We should never take our cultural institutions for granted. While the Los Angeles Master Chorale celebrates its milestone 50th year, Walt Disney Concert Hall turns 10, and even the young Broad Stage can boast of being in operation for six years, others have faded away. Pacific Serenades has just folded after 25 years, and Southwest Chamber Orchestra has suspended its series after 38 years.
Right here in Santa Monica, we have Jacaranda, with its motto of “music at the edge,” a world-class presenter serving a sophisticated audience of aficionados, and it’s quite wonderful to be able to say “Happy Anniversary” as the organization celebrates its 10th year. This is no small feat in an era of economic instability and deep cuts in arts funding.
Jacaranda presents a series of intimate concerts that venture into the realm of new and rarely heard classical music. Founded in 2003 by arts impresario Patrick Scott and conductor/organist Mark Alan Hilt, Jacaranda produces a series (eight concerts this season) right here in Santa Monica featuring current and rising stars in the world of classical music performance.
And they’re more than daring. They have “Grit and Glory,” their anniversary season opener featuring the experience of American music in all its boldness, courage and euphoria.
The 10th season opening concert is this Saturday at 8 p.m. and like all of the concerts in the Jacaranda series, it takes place at the architecturally dramatic First Presbyterian Church of Santa Monica.
The music journeys from a factory in South Carolina to a country fair in Mexico, and three California locales, with ritual percussion from Hawaii and Haiti to round out the many facets of music in the Americas.
There’s a nice theme playing out in the choice of the four pianists on the opening program; each represents the history of the concert series. Grammy winner Gloria Cheng, who’ll play John Adams’ “Phrygian Gates,” has performed in each of Jacaranda’s 10 seasons.
Scott Dunn’s signature work, Frederick Rzewski’s “Winnsboro Cotton Mill Blues,” is associated with the church’s reopening following an extensive renovation.
Mark Robson, who’s performing Adams’ “Hallelujah Junction,” helped generate the initial interest in founding Jacaranda in 2002 with his acclaimed performance of a massive work by Olivier Messiaen on the 10th anniversary of the composer’s death.
And partnering with Robson on “Hallelujah,” Steven Vanhauwaert delivered his breakout performance with Jacaranda in 2007, and partnered with Danny Holt, later forming 4handsLA, the dazzling piano duo.
Jacaranda even has its own resident ensemble, the Lyris Quartet, which plays Silvestre Revueltas’ Quartet No. 4, “Musica de Feria,” and four percussionists (a completely amazing sound given the acoustics of this church setting) under the direction of drummer M.B. Gordy will join the pianists for Christopher Rouse’s “Ku-Ka-Ilimoku” and “Ogoun Badagris” and John Bergamo’s “Piru Bole.”
Go to the edge with Jacaranda and meet the music you might not otherwise have known. Full 2013-14 season info is available at www.jacarandamusic.org, where you can also find tickets for the opening concert on Saturday, Oct. 19 at 8 p.m., or call (213) 483-0216. First Presbyterian Church of Santa Monica is located at 1220 Second St.
Speaking of anniversaries, now celebrating its fifth year, the annual REEL Recovery Film Festival is about to unfold at Laemmle’s Monica 4-Plex, just down the street from Jacaranda; beginning tomorrow, Oct. 18, and running though Oct. 24.
This is a unique festival, showcasing filmmakers who make gripping and honest films about addiction, alcoholism, behavioral disorders, treatment and recovery. The festival takes place across the country and offers an opportunity for moviegoers to question filmmakers and well-known clinicians after most screenings.
This year’s festival features a screening of “Paul Williams Still Alive,” a poignant and funny documentary about a gifted artist for whom the end of fame was not the end of him, thanks to his 12-Step lifestyle. Williams makes a special guest appearance for a post-screening Q & A on Monday, Oct. 21 at 7 p.m. Paul Williams is the Grammy and Academy Award-winning songwriter and performer who wrote many hit songs, produced his own records and albums and even starred in a Brian DePalma movie.
Other highlights of the festival include an opening night party and third annual Recovery Media Award at the Santa Monica Bay Woman’s Club; a showing of “Flight,” followed by Q & A with pilot and recovering addict Larry Smith; and an in-person appearance and screening with Frank Ferrante of “May I Be Frank,” a hilarious film about personal transformation.
The schedule includes features, shorts, and TV programs, including an episode from “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” about video game addiction (Monday, Oct. 21 at 1 p.m.)
Tickets are just $5 per film. For more information and tickets, call (818) 762-0461 or visit www.reelrecoveryfilmfestival.org.
L.A. Louver Gallery in Venice is hosting a conversation about artist R.B. Kitaj this weekend in conjunction with their current exhibition featuring almost 30 works created during the years the artist lived in Los Angeles, from 1992 to 2007, the year he died. The exhibition also includes paintings that demonstrate Kitaj’s interest in literature, art history, film and Jewish texts.
On view through Nov. 9, five of the works in his “Los Angeles Series” are considered amongst his most personal, reflecting his relationship with his last wife Sandra.
Gallery visits are enhanced when knowledgeable talk surrounds you. This Saturday, Oct. 19, L.A. Louver hosts four artists in a lively conversation about Kitaj’s work and influence: Joe Biel, Rebecca Campbell, Tom Knechtel and Tom Wudl.
And bring a tissue! Ruth Bachofner Gallery at Bergamot Station hosts an artist reception for Jane Park Wells, whose “Pollen Fields” opens from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. Also on view, abstract works by Sharon Weiner. More info at www.ruthbachofnergallery.com or call (310) 829-3300.
Sarah A. Spitz is a former freelance arts producer for NPR and former staff producer at public radio station KCRW-Santa Monica. She has also reviewed theatre for LAOpeningNights.com.