Brett Campbell


Weekly MusicWatch: Music takes a holiday

Memorial Day is more about reflecting on sacrifice than on hearing live music, but Oregon stages still boast some attractive concerts

Music from 17th century Europe, Central Asia and India takes center stage during a rare slow stretch of Oregon’s music season.

Cascadia Viols
May 27
Trinity Episcopal Cathedral, 147 NW 19th Ave. Portland
Read my Willamette Week preview of this concert of consort music by William Byrd. A workshop follows the next day for those with a history of viol-ence.

The Florestan Trio performs in Portland May 27.

The Florestan Trio performs in Portland May 27.

Florestan Trio and Friends
May 27
The Old Church, 1422 SW 11th Ave. Portland
The esteemed threesome play Mendelssohn’s d minor piano trio, then call for reinforcements to perform Brahms’s big f minor piano quintet.

Tejendra Naryan Majumdar
May 27
The Music Room, 5395 SW Elm Ave, Beaverton
One of the leading sarod masters in Hindustani music is accompanied by Ravi Albright on tabla, then leads a workshop the next day.

“The Knight of the Rose (Der Rosenkavalier)”
May 27
Living Room Theaters, 341 SW 10th Ave. Portland
If you missed the Metropolitan Opera broadcast or PSU’s recent production of Richard Strauss operas, catch the film version of this new Salzburg Festival production of another of the composer’s classics, conducted by the Cleveland Orchestra’s Franz Welser-Most.

“Global Rhythms: Stand Against Violence”
May 28
Portland State Man Choir, Vox Femina and University Choir
Read my Willamette Week preview of the energetic singers’ season-ending concert.

PSU Chamber Choir, Man Choir and Vox Femina perform this weekend.

PSU Chamber Choir, Man Choir and Vox Femina perform this weekend.

University of Oregon Spring Concert
May 28
Silva Concert Hall, Hult Center for the Performing Arts, Eugene.
Read Gary Ferrington’s ArtsWatch preview of the premiere of a new Oregon composition at this annual showcase of UO musical munificence.

UO Wind Ensemble joins other University of Oregon performers in the big spring concert.

UO Wind Ensemble joins other University of Oregon performers in the big spring concert.

“San Giovanni Battista”
May 29
Episcopal Church of the Resurrection, 3925 Hilyard Street, Eugene
Renowned UO early music specialist Marc Vanscheeuwijck conducts soloists and a period-instrument orchestra in a reprise of last month’s performance of Alessandro Stradella’s early Baroque oratorio, which sets the story of Salome and John the Baptist that Richard Strauss (see above) famously later rendered as Salome.

Stradella's "St. John the Baptist" repeats in Eugene.

Stradella’s “St. John the Baptist” repeats in Eugene.

Drifting East
May 29
Corkscrew, 1665 SE Bybee Blvd. Portland
Violist Kim Mai Nguyen and cellist Avery Waite met at the Juilliard School and again in Kabul, and when they ended up in the San Francisco Bay area, decided to form an ensemble to perform an evocative original fusion of Indo-Afghan, Western classical, and Central Asian folk music.

Guy & Nadina
May 29
First United Methodist Church, 1376 Olive Street, Eugene
Read my Eugene Weekly preview of the Canadian classical duo, featuring familiar and fabulous Oregon Bach Festival trumpeter Guy Few.

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Music in Small Spaces

Small-scale series bring new sounds closer to audiences

In the music world, most of the attention goes to the mega-venues: Keller Auditorium, Moda Center, Schnitzer Concert Hall, arena shows. Yet most of the creativity seems to happen in more intimate confines. Maybe it’s something to do with focus or informality or even lower ticket prices, but for me, cozy clubs, chapels, galleries, small auditoriums somehow make it easier to connect to what’s happening onstage.

That’s why I’ve cherished Music in Small Spaces, which for the past six years has presented new and unusual music in Beaverton and other towns on the west side of Portland’s West Hills (Tualatin Mountains), and Third Angle New Music’s Studio Series and Porch Music, which bring mostly new sounds to inner Southeast Portland’s Zoomtopia studios and the front porches of homes in a leafy old Northeast Portland neighborhood.


Alas, MiSS’s indefatigable majordomo, Judy Castle, has announced that last week’s concert, at Portland’s ironically not-so-small Village Baptist Church, will be the last in the series — a big loss for the West Side and for Oregon music in general. The final two performances, as well as Third Angle’s season-ending (but thankfully not series-ending) show last week show just why these spaces are so valuable. And while it won’t be in a small space, you will have the chance to see a reprise of the final MiSS show this Sunday in downtown Portland.


Weekly MusicWatch

Cavalcade of contemporary music and classics on Oregon stages this week

The last big weekend of the spring music season brings an avalanche of new music, much of written right here in Oregon, and a good deal of it emanating from the state’s universities, along with Indian music concerts, vanguard jazz, some excellent choral concerts, and more.

Oregon State University Wind Ensemble and Wind Symphony
May 18
Austin Auditorium, LaSells Stewart Center, 875 S.W. 26th Street, Corvallis
The band premieres Heart of a Forest by Paul D. Miller. Wait, let’s rephrase that. The band premieres Heart of a Forest by one of the 21st century’s most creative artistic mixers of media, composer/multimedia artist/writer DJ Spooky. Inspired by Thoreau and scored for turntables and wind ensemble, the neoclassical piece explores “the collision of data, sound and new ways to think about the absence of origins.” The fascinating program also includes music by Alfred Reed, Ronald Lo Presti, Howard Hanson, Frank Ticheli, Michael Gandolfi, John Adams, David Biedenbender and Percy Grainger.

OSU Wind Ensemble plays DJ Spooky.

OSU Wind Ensemble plays DJ Spooky.

Raphael Spiro String Quartet
May 18
The Old Church, 1422 SW 11th Ave. Portland
The ensemble of current and former Oregon Symphony members plays World War II-era quartets by Britten and Shostakovich, and one of Beethoven’s Op. 18 quartets, written during an earlier European war.

MYSfits String Ensemble
May 19
The Old Church, 1422 SW 11th Ave. Portland
The Metropolitan Youth Symphony classical string group re-plays contemporary New York composer Cornelius Dufallo’s A Late Walk, which they performed at this month’s FearNoMusic concert, plus one of the great 20th century oboe concertos, by Ralph Vaughan Williams, and Tchaikovsky’s delightful musical postcard, Souvenir of Florence. The MYS jazz ensemble plays classics by Lee Morgan and Gigi Gryce as well as David Hazltine’s “Pentimento.”

Peter Brötzmann Quartet, CATFISH
May 19
Mississippi Studios, 3939 N. Mississippi Ave. Portland
One of the living legends of European free jazz returns to Oregon, preceded by the low key offshoot of Oregon’s Blue Cranes.

In Mulieribus
May 20, St. Stephen’s Catholic Church,  1114 SE 41st Ave. Portland, and May 22, Proto-Cathedral of St James, 218 W 12th St. Vancouver
The fabulous women’s vocal ensemble sings Renaissance music by  Binchois, Dunstable, Bisnois, Ciconia, and one of the era’s greatest composers, Guillaume Dufay, who was doing what composers like Lou Harrison did half a millennium later: integrating musical elements from diverse cultures of his time (Italian, French, English) to create a rich new hybrid sound.

Dema Ensemble performs at the University of Oregon.

Dema Ensemble performs at the University of Oregon.

Dema Ensemble
May 20
Dougherty Dance Theatre, University of Oregon
The UO’s African music/dance ensemble performs traditional African drumming, dance, singing and storytelling.

Beaverton Symphony
May 20 & 22
Village Baptist Church, 330 SW Murray Blvd, Beaverton
Alone among Oregon orchestras, the Beaverton Symphony displays a commitment to the music of its homeland with an annual, affordably priced ($10) performance by a composer from the area via its Northwest Composers Project. This spring’s entry is Washington composer Ryan Hare’s Maracanzo, an again-timely 2011 composition inspired by an (in)famous 1950 World Cup championship game. The concert also includes Beethoven’s stirring third symphony and performances of movements from famous classical concertos by the winners of the orchestra’s also admirable young artists competition.

Unistus Chamber Choir
May 20, First Christian Church, Portland, and May 22, Milwaukie Lutheran Church, Milwaukie
One of the state’s hidden musical treasures, the choir performs the world premiere of A Choral Calendar, with the Los Angeles composer/poet Carol Worthey reading the original poetry she wrote for the piece. A jazz quartet joins the show, too.

Lonnie Cline leads Unistus Chamber Choir Friday in downtown Portland.

Lonnie Cline leads Unistus Chamber Choir Friday in downtown Portland.

Marshanne Chamber Players
May 20, MarshAnne Landing Winery, and May 22, Wildish Community Theater, Springfield
Eugene Symphony concertmaster Searmi Park, Oregon Symphony clarinetist Louis DeMartino and pianist David Riley play a sweet program of trios by Giancarlo Menotti and Aram Khachaturian, Francis Poulenc’s lovely clarinet sonata, and Jascha Heifetz’s arrangements of tunes from Gershwin’s _Porgy & Bess_ for violin and piano.

“A Finale of Firsts”
Portland Chamber Orchestra, May 21, Nordia House, 8800 SW Oleson Rd. and May 22, Lewis and Clark College, Agnes Flanagan Chapel, Portland
The season-ending show presents the first symphonies of Beethoven and Prokofiev, along with Mendelssohn’s ever popular Violin Concerto in e minor and the superb Portland composer Kenji Bunch’s liltingly lush Fantasy for Violin and Orchestra.

Vancouver Symphony 
May 20 & 21
Skyview Concert Hall, 1300 NW 139th St. Vancouver
The orchestra closes its season with performances of Shostakovich’s first (1925) and final (1971) symphonies — extremely different orchestral statements befitting the extremes of the composer’s eventful life.


‘Emma’ & ‘Grand Concourse’ reviews: Instigating women

Characters in Bag & Baggage and Artists Repertory Theatre productions pit good intentions against hard reality

The upstart Portland Trail Blazers are leading the greatest team in NBA history at halftime. It’s the crucial game in the second round of the playoffs.  No one expected the young Blazers to even be here. How could I tear myself away to hear repressed Victorians prattle on about who’s gonna marry whom??

Besides, haven’t we more important things to worry about — homelessness, human-caused climate change, the potential for the Greatest Upset in NBA Playoff History?

And yet, Bag&Baggage’s production of Jane Austen’s Emma held promise. Hardly anyone pulls off snappier dialogue than Austen, not even NBA broadcast commentators Charles Barkley, Shaquille O’Neal or Kenny Smith.  So grumbling only slightly, I headed for Hillsboro.

Cassie Liis-Hillier & Cassie Greer in Bag & Baggage's 'Emma.' Photo: Jess StewartMaize, LensFlare Photography.

Clara Liis-Hillier & Cassie Greer in Bag & Baggage’s ‘Emma.’ Photo: Jess StewartMaize, LensFlare Photography.

Unfortunately, Michael Fry’s 1996 stage adaptation falls victim to the problems that often plague translations of art from their original medium. In trying to remain faithful to Austen’s novel, Fry bogged down the stage adaptation with slow-playing exposition, just like the many NBA teams who failed to successfully adapt to new rules intended to enliven the game. Here I was watching the equivalent of the Memphis Grizzlies onstage while my mind kept drifting to the Moda Center and the Golden State Warriors with their high-flying offense.


Weekly MusicWatch: Operas, oratorio, and other musical offerings

New music from the Netherlands, Greece, Syria and the Pacific Northwest highlight this week's music calendar

This week’s calendar boasts some major music, old and new: a couple of operas (one from the end of the last century), a 20th century oratorio, an important new concerto from one of Oregon’s leading composers, a multimedia benefit for Syrian refugees, and much more — including abundant new music from various lands, including this one. Please let ArtsWatch readers know about other appealing musical events in the comments section below.

“A Child Of Our Time”
May 11
Portland Symphonic Choir, Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall, 1037 SW Broadway Ave. Portland
Read Bruce Browne’s ArtsWatch preview of British composer Michael Tippett’s oratorio, which combines African American spirituals, Baroque music traditions, and a powerful anti-war and anti-discrimination message, reinforced here by projections of images provided by the Oregon Jewish Museum.

Eugene Symphony
May 12
Silva Concert Hall, Hult Center, Eugene
Read Gary Ferrington’s ArtsWatch preview of the season ending oncert featuring the world premiere of the orchestra’s newly commissioned Piano Concerto by leading Oregon composer Robert Kyr and Beethoven’s mighty Symphony No. 9.

Going Dutch
Third Angle New Music, May 12 & 13
Studio 2@Zoomtopia. 810 SE Belmont, Portland
The Netherlands boasts one of the world’s craziest contemporary classical music scenes, but Oregon rarely gets to hear the music of the generation that followed the country’s most famous living composer, Louis Andriessen. The intrepid ensemble brings the music of younger composers including JacobTV (whose “Grab It!” for sampled voices and solo instrument, which also appears on this program, totally grabbed my attention when Portland saxophonist Linse Sullivan played an electrifying version a couple years ago at Classical Revolution), Michel Van der Aa, Ruben Naeff, Mayke Nas, and Cathy van Eck’s piece for shrubbery.

“Sting: The Jazz Remix”
May 12
Alberta Abbey, Portland
Read Angela Allen’s ArtsWatch preview of Darrell Grant and Marilyn Keller’s tribute to the former Police chief.

The illustrious lutenist Ronn McFarlane performs Friday in Portland Classical Guitar's series.

The illustrious Oregon lutenist Ronn McFarlane performs Friday in Portland Classical Guitar’s series.

“The Magic Flute”
May 12 & 14
Keller Auditorium, Portland
Read Bob Hicks’s ArtsWatch review and Angela Allen’s ArtsWatch preview of Portland Opera’s opening 2016 production.

Ronn McFarlane
May 13
Wiegand Hall, Marylhurst University
One of the world’s greatest lutenists happens to live in Oregon. The Grammy-nominated McFarlane made his reputation with the Baltimore Consort and continues to tour and record with that great early music ensemble as well as composing, recording and touring as an engaging solo performer/composer. This Portland Classic Guitar concert will feature his own evocative originals as well as classic lute works from the Renaissance and Baroque eras.


Weekly MusicWatch: Present and future masters

Rising and established music stars perform on Oregon stages this week

The week’s music calendar offers several chances to catch emerging classical and jazz musicians on their ascent, along with a stellar lineup of venerable veterans. And the Portland Opera opens its new Summer Season with “The Magic Flute,” costumes and scenery designed by Maurice Sendak.

Andrews and Detrick perform at Tale in the Telling's show in Portland.

Andrews and Detrick perform at Tale in the Telling’s show in Portland.

Tale in the Telling
May 4
Turn! Turn! Turn! Killingsworth St. Portland
Portland composer/trumpeter Douglas Detrick’s inventive project, featuring top young Portland musicians Mike Gamble and drummer Barra Brown, explores the intersections of American roots music, from sea chanties to fiddle tunes to folk ballads and more. Guest collaborators this time include Portland songwriter/singer Kela Parker and singer/clarinetist Holland Andrews (Like a Villain), who’ll contribute a big new “choral noise” piece.

Classical Up Close
May 4, Nordia House, 8800 SW Oleson Rd, and May 6, Maranatha Church, 4222 NE 12th, Portland        The admirable outreach program spearheaded by Oregon Symphony concertmaster Sarah Kwak and sponsored by All Classical Portland ends its second season. The Nordia House show features  the radio station’s own Suzanne Nance, who’s also a performing soprano, accompanied by a top OSO piano trio in music by Satie, Gabriel Kahane, Ned Rorem, Piazzolla, Debussy and more, as well as instrumentals by Mozart, Spohr, Edgar Meyer, and more, while on May 6, members of the Portland Bravo Orchestra open for chamber performances of music by Stamitz, Piazzolla, Reinecke and more. Read my ArtsWatch feature from last year.

Classical UpClose closes at Maranatha Church

Classical UpClose closes at Maranatha Church

Sound of Late
May 5
Headwaters Theatre, 55 NE Farragut Street #9, Portland
In yet another example of current upsurge in concerts that mix words and new music in unusual ways, the Portland/Seattle new music ensemble plays late 20th and early 21st century music by Takemitsu, Bright Sheng, Seattle’s Emily Doolittle, and Nicole Portley, interspersed with texts by Northwest fisher poets Lara Merrersmith Glavin, Joel Miller, Lauren Sheehan, and Sean Talbot.

Sound of Late performs at Portland's Headwaters Theater.

Sound of Late performs at Portland’s Headwaters Theater.

Avishai Cohen Quartet
May 5
Jimmy Mak’s, 221 NW 10th Ave. Portland
The bountifully bearded Israeli American trumpeter is one of jazz’s rising stars, and his luminous new album, Into the Silence, propelled by the sterling drummer Nasheet Waits, displays his skills in ruminative Miles-ian ballads as well as peppier fare.


‘In the Heights’: Overheated, undercooked

Stumptown Stages' production of Lin-Manuel Miranda's Tony-winning musical fails to ignite

It’s hot in the Heights. It’s summer, and many of the apartments in Nueva York’s working class Washington Heights neighborhood — home to mix of very different Latino cultures: Dominican, Cuban, Puerto Rican, more — lack air conditioning. Neighbors swelter on stoops, score cafe con leche at the bodega, frequent the salon and the frozen treat vendor.

The heat is on in their lives, too. The family owned taxi company can barely pay its drivers (and this was before Uber!). Nina, the pride of the ‘hood, a smart student who got into Stanford, returns home for the summer sweltering under the pressure of a secret disappointment. Another is falling behind in her rent.

Stumptown Stages' 'In the Heights' closes this weekend at Brunish Theater.

Stumptown Stages’ ‘In the Heights’ closes this weekend at Brunish Theater.

That’s the colorful, heated world of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s breakthrough musical,  whose sold-out run ends May 1 at Portland5’s Brunish Theater. Miranda’s affectionate evocation of the neighborhood next door to the one he grew up in, along with its authentically multicultural musical mashup of salsa, hip hop and more, immerses the audience in a richly evoked world we want to know more about.

One of the first musicals to successfully bring hip hop to Broadway, In the Heights (which collected four 2008 Tony Awards, including Best Musical, not to mention a smattering of Olivier Awards for a British run) sometimes pulls it off so adeptly that it makes me wonder what took so long (well, not really — much of American theater until very recently has been effectively an apartheid zone) to bring this powerfully musical style to theater. Rap’s hardly much of a leap from other musicalized theater-speech, from recitative to sprechstimme, singspiel to Gilbert & Sullivan patter songs. The hip hop elements here evoke the Heights in our ears just as Demetri Paviatos’s vibrant set does for our eyes.

But like other shows, from Kurt Weill’s Street Scene to David Hare’s recent Behind the Beautiful Forevers,  this one focuses so much on limning a world that it fails to tell a compelling story. Miranda embarked on In the Heights when he was a college sophomore at the beginning of this century, and as with many first plays or novels or symphonies, its creator’s attempt to cram everything he loves about the ethnically diverse upper Manhattan neighborhood (which he even covered as a student journalist for a summer) leaves too little time or room to sufficiently develop any of its characters and their stories.


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