Weekend MusicWatch

Oregon music hooks up with dance, video art, architecture, theater and more this weekend.

Oregon music hooks up with dance, video art, architecture, theater and more this weekend. Check the All Classical radio calendar for more info on classical performances, March Music Moderne’s Ear Trumpet calendar for Portland-area new music performances, and let our readers know about other worthwhile music events in the comments section below.

Jennnifer Wright plays her Skeleton Piano at BodyVox Studios this weekend.

Jennnifer Wright plays her Skeleton Piano at BodyVox Studios this weekend.

India Arts Fest 2015
September 30-October 9
Various venues, Portland, Eugene, Corvallis, Hillsboro.
Read my Willamette Week preview of this weekend’s two music events at Portland State, and Jamuna Chiarini’s ArtsWatch story about the festival’s dance events.

Justin Bartlett
October 2, Agnes Flanagan Chapel, Lewis & Clark College, Portland. October 3, Central Oregon Community College, Bend. October 4, Portland Piano Company.
Portland Piano International’s welcome new commissioning program that connects Oregon composers to its young Rising Stars gets off to a strong start with pianist Bartlett performing a compelling program that includes the world premiere of Eternal Gardens by one of the state’s most accomplished composers, Michael Johanson, as well as music by the great 20th century Japanese composer Toru Takemitsu, Karol Szymanowski, Dmitri Shostakovich and one of J.S. Bach’s alluring French suites. Admission to this recital, like the other eleven coming up over the next two years, is free of charge. The program is funded by a Creative Heights Grant from the Oregon Community Foundation.

Oregon Coast Jazz Party
October 2-4
Newport Performing Arts Center and Shilo Inn Suites Hotel, Newport.
Bill Mays’s excellent Inventions Trio, the great pianists Bill Charlap and Renee Rosnes’ duo, and other jazz masters from NYC join some of Portland’s top jazzers (Alan Jones, Carlton Jackson, Ryan Meagher, Bobby Torres, Marilyn Keller, et al)  for the annual coastal celebration of improvisation.

“Skeleton Piano Dances”
October 3-4
BodyVox Dance Center, 1201 NW 17th Ave. Portland.
Composer Jennifer Wright’s Skeleton Piano has produced some of the coolest sounds at Cascadia Composers concerts. Now she’s working with Portland’s Agniezska Laska Dancers and video artist Takafumi Uehara in this multimedia dance theater production featuring the world premiere of her concert-length suite Obscure Terrain and that of two other Cascadia Composers, Jack Gabel and Dan Senn, written for the superb Oregon saxophonist Tom Bergeron and digital electro acoustic instruments.

Third Angle performs in the Aalto Library at Mt. Angel Abbey this weekend.

Third Angle performs in the Aalto Library at Mt. Angel Abbey this weekend.

“Frozen Music”
October 3 & 4
Third Angle New Music, Mount Angel Abbey Library.
No Oregon musical performers think outside the (shoe)box more creatively than Third Angle, particularly in its series devoted to the intersection between music and architecture. Read my Willamette Week preview of what’s got to be the most unusual show of the season: the ensemble’s performances of Finnish music and more in one of Oregon’s most beautiful places. It’s much more than just a concert, and the ensemble has also set up a bunch of talks and tours in Portland and Mt. Angel to supplement the experience.

Orquesta Buena Vista Social Club 
October 4
Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall, 1037 SW Broadway, Portland.
The word “legendary” gets thrown around too often when applied to bands, but these all-stars of Cuban music were already legends on the island when Ry Cooder made his famous documentary in 1997. Just as the US and Cuba finally resume official relations, the band (which has played more than 1000 different shows in many different incarnations as members have died or aged out of performing) gives its “adios” tour.

Vancouver Symphony
October 3-4
Skyview Concert Hall, 1300 NW 139th St. Vancouver.
Star violinist Anne Akiko Meyers joins the band in a performance of one of the 20th century’s most enjoyable concertos, Leonard Bernstein’s great Serenade after Plato’s Symposium. Given the subtitle, it makes perfect sense that her performance will be preceded by live taping of the Oregon Public Broadcasting radio show Philosophy Talk. I wish Meyers would play some of the new music she specializes in, like the new violin concerto by Mason Bates she recently performed in Detroit, but at least the orchestra’s excellent 20th century program also includes the wondrous music from Bernstein’s operetta Candidate and Prokofiev’s ballet Romeo and Juliet. 

Anne Akiko Meyers performs with the Vancouver Symphony.

Anne Akiko Meyers performs with the Vancouver Symphony.

Eric Skye
October 3
Tigard Library Community Room, 13500 SW Hall Blvd. Tigard.
The acoustic jazz/classical/folk guitarist gives a free, family-friendly performance in the Music in Small Spaces series.

“Hachi Hachi”
October 2-4
Unit Souzou, Zoomtopia, 810 SE Belmont St. Portland.
Read my Willamette Week preview of these shows by the new Portland taiko/dance/theater group.

Unit Souzou performed at Portland's Music on Main last month.

Unit Souzou performed at Portland’s Music on Main last month.

Mary Poppins
October 2-4
Shedd Institute for the Arts, 868 High Street, Eugene.
Read my Eugene Weekly preview of this new production of the classic movie turned musical.

Oregon Mozart Players
Oct. 3
Beall Concert Hall,  University of Oregon.
Bulgarian-born Bella Hristova, a rising star, solos in Mozart’s elegant fourth violin concerto, and the chamber orchestra plays Mozart’s darkly dramatic Symphony No. 40, and Haydn’s exuberant No. 59.

Bruce Neswick
October 4
First Presbyterian Church, 1200 SW Alder St. Portland.
The interim canon for Music at Portland’s Trinity Episcopal Cathedral plays organ music by William Byrd, J.S. Bach, contemporary composer Ugo Sforza, French composer Louis Vierne, an an improvisation based on audience suggestions.

Montrose Trio performs in Eugene and Portland. Photo: Jerry Zolynsky.

Montrose Trio performs in Eugene and Portland. Photo: Jerry Zolynsky.

The Montrose Trio
October 4, Beall Concert Hall, University of Oregon
October 5 & 6, Lincoln Performance Hall, Portland State University.
1620 SW Park Ave, Portland
Read my Willamette Week preview of these Friends of Chamber Music concerts. Monday’s performance features a new piece co-commissioned by FOCM. Their Eugene concert features trios by Haydn, Mendelssohn trio, and Shostakovich.

Carlos Nuñez, Hanz Araki
October 6
Alberta Rose Theatre, Portland.
Read my Willamette Week preview of the Spanish Celtic piper.

Portland Opera Chorus
October 6
First Congregational United Church of Christ, 1126 SW Park, Portland.
The company gives its long time backup singers a deserved place in the spotlight. PO chorus master Nicholas Fox leads the chorus, accompanied by pianist Kira Whiting, in excerpts from Leonard Bernstein’s glorious Chichester Psalms and Faure’s Requiem, plus other non-operatic music by JS Bach, Berlioz, Bruckner, and Stravinsky.
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Want to learn more about contemporary Oregon classical music? Check out Oregon ComposersWatch. 

Over the Hills, to Portland’s multi-cultural present

The energy at Portland's ethnic community events is great, and so are the performances


“You come every year!”

I do not recognize this observant Sri Lankan woman in a peacock blue sari, who’s obviously proud of the show we’re both attending.
“Yes, I‘ve been here since nearly the beginning,” I reply.

Last month, I was at a Sri Lankan event feting the community’s children with dance, drama and song— the fourth annual Pipena Kekulu (Blooming Buds), and I’ve attended all but the first. This time, Oregon state Labor Commissioner Brad Avakian presented one of the three welcoming speeches, with touching thanks to the community for allowing him and his wife to participate once more in the sharing of children’s arts/entertainment activities, his own children having left the nest, both happy successful artists/entertainers.

Oregon Buddhist Temple in Portland, USA celebrated the Vesak Festival last May with Sri Lankan Buddhists living in Portland.

Oregon Buddhist Temple celebrated the Vesak Festival last May. Photo:  ceylontoday.lk.

I attended the first such event in 2013 because I feel part of this community whose many children I have the privilege of teaching piano. I keep going because these events are ebullient. In fact, I’m stepping it up this Saturday, catching Sunil Edirisinghe and Neela Wickramasinghe in concert at PCC Sylvania (see listing at end of this story). Sri Lankan pop stars as popular on the island as Lady Gaga, but they are so underground outside of the culture that you have to call several numbers to secure tickets. Portland is the smallest city they’re playing on a tour which includes London, New York (where they drew 1,200) and Los Angeles (where they drew 1,000). Sri Lankans from Seattle and Vancouver BC will be making the journey to catch this show. In addition, performers from Pipena Kekulu 2015 will be opening. That’s like Bethany elementary school kids opening for the Rolling Stones. And yet, when I search the web for them, no website or Facebook page or Twitter or ANYTHING comes up. Promotions and marketing are as baffling to some of these ethnic communities as they are in the classical music milieu. In fact, Oregon Arts Watch might be the first Oregon arts/entertainment publication starting to cover and preview events like this when we find out about them.

These community and professional shows are part of a world of “ethnic” arts unknown to many Portlanders, especially those east of the West Hills. These events are worth knowing about — not just for their own joy and beauty, but also for what they can teach us about restoring Western classical music’s connection to the larger community.


I would like to think that as soon as the Italian/Argentine artist Lucio Fontana began his Concetto Spaziale series of “paintings” (he did not use that word), puncturing and slicing the surfaces, paintings were no longer destined to remain flat and affixed to gallery walls. Canvases morphed into sculpture and sculpture referenced painting; close one eye to eliminate stereopsis, and the gallery walls themselves become a canvas. This is one of a couple strategies in Leslie Baum’s exhibit, Co-conspirators and the possibility of painting in a parallel universe at Hap Gallery.

I will say at this early stage that I am not a fan of the title for this exhibit. “Co-conspirators” by itself might be enough as it suggests a scheme, perhaps initiated by a sole mind, then elucidated through cooperation. The agreed-upon agenda then carries an echo from the point of origin, which is what I see here. Baum has created and displayed this complex work in a manner that shifts cumulatively and dimensionally, although the dimensionality are of the second and third varieties.

I have been familiar with Baum’s work for about twenty years. Very much a painter, most of her work remained steadfastly two-dimensional until three or four years ago when Baum began making irregularly shaped paintings. These forms sometimes do double-duty as sculpture. Whether on the wall, on a shelf, or set on the floor, placement has become as important as palette.

Hap Gallery is a small, narrow space, making it possible to take in nearly the whole room from the front door. And if one were to do so for this show, one would be very conscious of the predominating colors of yellow and red, along with black, and a smattering of green, blue and violet. In addition, Baum has coordinated works so those colors lead the eye to take in the space as a whole. For my purposes, I will liken it to how one might encounter an orchestrated suburban living room (but in a good way).


Classical Revolution PDX / ARCO-PDX reviews: Recipe for Relevance

Portland indie classical institutions find broader audiences through innovative approaches.

Can classical music ever be hip? This month, two of Portland’s major indie classical subversives infiltrated a Portland indie pop haven with a pair of concerts that demonstrated that classical music can regain its mainstream cultural appeal — if it’s presented in 21st century context.

ARCO-PDX performed at Portland's Holocene in early August.

ARCO-PDX performed at Portland’s Holocene in early August.

Premised on the notion that classical music (and we must add, contemporary classical, although that distinction would have struck the vast majority of classical composers in history as unnecessary and even pernicious) is as universally appealing as it ever was except that the presentation is outdated for today’s audiences, ARCO-PDX’s announced goal is to bring rock and roll energy and production to classical music. In this third concert, performed earlier this month in Seattle, Eugene and Portland, it advanced farther toward that goal in some respects, but stalled in others.

The sound design seemed richer and more accurate to my ears than the group’s previous concerts at another indie rock club, Mississippi Studios and rawer party space, Refuge PDX, in Portland’s industrial inner east side. The group seems to have resolved most of the tuning issues that occasionally bugged me in their earlier shows. Provided by DB Amorin and Cymaspace, the visual effects seemed subtler and more sophisticated than I remember from earlier shows, and though it left the stage darker, it also complemented the performance rather than calling attention to the images. 


Northwest Arts Exchange: Collaboration and community building

New artist-run online resource helps artists help each other.


When the mom and pop corner grocery served as a neighborhood center, it was common to have a bulletin board where needs, offers, and concerns were posted by people who simply signed their posts as Bob, Sandra K., or Jake at the garage. These exchanges helped in forming a sense of community where people could browse postings and make needed connections.

Easy to access and use, the NW Arts Exchange builds community. Photo: Andrew Stiefel.

Easy to access and use, the NW Arts Exchange builds community. Photo: Andrew Stiefel.

That corkboard with scribbled notes has been replaced by social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter. These are important community building tools, but their strengths are also their weaknesses. For groups such as artists in need of that neighborly bulletin board connection, these social media are too time-sensitive and not purpose-specific, which means if you aren’t online at the time of a post, it is likely that you’ll miss it, given the subsequent flood of competing feeds of vacation pictures, videos and news stories.

Creating a sense of community between artists in a region separated by distance, as in the Pacific Northwest, became the challenge that Oregon composer/musician Andrew Stiefel, in collaboration with the Sound of Late ensemble, has attempted to address with the development of the Northwest Arts Exchange Switchboard. Based on the belief that “members of a community should ask for what they need and offer what they have,” Stiefel says, the NWAEX is a “place to connect, lend others a hand, and cheer on the successes that result from working together,” according to a pre-launch announcement. Think of it as a place where creative professionals throughout the region can go to exchange ideas, post a call for performers in Eugene, or look for a venue in Seattle, a photographer in Boise, an ensemble in Portland, a graphic designer in Spokane. “It’s a place to start conversations about the issues and questions facing our community and a way to spark new collaborations and connections that might not otherwise happen,” Stiefel explains.


‘Up the Fall’: Spotlighting artists with disabilities

PHAME Academy's multidisciplinary musical showcases Oregon artists denied mainstream performance opportunities.

After celebrating its 30th anniversary last year with its most extensive performance schedule yet, Portland’s PHAME academy was ready to take on a new challenge. In the last few years, PHAME, which creates opportunities for artists with developmental disabilities, has expanded its public performances and programming and gained widespread visibility for its artists. Now, energetic Executive Director Stephen Marc Beaudoin sensed the academy was ready for more, “an artistic stretch project … out of our broader vision to position the organization and the artists we serve in the artistic mainstream.”

 The cast of PHAME's "Up the Fall." Photo: Sarah Law Photography.

The cast of PHAME’s “Up the Fall.” Photo: Sarah Law Photography.

Departing from the traditional American musicals they’d performed previously, PHAME embraced the most ambitious project its leaders could imagine: an original musical that would involve music, theatre and dance. They had the ideal playwright in Debbie Lamedman, a Portland-based former teaching staff member at PHAME who’s been commissioned by theatre companies across the country. “She knows what it’s like to work with artists and actors with developmental disabilities,” Beaudoin says. She’s even written integrated stage works (that is, involving performers with and without disabilities) before.

PHAME gave Lamedman only one instruction: be inclusive by creating characters with a range of ability and disability. “We haven’t taken a tokenistic approach,” Beaudoin explains. “We didn’t give her a checklist and say ‘include these disabilities.’ Her interest as a playwright is writing great theater.”

In Lamedman’s musical Up the Fall, which opens August 22 at Portland’s Artists Repertory Theatre, a young Portland woman, Diana, lives with an overbearing mother, finding refuge by spending much of her time feeding the birds and making friends with a squirrel, who turns out to be a messenger from a night world threatened by a trio of angry, jealous sisters. He summons her to try to save that alternate world, whose natural workings have been paralyzed by the sisters’ efforts to control it.

For Up the Fall’s music, PHAME turned to another frequent collaborator, Portland songwriter Laura Gibson, who’s earned national attention for her delicate story songs. But this was her first time writing music for the theatre, and her process was interrupted by a disastrous fire at the apartment she was living in while attending graduate school in New York. The creative team also includes PHAME Music Director Matthew Gailey, who’s composing incidental music, along with well-known Portland playwright and drama teacher Matthew B. Zrebski as stage director, and PHAME Artistic Director Jessica Dart as assistant director and dramaturge.


No, seriously.

Heidi Schwegler’s “Botched Execution” at Marylhurst’s The Art Gym

All of us have heard the stories of scheduled executions in which the condemned did not die in an expeditious manner so additional measures had to be taken to complete the job. In art we talk about the act of creating a work of art as an “execution,” which might lead one to wonder what to expect from Heidi Schwegler in her “Botched Execution” at The Art Gym. What we do find is a well-represented set of mixed media and found object constructions Heidi Schwegler has made during the past 10 years. The title suggests a gallows humor, which comes through in a few of her works, while many other pieces in this show leave a mark —perhaps even a scar— on the viewer.

One of the first pieces one sees upon entering the gallery is Schwegler’s seven-piece photographic series, “My Struggle.” From left to right, we see a headshot of the artist as she is transformed from a slightly distressed state to someone soiled, bloodied, missing a tooth, and in extreme anguish. This portrait of progressive (self)destruction reminds me of people I see on a daily basis at the rural convenience store near my home. There’s the tweakers, their wild gestures an exhibition of self-assurance from inside raging, scabbed heads. Less frequently, and considerably more subdued and cleaned up, are the victims of chronic domestic abuse. If Schwegler intends to portray the state of mind for either, or merely suggest that her individual struggle with some other issue is equally dark, this is a humorless piece indeed. It is only by imagining that she did not actually knock her left lateral incisor out we are allowed some distance.

Further relief for the viewer might be found in the nearby sculpture, “Passing Resemblance II.” Apart from the hands and head, which are silicon replicas of Schwegler’s own in a 1:1 scale, the overall size of this piece is that of large doll. I usually would be disinclined to speak to Schwegler’s real-world small frame, for physical characteristics are often incidental at best to an artist’s output; however, she seems to be using her physique to emphasize the hands and head as a priority for an artist.

Heidi Schwegler, "Passing Resemblance II"/Art Gym

Heidi Schwegler, “Passing Resemblance II”/The Art Gym

It’s a smart piece, and judging from the number of phone photos taken at the opening reception, “Passing Resemblance II” was the popular centerpiece of the exhibit. Quite often I caught three or four people standing around the doll, eyes fixed on it as they conversed. It was not dissimilar to family gatherings in the living room in which the newest child is placed in the middle of the floor for assessment, and as distraction during lulls, even though there isn’t much about this piece that would make one engage in some coochy-coochy-coo.


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