Oregon ArtsWatch


Tina Chong review: Adventurous women

Portland Piano International rising star recital pairs female composers' new work and neglected classic


The first work that Portland Piano International’s Rising Star Tina Chong played, the first Friday evening in May at Portland Piano Company, did not initially seem to promise any magic moments. True, the title of the 1836 composition was “Nocturne” and the fluid melody and colorful harmony suggested Frédéric Chopin, or at least, a composer who avidly studied and understood that musical conjurer’s newly published works. But like so many Nocturnes, especially by lesser composers, it seemed a simple song in A-B-A form, or if you will, verse / chorus – bridge – verse / chorus (with, as it turned out, a short coda or outro).

And yet something astonishing happened at the end of the bridge. The return of the verse felt nothing like the blithe “oh here we are at home again” restart regurgitated in myriad familiar and forgotten examples of the form. Instead, while the prevailing figuration slyly flowed on underneath, the harmony levitated for a few seconds, skipped the verse’s opening chord altogether and alighted on its first moment of instability. The effect was almost unbearably poignant, as if the adventurer at the keyboard was turned back out onto the open road just when she was at her most vulnerable. One treasures such moments of tone poetry in Chopin, even in Brahms and Beethoven.

Tina Chong performed in Portland Piano International's Rising Star series.

Tina Chong performed in Portland Piano International’s Rising Star series.

Move over, guys. The composer was 16-year-old Clara Wieck, soon to become the wife of much better known composer Robert Schumann. But “composer” was deemed an unsuitable job for a 19th century European woman, and Clara went on to become instead one of the most famous pianists of her time, her own original music buried in obscurity. Two heads are better than one, and no doubt she and Robert influenced each other’s work – there are signs even in this early Nocturne. But Robert got all the credit.


“The Thaw” preview: A transitional journey

World premiere of Oregon composer's new work culminates a collaborative creative process


Editor’s note: The course of a new composition from conception to concert performance can be meandering. Here, in the words of those involved, is a diary of the creative voyage that concludes May 28, when the Oregon Wind Ensemble, led by Rodney Dorsey, and University of Oregon Singers, led by Sharon J. Paul, perform Oregon composer Andrea Reinkemeyer’s The Thaw.

1_Header Photo: 618px wide. Caption: Composer Andrea Reinkemeyer. Courtesy A. Reinkemeyer. 

Composer Andrea Reinkemeyer.

A native born Oregonian, Reinkemeyer studied with Robert KyrJack Boss and Harold Owen while earning her bachelor’s degree at the University of Oregon in 1999, and with University of Michigan faculty members Michael Daugherty, Bright Sheng, and others while working on her master’s (2001) and doctoral degrees in composition (2005).  She’s now Assistant Professor of Music Composition and Theory at Linfield College in McMinnville.

Andrea Reinkemeyer: Composing has always been a part of my training, so it seems strange to me when I meet musicians who don’t compose. As an undergraduate at the University of Oregon, I joined the Pacific Rim Gamelan on a whim, wrote a little piece for the ensemble, and Dr. Robert Kyr  took me aside one day to ask, “Why aren’t you a composition major?” I have been pursuing that path ever since.

Rodney Dorsey conducts the UO Wind Ensemble. Photo: UOSOMD.

Dr. Rodney Dorsey conducts the UO Wind Ensemble. Photo: UOSOMD.


How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Hate-Watch “The Bachelorette”

As the romance-reality show begins its twelfth season, it continues to embody contradictions in our culture's view of femininity.


On Monday night, a summer-long love affair between a woman and her nearly thirty suitors commences. Around the country, hundreds of bottles of rosé will be uncorked, pajama pants with nicknames embroidered across the asses will be slipped on, and Twitter will light up with exclamation points.  

Jojo Fletcher, Season Twelve’s titular “Bachelorette,” begins her “journey” to find true love. Meanwhile, an audience of mostly women tunes in, pressing pause on the routines of singledom, married life and everything in between to envy, sneer, cringe and heckle the 25-year old Texan’s suddenly complicated love life.


JoJo Fletcher, the latest iteration of reality TV’s “Bachelorette”

And even though “The Bachelorette,” in many ways, demonstrates the very worst inclinations of gender politics in the U.S., the show also provides a continually updated cheat sheet to American attitudes on relationships, while also endowing supreme power on a woman, her taste and her pleasure.  


Murray Perahia review: Finding beauty in the beast

Revered pianist’s recital eventually bridges the gulf between performer and composer


A favorite misquote tells us music has charms to soothe the savage beast. But what happens when a work of music is the savage beast? World-renowned pianist Murray Perahia, in the grand finale of Portland Piano International’s current mainstream season, gave us his answer the afternoon of April 10 at Portland’s Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall.


Portland Piano International brought Murray Perahia to Schnitzer Concert Hall.

The program featured works that reflected turbulent times in the lives of über-classic composers Josef Haydn, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Johannes Brahms and of course, Ludwig van Beethoven. Early on it seemed the beasts were to be tamed, but in the end, something much less one-sided emerged that made one wonder: can man and monster meld into one great soul?


Delgani Quartet preview: Celebrating American sounds and scenes

String quartet's debut season finale blends music and images with music by American composers


Editor’s note: In its inaugural season, Eugene-based Delgani String Quartet has performed to sold out venues, commissioned new music by Oregon composers Paul Safar and Terry McQuilkin, and collaborated with oral interpreter Rickie Birran and guitarist James Bishop-Edwards.

For its final concert, American Portrait, visual artist Mike Bragg joins Delgani in paying homage to American composers Lou Harrison, William Grant Still, George Gershwin and Jennifer Higdon on May 21 at Sprout!, a regional food hub, marketplace, and entertainment venue in downtown Springfield.

Delgani Quartet. Photo: Bridie Harrington.

Delgani Quartet. Photo: Bridie Harrington.

ArtsWatch has been following this exciting new ensemble from its premiere of new works by Oregon composers in November, to its early spring concert featuring contemporary music of Latin America. As the group wraps up its first full season, we asked artistic director True about the ensemble’s inaugural year and its season-ending concert.

Celebrating American Music

Wyatt True: American Portrait was inspired by the Oregon Multimedia Project for violin and piano that I was working on during much of 2014/15 and also by our friendship with Mike Bragg. We love the idea of music with photography and film and feel it creates a real experience for the audience—it’s a concert we would want to go to!


Guest artist Mike Bragg Photo: Delgani Quartet.

Mike specializes in all kinds of visual art but has recently been involved with aerial drone footage. Expect expansive views of the Southern Willamette Valley and the coast but also close-up nature shots.

Coming across Jennifer Higdon‘s Sky Quartet convinced us to pursue this project because Higdon’s piece is inspired by the Western sky. In the program notes from her website, Higdon says: “When I began composing Sky Quartet, I envisioned the wonder and immensity of the Western sky. Every time I’ve been west of the Mississippi, I’ve always marveled at that exquisite canvas of blue and clouds. This work paints musical portraits of the sky in various stages: start of a day, the rapture of its “blueness,” a storm-wrenched fury, and its vast immensity.”

Higdon’s words, along with the music itself, almost require photography or video accompaniment in performance. The music will be accompanied by lots of sky imagery, or course, and especially time-lapse photography. This piece is really the cornerstone of the whole evening.

Portland-born Lou Harrison’s String Quartet Set is a fabulous piece and one that represents an American composer paying homage to European compositional traditions. William Grant Still‘s Lyric Suite is a beautiful work that is reminiscent of the southern United States—Still was born in Mississippi and grew up in Arkansas. George Gershwin‘s Lullaby, a lesser known work by one of our country’s most famous composers, will offer a final calm after the energetic Higdon quartet.

Lou Harrison at his strawbale house in California. Photo: Eva Soltes

Lou Harrison at his strawbale house in California.
Photo: Eva Soltes

The program includes works that geographically cover the entire United States from New York to the deep South to the West Coast. The program also features works that are very different from each other—a feature that is entirely American!


‘A Child Of Our Time’ – and Theirs

Portland Symphonic Choir's performance of Michael Tippett's midcentury masterpiece summons the spirit of a war-torn world


Some historians say that a straight line can be drawn from the Versailles treaty of 1919 to the rise of Hitler in 1933, to the Nuremberg Laws, and through Kristallnacht, all the way through World War II. Sir Michael Tippett lived in Britain through both World Wars and continued to live, compose and work as an instrument of peace throughout his whole life.

So it should be no surprise that Tippett’s 1944 A Child of Our Time, which Portland Symphonic Choir presented last Wednesday night at Portland’s Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall, is not a zippy, happy ditty, although hope makes a bright appearance in the final chords. It is, as PSC Artistic Director Steven Zopfi said in his opening remarks, a social justice piece; social justice can be a difficult process.

Conscientious objector Michael Tippett wrote this work in the midst of WWII, and it was performed in 1944, months before the end of the war.

Conscientious objector Michael Tippett wrote ‘A Child of Our Time’ in the midst of WWII, and it was performed in 1944, months before the end of the war. Photo: Robert Holcomb, Terra Design Photography.

Zopfi had his orchestra and choir  well prepared for those difficulties; his leadership was masterful from beginning to end. The performance provided a refreshing splash of its time, the 1940s, and a slap in the face, reminding us that the quest for social justice, keen at that time, should be doubled in our time.


Plato, Socrates, and Jazz

Concert and forum connect jazz, children, and philosophy


During his undergraduate studies at the University of Oregon, Torrey Newhart focused primarily on music. But he also found that he had such a deep passion for reading philosophy that he pursued a minor in the subject. “I believe that thinking about philosophy opens people up to perspectives other than their own and challenges people to think more broadly on any and all issues,” Newhart, now a Eugene jazz musician, explains. “This translates to my music when I’m improvising or composing, because it serves as a constant reminder that there are no limits to what one can do.”

Newhart’s twin passions converge this Saturday, May 21, when his jazz quintet provides a musical wrap-up to a two-day event that explores “teaching children and adolescents how to engage in critical thinking through philosophical inquiry,” according to the I Never Thought About it That Way! forum’s web site. Newhart’s ensemble will perform his original music influenced by philosophers Plato, Socrates, and Simone De Beauvoir.

Musician, composer, educator Torrey Newhart.

Musician, composer, educator Torrey Newhart.

Saturday night’s “The Philosophy of Jazz” event at the Broadway Avenue House Concerts includes original and familiar tunes played by Newhart on keyboard, Josh Hettwer on tenor sax, his brother Matt on trombone, bassist Lyle Hopkins, and Ken Mastrogiovanni on drums. “The title definitely comes from the performance’s connection to the philosophy talks during the day and since I have a handful of pieces that are directly related to and named after people in philosophy or philosophical concepts, it just made sense!” Newhart says. “The only direct connection to philosophy in the music itself is that we cover a broad range of styles and I hope the listener will join me in a journey of questioning what makes music, music.”


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