Brett Campbell


Two coast musical festivals conclude, two veteran jazzmen return, while Oregon’s two great summer music festivals team up in several concerts in Eugene and Portland. Please let ArtsWatch readers know about other recommended music events in the comments section below.

The Chamber Music Northwest audience joined composer Andy Akiho onstage at Mississippi Studio./Jim Leisy

The Chamber Music Northwest audience joined composer Andy Akiho onstage at Mississippi Studios the last time he performed in Portland. Photo: Jim Leisy.

Chamber Music Northwest, Andy Akiho
June 29-July 1
Alberta Rose Theater and Lincoln Hall, Portland
Still safely under 40, South Carolina-born, New York-based composer Andy Akiho first won attention in contemporary classical music circles for his unusual choice of instrument: the steel pan that we usually associate with calypso music and spring break-oriented soft drink commercials. In Akiho’s adept hands, it becomes an astonishingly expressive vehicle for improvisation and Akiho’s rhythmically driven and increasingly sophisticated original compositions, often teamed with other instruments like cello and looping pedal. Akiho’s previous appearances at Chamber Music Northwest were some of the most thrilling in memory, and this time around, he’s back with two completely different showcase concerts (with the July 29 Alberta Rose show also including one of Schubert’s great piano trios) that feature not just steel pan but also piano, cello, percussion (from star percussionist Ian Rosenbaum), violin, and string quartet. His Portland State showcase with Orion Quartet on July 1 includes the premiere of the fourth movement of his massive, still growing LIgNEous Suite. Collectively spanning a decade of Akiho’s compositions, they top the list of new music offerings at this summer’s edition of CMNW.

Marcin Wasilewski Trio
June 30
Polish Hall, 3832 N Interstate Ave. Portland
Read my Willamette Week preview of this excellent Polish jazz trio’s only Oregon appearance, one of the best jazz shows of the summer.

Martin Wasilewski leads his jazz trio at Polish Hall. Photo: ECM records

Martin Wasilewski leads his jazz trio at Polish Hall. Photo: ECM records

Oregon Bach Festival
A Trio of Trios, June 29, Beall Hall, Eugene
Moving forward in time from its predominant Baroque focus, the festival this year places the spotlight on the triumvirate of top Classical era composers. This Chamber Music Northwest concert repeats Monday’s show in Portland and features trios by Mozart (his big K. 563 Divertimento, one of his finest chamber works), Haydn and Beethoven.

Baroque Concerti with Monica Huggett, June 30, Beall Hall, Eugene
The energetic Portland Baroque Orchestra violinist and director Monica Huggett returns to Beall June 30 to lead experienced new music specialists, including the great Dutch flutist Wilbert Hazelzet, in Baroque masterpieces by J.S. Bach, Telemann and more.

Berwick Academy with Robert Levin, June 30, Kaul Auditorium, Reed College, Portland; and July 1, Beall Hall, University of Oregon, Eugene
More historically informed Classical-era music is featured in two Beall concerts led by scholar and fortepiano master Robert Levin, with repeat performances sponsored by Chamber Music Northwest at Kaul Auditorium. The June 30/July 1 Berwick Academy concert includes Haydn’s stirring Symphony #103, Mozart’s darkly beautiful Piano Concerto #24, and a Beethoven overture.

New Pathways, July 1-4, Aasen-Hull and Beall Halls, UO, Eugene. Read Gary Ferrington’s ArtsWatch preview of these Oregon Composers Forum concerts.
New Pathways II: Features the music of composers-in residence Ricardo Zohn-Muldoon and David Crumb with performances by symposium guest artists Gomez, Barth, Hennings, Shields, Park, Ziegler, and Cheung at 8 pm Friday, July 1 in Aasen-Hull Concert Hall.
New Pathways III: The American Creators Ensemble (ACE) with OBFCS guest artists and performers showcase artists featuring Sound of Late, Krause, Giuca, and Evers performing music by symposium composers at 1 pm on Saturday July 2 in Aasen-Hull Concert Hall.
New Pathways IV: Features Estelí Gomez and the OBFCS vocal fellows in a concert of music by symposium composers at 8 pm on Sunday, July 3 in Beall Concert Hall. Live Stream
New Pathways V: The American Creators Ensemble with OBFCS guest artists and performers showcase artists perform music by symposium composers on July 4 at 8 pm in Beall Concert Hall. Live Stream

• OBF All-Stars with Robert Levin, July 2, Kaul Auditorium, Reed College, Portland; and July 3, Beall Hall, University of Oregon, Eugene
Levin leads renowned German clarinetist Eric Hoeprich and other period instrument specialists one of Mozart’s own favorites, his breezy piano and winds quintet, and Beethoven’s later quintet it inspired and more.

The Oregon Bach Festival premieres James MacMillan's European Requiem. Photo: Hans van der Woerd.

The Oregon Bach Festival premieres James MacMillan’s European Requiem. Photo: Hans van der Woerd.

MacMillan Requiem, July 2, Hult Center, Eugene
When the Oregon Bach Festival commissioned what turned out to be his European Requiem back in 2012, James MacMillan couldn’t have known how prophetic that title might have turned out to be. Read the rest of my Eugene Weekly preview of one of Oregon’s most significant classical music concert of the summer: the major new choral orchestral work by a leading European composer.

Stangeland Family Youth Choral Academy, July 3, Hult Center, Eugene
Anton Armstrong leads the singers in Haydn’s St. Nicholas Mass plus music by Bach, Handel and more.

Punch Brothers with Gabriel Kahane, July 5, Hult Center, Eugene
Read my Eugene Weekly interview with Portland homeboy and Punch Brother heavyweight leader/composer/mandolinist/singer Chris Thile.

There’s much more at the OBF, including organ recitals, free concerts, lecture demonstrations (including the legendary Discovery Series, this year focusing on Bach’s Christmas Oratorio), with more to come next week.

New York pianist and arranger Dick Hyman performs at Siletz Bay Music Festival this weekend

New York pianist and arranger Dick Hyman performs at Siletz Bay Music Festival and in Portland this week.

Siletz Bay Music Festival
June 29-July 2
Salishan Spa and Golf Resort
On June 29, abetted by his Oregon Festival of American music colleague, the great jazz clarinetist Ken Peplowski, legendary pianist, soundtrack arranger, and American music expert Dick Hyman plays his own settings of Shakespeare’s words, sung by Nicole Greenidge Joseph, Clairdee, and Rocky Blumhagen. They’ll return to perform big band music on July 1.

On July 2, Portland Chamber Orchestra music director Yaacov Bergman leads the orchestra in Mozart’s Piano Concerto #23, featuring pianist Adam Jackson, Mendelssohn’s Italian Symphony, Mozart opera arias (featuring Joseph), and the overture to the same Rossini opera coming to Portland Opera next month.

On Independence Day, the orchestra backs Joseph in some of Copland’s lovely Old American Songs and a spiritual by Moses Hogan, followed by the premiere of Hyman’s clarinet concerto, Three Delights, featuring Peplowski. All the guest stars join for a closing Gershwin tribute.

Estonian National Opera Boys’ Choir
June 30
St. John the Baptist Church, Oregon Episcopal School, 6300 SW Nicol Rd. Portland
Singers from one of the world’s greatest choral traditions are conducted by one of the most admired masters, Hirvo Surva, a legend in Eastern European music, in music by the great Estonian composers Arvo Pärt, and Veljo Tormis, and their contemporaries, as well as classics.

Astoria Music Festival performs "Little Women."

Astoria Music Festival performs “Little Women.”

“Little Women”
July 1-2
Astoria Music Festival, Clatsop Community College Performing Arts Center, Astoria
Read my Eugene Weekly preview of Mark Adamo’s 1998 operatic adaptation of Alcott’s enduring novel, a reprise of Eugene Opera’s May production starring the vibrant Portland soprano Hannah Penn and directed by Mark Beudert.

Dick Hyman & Ken Peplowski
July 5
Jimmy Mak’s, 221 NW 10th Ave. Portland
After their Siletz shows, two of the most accomplished living interpreters of vintage jazz — both frequent guests and music directors at the Shedd in Eugene— join the veteran Portland rhythm section of Dave Captein and Gary Hobbs and singer Clairdee in this fundraiser for Portland Chamber Orchestra.

Waterfront Blues Festival

July 1-4

Tom McCall Waterfront Park, Portland

The annual benefit for Oregon Food Bank features legends like Maceo Parker, Dr. John, Femi Kuti, Curtis Salgado, and many, many more blues, zydeco, rock and other stars.
Want to read more about Oregon music? Support Oregon ArtsWatch!
Want to learn more about contemporary Oregon classical music? Check out Oregon ComposersWatch.

Risk/Reward 2016: Creative tensions

Multi-disciplinary performance festival explores the contrasts between multimedia elements

Ah, summer: that season when the only arts our sun-drunk brains are capable of handling are explosion-laden superhero films and simplistic beach read books. Or so the entertainment-industrial complex would have us believe.

Not in Portland. Portland Center Stage devotes its annual July Just Add Water festival to workshop readings of new plays in progress. The end-of-summer Time Based Art Festival is dedicated to edgy, category-free performance and visual art developed by fringe festival-style artists from around the world. The city’s season of experimentation really gets started with the annual Risk/Reward Festival of New Performance, “a developmental platform for the creation of new performance works,” according to its mission statement, which cites criteria including “adventurous,” immersive,” and “cross-disciplinary”; it’s like a mini-TBA Festival, but geared exclusively to artists from our region.

Anthony Hudson as Carla Rossi at 2016 Risk/Reward Festival, Photo: Chelsea Petrakis.

Anthony Hudson as Carla Rossi at 2016 Risk/Reward Festival,
Photo: Chelsea Petrakis.

This year’s ninth annual edition, which ran June 17-19 at the valuable arts hub at Portland’s Artists Repertory Theatre, showcased new works whose quality and appeal often matched and sometimes surpassed those higher-profile incubators. The most successful drew their power, and often their humor, from the interaction of two or more media forms—artistic friction that struck sparks.


Portland’s contemporary choral ecosystem

Spring performances by The Ensemble, Choral Arts Ensemble, and Portland State choirs demonstrate the city's emerging, multi-level 21st century choral music scene

A few specialist performers does not a scene make; when they’re gone, what happens to the music? A vital new music scene requires a whole ecosystem — performers, composers, audiences, venues, often donors. Think Tin Pan Alley, Broadway, Classical-era Vienna, 19th century Italian opera, ‘70s LA, ‘80s downtown NYC, Austin, Nashville in their glory days.

One such scene may be a-borning in Portland. Well known as a choral music capital, and justly renowned for its developing contemporary and indie classical music scene, the city has recently seen too little intersection between them. While some major cities have a top professional vocal ensemble or two that specializes in contemporary music — San Francisco’s Chanticleer, Seattle’s The Esoterics or Roomful of Teeth and Conspirare (nominally based in New York and Austin, respectively, but in fact drawing singers from around the country) — Portland currently lacks a choir that sings primarily music of our time, like the late lamented Portland Vocal Consort and Choral Cross Ties. Here as elsewhere, most choirs cling to the classics.

Although the city’s top choirs such as Resonance Ensemble, Portland Symphonic and Oregon Repertory Singers sometimes sing new music, they mostly perform music by dead — sometimes long-dead — composers. Nothing wrong with that — as we’ve long argued here, mixing old and new music in concert probably broadens the audience for both. But this season they’ve all focused mostly on music from the last century or earlier.

Sterling Roberts conducted singers onstage and off at Portland State University.

Sterling Roberts conducted singers onstage and off at Portland State University.

Yet Portland choirs seem to be adding more and more new music to the mix, perhaps signaling a broader commitment to new choral music than just confining it to one or two specialty groups. Several of this spring’s concerts demonstrate the breadth of the city’s growing contemporary choral music scene.


MusicWatch Weekly: Festivals a-flowering

Classical music convocations highlight the week's musical offerings

Oregon’s two most distinguished classical music festivals, both founded in 1970, return, two more classical festivals resume on the coast, and the pianos return to downtown Portland this weekend. Please let ArtsWatch readers know about other musical recommendations for this week in the comments section below.

Astoria Music Festival 
June 22-26
Liberty Theater, Astoria
The festival’s second week opens with Portland’s ever-entertaining world chamber music ensemble 3 Leg Torso doing their offbeat, inimitable thing at Astoria’s historic Liberty Theater, which returns to its roots the following night with a silent film: the great director F.W. Murnau’s 1930 classic, City Girl, the first Hollywood movie shot in Oregon. As was often the case back in the day, this performance features an original live score, this one composed and conducted by contemporary Oregon composer John Paul. And speaking of historically informed performances, check out the vintage projectors in the lobby before the show.

Angela Meade sings at Astoria Music Festival.

Angela Meade sings at Astoria Music Festival.

Friday’s chamber music concert features orchestra players from the San Diego, Detroit and Atlanta symphonies, Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra and Portland Youth Philharmonic music director (and crack clarinetist) David Hattner, all led by Portland pianist Cary Lewis, playing a Dvorak piano quartet, Erno Dohnanyi’s powerful Sextet, and a 2002 noitisopmoc by one of Lewis’s old Georgia colleagues, American composer Charles Knox, Semordnilap #2.

Another more informal and multi-mediated chamber music concert Saturday afternoon features Lewis, award-winning Russian pianist Ilya Kazantsev and cellist Sergey Antonov in music by Gershwin, Tchaikovsky, Rachmaninov, Piazzolla, and Stravinsky’s delightful chamber adaptation of his Pulcinella ballet score, Suite Italienne— accompanied by Astoria artist Darren Orange’s live painting.

Saturday night’s symphonic showcase includes Mozart’s exhilarating Sinfonia Concertante (the better known one starring violin and viola), Mahler’s Ruckert Songs (sung by Met mezzo MaryAnn McCormick), Chopin’s second piano concerto (starring Kazantsev), and Stravinsky’s Pulcinella ballet music.

Opera/vocal music fans should convene at the Liberty on Sunday afternoon to hear Northwest native Angela Meade reprise her soprano showcases as Leonora from Verdi’s The Troubadour, which she sang earlier this month with the German Opera Berlin, and before that at the Metropolitan Opera. In this concert (i.e. not the full operatic staging) performance sung in Italian with English supertitles, Met baritone Richard Zeller stands up to be Count-ed, with McCormick, Cameron Schutza, DeAndre Simmons taking the other lead vocal roles, joined by the festival’s vocal apprentice artists, the festival orchestra led by Keith Clark and the North Coast Chorale.

Claudia Quintet, Blue Cranes
June 22
Secret Society, 116 NE Russell, Portland
Read my Willamette Week preview of one of the top jazz shows of the summer, featuring composer/drummer John Hollenbeck’s terrific chamber ensemble.

Palo Alto Chamber Orchestra Youth Ensemble
June 22
Lincoln Hall, Portland State University, 1620 SW Park Avenue
The award winning, 35-member youth string orchestra orchestra celebrates the 50th anniversary of its founding with a free concert of music including a world premiere by alum Camden Boyle, contemporary music by contemporary German composer Peter Heinrich, and classics by Piazzolla, Schubert, and Vivaldi.

Portland Percussion Group performs Sunday at Portland State University.

Portland Percussion Group performs Wednesday at Portland’s Old Church Concert Hall.

Portland Percussion Group
June 22
The Old Church, 1422 SW 11th Ave. Portland
Read my Willamette Week preview of the ensemble’s showcase of new music it commissioned and a couple of other contemporary compositions for marimba and vibraphones.


MusicWatch Weekly: Festivals unfurled

Summer festivals signal summer sounds ahead

Let the festivals begin! You can’t necessarily tell by looking out the window, so you know it’s summer in Oregon when the big summer classical music festivals return like Vaux’s Swifts to that chimney. Please alert ArtsWatch readers to other musical celebrations or concerts in the comments section below.

Sergey Antonov stars at the Astoria Music Festival and its Portland preview concert this weekend.

Sergey Antonov stars at the Astoria Music Festival and its Portland preview concert this weekend.

Astoria Music Festival Portland Preview
June 17
The Old Church Concert Hall, 1422 SW 11th Ave. Portland
For Portlanders who want to hear what the Astoria Festival is all about, chamber musically at least, this show brings Boston-based Russian cellist Sergey Antonov, red violinist Elizabeth Pitcairn and versatile pianist Cary Lewis to play old-school masterpieces by Grieg, Mendelssohn, and Dvorak’s dazzling Dumky Trio. They’ll repeat the show at Astoria’s Liberty Theater the following afternoon.

Portland Piano International Summer Festival
Read my Willamette Week preview of the annual summer orgy of pianistic prowess and education, which this year celebrates one of the “golden ages” of piano prominence, back just before TV and other screens made our keyboarding less about active musical creation than passive entertainment viewing. Along with the usual lectures, films, workshops, a wellness program, and of course recitals, director Arnaldo Cohen has added chamber musicians, including top Oregon Symphony players and the former concertmaster of Amsterdam’s great Concertgebouw Orchestra. The intimate atmosphere and under-an-hour recitals help avoid pianistic overwhelm.

Astoria Music Festival 
June 18-July 3
Liberty Theater and Grace Episcopal Church, Astoria
After last year’s administrative upheaval, in which music director Keith Clark apparently emerged triumphant over a since-resigned board of directors that was looking in new directions, the north coast festival returns pretty much as before, with the great Northwest-connected Metropolitan Opera stars Angela Meade and Richard Zeller, top players from orchestras in San Francisco, San Diego, Atlanta, Detroit, award-winning Russian musicians Sergey Antonov and pianist Ilya Kazantsev, peripatetic Portland pianist Cary Lewis. Some new faces appear, too, like Portland’s ever-entertaining and offbeat 3 Leg Torso world chamber ensemble next Wednesday night at Liberty Theater.

Saturday afternoon’s opening chamber music show at beautiful Liberty Theater features sonatas by Mendelssohn and Grieg and Dvorak’s delightful “Dumky” trio. That evening’s symphonic opener comes closest to a serious contemporary music offering, with one of Philip Glass’s two symphonies inspired by great David Bowie albums, the “Heroes” symphony, which sets half a dozen songs (including a bonus track!) from that classic album and somehow mostly makes them hang together into a long, fairly cohesive composition, more successfully than Glass’s earlier attempt to do the same with one of the other albums in the late great rocker’s so-called “Berlin Trilogy” (written while he lived there), the “Low” Symphony. That said, after you hear the concert, go buy Bowie’s original masterpiece. The concert also features John Adams’s effervescent Short Ride in a Fast Machine, one of the most stirring concert openers of the 20th century, and a chestnut for the old-schoolers, Elgar’s romantic Cello Concerto featuring Antonov.

Elizabeth Pitcairn plays her Red Violin at the Astoria Music Festival.

Elizabeth Pitcairn plays her red violin at the Astoria Music Festival.

Sunday afternoon brings Elizabeth Pitcairn back (she played with Portland Columbia Symphony last year) with her calling card: the famous (to classical fans anyway) Stradivarius “Red Violin,” which is a way to somehow differentiate the zillion-and-first performance of Mendelssohn’s great violin concerto from the zillionth, or zillion-and-second. The Astoria Festival Orchestra also plays Beethoven’s mighty Egmont Overture and another Heroes symphony, his third.

On Tuesday, Grace Episcopal Church hosts an intimate, candlelit and sold-out JS Bach recital featuring Eugene organist Julia Brown and Antonov on two of the great solo cello suites, plus Zeller singing that most poignant and popular of Bach cantatas, his 82nd, I Have Enough.

June 17-26
Mock’s Crest Productions, Mago Hunt Center, University of Portland, 5000 N Willamette Blvd. Portland
Read Bruce Browne’s ArtsWatch review of Mock’s Crest’s latest Gilbert & Sullivan patter-fest.

Funny Face
June 17-26
The Shedd, 868 High Street, Eugene
If you’re a Smarty (the show’s original title), you’ll read my Eugene Weekly preview of the Oregon Festival of American Music’s new historically informed revival/restoration of George & Ira Gershwin’s witty 1927 musical comedy classic, bursting with immortal songs you know and others you should get to know.

Oregon Festival of American Music restores 'Funny Face' to its original fancies.

Oregon Festival of American Music restores the Gershwins’ ‘Funny Face.”

Portland Gay Men’s Chorus
June 18
Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall, Portland
A trio of Portland divas (Dru Rutledge, Jennifer Gill, and Susannah Mars) join the 140-voice chorus in 28 songs by some of the greatest female singers of the era, in a concert that should be especially poignant after the horrendous events of last week.

“Porch Music”
June 18
Third Angle New Music, Irvington neighborhood, Portland
The always enjoyable performance/stroll through a sampler of next season’s new music offerings, including Cappella Romana performing Arvo Part’s gorgeous (and seasonal!) Summa music and Solfeggio, ArtsWatch contributor Matt Marble’s Conversation with a wolf, Steve Reich’s pioneering Violin Phase, Peter Klatzow’s percussion-propelled Ambient Resonances, and Timothy Kramer’s solo cello Vanishing Perspectives. Audience members gather at a home in the leafy northeast Portland neighborhood where the throng is divided into five groups, each of which then ambles to different nearby home, where Third Angle members and guests perform movement or other excerpt from one of the group’s upcoming concerts. Then everyone goes to the next house for another alfresco performance, until they’ve seen all five. It’s a refreshing, informal way to get an intimate taste of next season’s fascinating fare.

June 18, St. Michael and All Angels Church, 1704 NE 43rd Ave, and June 19, First Unitarian Church, 1011 SW 12th Ave. Portland
Read my Willamette Week preview of the Portland Revels women’s choir’s 10th anniversary, world/folk music flavored concerts.

Make Music Day PDX
June 21
Various Portland venues (click link above for schedule)
Six dozen ensembles, a score of venues, free performances of music ranging from classical to jazz to bluegrass to rock and beyond … the annual music celebration, which began in France in 1982, returns for a second go-round in Portland.

Portland Percussion Group
June 22
The Old Church Concert Hall, 1422 SW 11th Ave. Portland
The ensemble composed of percussionists from Portland Opera, Lewis & Clark College and Portland State University faculty, Vancouver Symphony, Cherry Poppin’ Daddies, Federale and more play the three winning pieces from their call for scores — expanding the repertoire for marimba and vibraphone music — plus sparkling compositions by the terrific contemporary Chicago composer Mark Mellits and New York composer Gordon Stout.

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

Weekly MusicWatch: Opera overload

Operas and operettas lead this week's Oregon musical offerings

When Portland Opera, like many other American opera companies, moved to a summer season this year, we expected an operatic effusion — but this week, it’s turned into a veritable eruption, with a handful of opera/operettas onstage around Oregon this week, including the world premiere of an original Oregon opera, and a pair of song concerts starring opera singers. Non operatic sounds also abound, and feel free to alert readers to more  in the comments section below.

Portland Opera's 'Sweeney Todd.' Photo: Corey Weaver.

Portland Opera’s ‘Sweeney Todd.’ Photo: Corey Weaver.

“Sweeney Todd” 
June 9 & 11
Portland Opera’, Keller Auditorium.
Read Bruce Browne’s ArtsWatch review of Stephen Sondheim’s bloody tale of a wronged barber’s revenge.

The Bad Plus
June 9
Aladdin Theater, 3017 SE Milwaukie Avenue, Portland
The Oregon return of one of jazz’s most popular piano trios, whose audience extends way beyond the jazz heads, thanks in part to their insistence on performing jazzy arrangements of contemporary pop and even classical tunes along with occasional jazz classics.

June 9-26
Mock’s Crest Productions, Mago Hunt Center, University of Portland, 5000 N Willamette Blvd. Portland
Another, less macabre tale of an exile who returns home and commits crimes, this Gilbert and Sullivan operetta takes a happier turn than Sondheim’s.

Mock's Crest Opera's 'Ruddigore' at University of Portland.

Mock’s Crest Productions’ ‘Ruddigore’ at University of Portland.

Refuge: A Concert for Syrians in Exile
June 10
Disjecta, 8371 N Interstate Ave. Portland
Oregon Repertory Singers soprano Laurel Alyn-Forest joins composer/pianist composer Grisha Krivchenia to perform his new song cycle based on the words of Syrian refugees living in Jordan, Lebanon, and Turkey, as well as refugee/exile-related music by Schubert and Allan Louis Smith. Ten percent of the proceeds go to Syrian refugee assistance organizations.

Organic Nation Listening Club
June 10
Artists Repertory Theater, Portland
Portland jazz keyboardist and storyteller David Ornette Cherry brings back another incarnation of his mix of reminiscence, jazz, funk, and stories, co-starring other Portland music legends and their memories. Read my ArtsWatch review of last year’s version.

David Ornette Cherry (l) and Norman Sylvester (c) starred in last year's production of Organic Listening Club.

David Ornette Cherry (l) and Norman Sylvester (c) starred in last year’s production of Organic Nation Listening Club.

“Via Lactea”
June 10-12
OperaBend, Tower Theatre, Bend
Based on the verse novel Vía Láctea: A Woman of a Certain Age Walks the Camino, by one of Oregon’s finest essayists/memoirists, Ellen Waterston, the world premiere of this new opera in English features music by Bend-based composer Rebecca Oswald. Central Oregon Symphony music director Michael Gesme conducts, with state direction by Nancy Engebretson and choreography by Michelle Mejaski. Oregon Public Broadcasting’s State of Wonder did a nice preview.


Weekly MusicWatch: Exiles return

Opera, operetta, art songs and more music for voices top this week's Oregon music highlights

While Oregon swelters in its usual late spring musical swoon, a pair of operettas about criminal exiles returning home in disguise after years away, and other music for voices highlight this week’s music scene.

Improvisation Summit of Portland
June 2-4
Disjecta, 8371 N Interstate Ave. Portland
If you fancy creative musicians who make it up as they go, the Creative Music Guild’s fifth annual fest is the place to be. Along with accomplished veterans of the spontaneous compositions scene like Vinny Golia, Golden Retriever, Pebble Trio (led by the intrepid San Francisco keyboardist Thollem McDonas), Portland Jazz Composers Ensemble with Holland Andrews, Battle Hymns & Gamble (Battle Hymns & Gardens with Mike Gamble), John Gross, Rich Halley and more, the festival features newer voices to keep it fresh, including bringing in electronic instruments, choral music and more. The June 3 Round Robin curated by Blue Crane Reed Wallsmith brings together a dozen top musicians (some more famous in non-improv settings, like the Decemberist guitarist Chris Funk and Efterklang violist Peter Broderick, others from various improv traditions like the great jazz bassists Tod Sickafoose and Andre St. James, tamboura virtuoso Michael Stirling) in duets.

Phoebe Gildea
June 2
The Shedd, 868 High Street, Eugene
Read my Eugene Weekly preview of this opera-meets-musicals concert.

Susannah Mars and David Pitsinger star in Portland Opera's 'Sweeney Todd.'

Susannah Mars and David Pitsinger star in Portland Opera’s ‘Sweeney Todd.’

“Sweeney Todd” 
June 3-11
Portland Opera’, Keller Auditorium.
Stephen Sondheim’s bloody tale of a wronged barber’s revenge long ago moved from Broadway to opera houses, and this staging, based on the New York City Opera production, blends both worlds. It stars acclaimed Metropolitan Opera baritone David Pittsinger and a cast of local stars led by Susannah Mars. As I wrote last year in Eugene Weekly when Eugene Opera presented the operatic version of Sondheim’s 1979 musical:

Ask Eugene Opera managing director Mark Beudert why his opera company is doing a Broadway musical, and he talks about another piece “that didn’t start out in an opera house, that was new and different, kind of edgy in 1875. That work of art is Carmen. Within 25 years, it had been taken over by full sized opera companies.”

There is something undeniably operatic about the story, set in 19th century England, which is part revenge fantasy, part allegory of the depredations of capitalism (especially given its Soylent Green plot device). The Demon Barber of Fleet Street is determined to avenge his unjust imprisonment and other injustices perpetrated by a corrupt system.

Even if you’ve seen the original, Beudert explains, the operatic version (which follows other productions by major companies including New York City Opera, Houston Grand Opera and Royal Opera) unleashes the full glory of Sondheim’s darkly beautiful score. “The music responds to the same technique we use in opera,” says Beudert, who saw the original Broadway production in New York and an operatic version in London.”The style is somewhat different but not markedly so, so I see this piece making the same sort of transition Carmen did. I think it can breathe in a larger environment.”

June 3-26
Mock’s Crest Productions, Mago Hunt Center, University of Portland, 5000 N Willamette Blvd. Portland
Another, less macabre tale of an exile who returns home and commits crimes, this Gilbert and Sullivan operetta takes a happier turn than Sondheim’s.

William Champan Nyah & Rhonda Rizzo
June 3
Willie Hall, Central Oregon Community College
In this benefit for the Cascades Classical Music foundation, the accomplished pianists pair up on a single instrument in four-hand music by Oregon composer Terry McQuilkin, Mozart, Poulenc and more.

Tiempo Libre
June 3
Newmark Theatre, 1111 SW Broadway, Portland
The world-renowned, Grammy-nominated Afro-Caribbean jazz ensemble that heated up ART’s Cuba Libre! Returns, unencumbered by all those actors and dialogue, in what’s sure to be an electrifying show.


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