Local Heroes 2008: Adrian Spence

Santa Barbara Independent
By Indy Staff
November 26, 2008

(Excerpt from the Local Heroes 2008 article)

Adrian Spence
Chamber Music Champion

Adrian Spence—an outstanding flutist and indefatigable promoter of music, ideas, and dialogue—decided in 1990 that Southern California needed a new approach to classical music. Almost two decades later, his Camerata Pacifica has evolved into one of the world’s finest chamber music organizations, and an exemplary instance of forward thinking in the presentation of the performing arts.

From September to May, Camerata Pacifica performs challenging and thoughtful monthly programs in four different venues ranging from the Huntington Library in San Marino to Zipper Hall in Los Angeles, Temple Beth Torah in Los Angeles, and their new permanent home in Santa Barbara, the Music Academy of the West’s elegant Hahn Hall. At a Camerata Pacifica performance, Spence often plays, and always organizes, educates, cajoles, and jests, taking every opportunity to act the roles of impresario and provocateur. The atmosphere he has created for Camerata Pacifica concerts brings new meaning to the idea of listening closely.

While he excels as a teacher, it is in his recruiting of international musical talent that Spence has risen the highest in the estimates of classical aficionados worldwide. Already blessed by a longstanding working relationship with the remarkable pianist Warren Jones, in the past five years Spence has found a core group that includes the formidable talents of Irish violin virtuoso Catherine Leonard, American cellist Ani Aznavoorian, and international viola superstar Richard Yongjae O’Neill.

With this super group, Spence has been soliciting commissions of original pieces from composers around the world to feed the immense talents on hand. The initial offering of this was a Concerto for Violin and Chamber Ensemble by the Belfast-born composer Ian Wilson. Dubbed the “Messenger” concerto, this piece was performed both in Southern California and across America and the Atlantic in a tour that included the Morgan Library in New York, the Library of Congress, Wigmore Hall in London, and an emotional recital in Dublin..