Brett Campbell


PDX Jazz Festival preview: Signs of life

Portland jazz scene remains vital despite popular club's sudden closure

The word is out: Jazz is dead. Why, it says so in La La Land, one of this year’s Best Picture Oscar nominees. Even legendary jazz critic Nat Hentoff died last month, shortly after Portland’s — and one of America’s — finest jazz club, Jimmy Mak’s, closed its doors for the last time, the latest in a string (Ivories, Brasserie Montmartre, Blue Monk, etc.) in recent years. Jazz record sales are tiny compared to hip hop and rock, and it’s been decades since the music occupied the center of popular culture. So long jazz, been good to know ya.

Not so fast. Jazz music and musicians are insinuating themselves into pop music (Kendrick Lamar) and movies (La La Land, Miles Ahead). Jazz musicians are embracing contemporary pop sounds and winning new audiences without selling out (Robert Glasper, the Bad Plus, Kamasi Washington, who played to a packed, diverse crowd at Roseland ballroom in December, and many others). Contemporary classical and pop musicians, including the late David Bowie on his last album, are including jazz musicians and ingredients in their work. In Portland, reports jazz’s demise may be greatly exaggerated. The music still resounds in the city’s cafes and clubs, and the 2017 Biamp PDX Jazz Festival, which begins this weekend, offers one of its strongest lineups (see our recommendations below).

Mel Brown performs and leads ensembles at PDX Jazz Festival.

Rather than a crisis, what Portland jazz is going through now is actually “a hiccup,” says veteran drummer Mel Brown, a Jimmy Mak’s mainstay who’s leading several bands at this year’s festival. He worries that jazz mostly happens in restaurants with no stages rather than dedicated venues like Jimmy Mak’s. But having grown up in Portland playing jazz in Northeast Portland’s legendary Jumptown scene as a teenager, he’s seen these cycles before.

“We had a lot of clubs here, then rock came and everything went away,” Brown recalls of the days before went off to study with legendary drummer Philly Joe Jones, perform with Motown, tour nationally before returning to Portland in the mid-1970s. “Now it’s trying to come back. We’ve got enough people pushing, but it takes time to really get the whole thing together.”

Kamasi Washington’s band drew a big, diverse audience to Portland’s Roseland Theater in December.

Jimmy Mak’s closing “does not reflect on the state of jazz in Portland,” insists festival director Don Lucoff, noting that the club closed not because it was faltering financially but because its building sold and its owner fell ill with terminal cancer before he could complete plans it to a new location this month. “Jimmy’s numbers, [local jazz radio station] KMHD’s numbers were up, our sales are up. It’s nothing to do with people not being interested in the music.” The festival shifted its Jimmy Mak’s performances to other venues, and the club’s former managers are busily putting together a new incarnation that jazz lovers hope will open before the year’s out.


When Oregon met Arvo

With help from composer Arvo Pärt, Royce Saltzman wanted the 1994 Oregon Bach Festival to be his grand finale. It was nearly a disaster.

Editor’s note: From Feb. 5-12, Portland choir Cappella Romana presents Portland’s Arvo Pärt Festival honoring the world’s most performed living composer. The festival includes a chamber music concert by Third Angle New Music, several choral concerts by Cappella Romana, a film biography that airs this coming Sunday, February 5, and more. ArtsWatch is running a series of stories about the 81-year-old Estonian legend, beginning with a story by University of Oregon student Justin Graff, recounting his encounter with Pärt in Estonia and continuing with this story, originally published in Oregon Quarterly, about the Oregon Bach Festival’s commission of a new work from Pärt in 1994. Details on the festival events follow.

As Royce Saltzman boarded the plane that would take him to Berlin, he couldn’t help feeling anxious. Saltzman, executive director of the Oregon Bach Festival for a quarter century, had devoted his life to music. As a singer, his instrument had been his voice; as a conductor, his choir.

Now Saltzman played people — the performers, staff, funders, media, volunteers, and dozens of others who came together each year to create a two-week extravaganza of more than 40 separate concerts, lectures, and workshops that each summer drew audiences of more than 30,000. Note by note, year by year, he’d cautiously nurtured the annual classical music event into what the Los Angeles Times called “a musical enterprise virtually without equal in America.” His skills had earned him many accolades, including leadership of the U.S. and international choral organizations.

Roycs Saltzman

Yet as the plane rose from the Eugene airport in January 1993, Saltzman knew he was approaching a critical juncture. The Festival had made its reputation through sharp performances of centuries-old masterworks. But for the 25th anniversary edition to be held in June 1994, Saltzman wanted to add a new dimension: an original piece by a major contemporary composer. And he had someone special in mind: a 56-year-old Estonian whom many regarded as the world’s preeminent active composer. His name was Arvo Pärt, and securing a new work from him might propel the Oregon Bach Festival into the first rank of classical music institutions. A successful premiere concert from so prominent a musician would encourage other composers to submit their new works to the OBF — and that, in turn, could make it an internationally recognized beacon of great new music as well as great old music.
The ’94 festival was special to the 65-year-old Saltzman for another reason: it would be his last as executive director; he’d just announced his retirement. If he could get Pärt, Saltzman have an opportunity that every musician craves: to go out with a grand finale.

Only one thing stood in the way: Arvo Pärt himself.


MusicWatch Weekly: Looking east

Music from Japan and China joins European and American sounds on Oregon stages this week

This week’s Oregon music concerts feature sounds from across Asia — including that subset of it that Portland native composer Lou Harrison called “Northwest Asia” and others call “Europe,” despite the fact that it’s connected to Asia and therefore not a separate continent. A pair of highly recommended shows featuring Oregon indie classical/contemporary ensembles Sound of Late and ARCO-PDX include new music from Oregon. Please recommend other shows in the comments section below, and remember, if you’re one of the performers or presenters whose music is previewed here, and you’re not already an ArtsWatch member, advertiser, or supporter, this is an excellent time to remedy that omission, so we can continue to tell readers about your music. Also, check venues for last minute schedule changes due to inclement weather.

February 1
Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall, Portland.
If you like drums, you’ll love Kodo. Japan’s most famous taiko drum ensemble is back on another North American tour, with a new program called Dadan (“Drumming Man”), featuring only the company’s young male members, all of whom live and train at a compound on Japan’s remote Kodo Island, and their drums without embellishments like melodic instruments, dancing or, well, female performers. Even though it’s a pretty stripped down ensemble this time, the ferocious athleticism of taiko drumming always provides visual as well as aural entertainment. Portland Taiko opens the show in the Schnitzer lobby.

Polyphony and the Sublime
Feb. 1
Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art, University Of Oregon, 1430 Johnson Lane, Eugene.
UO musicians play works by Renaissance masters Josquin Desprez and Carlo Gesualdo, baroque titans Monteverdi and Purcell, and J.S. Bach.

Reel Music Festival
February 1-5
Northwest Film Center, Portland Art Museum.
This week’s fascinating, globally conscious lineup of music-oriented films includes biographies of the most performed living classical composer, Arvo Part (about whom more presently!), the singular jazz crooner Jimmy Scott and wry jazz-blues pianist, singer and songwriter Mose Allison, a film about classical piano that features musical lioness Martha Argerich, a film about Afrobeat music, and another film about contemporary alternative Arab music.

Aanderson & Roe duo. Photo: Lisa-Marie-Mazzucco

Anderson & Roe
February 2
Lincoln Performance Hall, Portland State University, 1620 SW Park Ave. Portland.
Greg Anderson and Elizabeth Joy Roe make a strong team — not just in playing duo piano music together, but also in their shared commitment to contemporary music and presentation (they’re all over YouTube with Emmy nominated videos), which combined with their impassioned musicianship and chemistry have earned substantial record buyers and tour audiences. This Friends of Chamber Music recital includes ancient music by Mozart, Schubert and Rachmaninov along with newer sounds (some arranged by the pair) by the great 20th century nuevo tango composer Astor Piazzolla, and acclaimed contemporary British composers Thomas Ades and Paul McCartney.

Chevalier_de_Saint-Georges, the “black Mozart:

“Black Mozart”
February 2
Kaul Auditorium, Reed College, Portland.
Portland Baroque Orchestra joins forces with Seattle Baroque Orchestra, Pacific Baroque Orchestra, and the Early Music Society of the Islands to present the music of Joseph Boulogne, Chevalier de Saint-Georges. Born in Born in Guadeloupe, the slave’s son fought for the French Republic during the Revolution as a colonel in the first all-black regiment in Europe, but lost his military career due to politics. Renowned as a swordsman, violinist, composer and bandleader, the polymath mulatto became a musical star and maybe the first classical composer of African origin. Why hasn’t Denzel Washington optioned this great story for a film yet?  This orchestral concert features several of Boulogne’s violin concertos plus music by his  contemporaries Mozart and Haydn.

Hawaii International Music Festival stars
February 2
The Old Church, 1422 SW 11th Ave, Portland.
In this fundraising show for the festival Metropolitan Opera Soprano Amy Shoremount-Obra, Tchaikovsky Competition winning violinist Eric Silberger and pianist Carlin Ma perform music by Mendelssohn, Strauss, Rachmaninoff, Piazzolla, Bach, Sarasate, Debussy and more.

“Handel vs. Philip Glass”
ARCO-PDX, February 3, Holocene, 1001 SE Morrison St. Portland, and February 4, Whirled Pies, Eugene.
The Amplified Repertory Chamber Orchestra of Portland players, some with regional orchestras, make classical music concerts feel like rock shows, with tasteful amplification, vibrant lighting, informal atmosphere (beer et al allowed!), stage charisma abetted by mostly memorized performances. This program mashes up a pair of Handel’s grand Op. 6 concerti (probably the third most famous Baroque set, after Vivaldi’s Four Seasons and Bach’s Brandenburgs), contemporary composer Philip Glass’s pulsating first piano concerto (Tirol), and music by the wild card Dutch composer Jakob TV and new-to-Portland composer Scott Anthony Shell, who turned in an impressive piece at a Cascadia Composers show last year.

Lisa Hilton
February 3
The Old Church, 1422 SW 11th Ave. Portland.
The pianist and composer plays jazzy music written and inspired by Cole Porter, Duke Ellington, and classical composers.

Oregon Symphony
February 3, Smith Auditorium, Willamette University, Salem, and Feb. 4-6, Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall, Portland.
The great pianist Yefim Bronfman joins the orchestra for Beethoven’s stirring fourth piano concerto, on a program that includes contemporary American composer Sebastian Currier’s 10-minute 1997 Microsymph and Dvorak’s frequently performed ninth symphony, “From the New World.”

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

Sound of Late
February 4
N.E.W. Expressive Works, 810 SE Belmont Street, Portland.
The always intriguing Northwest-based new music wind and strings ensemble plays music dedicated to the venerable, pioneering American composer Pauline Oliveros, who died late last year. The program features her music as well as works by her contemporaries John Cage, minimalist pioneer La Monte Young, and Portland composer-clarinetist Justin Bulava. And, appropriate for composers who didn’t always insist upon determinacy, listeners can enjoy the music in different ways:  walk around, relax on carpet squares, sit, stand….

Pink Martini founder/pianist Thomas Lauderdale.

Pink Martini
February 4
Silva Concert Hall, Eugene.
The Portland big band will be missing the bevy of famous guest artists (e.g. Rufus Wainwright) who decorated the band’s bubbly, long-awaited new album, Je dis oui!, not to mention occasional co-lead singer Storm Large (who you can see with her own show very soon), but original chanteuse China Forbes will do her inimitable thing, and the backup band is pretty good: the Eugene Symphony.

“Jasmine Blossoms in the City of Roses”
February 5
Lincoln Recital Hall, Portland State University, 1620 SW Park Avenue, Portland.
In this afternoon concert, Chinese and Chinese-American musicians, including Portland State prof and pianist Susan Chan, play music written for the yangqin (Chinese dulcimer).

Yuanfan Yang
February 6
Portland Piano Company, 711 SW 14th Ave. Portland.
The latest Portland Piano International Rising Star pianist, who’s garnered plentiful awards and rapturous critical praise in his native United Kingdom, is also a composer, and he’ll play two of his originals in this well-programmed recital, along with new music by Oregon composer Greg Steinke, Ravel, Bartok and Liszt.

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

Fertile Ground reviews: Young bloods

Broken Planetarium's 'Atlantis' and Orphic's 'Iphigenia 3.0' show the promise of today's young Portland theater companies

At a Fertile Ground panel discussion called Building a Musical last weekend, Portland theater maven Corey Brunish, who’s produced impressive shows in Oregon and New York and beyond, noted that most Broadway shows are aimed at “well educated women in their 60s.” His observation  will come as no surprise to anyone who’s attended a Broadway show — or most other theater, in New York or elsewhere. Judging by the usual audience demographic, you’d be forgiven for thinking that even Portland theater is for old people. But at two performances at this year’s Fertile Ground festival, I found young companies drawing relatively young audiences in plays that pulsed with 21st century attitude and energy. They left me optimistic for the future of theater in Portland and beyond.

After the Deluge

Set in a not so distant future in which the climate change denied by the Con-mander in Chief has now, ironically, inundated (thanks to melting polar ice) most of his properties, Atlantis takes place atop a New York skyscraper rooftop. By day, its characters watch the waters rise inch by inch, and by night participate in an early ‘60s-style Greenwich Village open mike amateur folk song showcase —providing a perfect excuse for characters to periodically burst into song. Not that operas or musicals (which, despite the subtitle, is really what this is, as it eschews traditional opera’s sung recitatives in favor of a musical’s alternating songs and dialogue) have ever needed one.

Natasha Kotey in ‘Atlantis.’ Photo: Laura Hadden.

Thankfully, the enormously entertaining show, which completed its short Fertile Ground run at Portland’s Clinton Street Theater last weekend, seldom slows to harangue us about politics; the impending flood is just an ominous if inevitable fact of life. So adaptable are these New Yorkers that, evolutionary theory be damned, they grow gills to adapt to their submerged future. It’s one of the cheerfully wacky touches that keep Atlantis’s mood light while never flinching from the gravity of its subject matter. We soon learn that this greatest of our generation’s challenges is also a metaphor for one of its other generational crises, one that unfolds through the story of one of its central characters. That’s a classic application of speculative fiction, yet there’s nothing remotely preachy or political or sentimental about this realization.

In fact, several songs (written by Laura Christina Dunn, Brigit Kelly Young, Kendy Gable, Monica Metzler a/k/a Forest Veil, Frank Mazzetti and Maggie Mascal) could be described as sharp musical comedy, and their sly, smart lyrics are one of the show’s major assets. The audience chortled and even howled through numbers like Dunn’s song about the land of lost dates, and cheered Sofia May-Cuxim’s dynamite belting out of “Hymn to the End of the World.” The other vocal performances could be charitably described as authentically scruffy indie, which suits the story but may occasionally trouble listeners who prioritize accurate pitch, range greater than a few notes, and audible lyrics over dramatic authenticity, although that last problem might be addressed by amplification in the bigger, better funded full production that I dearly hope will follow.


Portland Taiko: Rebuilding community through music

The Portland percussion ensemble embraces diversity in its music and projects

At the end of Portland Taiko’s fall concert at Portland’s Catlin Gabel School, the performers strolled offstage and lined up outside the exits, smiling and thanking the departing audience members who’d just enjoyed a superb concert. The friendly farewells finished off an event that had a family feel throughout. The Portland-based Japanese percussion ensemble played the first half, and their guests, Los Angeles’s TaikoProject, the second.

The two groups collaborated on a couple of pieces involving a variety of traditional Japanese drums, with choreographed movement and playing that ranged from subtle interaction to powerful pounding. And as Portland Taiko Executive Director Wynn Kiyama, who’d just completed his first season as director, noted from the stage, the ensembles enjoy several connections: former Portland Taiko Artistic Director Michelle Fujii, for example, once played in TaikoProject, which also includes Kiyama’s brother.

Portland Taiko at its fall 2016 concert. Photo: Brian Sweeney.

The concert continued Portland Taiko’s resurgence after one of the most trying periods in its history. At the group’s annual summer 2014 concert in Washington Park before he joined, “I was impressed by their musicality,” Kiyama recalls, unaware that the group was in the midst of a difficult transition. Fujii and her husband, star dancer Toru Watanabe, left the group shortly before the concert. Under Fujii’s direction from 2006–14, the group had broadened its appeal and artistic focus to emphasize folk-dance movement and theatrical elements. In the wake of her departure, Portland Taiko’s direction seemed uncertain.

Since Kiyama assumed leadership last year, the group has welcomed back several former members, restored its annual benefit banquet, and embarked on a series of performances, like the collaboration with TaikoProject, that embrace both music and community. They were even wearing spiffy new costumes at the November concert. This week, the group performs at a Portland Japanese American cultural celebration and in a Portland concert with the venerable Japanese taiko ensemble Kodo.


MusicWatch Weekly: Russian winter

Musical detente on Oregon stages this week

The stage was set for the public music event of the century, or at least the quadrennium. The dignitaries, if that’s the word, were assembled at the seat of government, commencing the investiture of its new ruler, who’d ascended to power via a combination of cynicism, disillusionment, disenfranchisement, racism, and opponent haplessness. The ceremony proceeded with the usual ruffles and flourishes, this time soured with a soupçon of faux-populist bile. The Bible was flourished, the oath recited, repeated, the hands shaken, the transfer made, the crime completed. All eyes and ears turned to the waiting military band to seal the dirty deal with the imprimatur of public Art. The conductor raised his baton — and instead of the first notes of “Hail to the Chief,” the band began playing “Back in the USSR”….

Bemusement gave way to consternation and then to apoplexy with the dawning realization of the import of this act of arrant lese majeste. The new Commissar in Chief sputtered orders to anyone in uniform to suppress the musical rebellion, while the old one, plainly relieved of the burdens of official optimism, vainly tried to hide his chuckle behind his hand, then returned to his daydream of Hawaiian escape. While chaos erupted, the musicians continued to play Lennon-McCartney, bringing the nation to its senses. The gathered Supreme Court justices quickly conferred and ruled the election rigged, due to rampant dinformation and disenfranchisement, with a do-over scheduled for July 4. In the Kremlin, fury quickly turned to new schemes….

But alas, it was only a dream, last weekend’s InAAARGH!uration opportunity for the artistic if not political coup of the century squandered.

Oregonians, however, have abundant opportunities to experience musical subversion and seduction this week, including, presumably by sheer coincidence, an invasion of Russian music. Please recommend others in the comments section.

Battle Trance, Blue Cranes
January 25
Mississippi Studios, Portland
Despite their instrument’s stereotype, this brilliant quartet of tenor sax titans, all with distinctive individual careers and voices, creates contemporary classical music that sounds nothing like jazz as we know it. Read and hear this NPR story. Portland’s own adventurous jazz ensemble opens.

Reel Music Festival
January 25-31
Northwest Film Center, Portland Art Museum
This week’s musicocinematic treats cover the blues (tributes to the great gospel/blues group the Blind Boys of Alabama, and the late great jazz/blues singer/pianist Mose Allison, who departed last year); metal (Saturday’s double feature);  blues (Allison, Nighthawks founder and vintage jazz preservationist/bandleader Vince Giordano, the sublime pianist Fred Hersch, nonagenarian Portland saxophonist/Holocaust survivor/author/scholar  Frank Wesley); and a free Northwest music video showcase.

“Passion in Winter”
January 26-29
Chamber Music Northwest, PSU, Lincoln Performance Hall, and Reed College, Kaul Auditorium
The annual winter festival features American classical music’s major power couple, pianist Wu Han and her husband, former Emerson Quartet cellist David Finckel, who’ve run New York’s Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center for years and created its record label, along with founding chamber music festivals and, oh yeah, playing classical music together. Their Thursday concert at PSU includes one of JS Bach’s lovely viola da gamba sonatas, Beethoven’s variations on Handel’s song “See the conqu’ring hero comes,” and sonatas by Grieg and Shostakovich, plus an arrangement for cello of the famous Vocalise another Russian composer, Rachmaninoff’s, wrote for the instrument that is said to most resemble the human voice. Bonus: musicians from Portland Youth Philharmonic will open with Stravinsky’s Septet and Grieg’s g minor string quartet.

The Montrose Trio played at Friends of Chamber Music in Portland last year. Photo: John Green.

The pair head over to Reed College to join Austin’s Miro Quartet and the Montrose Trio in Friday’s mixed-instrument concert featuring one of Dvorak’s Slavonic Dances, a rarely heard quartet by Russian Romantic composer Anton Arensky, and Mendelssohn’s early, “other” violin concerto. PYP musicians again open, this time with Dvorak’s evergreen “American” quartet and some Shostakovich.

On Saturday at Reed, the Montrose and Miro players team up for both of Brahms’s seductive String Sextets, and the Montrose Trio brings it home Sunday at PSU in trios by Brahms, Beethoven and Shostakovich.

Eugene Symphony
January 26
Silva Concert Hall, Hult Center, Eugene.
Andrew von Oeyen stars in an American classical masterworks: Samuel Barber’s ruggedly Romantic, Pulitzer Prize winning 1962 Piano Concerto, influenced as much by Russian symphonic music as Trump is by Putin. The other guest, emerging young conductor Ryan McAdams, is the second of three candidates auditioning for the orchestra’s music director job. He’ll also lead the band through Brahms’s first symphony and Mozart’s dramatic overture to his opera Don Giovanni.


MusicWatch Weekly: Inarrrrgh!uration Daze

As America’s hopes enter a deep freeze, Oregon and its art scene emerge from one

Oregon’s streets and arts are finally thawing, just in time to greet a chilling new national political reality that will doubtless provoke plenty of artistic responses. For now, Oregon arts can transport us to other, less immediately discouraging worlds, from the 17th century to the 21st, that summon a spirit of transcendence. If you know of other musical balms for, escapes from, or challenges to our impending political apocalypse, please note them in the comments section below.

Radcliffe Choral Society, Portland State Chamber Choir 
January 18
Lincoln Recital Hall, Room 75, 1620 SW Park Ave. Portland.
Harvard’s top women’s choir, now over a century old, joins one of Portland’s, which just celebrated its 40th anniversary.

January 20
Third Angle New Music, Alberta Rose Theater, 3000 NE Alberta Ave. Portland.
Multimedia is the message of much contemporary classical music, written by and for artists who grew up experiencing music as part of larger works of art. Portland new music ensemble Third Angle brings one of today’s multimedia music stars, French-American composer and electronic musician Daniel Wohl, to town to team up with visual artist Daniel Schwarz and Third Angle’s own string quartet and percussion trio in his multi-movement, multimedia Holographic. Commissioned by two major art museums, a Minnesota chamber orchestra, and Baryshnikov Arts Center, it’s a trippy, evening-length amalgamation of abstract and concrete images, acoustic and electronic music, a great temporary escape from this weekend’s political madness. Note: Wohl’s scheduled, beer intensive casual show on January 18 at Lagunitas Community Room has fallen victim to the weather.

Pablo Sainz Villegas
January 20
Newmark Theatre, 1111 SW Broadway, Portland.
“Spanish” goes with “classical guitar” like “catastrophe” goes with “2016 Presidential inauguration,” at least this year. Part of a long tradition of superb Spanish classical guitarists, Villegas has won his country’s top classical music awards, and whatever he plays on Friday — neither of the presenters had announced the repertoire 48 hours before showtime — it’s likely to sound bueno.

Bill Crane
January 20
Trinity Episcopal Cathedral, 147 Northwest 19th Ave. Portland.
At 7:30 a.m. — no typo— the veteran Portland organist’s “recital before the inaugural” includes powerful music by JS Bach (a prelude and fugue), Jehan Alain (Three Dances), and Samuel Barber’s famous American lament, a setting of the Adagio movement from his string quartet.

Beaverton Symphony Orchestra
January 20 & 22
Village Baptist Church, 330 SW Murray Blvd, Beaverton.
Music director Travis Hatton continues to demonstrate the orchestra’s commitment to Northwest composers with Portland eminence Tomas Svoboda’s Festive Overture (apparently programmed before election results were known), Brahms’s second piano concerto, and Tchaikovsky’s sunny Italian Caprice.

January 20-22
Keller Auditorium, Portland.
Now on its 20th anniversary tour, Jonathan Larson’s Tony- and Pulitzer-winning rock musical adaptation of Puccini’s La Bohème was for the previous generation almost what Hamilton is for this one.

The company of the ‘Rent’ 20th anniversary your. Photo: Carol Rosegg, 2016.

“The Desire for the Sacred”
January 21
Cascadia Composers, Resonance Ensemble, Agnes Flanagan Chapel at Lewis & Clark College, 0615 SW Palatine Hill Rd. Portland.
Our locavore contemporary classical music composer organization’s collaborations with local choirs (The Ensemble. Choral Arts Ensemble, etc.) have produced splendid results. Now they’re back with their another collaboration with another fine Portland choir, Resonance Ensemble, plus three leading Portland organists (Gregory R. Homza, Dan Miller and Cheryl Young) and other instrumentalists in a program of original music by some of the state’s finest composers: Lisa Ann Marsh, Daniel Brugh, Jeff Winslow, Nicholas Yandell, Jennifer Wright, and others. Much of it reflects the desire for spiritual — not necessarily religious — transcendence. Jah knows we’ve got plenty to transcend these days.

January 21
Leaven Community, 5431 NE 20th Ave. Portland.
The Creative Music Guild’s fascinating new quarterly series, focusing on quieter, more conceptual sound expressions, continues with a quintet of new experimental works by Switzerland’s Jurg Frey and Germany’s Eva-Maria Houben (two of the Wandelweiser group Alex Ross recently chronicled in The New Yorker), Australian percussionist/composer Vanessa Tomlinson, Corvallis composer Dana Reason, and Canadian composer Daniel Brandes. Performers include some of the city’s top creative musicians, including Lee Elderton (clarinet), Sage Fisher (harp), Mike Gamble (nylon-string guitar), Catherine Lee (oboe), Dana Reason (piano), Andre St. James (double bass), John C. Savage (flute), and Jonathan Sielaff (bass clarinet). Read Matthew Andrews’ ArtsWatch review of the series’s previous installment.

The Ensemble and friends present a concert version of a 17th century Vespers service from Venice.

“Venetian Vespers”
The Ensemble of Oregon, Musica Maestrale, Canonici, January 21, Central Lutheran Church, 1857 Potter Street, Eugene, and January 22, Saint Stephen Catholic Church, 1112 SE 41st Ave. Portland.
Portland’s cream-of-the-crop small vocal ensemble has embarked on a series of fruitful collaborations with other musicians. This one teams them with Tacoma-based early music vocal consort Canonici and Portland’s own Baroque specialists Musica Maestrale (performing on archaic instruments like the big guitar-like theorbo and viola da gamba, which superficially resembles a cello) to perform famous music by the first great Baroque composer, Claudio Monteverdi, and other not so famous Italian composers of the period: Chiara Margarita Cozzolani, Grandi, Arrigoni and Castello.

Vancouver Symphony Orchestra
January 21-22
Skyview Concert Hall, 1300 NW 139th St, Vancouver, WA.
Rising conductor Marcelo Lehninger leads the band in Bach’s most famous orchestral suite (the airy one with the skimpy attire), one of Beethoven’s undeservedly least famous symphonies (the one between the two great triumphs, #7  & #9), and Brahms’s second piano concerto, with soloist Orli Shaham.

PHAME Academy
January 22
First Presbyterian Church, 1200 SW Alder Street, Portland.
The always intriguing and now free Celebration Works series presents the disabled artists of Pacific Honored Artists, Musicians, and Entertainers in an afternoon music, art, and spoken word, in collaboration with local artists including The Bylines, jazz bass legend Andre St. James, pianist Randy Hoboson, trumpeter David Chachere, and drummer Rob Smith.

Delgani Quartet
January 22
Prince of Peace Episcopal Church, 1525 Glen Creek Rd NW, Salem.
The excellent Eugene-based quartet goes traditional in music by J.S. Bach, Joseph Haydn, Beethoven, and Charles Ives.

Reel Music Festival
All week.
Northwest Film Center, Portland Art Museum.
The annual series of films about musical subjects continues with flicks about David Byrne’s new color guard music project (which has a Portland connection), Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds, the music of Mali (wellspring of the blues), the intersection of the civil rights movement and the blues, the late great Leon Russell, the influential but too little known early rock music impresario Bert Berns, 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.