ArtsWatch Weekly: Savory Schiff. Cookin’ at TBA. Percussion Currie.

A look at the week that was in Oregon arts. A glimpse ahead at the week that's going to be.

Portland’s been celebrating its adopted musical son David Schiff with an ongoing series of concerts that began last year with a concert by Third Angle New Music Ensemble and included an all-Schiff concert by Fear No Music just a couple of days ago at Reed College, where Schiff has taught and composed and written terrific essays and books about music since he came to town 35 years ago.

Schiff conducts the Reed College orchestra.

Schiff conducts the Reed College orchestra.

The extended birthday party (Schiff recently turned a vigorous 70) continues with a November performance of his Infernal, after Stravinsky’s Firebird suite, by the Oregon Symphony; and also in November, a jazz-star performance of his arrangement of music by Duke Ellington and Bily Strayhorn, also at Reed.

ArtsWatch’s Brett Campbell has written a fascinating profile of Schiff that I hope you’ll take time to read. He traces Schiff’s unlikely journey from a resolutely New York Jewish family to what seemed the frontier town of Portland, and the brilliant collision of musical and cultural forces that have made Schiff’s voice so distinctly American: klezmer and other Jewish music; Broadway show tunes; jazz; and classical influences ranging from Stravinsky and Copland to Schoenberg, Alban Berg, Steve Reich, Terry Riley, and his own teachers, including Elliott Carter and John Corigliano. And Portland, Schiff tells Campbell, fitted his eclecticism well: “It was much easier to be myself here than in New York, where the politics were tricky and I would have to choose sides somehow.”


Klinton Haliday performing at Hillsboro's Glenn & Viola Walters Cultural Art Center.
Klinton Haliday performing at Hillsboro’s Glenn & Viola Walters Cultural Art Center.

TRADITION HERE AND NOW. In her newest weekend dance feature, Jamuna Chiarini profiles Bharatanatyam classical Indian dancers Klinton Haliday and Dhruv Singh, frequent figures in Portland dance concerts. Singh comments on the attractions of Bharatanatyam: “the combination of rhythmic madness and complete freedom of expression portrayed through technique and body language – expressions ranging  from simple happiness, bliss, sadness, anger, violence, to more complex ones such as turmoil, peace, surrender, and confusion.”


Radhouane El Meddeb: the art of cooking. Photo: Carollina Lucchesini
Radhouane El Meddeb: the art of cooking. Photo: Carollina Lucchesini

IN THE WORLD OF NEW, YESTERDAY IS THE BEGINNING OF OLD. Contemporary cultural isn’t quite sure what to do with the whole idea of newness. New music groups sometimes play the work of adventurous but now dead composers from the early or mid-twentieth century, alongside genuinely new work by young twenty-first century composers. On the other hand, “modern art,” once the latest and most provocative thing, now refers to a specific historical period, and “contemporary art” is bound to disappear down the same narrow avenue of history, to be replaced by … what? Post-contemporary art? Not Futurism: that was grabbed off more than a century ago.

All of which is to say that TBA, the Portland Institute for Contemporary Art‘s annual Time-Based Art festival, is 15 years old, which makes it something of a patriarchal figure in the swiftly shape-shifting Art of the Now. Still, it stands resolutely for what’s new and experimental, and this year’s festival, which ended Sunday (a few visual-art exhibitions continue until October 11), strove as always to keep things fresh. ArtsWatch writers were out and about, checking out TBA’s tradition of the new, and here are their latest reports:

The dance of the cook, the cook of the dance. Dance, couscous, and iPods coalesced in Radhouane El Meddeb’s culinary performance piece Je dans et je vous en donne à bouffer. The mood, Nim Wunnan writes, “oscillated between the sort of lighthearted or distracted prancing one does while on the schedule of a recipe and then, during the longer boils, something deeper and reverential as Meddeb clearly channeled his memories of other times and places where he was present for the preparation of this kind of feast.”

Philippe Quesne’s heavy-metal fairy tale.Andrea Stolowitz goes down the VW Rabbit hole and into the deep dark woods of Quesne’s La Mélancolie de Dragons, where AC/DC and Metallica hang out.

Still mighty and Tiny after all these years. At The Works, Nim Wunnan took in the “triumphant parade” of performers in Ten Tiny Dances, Mike Barber’s TBA and Portland perennial that’s been showcasing tiny dances for almost as long as TBA’s been around.

Wandering through Quesne's melancholic fairy tale. Photo: Pierre Grosbois
Wandering through Quesne’s melancholic fairy tale. Photo: Pierre Grosbois


SEASONAL MILESTONES ARE UPON US: Yom Kippur begins at sundown today, and autumn begins tomorrow. After a pause for reflection, the city picks up the pace with a variety of cultural options.

A few of the things opening in the coming week:

Falsettos. Live On Stage opens the 1992 James Lapine/William Finn musical about a Jewish man in New York, his ex-wife, his psychiatrist, his son, the lesbians next door, his gay lover, and the spectra of AIDS. World Trade Center; Thursday through October 10.

Little Gem. Corrib Theatre’s sweet production of Elaine Murphy’s comic drama about three generations of Irish women opens at CoHo, with Michele M. Mariana, Lauren Mitchell, and Deanna Wells. read ArtsWatch’s review of a run early this year at Kells, with Sara Hennessy playing what is now Wells’ role. Thursday through October 4.

Adrift in Macao. Broadway Rose takes on this musical comedy, with songs by Peter Melnick and book & lyrics by the witty Christopher Durang. The team behind it looks good, led by director Isaac Lamb and musical director Mont Chris Hubbard. Thursday through October 25.

Bang the drum frequently. Classical percussion star Colin Currie begins his three-year residency with the Oregon Symphony this week, and “residency” doesn’t just mean in the concert hall. He’s doing shows tonight and tomorrow morning at Newberg’s Chehelem Cultural Center; a 7:30 p.m. Thursday performance at The Cleaners at the Ace Hotel with readings from Gabriel García Márquez by Claire Coffee of the TV hit Grimm; a 1:15 p.m. show Saturday with the symphony’s percussion section at the PSU Farmers Market; and a noon Sunday solo marimba show at Coava Coffee/Bamboo Revolution. Finally, Saturday through Monday, he’ll perform a classical series with the full orchestra.

Elephant & Piggie’s ‘We Are in a Play!’ Northwest Children’s Theater & School gets into the fall swing of things with this cross-species musical comedy based on Mo Willems’ popular kids’ series. Saturday through October 25.

The Byrd Ensemble. The Seattle ensemble celebrates the quincentennial of composer John Sheppard with a concert of sacred Renaissance music. Presented by Cappella Romana. 7:30 p.m. Sunday, St. Stephen’s Catholic Church.

Colin Currie, man about town. Photo: Marco Borggreve

Colin Currie, man about town. Photo: Marco Borggreve



ArtsWatch links


Caught (up) in the act. ArtsWatch’s Patrick Collier catches a little jazz by Paal Nilssen-Love and Ken Vandermark at the Creative Music Guild and an Akio Suzuki sound installation at TBA, where he maybe trips a receiver as he investigates to see whether the radios are set at AM or FM. As he’s escorted to the door, it’s as if a madeleine opens a flood of musical memories.

Brown bag lunching at the Ash Street Project. Photo: Joanna Bloom

Brown bag lunching at the Ash Street Project. Photo: Joanna Bloom

Down and dirty at the Ash Street Project. Grace Kook-Anderson investigates the hands-on pleasures of the little clay factory on the industrial inner east Side, where ceramic artists Thomas Orr and Joanna Bloom throw the doors open for other artists to come in and create.

Our Town: Through a glass, darkly. Portland Center Stage’s season-opening revival of Thornton Wilder’s American classic, I write, is “the darkest, bleakest Our Town I’ve ever seen.”

One man, two guvs, one bumpy ride. Clackamas, Rep, Marty Hughley writes, takes the retro-retro comedy One Man, Two Guvnors for a spin (it’s a 2011 update of a 17th century hit to the 1960s) and discovers a pleasant ride with a few pot holes along the way.


About ArtsWatch Weekly

We’ve been sending a letter like this every Tuesday for a couple of years now to a select group of email subscribers. We’ll continue to do that, and now we’re posting it weekly on the ArtsWatch home page. In ArtsWatch Weekly, we take a look at stories we’ve covered in the previous week, give early warning of events coming up, and sometimes head off on little arts rambles we don’t include anywhere else. You can read this report here. Or, you can get it delivered weekly to your email inbox, and get a quick look at all the stories you might have missed (we have links galore) and the events you want to add to your calendar. It’s easy to sign up. Just click here, and leave us your name and e-address.

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