ArtsWatch Weekly: Let there be dark

Music for the Great Eclipse, free at the museum, remembering Katherine Dunn, Brett Campbell's music picks, having babies & more

It might have come to your attention that six days from now, on Monday, August 21, the sun will be temporarily smitten from the sky across the nation, on a path from the Oregon Coast to Charleston, South Carolina. Here at ArtsWatch World Headquarters we had planned to ignore this astronomical anomaly, figuring you’d be hearing plenty about it elsewhere, until we received a note from All Classical Radio.

Wait! Put on your dark glasses!: Antoine Caron (French, 1521 – 1599), “Dionysius the Areopagite Converting the Pagan Philosophers” (also known as “Astronomers Viewing an Eclipse”), 1570s, oil on panel. 36 1/2 × 28 3/8 inches, The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

The network’s seven Oregon outlets and internet stream, it seems, will be playing an Eclipse Soundtrack from 8 in the morning to noon on the Day of Darkness: little ditties ranging from Richard Strauss’s Also Sprach Zarathustra (you might recall it from the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey) to Gustav Holst’s The Planets, Debussy’s Claire de Lune, and more. The broadcast will hit a high note at 10:19 a.m. – when the eclipse hits totality in Oregon – with the world premiere of The Body of the Moon, a commissioned piece by Desmond Earley, performed by Portland’s Resonance Ensemble, cellist Nancy Ives, percussionist Chris Whyte, and improv vocalist Erick Valle.

Might we suggest, if jazz radio KMHD wants to get in the action, spinning that old blues lament Careless Love (maybe the Ray Charles version) for its verse “I once was blind but now I see / love has made a fool of me” – and maybe, once the sun starts to peek back from behind the moon, the old Duke Ellington hit I’m Beginning To See the Light? There are dozens of good versions to choose from. One of Billy Eckstine’s might be nice.



From “Quest for Beauty”: Phil Bard, “Cannon Beach from Ecola State Park,” 1994, courtesy Phil Bard Photography. John Yeon’s influence went far beyond architecture. From the PAM installation: “When plans emerged in 1932 to develop Chapman Point, the headland and rocks stretching across the foreground, Yeon, age twenty-two, borrowed $15,000 against a life insurance policy and bought the point. Over the decades that followed, he assembled other parcels comprising nearly a half mile of Oregon coastline. He erased roads and planted beach grasses and shore pines to restore the dunes. More than eighty-five years later, thanks to his foresight, the point remains protected as part of the park.”

FREE DAY AT THE MUSEUM: Sunday, August 20, is Family Free Day at the Portland Art Museum, with free admission 10 a.m.-5 p.m., and several events tied in with the current exhibition Quest for Beauty: The Architecture, Landscapes, and Collections of John Yeon. And while you’re there, you might want to check out the new exhibit Representing: Photographs Of, By, and For African Americans, which continues through December 3. The earliest of these candid photos, which date from the late 1900s through the 1990s, come from the estate of Portlanders Carl and Judge Mercedes Diez: He was a Tuskegee Airman, she was the first black woman to be admitted to the Oregon State Bar. Others come from the collections of Peter J. Cohen and Zun Lee.

In “Representing” at the Portland Art Museum: Unknown photographer, untitled (Portrait of Six Women), ca. 1910, gelatin silver print, museum purchase, Photography Acquisition Fund.



THE SHINING LEGACY OF KATHERINE DUNN: The occasional parlor game of Who Wrote the Best Oregon Novel usually starts with Ken Kesey and winds through the likes of H.L. Davis, Ursula LeGuin, Chang-Rae Lee, Rene Denfeld, Tom Spanbauer, Jean Auel, Craig Lesley, Molly Gloss, Patrick deWitt, and others. But if you want to make a case for the late, great Katherine Dunn, and in particular her strange and humane and astonishingly good novel Geek Love, you’ll get no argument here. Dunn died last year at age 70, and her influence on the Portland and American literary scenes only continues to grow. It’s laid out in The Horror of Normalcy: Katherine Dunn, Geek Love, and Cult Literature, an exhibition from her literary archive in the Watzek Library at Lewis & Clark College. It opened in April and ends August 31, so consider this a final nudge and final call.




Portland Symphonic Choir’s annual singalong invites audience members to join in on choral classics. Your last chance this year is the August 16 performance of Bruckner’s Mass in E Minor. Scores are supplied.
Wednesday, PCC Cascade Moriarty Arts Auditorium, 705 N. Killingsworth.
Previously known as Weber Iago, and before that called Weber Drummond, the Brazil-born, Vancouver, Wash.-based pianist and composer has performed and recorded around the world with jazz greats like Oregon’s Paul McCandless and L.A. flutist James Newton. Since gaining his new name along with his new religion (Sikh), he’s maintained his musical fusion of jazz, classical, and Brazilian music. This week, he debuts a new composition performed by top Portland jazz artists in the Portland Jazz Composers Ensemble. Wednesday, Roaring Rapids Pizza, Eugene; Friday, Montavilla Jazz Festival (see below).

The 40th anniversary season continues Wednesday with the Central Oregon Mastersingers, vocal soloists, and pianist Sean Chen joining the orchestra’s for two choral masterpieces: Beethoven’s oddly intriguing Choral Fantasy (kind of a dry run for his Symphony #9) and Mozart’s dramatic Requiem. The Mastersingers, vocal soloists, and orchestra return Friday for an American Songbook pops concert featuring music by Gershwin (a suite from Porgy and Bess), Bernstein, Sousa, Duke Ellington, John Williams and more.

On Sunday, orchestra members play a pair of sweet Romantic serenades: Dvorak’s Serenade for Winds and Tchaikovsky’s Serenade for Strings, plus a J.S. Bach Triple Concerto. On Monday, pianist Sean Chen gives a solo recital with music by Beethoven, Ravel, and Chopin.

Wednesday and Friday, Church of the Nazarene, Bend; Sunday and Monday, Sunriver Resort Great Hall.

Two of England’s most accomplished Renaissance music experts, Mark Williams and Jeremy Summerly, lead the annual celebration of the music of that country’s greatest Renaissance composer. The festival includes an organ recital, six liturgical services, and three public lectures, most happening at Holy Rosary Church in Northeast Portland. Read my ArtsWatch feature on the 20th anniversary of this Oregon summer classical music perennial. Tuesday, Holy Rosary Church, 37 N.E. Clackamas St., and Sunday, Trinity Episcopal Cathedral, 147 N.W. 19th Ave.

In this free outdoor performance that’s part of the admirable Piano.Push.Play  the terrific ensemble that brings rock attitude and amplification to classical music new and old premieres a new piano concerto by its founder and violinist, Mike Hsu, featuring pianist David Brokaw. That one’s inspired by Chopin, Piazzolla, Danny Elfman, and Carly Rae Jepsen, while another Hsu piece on the program, the piano trio Moonstruck & Aardvark Sauce, owes something to trip-hop, both reflecting Hsu’s masterful combination of contemporary pop and classical music. The performance also includes music by Astor Piazzolla, Arvo Part and Fritz Kreisler. Friday, Portland Art Museum Courtyard, 1219 SW Park Ave.

The most welcome new addition to Oregon’s summer classical music scene returns for its second edition with an especially welcome emphasis on contemporary music, embodied by California-based composer in residence Gabriela Lena Frank and Portland’s own Kenji Bunch. Accomplished musicians Sasha Callahan, Greg Ewer, Megumi Stohs Lewis, Bunch and Leo Eguchi play music by Frank, Italian baroque master Arcangelo Corelli, and Dvorak on Friday night, while Saturday afternoon’s concert includes more Frank, Beethoven, Mozart, wine, food, and jazz guitar trio. Sunday afternoon features Bunch’s tasty baroque-influenced Apocryphal Dances (premiered last spring by 45th Parallel), still more Frank, and Brahms’s lovely G major String Sextet. FridaySundayElk Cove Vineyards.
Now in its fourth year, the onetime neighborhood jam has grown into one of the city’s top annual jazz attractions. Headlining bassist Essiet Okon Essiet has performed with some of jazz’s finest (Bobby Watson, Geri Allen, Kenny Garrett, Art Farmer, Benny Golson, and many more), and along with his quartet with Sylvia Cuenca, the festival features a stylistically broad range of some of the city’s most renowned jazz artists: Rich Halley 5 (with L.A. sax star Vinny Golia), Blue Cranes, David Friesen Quartet, Quadraphonnes with Andrew Durkin, Ezra Weiss Sextet, Andre St. James Sound Ensemble with St. Louis avant-garde trumpeter George Sams, Rebecca Kilgore, sax titan Joe Manis, Trio Subtonic with guitar great Dan Balmer, and more. Stay tuned for ArtsWatch’s preview.
Friday-Sunday, Portland Metro Arts, 9003 S.E. Stark St.

Bassist Essiet Okon Essiet, coming to the Montavilla Jazz Festival.

This time opening for the eclipse, the nine-member Seattle ensemble (including trumpet, trombone, three percussionists, guitars, bass, sax/flute, keyboard) cooks up irresistible horn-fueled polyrhythmic funk over cyclical grooves, heavily influenced by Fela Kuti’s Afrobeat, other times more reminiscent of Meters-style New Orleans funk, and always danceable. Monday, Oregon Garden, Silverton.


ArtsWatch links


Lungs: She’s having a baby. Christa Morletti reviews the new show at Third Rail. As it turns out, it’s personal.

Artists creating space for galleries. With Portland real estate prices going nuts, how do artists find affordable spaces to show their work? You’d be surprised, Nim Wunnan writes.

Looking back on Chamber Music Northwest and its focus on women composers:

  • Ordo Virtutum: Sister Act 1. Brett Campbell praises the choir In Mulieribus and the music of Hildegard of Bingen, and wonders: Was this concert too much of a good thing?
  • The Other Mozart: Sister Act 2. Campbell delves into Silvia Milo’s monodrama about Wolfgang’s talented older sister Maria Anna, whose own music was stifled by sexism.
  • Independent women. Matthew Andrews reviews The Ghost of Ravel, a series of concerts of music written and performed by women: “None of the women on these concerts had to be The Woman. No one had to be the lone female voice in a room full of male voices, answering for an entire gender while Beethoven gets to just be Beethoven.”

Becoming welcome: giving center stage to all artists. Mary McDonald-Lewis looks at what happened at a meeting sparked by a contentious ArtsWatch review, and suggests what comes next.

Finding Jesus, finding herself. Hailey Bachrach reviews Endless Oceans, Corey Maier’s solo show about sexuality, religion, and other searches for meaning.

Caged dreams: Madame Butterfly in Seattle. Angela Allen reviews Seattle Opera’s newest production of the Puccini standby featuring the “superb” Yasko Sato.

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