Brett Campbell


Oregon Symphony ‘SoundSight’ series: Music to our eyes

This weekend's production of Olivier Messiaen's 'Turangalila' symphony features complementary video projections

For centuries, orchestras have been expensive vehicles for presenting sophisticated symphonic sounds. But as non-classical shows have added visual elements from projections to smoke to colorful lighting, even classical music audiences increasingly expect to see something onstage besides tuxedoed musicians staring at music stands and sawing away on their strings. This weekend’s Oregon Symphony program shows the orchestra committing to appealing to its audience’s eyes as well as ears.

The orchestra’s performance of 20th-century French composer Olivier Messiaen’s massive Turangalila symphony features video art by Rose Bond, an animator and media artist at Pacific Northwest College of Art. The concert is the second in this season’s new SoundSight series, part of Oregon Symphony President Scott Showalter’s effort to venture beyond standard repertory.

The Oregon Symphony's "Turangalila" will include projections created by Portland video artist Rose Bond.

The Oregon Symphony’s “Turangalila” will include projections created by Portland video artist Rose Bond.

“It’s not enough anymore to have cookie-cutter programs with an overture, concerto with guest artist, then a symphony on the second half,” Showalter says. He aims to both broaden (with the recent upsurge in concerts featuring pop stars from various generations to live performances with video game and film soundtracks) and deepen (with seldom performed classical works) the symphony’s programming.

With the SoundSight series, “we asked, ‘How can we reimagine core symphonic works in a way that advances the composer’s vision,” using visual arts. Showalter says. “It’s not just a gimmick.”


MusicWatch Weekly: It’s beginning to look a lot like…

Jazz, musicals and modernists confound the Oregon music calendar this week

… spring? It’s not exactly Christmas in June, more like March in December, as one of Portland’s most valuable music musical explorations, March Music Moderne, moves to December to coincide with the Oregon Symphony’s celebration of one of MMM’s patron saint, the great 20th century French mystic composer Olivier Messiaen, with its name temporarily changed accordingly.

It also looks a little like February in December, as some excellent jazz worthy of that month’s annual PDX Jazz Festival comes to town. And several non-holiday oriented theatrical shows have music at their hearts. Feel free to supply more musical recommendations in the comments section below.

Portland Gay Men's Chorus performs December 14-16

Portland Gay Men’s Chorus performs December 2-3.

Orchestra Becomes Radicalized
November 30
Holocene, Portland.
Read Nim Wunnan’s ArtsWatch preview of what’s becoming that rarest of creatures: an avant-garde tradition.

Hershey Felder as Irving Berlin
November 30-December 30
Portland Center Stage.
Musical biography of the eminent American songwriter. Stay tuned for ArtsWatch’s review.

Locksmith Isidore
December 1
MODA Center, Portland.
Wow, free jazz at the Moda Center — clearly avant garde jazz has hit the big time at last! The Chicago trio blends acoustic and electronic instrumentation with free jazz and even prog rock influences. And — so much for sibling rivalry — how admirable of bass clarinetist Jason Stein to nepotistically give his younger sister, Amy Schumer, a break and ride his coattails as the band’s closing act.

Liberace and Liza: together again at Coho Theater! Photo: Gary Norman.

Liberace and Liza: together again at Coho Theater! Photo: Gary Norman.

A Liberace and Liza Christmas
December 1-11
CoHo Theater, 2257 NW Raleigh St. Portland.
Longtime Liberace impersonator David Saffert joins Jillian Snow Harris as Liza Minnelli Liberace’s own former music director (and Saffert’s coach) Bo Ayars in this throwback to TV’s holiday variety shows.

Dmitri Matheny
December 1
Alberta Abbey, 126 NE Alberta Street, Portland.
Read my Willamette Week preview of the fine Bay Area-based flugelhornist’s tribute to cool jazz icon Chet Baker.

Kamasi Washington
December 1
Roseland Theater, 8 N.W. Sixth Ave., Portland.
Read Angela Allen’s ArtsWatch preview of one of jazz’s brightest new stars, as musically maximalist in his genre as Olivier Messiaen (see below) was in classical music.

Blake Applegate leads Cantores in Ecclesia.

Blake Applegate leads Cantores in Ecclesia.

Cantores in Ecclesia
December 2
St. Patrick’s Catholic Church, 1623 N.W. 19th Ave., Portland.
Read my Willamette Week preview of the excellent choir’s Advent concert.

The Gothard Sisters
December 2
The Old Church Concert Hall, SW Clay Street at 11th Ave. Portland.
The Northwest sibling act sings Celtic-inspired arrangements of Christmas favorites, ancient carols re-imagined, and adds storytelling and step dancing to the show.

Portland Gay Men’s Chorus
December 2-3
Newmark Theatre, Portland.
The big gay chorus’s annual ever popular holiday event returns with seasonal songs from around the world.

Messiaen Mélange de Musique
December 2-5
Community Music Center,  Portland.
The former March Music Moderne has moved, for the nonce, to December, to coincide with the Oregon Symphony’s performances of the biggest music of one of its patron saints: Olivier Messiaen’s massive Turangalila symphony.  The December 2 concert includes a song cycle setting the composer’s own surrealist poems and more, while December 4’s show features string trios by Messiaen, Debussy, Gorecki and other composers, including visionary MMMpresario and Portland composer Bob Priest, whose generosity makes the community concerts free for all, and also funded commissions of new music for the occasion by Oregon composers.


Portland Taiko, Portland Baroque, collectif9: Home field advantage

Stellar local performers match the musical radiance of visiting stars

Artistic centers seem to go through phases. At the outset, they predominantly host performances by local amateurs. As more ambition and money arrive, they worshipfully import Big Names from artistic capitals, often neglecting homegrown talents who might be equally talented (and more original) in favor of the imprimatur of NYC cred — a sure sign of provincial insecurity. Sometimes, like my hometown of Austin, a city’s artistic culture develops to the extent that its local artists realize that they don’t need to move elsewhere to make vanguard art (not to mention a living), and in fact, the city becomes a magnet for others in the region and then the world.

Los Angeles's TaikoProject and Portland Taiko joined forces at the end of their joint concert, 'Sound in Motion.' Photo: Brian Sweeney.

Los Angeles’s TaikoProject and Portland Taiko joined forces in their joint concert, ‘Sound in Motion.’ Photo: Brian Sweeney.

Although some of Oregon’s artistic institutions and their insecure audiences still haven’t quite realized that many arts lovers are looking to us for inspiration than vice versa, Portland in particular and Oregon in general are reaching that third phase. A trio of autumn concerts involving both visiting and locally cultivated musicians showed the value of learning from outsiders — and also just how good our locavore music has become.


MusicWatch Weekly: The Art of Song

Music that crosses arbitrary categories combats holiday food comas on Oregon stages this weekend

The cure for the blues is gratitude, and this is the weekend we often focus on how much most of us have to be grateful for — including the astonishing variety of live music that regularly graces Oregon stages year-round. Why, we’re even lucky to be treated occasional upswells of so-called “art song,” a valuable musical genre too rarely heard these days — except in Oregon, with new music by composers like Christopher Corbell, Paul Safar and ArtsWatch’s own Jeff Winslow and many others. The 20th century’s glorious noise of pop music, going back to Irving Berlin (whose life and music are being celebrated this season at Portland Center Stage), largely displaced, in mainstream culture at least, music more shaped by poetry than pop hooks, although the supposed categories (and that pretentious name) were always pretty arbitrary anyway, as Bob Dylan’s recent Nobel Prize maybe suggests. Who’s to say the best pop isn’t at least as artful as some of, say, Samuel Barber or Claude Debussy’s songs? This otherwise musically malnourished weekend offers splendid opportunities to check out art song concerts in Portland and Eugene, along with more boundary crossing music for cellos, multimedia, and more. Please add further recommendations to the comments section below, and happy food coma to those of us lucky enough to be able to enjoy one.

Portland Cello Project celebrates its 10th anniversary Friday. Photo: Jason Quigley.

Portland Cello Project celebrates its 10th anniversary Friday. Photo: Jason Quigley.

Portland Cello Project
November 25
Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall, 1037 SW Broadway, Portland.
The all-cello ensemble that covers everything from Beethoven to contemporary hip hop celebrates is 10th anniversary with new music composed by Oregon Symphony cellist Nancy Ives, Portland jazz star Farnell Newton, and more.

Polyphonic: A Series of Interdisciplinary Performances
November 26
Compliance Division, 625 NW Everett St #101, Portland.
Read my Willamette Week preview of this multi-media showcase featuring music, dance and more by JP Jenkins and Danielle Ross, Mike Gamble + Movers, DB Amorin and Claire Barrera.

Oregon Symphony
November 26-7
Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall, 1037 SW Broadway, Portland.
While conductor Jeff Tyzik includes enough chestnuts to create comforting familiarity, the orchestra’s annual Holiday Pops concert with Pacific Youth Choir presents a pretty interesting collection of holiday music that doesn’t just recycle the overfamiliar standards.

Rebecca Sack and Evan Paul
November 26
Tsunami Books, 2585 Willamette St, Eugene.
The second in a new monthly series of intimate afternoon concerts founded by Eugene soprano Laura Wayte features art songs by the great contemporary American composers Ned Rorem and Libby Larsen, Debussy, Brahms, and Orlando Gibbons, with texts by Walt Whitman, Calamity Jane, and more.

Northwest Art Song's Arwen Myer and Laura Beckel Thoreson show that art song doesn't have to be serious at Portland's Waypost Sunday.

Northwest Art Song’s Arwen Myer and Laura Beckel Thoreson show that art song doesn’t have to be serious at Portland’s Waypost Sunday.

Northwest Art Song
November 27
The Waypost, 3120 N Williams Ave, Portland.
Read my Willamette Week preview of this fun early evening show of contemporary cabaret music by William Bolcomb, Leonard Bernstein, Benjamin Britten and more, performed by the group devoted to advancing the art of art song.

Oregon Bach Collegium
November 27
United Lutheran Church, 22nd and Washington Streets, Eugene.
More art song, from a time when false distinctions between popular and artsy music weren’t so pronounced. This afternoon concert features three historically informed musicians (singer Sarah Benzinger, Baroque trombonist Bodie Pfost, and organist Margret Gries) playing rarely performed music from the grand old 17th-18th century Hapsburg Empire.

MMM master Bob Priest

MMM master Bob Priest

Messiaen Mélange de Musique
November 26-December 5
Various locations, physical and virtual, Portland.
The former March Music Moderne has moved, for the nonce, to December, to coincide with the Oregon Symphony’s performances of the biggest music of one of its patron saints: Olivier Messiaen’s massive Turangalila symphony. Some of it appears on the air or the internet, in broadcasts on (Nov. 28), XRAY FM, and All Classical Radio 89.9. The November 28 performance on KBOO’s cabinet of wonders, A Different Nature, cohosted by irrepressible MMMpresario Bob Priest, features music by Henryk Gorecki, Jonathan Harvey, Karlheinz Stockhausen, the world premiere performance of the Messiaen Remix Project, which Priest commissioned from contemporary composers (Portland radio host/composers Andy Hosch and Robert McBride, Californa’s Antonio Celaya and Canada’s James Harley), plus music by Seattle’s Stuart Dempster, Portland’s Bob Collier, Joseph Bertolozzi, Mauricio Kagel and more. Portland music journalist Robert Ham will also host a MMM-good midnight program with Priest on November 26, which can be heard on XRAY-FM starting at 91.1 or 107.1 FM in the Portland metro area, or at The live performances begin December 2, and we’ll tell you about them next week.

Want to read more about Oregon music? Support Oregon ArtsWatch!
Want to learn more about contemporary Oregon classical music? Check out Oregon ComposersWatch.

MusicWatch Weekly: Unwalled sounds

Music and musicians from diverse origins invade Oregon stages

Quick, before the walls go up, grab your chance to catch music and performers from Greece, Brazil, Poland, Indonesia, France, Taiwan, California, Germany, Chicago, and yes, even music grown right here in Oregon. Plus: still more pianists! Feel free to suggest other shows in the comments section below.

PSU Opera's 'The place where you Started,' starring Hannah Consenz, concludes this weekend. Photo: Chad Lanning.

PSU Opera’s ‘The Place Where You Started,’ starring Hannah Consenz, concludes this weekend. Photo: Chad Lanning.

“The Place Where You Started”
November 16-20
Portland State Opera, Studio Theater, Lincoln Hall, 1620 S.W. Park Ave. Portland.
PSU’s acclaimed opera program has been renowned for four decades of presenting first class versions of the classics. Now they’re adding a fall production for new and unusual operas — including this world premiere by USC composer Mark Lanz Weiser and screenwriter/librettist Amy Punt, created especially for these PSU singers. The timely story involves a screenwriter’s turbulent relationship with an undocumented immigrant with a tragic past. Tickets online.

Ian Christensen, George Colligan’s Theoretical Planets
November 16
Alberta Street Pub, 1036 NE Alberta St, Portland.
The Portland tenor saxophonist, who’s squarely in the classic tradition yet manages an original approach, has just released a new album, Finding, on the always intriguing Portland Jazz Composers’ PJCE records. This performance with his well- matched ensemble, probably the jazz show of the week, also features Portland jazz stalwart George Colligan’s quartet.

John Krausbauer and Indira Valey
November 16
Turn! Turn! Turn!, 8 NE Killingsworth, Portland.
Read my Willamette Week preview of this Creative Music Guild concert.

Hypnotic Brass Ensemble
November 16
Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall. Portland.
The Chicago sibling septet bouncily blends funk, hip hop, and jazz.

Eugene Symphony
November 17
Hult Center for the Performing Arts, Eugene.
Read Gary Ferrington’s ArtsWatch preview of this concert that features the masterful pianist Stephen Hough playing Beethoven, a powerful Shostakovich symphony, plus “Ode to the Future” created by Oregon Young Composers Project.

Tom Bergeron Brasil Band
November 17, Western Oregon University, Smith Recital Hall, Monmouth, November 18, The Jazz Station, Eugene, November 19, Coelho Winery, 111 5th St. Amity.
The terrific saxophonist’s quintet plays jazz from the musically fecund state of Minas Gerais by some of Brazil’s finest composers, including Toninho Horta, Flávio Venturini, João Bosco, and the great Milton Nascimento, all curated by the band’s Brazilian bassist, Wagner Trindade.

Maciej Grybowski performs at Portland's Polish Hall.

Maciej Grybowski performs at Portland’s Polish Hall.

Maciej Grzybowski
November 18
Polish Hall, 3832 N Interstate Ave. Portland.
The Polish pianist plays music by contemporary Polish composer Pawel Mykietyn, the great 20th century Polish composer Witold Lutoslawski, some of Debussy’s great Preludes, Mozart, Brahms and another Polish composer, name of Chopin.

“An Evening Of Blues & Ballads”
November 18
Jaqua Concert Hall, The Shedd Institute, 868 High Street, Eugene.
Jazz historian, saxophonist and radio host Carol Woideck leads a quintet in jazz classics.

Portland Columbia Symphony
November 18, First United Methodist Church, 1838 SW Jefferson St. Portland, and November 20, Reynolds High School Performing Arts Center, 1698 SW Cherry Park Rd, Troutdale.
Portland’s “other” orchestra has taken the lead in performing music by 20th and 21st century American composers. This highly recommended all-American concert features Leonard Bernstein’s ever-popular, ever-exuberant overture to his operetta Candide, Ferde Grofe’s classic Grand Canyon Suite, California composer Sara Graef’s Cooling in the Peppermint Wind, and University of Oregon flute prof Molly Barth, one of the world’s most admired flute virtuosos, as the soloist in contemporary Michigan composer Michael Daugherty’s Trail of Tears. Although he’s better known for his pop culture-influenced fun pieces, this powerful flute concerto evokes the spirit of the Cherokee people who suffered and survived the five month winter 1838-9 death march to Oklahoma.

Portland Baroque Orchestra
November 18-19, First Baptist Church, and November 20, Kaul Auditorium, Reed College, Portland.
If you think organ music necessarily involves colossal church instruments, then again. Baroque composers mostly wrote for smaller chamber organs (some called “portative”) that made zingy accompanying or even lead instruments in small ensembles, more like the reedy B-3 sound of those great ‘50s and ‘60s jazz organ trios, or Farfisa-driven ‘60s garage bands. This concert of organ concertos by Handel, CPE Bach, and Mozart stars one of the world’s finest Baroque keyboard players, Alexander Weimann, who directs Vancouver BC’s Pacific Baroque Orchestra. The show also includes another instrument that once played a much more prominent solo role than today, a bassoon concerto by 18th century English composer Capel Bond featuring terrific young PBO bassoonist Nate Helgeson.

“My Sweetest Life”
Cascadia Composers and The Ensemble, November 18, St. Luke’s – San Lucas Episcopal Church, Vancouver WA; November 19, Central Lutheran Church, Eugene; November 20, Colonial Heights Presbyterian Church, 2828 SE Stephens Street, Portland.
Carlo Gesualdo was notorious for murdering his wife and her lover, but the Italian nobleman was also one of the most visionary and forward looking composers of the late Renaissance, writing hauntingly beautiful music that has influenced composers even down to our own century. The superb vocal ensemble made up of some of Portland’s finest singers performs some of Gesualdo’s spellbinding madrigals along with music by some of today’s top Oregon composers, including Jan Mittelstaedt, Brandon Stewart, Stacey Philipps, Paul Safar and more.

“An Evening of Traditional Javanese Gamelan Music”
November 19
Venerable Showers of Beauty Gamelan Ensemble, Hipbone Studio, 1847 E Burnside, Portland.
This concert of traditional Javanese vocal and percussion music (with flute, fiddle, and other Indonesian instruments) features Javanese guest artists Midiyanto (who led the gamelan program at Lewis & Clark College and and now leads the program University of California, in addition to frequent performances all over the world), singer Heni Savitri, and guests from Seattle and Ireland. Full disclosure: I’ll be playing and singing too.

Venerable Showers of Beauty plays Javanese gamelan music Saturday.

Venerable Showers of Beauty plays Javanese gamelan music Saturday at Portland’s Hipbone Studios.

“Through the Looking Glass”
November 19
Consonare Chorale, Imago Dei Community, 1302 SE Ankeny St, Portland.
The veteran choir gives its inaugural performance in its new venue, singing contemporary music by Sarah Hopkins,  David Child, Matthew Emery and more.

Satori Men’s Chorus, Sky In The Road
November 19
Central Lutheran Church, 1820 NE 21st Avenue, Portland.
The choir joins the folk duo (Daniel Rhiger and Rahmana Wiest) in choral settings of poetic texts.

November 19
Hellenic-American Cultural Center & Museum, 3131 NE Glisan St. Portland.
Read Maria Choban’s ArtsWatch preview of this concert of Greek and other Balkan music by the two-generation Seattle-based ensemble.

Stephen Hough plays in Eugene and Portland. Photo: Hiroyuki Ito.

Stephen Hough plays in Eugene and Portland. Photo: Hiroyuki Ito.

Oregon Symphony
November 19-21
Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall, Portland.
Guest conductor Ludovic Morlot drives down I5 from Seattle, meeting MacArthur “genius” grantee and renowned English pianist Stephen Hough, who’s driving up from Eugene after his performance with the ESO, for a program of the French music that the Seattle Symphony music director specializes in: music from Debussy’s The Prodigal Son, Chausson’s Symphony in B-flat, Saint-Saëns’ “Egyptian” Piano Concerto No. 5, and  Ravel’s  sly and shapely Waltz (La valse).

“Soldier’s Tale”
November 20
VSO Chamber Music Series, Kiggins Theater, 1011 Main St, Vancouver, WA.
Musicians from the Vancouver Symphony conducted by PSU prof Ken Selden and Stumptown Stages’ Kirk Mouser, who narrates Igor Stravinsky’s wry and wonderful 1918 chamber septet.

Ching Yun Hu performs Sunday at the University of Oregon.

Ching-Yun Hu performs Sunday at the University of Oregon.

Ching-Yun Hu
November 20
Beall Concert Hall, University of Oregon, Eugene.
The award winning Taiwanese pianist plays Schubert, Chopin, Scriabin, and Rachmaninoff.

Cascadia Concert Opera
November 20
St Helen’s Catholic Church, 1350 W. 6th Ave. Junction City.
Astoria’s North Coast Chorale joins the singers in operatic music by Gershwin, Sullivan, Bizet, Puccini, Mozart, Verdi, and more.

Want to read more about Oregon music? Support Oregon ArtsWatch!
Want to learn more about contemporary Oregon classical music? Check out Oregon ComposersWatch.

MusicWatch Weekly: Notes of hope

Music by today's composers on Oregon stages this week shows a more diverse and creative future

While last week’s un-popular vote may have represented the last throes of a fearful Old Regime soon to be swept aside by a younger, more diverse world, we can draw hope from the signs of artistic renewal sprouting in Oregon. This week’s musical offerings include concerts featuring new music by composers of the nasty gender so victimized by the next chief executive, the premiere of a major work written under the shadow of the kind of repressive regime we hope we can avoid here over the next quadrennium, a multimedia work that favors environmental protection created by an African American composer , a new opera dealing with undocumented immigrants and a few musical museum pieces too. Please add your recommendations for this week’s music to the comments section below.

“Heart of a Forest”
Dj Spooky,  November 9, Cheatham Hall, Portland’s World Forestry Center, November 10 Newport Performing Arts Center, 777 W. Olive Street, Newport,  November 11. High Desert Museum, 59800 South Hwy 97, Bend.
Read my ArtsWatch preview of the multimedia performance born in an Oregon forest.

collectif9 performs Thursday at Portland's Alberta Rose Theatre. Photo: Djanna Lich.

collectif9 performs Thursday at Portland’s Alberta Rose Theatre. Photo: Djanna Lich.

November 10
Collectif9, Alberta Rose Theatre, 3000 NE Alberta St. Portland.
Classical music concerts have been losing young listeners for decades now, and a big reason isn’t the music itself, but the archaic 19th century ways it’s usually presented. Visionary ensembles like Portland’s ARCO-PDX (which would have made a splendid opening act for this Friends of Chamber Music concert) and this Montreal nonet want to reach today’s audiences by bringing the music to them in ways that feel normal and relevant to their experience of every other kind of music. Their “Volksmobiles” program features amplification, rock concert style lighting, and folk inspired classical music by Bartok, Brahms, Piazzolla, contemporary Argentine American composer Osvaldo Golijov, and more.

collectif9 TEASER (eng version) from collectif9 on Vimeo.

Calidore String Quartet
November 10
Winningstad Theatre, 1111 SW Broadway, Portland.
The latest in the string of dynamic young string quartets Chamber Music Northwest has been bringing to Portland lately performs classics by Haydn and Mendelssohn and a new piece composed for them by young Pulitzer Prize winning composer Carolyn Shaw, of Roomful of Teeth.

‘The Clearing’
November 10 – 13
Lincoln Hall, Portland State University, 1620 SW Park Ave. Portland.
Read Claire Sykes’s ArtsWatch preview of Portland Piano International’s four day festival of modernist piano music.

Eugene Vocal Arts and Eugene Concert Choir
November 11
Beall Concert Hall, University of Oregon, Eugene.
The big piece on the program is a genuine 18th century classic: the Magnificat of CPE Bach, whose own stirring music has unfortunately been overshadowed by his dad Johann’s and his ne’er-do-well fictional bro, PDQ. The latter’s Bluegrass Cantata ingeniously and sometimes hilariously blends familiar Baroque sounds with faux folk fun (“Go I now up Cripple Creek!”).

Duo Odeon plays Antheil.

Duo Odeon plays Antheil.

Duo Odeon
November 11
Classic Pianos, 3003 SE Milwaukie Ave, Portland.
Violinist Hannah Leland and pianist Aimee Fincher play an all-American program of great 20th century works by Charles Ives, Roy Harris, and the underrated one-time ‘bad boy of music,’ George Antheil — including the premiere of recently discovered arrangements of some of the Paris-New York-LA composer’s music to a 1947 film.

New Muses: Music by and about Women
November 11 and 13
PSU Choirs, First United Methodist Church, Portland.
Think of this enticing concert as the choral equivalent of last week’s Crazy Jane show: lots of music by Portland women (Bonnie Miksch, Renee Favand-See, Lisa Marsh and Stacey Philipps) who happen to be among the state’s finest and most broadly accessible composers. But this show also includes shows by other female composers: Hildegard von Bingen of the Middle Ages and Maddalena Casulana of the Renaissance; American composers Abbie Betinis, Susan LaBarr, the superb Carol Barnett, Rosephanye Powell and Portland’s Joan Szymko — and a new composition the choir commissioned from Jordan’s Shireen Abu-Khader.

Sound of Late performs at Portland's NEW studios Saturday.

Sound of Late performs at Portland’s NEW studios Saturday.

Sound of Late
November 12
N.E.W. Expressive Works, 810 SE Belmont St. Portland.
The young Portland-Seattle new music octet plays a pair of world premieres, plus contemporary music by SoL’s Bryce C. Caster & Colin Firth, Amelia Coulter, Robin Heifetz, Simon Hutchinson, acclaimed young New York composer Nico Muhly, the great Finnish composer Kaija Saariaho, Daniel Webbon, and one of the Northwest’s most venerated contemporary composers, Vancouver BC’s Hildegard Westerkamp. The group is donating the ticket sales from this concert to the Southern Poverty Law Center to support their fight against bigotry and hate.

Portland Youth Philharmonic
November 12
Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall, 1037 SW Broadway, Portland.
Read my ArtsWatch feature about the orchestra’s premiere of Portland composer Tomas Svoboda’s Symphony #2.

“The Place Where You Started”
November 12-20
Portland State Opera, Studio Theater, Lincoln Hall, 1620 SW Park Ave.  Portland State University.
PSU’s acclaimed opera program has been renowned for four decades of presenting first class versions of the classics. Now they’re adding a fall production for new and unusual operas — including this world premiere by USC composer Mark Lanz Weiser and screenwriter/librettist Amy Punt, created especially for these PSU singers. The timely story involves a screenwriter’s turbulent relationship with an undocumented immigrant with a tragic past.


Tomas Svoboda’s Symphony #2: A love story in four movements

Portland Youth Philharmonic gives world premiere of Portland composer’s lost 1963 masterpiece

First movement. It begins gently, then the music accelerates, swerves through several tight turns, propelled by percussion. Pastoral flute turns whimsical, as low strings gradually and ominously arrive like storm clouds shading the sun. Suddenly, all the strings march in an implacable one-two meter, like an invading army, louder and louder. Big low brass notes reinforce the advance guard. Calm briefly returns, swept in on a light breeze of wind instruments, a brief respite before the low strings gradually surge, and all the instruments erupt, loud and fast, until the movement races to an abrupt halt.

Music brought them together. Jana Demartini was a 22-year-old folk dancer who met Tomas Svoboda when the 22-year-old percussionist joined their Prague folk music group in 1961. He and some other friends were sitting on the landing of a palace when he saw the troupe of women, bedecked in traditional costumes, climbing the stairs toward them, on their way to a performance. “And Tom was looking at me,” she remembers. “He was almost childlike: when he looked, he looked. I think that purity drew me to him.”

After a long period of getting to know each other, he offered to accompany her home from the school where she taught art and Russian. “We rode the tram and got off in front of our house, and he kissed me,” Demartini recalls, “and ran off!”

As their romance gradually blossomed, Svoboda began working on his second symphony, which Portland Youth Philharmonic premieres in Portland this Saturday — more than half a century after he wrote it.


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