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Critic's notebook: The trouble with California classical music festivals

June 25, 2011 |  6:30 am

The California summer classical music festival circuit has become a big deal. Famous festivals in lovely locales, such as Ojai or the Santa Cruz area (the Cabrillo Festival), were started by locals and the events made their name with the music of locals. But as these festivals have grown, they have been taken over by outside professionals and grown into international attractions with international fare. Musical locavores, meanwhile, go hungry at them, as well as at Johnny-come-lately festivals — Music @ Menlo, Festival del Sole in Napa Valley, Philip Glass’ new Days and Nights Festival in the Carmel Valley and Big Sur — up and down the coast.

This is a disgrace, but it is not a disaster. Young composers and performers are coming along to start their own new, locally based, usually funky festivals. In Los Angeles, right now, we have the Dog Star Orchestra and umbrella outfits like Angel City Concerts turning the town into a roving new music festival.

The weekend of Sept. 23–25, the Calder Quartet, the percussion ensemble red fish blue fish and others make Carlsbad a happening place. Sometimes you have to hunt for these musical mushrooms. They tend to come up unexpectedly, are well camouflaged and never stay long. Anyone for music in a breakfast nook, as the Dog Star has on tap July 11?

Still, the big guys — yes, that also means you too Hollywood Bowl — are in danger of becoming pretty places for a fancy festival set rather than the sites of musical urgency they once were. To read a Sunday critic’s notebook on California festivals click here.


A surprising, welcome sight: An informal new music festival hits L.A.

Music review: A 'festival' of new music begins where others fear to tread

— Mark Swed

Photo: The Libbey Bowl, where the Ojai Music Festival is held each June. Credit: Michael Robinson Chavez/Los Angeles Times.