‘Music is for everybody’: Le Salon de Musiques to bring the ‘essence’ of chamber music to La Jolla

Le Salon de Musiques founder Francois Chouchan says chamber music is intended for small venues.
Le Salon de Musiques founder Francois Chouchan says chamber music is intended for small venues, where listeners can experience the “essence” of the music.
(Hojoon Kim)

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Performing is “an act of love,” according to Francois Chouchan, who is moving his classical music enterprise, Le Salon de Musiques, to La Jolla later this year, hoping to share his passion with a new audience.

Le Salon de Musiques will feature chamber music concerts with musician Q&As and buffet-style dinners at the La Jolla Woman’s Club. The season will run monthly on Sunday evenings from Sept. 26 through June 12, 2022, except for October.

The concerts are orchestrated to be an intimate experience, Chouchan said. “We put the musicians in the middle of the audience. We can almost touch them.”

“I always wanted to perform chamber music in an intimate venue,” he said. “Chamber music is always written for small venues, intimate spaces. Most of the time it’s performed in big venues on a stage. The artists are very far away from the audience,” which means “you miss most of the essence of chamber music.

“You don’t feel the real vibrations of instruments, you miss the interaction between the performers. This is the essence of chamber music.”

Le Salon de Musiques is coming to La Jolla in September, featuring chamber musicians playing at the La Jolla Woman's Club.
(Courtesy of Francois Chouchan)

Le Salon de Musiques is fashioned after “what Marie Antoinette did in Versailles,” said Chouchan, who added that the 18th-century French queen gave it the name he uses now. “You have people, friends, who come sit around a piano, sit around a string quartet, piano quintet. They feel the real beauty of chamber music, and it was never done before.”

Experiencing chamber music this way, Chouchan said, makes it “difficult for [people] to go back to a regular concert or regular venue, because even if you have a great acoustic, this kind of sensitivity, deep emotions, transmitted by the vibration of each instrument is missed.”

In addition to the concerts, the evenings will begin with a musicologist introducing each program and “the composers themselves, all kind of anecdotes,” he said. “It’s very important for people to know about that because when you listen to the piece after, you don’t listen to it in the same way.”

A Q&A with the performers will follow each concert. “I wanted people to talk to each other,” Chouchan said. “I wanted people to talk to the musicians, to interact, ask all kinds of questions” about the instruments, the music, the performers’ lives.

Chouchan, a concert pianist himself, plays in some of Le Salon de Musique’s performances, though he said he tries “to build a program with all kinds of different ensembles,” from string quartets to piano quintets and other combinations of musicians from all over the region.

“It’s also very important for me to reintroduce forgotten composers,” he said, noting there are “fantastic romantic composers” whose pieces he will premiere in La Jolla, pieces “never performed in the U.S.”

The concerts also will feature “beautiful pieces by Bach, Beethoven and Schubert,” the latter of whom Chouchan considers his mentor.

The events will conclude with French champagne, as well as a buffet dinner, during which musicians eat among the audience members to encourage socializing.

Chouchan said “music is for everybody. It’s a universal language. I want people to be touched and moved by the beautiful pieces, especially in that kind of environment and setting.”

The series originated 11 years ago in Los Angeles, using an open space on the fifth floor of the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, part of the Los Angeles Music Center. In those 11 years, ticket holders and performers “became a big family,” Chouchan said. “Everybody knew each other. It was fantastic.”

A pandemic-caused bankruptcy at the Music Center’s catering company caused a shakeup, which meant Le Salon de Musiques had to find a new home. But Chouchan turned the misfortune into an opportunity.

“I wanted to try to reach another audience,” he said. He set his sights on La Jolla, where he said he hopes “people will be moved by the music.”

Tickets are $95 per person for each concert, which includes the performance, champagne and buffet. A discounted season pass is $684. Audiences will be limited to 200 people, and the events will follow all public health guidelines.

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