The Pacific Chamber Orchestra (PCO), now in its 32nd season, is a regional professional ensemble dedicated to sustaining and extending the rich heritage of classical music for chamber orchestra through inspiring performances and engaging educational programs designed to enrich our local communities.

Rather than having to spend hours traveling to distant venues, you, your friends and your neighbors can enjoy fine musicians performing close to home – musicians who perform in the San Francisco Symphony, Opera or Ballet Orchestras, or in touring Broadway shows and feature films recorded at Skywalker Ranch. PCO is a resident company of Livermore’s Bankhead Theatre and also holds a concert series in Lafayette.

Maestro Lawrence Kohl’s concert programs are uniquely designed to illuminate musical threads in works that reflect each other and deepen their appreciation.  The Livermore Independent enthused,

“ . . . the Pacific Chamber [Orchestra] is indeed the best you can hear . . . a treasure beyond price.”


Awards & Honors

  • PCO was one of four organizations in its budget category to be recognized by the U.S. Government’s National Endowment for the Arts and by the State of California’s California Arts Council for artistic excellence.
  • PCO has been honored to perform at the United Nations 60th Anniversary World Concert Celebration held at Grace Cathedral in June 2005.
  • PCO’s collaborative effort with AKQA resulted in a Silver Lion award at the 2013 Cannes International Advertising Festival.

What makes a chamber orchestra different from a full symphony orchestra and from a chamber music ensemble?

A chamber orchestra refers to an orchestra which can perform in smaller rooms rather than in large-sized concert halls. The acoustic limitations mean that chamber orchestras are smaller (up to 50 musicians) as opposed to a full orchestra (around 100). Of course, Chamber orchestras can play in a concert hall, but a full orchestra would not be able to fit in smaller venues. The music of a chamber and full orchestra sounds very different due to the smaller number of instruments, orchestration, and acoustics of the performance space. [Excerpted from Michael Vincent in Musico Toronto]

In the 18th Century, the orchestras of Haydn and Mozart typically consisted of around 25 to 35 musicians. The Vienna Chamber Orchestra was the first to record all of the Haydn Symphonies and his final six symphonies are scored for two each of flutes, oboes, clarinets, bassoons, French horns, trumpets, and a timpani and strings for an ensemble of about 33 players. The Symphonies of Mozart and Haydn are still considered to be a core of the chamber orchestra literature. However, the size of the ensemble size varies up or down from that “norm” depending upon the instruments required of the repertoire being performed and the size of the performance hall. The Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra has 39 core members, the Cincinnati Chamber Orchestra has 32 core members, and the Chamber Orchestra of Europe has 60 core members.

After Mozart and Haydn the repertoire expanded with composers adding more winds brass and percussion and with more strings sections to maintain balance. These ensembles grew to 80 to 120 members, requiring very large performance halls and became known as the Symphony Orchestra, to be distinguished from the smaller chamber orchestra. Symphony and Philharmonic are synonymous terms. The Vienna Philharmonic has 120 members.

Chamber music ensembles such as string quartets, woodwind quintets, string trios, etc. typically have one string player on a part and are self-directed, while a chamber orchestra is almost always led by a conductor as the complexity requires an overarching interpretation and integration of the many parts.

The Pacific Chamber Orchestra unique sound takes full advantage of all of these elements, blending intimate clarity with symphonic power in perfectly-sized and acoustically superior venues, enabling Maestro Kohl and his musicians to render beautifully textured, creative interpretations. Audiences feel they are virtually part of the performance, able to enjoy subtle details while basking in full ensemble sonorities. As critics have written, “just the right blend of intimate clarity with public rhetoric,” “uncommon freedom” and “music painted in bright bold colors.”