Founded in 1973, the Da Camera Society is a focal point for musical culture in the Los Angeles area. Following a brief hiatus, the series is now presenting concerts at the Doheny Mansion and is planning a 2022-23 season featuring national and international performers in multiple sites around the city.
“The mission of the Da Camera Society is to celebrate the cultural diversity of LA,” says Julius Reder Carlson, PhD, associate professor of music and artistic director of the organization. “Los Angeles is a tremendously multifaceted place with many different and remarkable communities. By presenting music in different parts of the city, we strive to recognize and encourage this diversity, which is embodied in the students who attend the Mount.”
Over the past 50 years, Da Camera Society concerts have featured an astounding breadth of artists – from singer-songwriters like Rhiannon Giddens to Art Music choirs like the Tallis Scholars and instrumental virtuosi like classical guitarist Eliot Fisk – in spectacular venues including the Bradbury Building, Mount Wilson Observatory and Union Station.
Since the onset of the COVID crisis, the Society has produced music videos and podcasts, which are available free of charge on the Da Camera website. Music videos, like those made of cellist Eric Byers in the Doheny Mansion or the Calder Quartet in the Bradbury Building, integrate exceptional sound with breathtaking architectural spaces. Podcasts, like UCLA professor Helen Rees’ lecture on the history of the recorder, use music as a point of departure for explorations of world history and culture.
As Da Camera videos and podcasts suggest, arts education is an essential part of the Society’s programming. Da Camera events such as the 2018 Women in Music Festival are geared toward young people. Student performers open most concerts, and free ticketing is available for MSMU students, faculty and staff. However, because of social distancing requirements still in place for the concerts, seating is very limited, and tickets should be requested in advance.
The euphoria of live performance
The Da Camera Society’s return to in-person concerts last fall was momentous. “We were all excited and happy to be back together,” says Carlson. “The energy was just incredible. Our first concert opened with a performance of Juan Pablo Contreras’ piano duet ‘Mariachitlán’ by student pianists Emily and Kaitlin Webster-Zuber, followed by the Calder Quartet performing Haydn and Beethoven. What an incredible feeling for everyone to be back enjoying what they love.”
Irwin Goldstein, a member of the Da Camera Society’s Advisory Board and a longtime donor to the organization, says the Society does an outstanding job of bringing people together. “It expands people’s experiences and the music is incredible,” says Goldstein, a retired physician and former COO of the Southern California Permanente Medical Group. “Also, the many performances in the Doheny Mansion, add to the allure. It just feels like it was built for music. It’s an experience everyone should have.”
For Carlson, the Da Camera Society is a powerful extension of the liberal arts education offered by the Mount.
“Music isn’t just an incredible experience,” he says. “It’s an important doorway to the extra-musical.” “It can be a powerful vehicle for inspiring interest in history, culture and social justice. I’m proud of being a part of a concert series – and a University – that understands music in this way.”