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LACO's 'Session' is a risk and a reward / Los Angeles Times

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In introducing new music Friday night at the Pico Union Project, conductor Christopher Rountree told the audience that this concert had turned out to be a secular program played in a sacred space while Los Angeles burns. So, he continued, think of this beautifully preserved 1906 temple, which serves both as a Jewish house for prayer and more broadly as an interfaith cultural center for the Pico Union district, as a safe space.

But this wasn't in the least a safe concert, and that was its greater magnificence. It was a chance-taking effort by the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, part of its experimental - and, reportedly in some quarters of the institution, controversial - "Session" new music events in alternative spaces designed to attract a new and young audience. Dare to put yourself out there, in the heart of the community, and see what you might achieve.

Rountree, when he put together the program with five performers from LACO and four from his band, wild Up, hardly could have predicted how the sense of urgency and fragility that came with the smoky air from the Saddleridge fire might condition an audience. He collaborated with theater collective Four Larks in the use of the space, lighting and projections. Nothing was traditional, including the annoying need to download the program to your phone, resulting in the audience often having little idea of what it was experiencing.   PHOTOS: (Zachary Olea/Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra )