Brett Campbell


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.

MusicWatch Weekly: In the White Silence

Unusual weather and usual calendar lull take toll on Oregon music performances this week

This week’s headline quotes a composition title by erstwhile Alaska composer John Luther Adams because once again, outdoor conditions will likely affect this week’s indoor entertainment options. We probably won’t be updating this post, so be sure to check with the presenters and venues of any concerts you hope to attend for the next few days. Or download some of our recommended 2016 Oregon CDs, or consult Gary Ferrington’s ArtsWatch guide to streaming music and listen at home. This Thursday, for example, you might tune in (online or over the air) to All Classical Radio’s Thursdays @ Three show to hear the cellist starring with the Oregon Symphony (see details below), or to its Played in Oregon program, which this Sunday features a couple of 21st century pieces (by New York composers Richard Danielpour and Andy Akiho) and more, recorded live at recent Chamber Music Northwest performances. Both shows will be archived on the station’s website for a couple weeks, when you can listen on demand. If you know of other shows our brave readers might want to venture out to experience live, please note them in the comments section below — and please be careful ambulating, riding, or driving on the way there or back.

Portland Old Time Music Gathering
January 11-15
Various Portland venues.
From Cajun and country to stringband and square dance, here’s the kind of retro musical experience that pop and folk music normally leave to the classical music museum. Nice to see traditional Americana sounds getting their own showcase too. If you want to hear a contemporary master performing in that tradition, check out David Bromberg’s Friday show at Portland’s Aladdin Theater or Saturday’s show at Bend’s Domino Room.

Tierney Sutton
January 12
Jaqua Concert Hall, The Shedd Institute, 868 High Street, Eugene.
The jazz singer’s latest album is called The Sting Variations, so don’t be surprised to see her quartet taking some Police action, along with the jazzified Joni Mitchell and Sinatra covers and American songbook standards that brought her initial acclaim.

Reel Music 34
January 13-February 5
Northwest Film Center’s Whitsell Auditorium, Portland Art Museum, 1219 SW Park Avenue, Portland.
Read Bob Hicks’s ArtsWatch preview. Primarily a film festival, of course, but of great interest to music fans as well, the Northwest Film Center’s annual orgy of music related cinema always brings high quality, often hard to find and rarely seen sonic screen gems. Jazz fans will be especially interested in this weekend’s offerings featuring films about W. Eugene Smith’s famed jazz loft, the great trumpeter Lee Morgan’s lover and killer, and the so called King of Jazz (so dubbed when Louis Armstrong so many other true musical royalty reigned, but hey, they weren’t white), Paul Whiteman.

Alban Gerhardt performs with the Oregon Symphony.

Oregon Symphony
January 14-16
Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall, Portland.
Frequent guest cellist Alban Gerhardt returns to star in French composer Henri Dutilleux’s 1970 moody, mid-century modernist cello concerto, written for Mstislav Rostropovich. The Haydn-happy orchestra plays the composer’s delightful 80th symphony (which starts out like one of his earlier storm and stress tests, then undergoes a climate change), one of its signature works, Respighi’s colorful 1924 historical postcard The Pines of Rome, and Cesar Franck’s 1877 Wagnerian symphonic poem The Breezes, sort of an airy predecessor to Debussy’s later, far deeper The Sea.

Assuming he can snowshoe or ski to the studios of Portland’s All Classical Radio, Gerhardt will also appear on the station’s live Thursdays @ Three show on January 12, where he’ll play a lot of solo Bach, of course, plus solo cello music by Ligeti and Rostropovich. With the performance archived on the station’s website for a couple weeks for on-demand listening, it’s another opportunity to catch at least a virtual version of local classical music from the warmth of home.

Natasha Paremski performs at Portland Piano International. Photo: Andrea Joynt.

Natasha Paremski
January 14-15
Portland State University’s Lincoln Hall.
The prizewinning Moscow-born, New York based pianist starred in one of last season’s top classical moments: her thrilling performance of the great contemporary American composer Paul Schoenfield’s Four Parables for piano and orchestra with the Oregon Symphony. She’s performed with dozens of the world’s major orchestras, given recitals in some of its most prestigious venues, and played plenty of 21st century music. Music by a couple of contemporary composers appears in Saturday’s Portland Piano International recital, the more exciting being Thomas Ades’s playful-to-pensive 2009 Three Mazurkas. The overwhelming bulk of her recitals, though, comes from the usual 19th century suspects: Beethoven, Brahms, Chopin, Rachmaninov.

Oregon Bach Collegium
January 15
Church of the Resurrection, 3925 Hilyard Street, Eugene.
University of Oregon early music expert and cellist Marc Vanscheeuwijck and Eugene church organist and Bach specialist Julia Brown play music for cello and Viennese fortepiano by J. S. Bach, his student Carl Friedrich Abel (a master of the five string cello), Bach’s fifth son Johann Christoph Friedrich Bach, and the latter’s contemporary Carl Heinrich Graun.

January 15
Read my Willamette Week preview of the Moroccan-music fueled Berber new year celebration.

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

MusicWatch Weakly: Slim pickings

Choices are limited during this brief, not-so-strong stretch in Oregon classical music

That icy weather chilling the state seems to have also put the classical and jazz music scene into a temporary deep freeze, so we especially need ArtsWatch readers’ recommendations in the comments section below to fill this post up to a decent length. Even so, there’s some sweet shows to warm up the new year. And we’ve added some happy music news tidbits to help.

**UPDATE** the pickings just got slimmer, as Friends of Chamber Music has announced that guest cellist Johannes Moser has canceled his appearance due to the flu. The Pacifica Quartet’s performances Monday and Tuesday will go on — see below for the updated repertoire. The Oregon Symphony’s first-ever Vancouver WA appearance will have to wait a little longer — it’s been canceled, and the January 7 performance moved to January 9. Because of the weekend’s winter weather woes, please check with the venues to make sure any events you’re attending this weekend will actually happen where and when they’re scheduled.

Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg performs with the Oregon Symphony this weekend. Photo: Christian Steiner.

**UPDATED** Oregon Symphony, Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg
Jan. 6, Smith Auditorium, Willamette University, Salem; January 9 Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall, Portland.
Like Cher, Prince, Madonna, Sting, Elvis, and other music superstars, she doesn’t even need a last name to sell tickets. Read my Willamette Week preview of the fabulous violinist’s latest show with the orchestra, whose wind and brass sections are also playing a free show at Hillsboro’s Walters Cultural Arts Center Thursday afternoon, sans Salerno-Sonnenberg.

Nabucco” (broadcast)
January 7
Various cinemas
The Metropolitan Opera’s latest Live in HD broadcast to select cinemas features Verdi’s classic.

Byrd Ensemble
January 8
St. Stephen’s Catholic Church, Portland.
Some of the greatest music of the Renaissance came out of Spain — including Tomas Luis de Victoria’s magnificent Requiem, which highlights a splendid program of too-seldom heard sacred music performed by the Seattle based vocal dectet presented by Cappella Romana. Everything on the program was commissioned by or dedicated to royal members of the Habsburg empire that dominated much of Europe for centuries, and which counted Spanish monarchs Charles V and Philip II (of Armada infamy), including soaring sounds by Cristóbal de Morales, Alonso Lobo And Giovanni Palestrina.


Oregon new music recordings 2016: Small beauties

Some of Oregon's most intriguing 2016 releases apply big ideas to small-scale compositions

The Warbler Sings, Paul Safar
Composer/pianist Safar had already forged a reputation as one of Eugene’s most intrepid musicians in the classical tradition, thanks in part to his years of concerts and festival appearances via Cherry Blossom Productions, the company he set up with his partner, singer Nancy Wood. His reputation spread statewide thanks to his many appearances in Cascadia Composers concerts, then his 2013 Composer of the Year Award from Oregon Music Teachers Association, which resulted in the commission for his 2016 CD’s title track. That airy, seven-part setting of haikus by the famed Japanese poet Basho finds a unique place between jazz (especially in trumpeter Dave Bender’s trumpet lines and bassist Nathan Waddell’s interjections), classical music (Wood’s elusive, evocative vocal melodies), and Japanese music (spare, almost austere atmosphere of asymmetric abstraction evident in Safar’s pianistic sprinkles).

More birds flutter through a pretty pair of short, solo piano intermezzi, “Geese in the Moonlight” and “Dawn, Singular Heron,” joining other denizens of nature: the Middle Eastern cello / dumbek / zills trio “Cat on a Wire”; the playfully ominous “The Spider,” and the narrated fable “Moonfish” (both featuring Wood). Waves sparkle and heave, via Safar’s piano and Woods’s lovely vocals in the closing “Ocean.” These and the other concise, tuneful tracks should appeal to a wide range of listeners, not just classical fans. Most have highlighted Cascadia concerts over the past few years, and there’s no substitute for seeing an electrifying performer like Wood live, but this diverse recording stands on its own as one of the most enjoyable contemporary Oregon classical music releases of the last decade.

Invisible Light, Delgani Quartet
Safar’s music also graces the debut release from Eugene’s Delgani String Quartet, which in under two years has zoomed to prominence in the Willamette Valley and beyond. Their collaboration with another Eugene based artist, actor Ricke Birran, on Safar’s four settings of music from classic literary sources ranges from a gripping, over-the-top reading from The Pied Piper of Hamelin; an antic take on Lewis Carroll’s The Walrus and the Carpenter, an ominous percussive jungle chant to William Blake’s “The Tyger”; and an incantatory Satanic soliloquy from Milton’s Paradise Lost.

Maybe their experience in historically informed performance practice helped the ensemble embrace the ancient, Middle Eastern spirit of Portland-born composer Lou Harrison’s gravely beautiful 1978 String Quartet Set (written for Canada’s Orford Quartet and first recorded by the Kronos Quartet), which relies on the Pythagorean (a/k/a ditone) tuning used in the millennium before the Renaissance in Europe and the Middle East as well as Turkish and French baroque forms. University of Oregon prof Terry McQuilken’s scintillating title cut is based on the music of a more recent source: an early 19th century shape-note hymn, evolving into a tuneful suite that passes through sections touched by jazz, contemporary classical and even medieval influences.


Bi-Weekly MusicWatch: Solstice sounds

Traditional classical concerts bring the musical curtain down on 2016 Oregon music

As this miserable year mercifully winds down, so do the number of performances, so we’re listing some highlights for the next two weeks this time, and Weekly MusicWatch will live up to its name again in the new year. The crummy old one can’t end without one more piece of bad news:  the essential Oregon music club Jimmy Mak’s is closing, along with 2016. Its sold out final show is one event you can’t attend unless you already have tickets, but a few other final performances remain at one of the most sympathetic music venues Oregon has ever seen. ArtsWatch wishes ailing owner Jimmy Makarounis well. We’ll continue covering Oregon’s jazz scene in 2017, including February’s PDX Jazz Festival, which has rescheduled most of the Jimmy Mak’s events for other venues.

As usual, there’s no way we can come close to spotlighting all the attractive Oregon music happening as 2016 slouches to a close, so please use the comments section below to let ArtsWatch readers know about other remaining 2016 events worthy of your attention and consideration.

Because of the holiday, ArtsWatch will be posting stories about Oregon music and more over the next couple weeks on a reduced schedule. We’ll leave you with writer Neil Gaiman’s New Year’s Eve message delivered in Boston some years back:

May your coming year be filled with magic and dreams and good madness. I hope you read some fine books and kiss someone who thinks you’re wonderful, and don’t forget to make some art – write or draw or build or sing or live as only you can. May your coming year be a wonderful thing in which you dream both dangerously and outrageously.

I hope you will make something that didn’t exist before you made it, that you will be loved and you will be liked and you will have people to love and to like in return. And most importantly, because I think there should be more kindness and more wisdom in the world right now – I hope that you will, when you need to, be wise and that you will always be kind. And I hope that somewhere in the next year you surprise yourself.

Michael Allen Harrison leads his annual series of Christmas concerts at Portland’s Old Church.

Michael Allen Harrison – Christmas at The Old Church
December 21-26
The Old Church, Portland.
The Portland pianist, composer, and philanthropist presents the 25th anniversary performance of one of the season’s most popular musical events for charitable causes, featuring long time cohort singer Julianne Johnson and other musical guest artists.

Bachxing Day
December 26
Classical Revolution PDX, Opera on Tap, Curious Comedy Theater, 5225 NE MLK Jr. Blvd, Portland.
“What cannabis is today in Portland, coffee was in 1727 Leipzig, when J.S. Bach wrote his Coffee Cantata.” Read the rest of my Willamette Week preview of CRPDX’s annual tribute to JS Bach — this time, extra caffeinated!

David Hattner conducts Portland Youth Philharmonic’s Concert at Christmas at Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall. Photo: Pete Stone.

Portland Youth Philharmonic
December 26
Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall, Portland.
The holiday concert tradition for more than half a century features the award winning youth orchestra’s entire 300-musician roster, including its Philharmonic Orchestra, Portland Youth Wind Ensemble, Portland Youth Conservatory Orchestra, Young String Ensemble, plus an Alumni Orchestra, and featuring music by John Williams, Richard Rodgers, Aram Khachaturian and more.

Hershey Felder as Irving Berlin
December 15-30
Portland Center Stage, 128 NW Eleventh Ave. Portland.
Read Bob Hicks’s ArtsWatch’s review of this musical biography of the prototypical American songwriter, and David Schiff’s essay on his music.

The Oregon Symphony’s Ode to Joy concert. Photo: Joe Cantrell.

 Ode to Joy
December 30-31
Oregon Symphony, Portland Symphonic Choir, Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall, Portland.
Along with the annual Beethoven’s Ninth and balloons, the city’s biggest classical new year’s eve party boasts a much-deserved tribute to its longtime pops conductor, Norman Leyden, who died in 2014 after a lifetime of composing, arranging and leading performances of the pop music of his era for orchestra. The first half of the New Year’s concert features some of his hundreds of big band arrangements for orchestra.


‘L’amour de Loin’ & ‘The Place Where You Started’: Love from Afar

Contemporary operas show the consequences of idealizing, or stereotyping, strangers

Hardly a week goes by when I don’t hear about the premiere of yet another new opera. Much of the action is in Los Angeles and New York and Chicago and Europe, of course, but signs of vitality are springing up even in places like Fort Worth and Long Beach. After decades of relentlessly retro programming, Oregon too shows recent signs of operatic revitalization: Christopher Corbell’s Cult of Orpheus, which this month revived the Portland composer’s original 2015 opera Viva’s Holiday and has a new opera based on Antigone coming next year; Opera Theater Oregon, which co-produced Viva and is bringing Eugene composer Justin Ralls’s Two Yosemites to Portland in June; Eugene Opera’s recent productions of operas by living composers; and even normally stodgy Portland Opera’s upcoming David Lang one-acts.

‘L’Amour de Loin’ is broadcast in select theaters December 21.

Along with Corbell’s re-Viva, this fall has brought two more contemporary operas to Portland, one internationally renowned, created by a pair of Parisian immigrants, and showing in a few Oregon movie theaters this Wednesday, December 21, the other homegrown. Both seem timely given today’s social concerts, showing the consequences of our perennial tendency to view others through the distorted lenses of our own desires — or fears.


Weekly MusicWatch: Snow falls, ‘Messiahs’ rise

Holiday music from Appalachia, Ireland, Byzantium, and Europe highlights Oregon's midwinter musical gifts

There’s almost as many holiday performances happening in Oregon as snowflakes fluttering down across the state, and the internet just isn’t big enough for us list them all here, so here’s a smattering of Oregon holiday musical happenings, most of which include more than the usual holiday fare. By all means feel free to list more recommended musical events, holiday themed or otherwise, in the comments section below. And given the wintry weather, be sure to check traffic and weather reports, as well as venue websites for last-minute cancellations. Update: we’ve removed a few listings because of weather-related cancellations and sell-outs, but you should still double check for later breaking news, as this post will not be updated through the weekend.

Viva’s Holiday: An Opera in One Act
December 14-17
Star Theater, 13 NW Sixth Ave. Portland.
Portland composer Christopher Corbell’s entertaining homegrown opera, based on the memoir of Portland writer/singer/stripper Viva Las Vegas, returns for its second run, featuring an all Oregon cast and a 12 member orchestra conducted by Opera Theater Oregon’s Erica Melton. Premieres tend to get all the attention in the classical music world, but the second and subsequent runs are almost as important for securing new music’s place in the repertoire and, in this case, in the heart of the community that spawned it.  Read our preview and review of last year’s premiere, and help turn this DIY made-in-Oregon production, set at a family Christmas party in which secrets are revealed and freedom of expression asserted, into a holiday tradition.

Magical Strings
December 14
Alberta Rose Theatre, 3000 NE Alberta St. Portland.
For nearly four decades the Boulding family ensemble has performed its Celtic Yuletide show on Celtic harps, dulcimers, and more — just the ticket if you like your Christmas music with an Irish accent.

“An Appalachian Christmas”
December 14
Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall, Portland.
Legendary fiddler and composer Mark O’Connor returns with family band and Oregon Symphony cellist Nancy Ives for his folky, rootsy Americana interpretations of holiday classics and more. Read Nancy Ives’s ArtsWatch feature.

BelloVoci performs at Artists Repertory Theatre. Photo: Gary Norman.

December 14-15
Artists Repertory Theatre, Portland.
Matthew Hayward, Tim Suenkel and Norman Wilson sing classic and new three-part harmony arrangements of holiday standards.

Handel’s “Messiah,”  Portland Chamber Orchestra & Resonance Ensemble
December 16, All Saints Catholic Parish; December 17-18, Agnes Flanagan Chapel, Lewis & Clark College, Portland.
PCO gets as authentic as a modern instrument band can (if not exactly, as the PR insists, “as Handel intended”) by performing excerpts from Handel’s oratorio using a small orchestra and only three voices to a part — closer to what he envisioned than the massive choruses and full orchestras heard these days or in the 19th-20th centuries. (Handel himself led different performances over the years with variably sized forces.) The attractive program also includes one of J.S. Bach’s great orchestral suites and a wide range of sacred music ranging from the great Spanish Renaissance composer Tomas Luis de Victoria to 20th century French master Francis Poulenc to Latvian folk songs and traditional carols.

Oregon Mandolin Orchestra
December 16
Walters Arts Center, Hillsboro.
The fun annual show includes holiday favorites arranged for multiple mandolins, and this time, a country-swing opening set by OMO leader Brian Oberlin’s other band.

Riverside Chamber Symphony
Update: This concert has been postponed to Feb. 3
December 16
Wildish Theater, 630 Main St., Springfield.
Read Gary Ferrington’s ArtsWatch preview of the concert containing a premiere by rising Oregon composer Justin Ralls. The next night at the same venue, Swing Shift plays one of the liveliest marriages of classical music and jazz: Duke Ellington’s swinging arrangement of Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker ballet music, along with other holiday faves.

Weihnachtskonzert”: Trinity Music & Portland Baroque Orchestra
December 17
Trinity Episcopal Cathedral, 147 NW 19th Ave. Portland.
Trinity Cathedral’s annual Christmas concert and wassail party is always one of the season’s warmest musical events. This time, esteemed Indiana University early music scholar/singer/organist Dana Marsh leads the excellent church choir, sterling soloists (Portlanders soprano Arwen Myers and mezzo-soprano Laura Beckel Thoreson, plus Seattle tenor David Hendrix and Philadelphia baritone Brian Chu) in one of JS Bach’s most popular cantatas, Now come, savior of the gentiles (Cantata 61, Nun komm der Heiden Heiland) and another Advent cantata 39 Raise yourself up joyfully (Schwingt freudig euch empor). They’ll also perform two motets by one of the composers Bach admired most, his older contemporary Dietrich Buxtehude.

David DeLyser leads Choral Arts Ensemble.

Welcome, Yule!”
December 17-18
Choral Arts Ensemble, Portland State University, Lincoln Hall, 1620 SW Park Avenue, Portland.
Read my Willamette Week preview of the choir’s concert of contemporary songs celebrating the season, traditional carols and hymns, plus the title work by English composer Hubert Parry that sets an English Renaissance tune.

Eugene Sacred Harp Singers
December 18
Eugene Garden Club, 1645 High St. Eugene.
One of the most democratic musical traditions, shape note singing is fun, exuberant, requires no training, only enthusiasm and commitment. You don’t need to read standard musical notation; the pitches are indicated by shapes on paper. And this ancient tradition, which goes back to colonial American times and extends to groups around the country today, is all about participation, not passivity — a way to connect with our community through making music with each other. What better way to celebrate the spirit of the holidays than in this free annual holiday open sing-along?

In Mulieribus celebrates its tenth anniversary.

“Alleluya: A Nywe Werk”
In Mulieribus, December 18, St. James Catholic Church, 218 W 12th Street, Vancouver, WA, and December 20, St Mary’s Cathedral, 1716 NW Davis, Portland.
The sublime female vocal ensemble drawn from the top ranks of Portland choirs celebrates its 10th anniversary by singing some medieval and Renaissance favorites from past holiday concerts and music from a 12th century manuscript that was featured in its debut program,  chants by the great Hildegard of Bingen, and music from the Renaissance both sacred (polyphony by Josquin, Palestrina, and Morales) and country music carols.

Oregon Symphony
December 17-18
Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall, Portland.
It’s a Wonderful Life (Dec. 17) has the orchestra playing the classic holiday film’s soundtrack by Dmitri Tiomkin live, while James Stewart faces the life that would have happened without him. Comfort and Joy: A Classical Christmas (Dec. 18) has most of the traditional favorites, along with light classical works and a closing audience participation singalong.

Michael Allen Harrison – Christmas at The Old Church
December 15-26
The Old Church, Portland.
The Portland pianist, composer, and philanthropist presents the 25th anniversary performance of one of the season’s most popular musical events for charitable causes, featuring long time cohort singer Julianne Johnson and other musical guest artists.

Annie Get Your Gun
December 16-18
Jaqua Concert Hall, The Shedd Institute, 868 High Street, Eugene.
Ah, the holidays, time for families and friends to get together and celebrate love and friendship and all those other virtues. So what’s the big family friendly musical onstage this season about? Why, guns, of course. Hey, this is America! Actually, when Irving Berlin’s Annie Get Your Gun, loosely based on the real life Wild West Vaudeville show sharpshooters Annie Oakley and Frank Butler, opened 70 years ago, Americans had had plenty of experience with gun violence — that four-year unpleasantness of the history’s worst catastrophe, World War II and its associated horrors. The songs’ military metaphors — “You Can’t Get a Man With a Gun,” “My Defenses Are Down” — reflect the age-old battle of the sexes: the title character’s self-directed brassiness, evident in songs like “Anything You Can Do (I Can Do Better),” must have resonated with the Rosie the Riveters who’d had to take over so much homefront business while the men were fighting abroad. As must have Annie’s ultimate decision to defer to fragile male ego and pretend to be less competent than she really is. Otherwise, next thing you know, we’d have a woman running for President. Robert Ashens leads the band, Ron Daum directs, Caitlin Christopher choreographs, and Shirley Andress leads a cast of other Shedd regulars.

Hershey Felder as Irving Berlin
December 15-30
Portland Center Stage.
Read Bob Hicks’s ArtsWatch’s review of this musical biography of the prototypical American songwriter, and David Schiff’s essay on his music.

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

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