Camerata Singers' Messiah (copy)

Dr. James K. Bass conducts the Camerata Singers in a performance of Handel's "Messiah," at the Beverly O'Neill Theater.

ChoralFest, a week dedicated to classical chorale music, kicks off this Sunday with the Camerata Singers and three instrumentalists performing Brahms Piano Trios in downtown Long Beach.

For many years, the Camerata Singers presented a Bach Festival, focusing strictly on the music of Johann Sebastian Bach. Then Dr. James Bass came to town to become the choral group's artistic director.

"The Bach Festival was restrictive," Bass said. "We were looking to have freedom in the programming; hence the ChoralFest."

This year, works of Johannes Brahms is the focus. Brahms composed in the Romantic period, primarily in Venice, Italy, and played piano himself. That's what makes the Piano Trios special, Bass said.

The singers will be joined by Timothy Durkovic on piano, Elizabeth Hedman on violin and Paula Fehrenbach on cello for the Trios concert. It is at 4 p.m. Sunday, March 24, at First Congregational Church, 241 Cedar Ave. Tickets are $25.

Next on the calendar is a lecture called Brahms Revealed by Bass, who is Director of Choral Studies at the Herb Alpert School of Music at UCLA. The lecture, at Elise's Tea Room, 3924 Atlantic Ave. in Bixby Knolls, is free. It begins at 4 p.m. Tuesday, March 26.

The whole family can get in the act on Saturday, March 30, when the Camerata Singers partners with Rancho Los Alamitos to present the interactive play "Meet Mr. Brahms" featuring the Brahms Lullaby. After the 30-minute play, there will be crafts, activities and refreshments on the lawn outside the rancho's barns.

The play starts at 10:30 a.m. Children 3-8 are admitted free, but an adult must accompany them, and adult tickets are $10. Reservations should be made at (562) 431-3541.

Then on Sunday, March 31, the big finale arrives. The Camerata will perform Brahms' Requiem at the Beverly O'Neill Theatre, part of the Long Beach Performing Arts Center.

Bass has chosen the London version of the piece, which even fans of choral music may not have heard. Bass said this version of the music is more accessible to the audience and has another great advantage.

"Brahms made this his masterpiece; he wrote the piano music himself," Bass said. "That was unusual. But he was a pianist, and he wrote with that informing him."

Bass will offer a preconcert lecture about the piece at 3:30 p.m. that Sunday. The Requiem performance will begin at 4:30 p.m.

Tickets still are available for the concert, and range from $30 to $45. To purchase, go to longbeachcameratasingers.org.

Harry has been executive editor of Gazette Newspapers for more than 26 years. He has been in the newspaper business for more than 35 years, with experience on both weekly and metropolitan daily papers in Colorado and California.

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