LACO is staying in touch with more collaborators. Composer Juan Pablo Contreras curates two new-music programs in January 2021, highlighting one of his own works and a piece by Jessie Montgomery. (Contreras and Montgomery had been tapped as composer-curators in the earlier season announcement.)

And the new music continues Jan. 29 with a world premiere from composer Derrick Spiva Jr., LACO’s recently appointed artistic advisor. That program also includes the first part of Stravinsky’s L’histoire du soldat; the second part comes Feb. 12.

For more information on LACO’s 2020–2021 season, which debuts online Nov. 6, visit the orchestra’s website.

Peter Feher is an editor at SFCV. He can be reached at [email protected].