ArtsWatch Weekly: Banging the can

David Lang's "Match Girl" opera, JAW snaps open, Chamber Music Northwest's race to the finish, Brian Cox chats, art and science meet

Poor little match girl, and chamber music too: David Lang, cofounder of the effusive Bang On a Can and 2008 Pulitzer Prize-winner for The Little Match Girl Passion, is all over the Portland cultural calendar this week.

Damien Geter, Cree Carrico, and Nicole Mitchell in David Lang’s “The Difficulty of Crossing a Field” at Portland Opera. Photo: Cory Weaver

Portland Opera’s shift to a mainly summer season concludes with a double bill of Lang’s contemporary one-acts Match Girl and The Difficulty of Crossing a Field, opening Friday in the intimate Newmark Theatre. And his music will be on the bill Thursday and Friday at Chamber Music Northwest. Get the lowdown on Lang and his fascinating career from ArtsWatch’s Brett Campbell in his profile David Lang: From iconoclast to eminence.


ArtsWatch Weekly: a Persian R&J

Outdoor Shakespeare with a twist; more music festivals; Mozart & Bach; an ArtsWatch apology; a profusion of prints

Summer and Shakespeare seem to go together like Abbott and Costello, or toast and jam: You can have one without the other, but somehow they’d feel incomplete. Little danger of that in Oregon, where we get our summer Shakespeare aplenty, often with a twist.


Nicholas Granato as Romeo/Majnun in Bag&Baggage’s “Romeo and Juliet (Layla and Majnun).” Casey Campbell Photography

Consider Romeo and Juliet (Layla and Majnun), an interweaving of Shakespeare’s romance and the 12th century Persian poet Nizami’s epic tale of a feud between families. Bag&Baggage’s premiere opens Thursday on the outdoor stage of the Tom Hughes Civic Center Plaza in downtown Hillsboro, in a production that B&B artistic director Scott Palmer believes blends R&J with one of its primary sources. “When you read the texts side by side, the parallels between the two tales are really astounding,” Palmer tells ArtsWatch’s Brett Campbell. “There’s no smoking gun, but we do know (Shakespeare) was reading Italian sources and those were heavily influenced by Persian masterpieces from the 11th and 12 centuries. There is just no question that Layla and Majnun had a powerful, although indirect, influence on Romeo and Juliet.” Read Campbell’s full story here.


The Art of Inclusion

ArtsWatch apologizes for concert review's errors of judgment and fact


“Reviews now are different kinds of battlefields. Who is writing them is just as important — perhaps more important — than what is being reviewed.”

That’s from an insightful and important story called “Like it or not, we are in the midst of a second arts revolution,” published a few weeks ago by our friend and colleague Chris Jones, chief theater writer for the Chicago Tribune. We thought it said so much about the state of the arts and arts journalism that we immediately posted a link to ArtsWatch’s Facebook page. “Administrators, artists and critics all have to get used to the intensity of amplified opinion, and the widespread desire for empowered involvement, that now surrounds their work.”

A few days later, ArtsWatch found itself engaged on such a battlefield. One of our regular freelance writers, Terry Ross, who’s covered classical music for decades, wrote a review of a June 17 concert by Portland’s Resonance Ensemble that sparked outrage — “amplified opinion.” You can follow the action here.

Resonance Ensemble performed music by Renee Favand-See and welcomed other musicians in its last concert. Photo: Rachel Hadiashar.

To give our readers the chance to express themselves, we have let that battle play out before weighing in ourselves, and in general we’ve been impressed by the passion and thoughtfulness of many of the responses. The comments taught us important lessons about our community’s arts culture. As hard as it was to read them without contributing ourselves, we thought this thread was important beyond anything we could add. Now it’s time to state clearly where we editors stand, and to apologize, appreciate, and explain.


ArtsWatch Weekly: hail & farewell

Dance and dancers on the move, jazz in Cathedral Park, women composers, taiko and Bach, Mozart's spicy little sex opera

Last Thursday at Lincoln Performance Hall, the line to pick up tickets for Éowyn Emerald & Dancers’ performance ran across the lobby, down a partial stairwell and up the other side, like a restless snake shifting and stretching in the midday sun. Eventually the crowd slithered into the theater’s 450-plus seats, packing the place with people eager to see the company’s final show of contemporary dance in Portland and give it one last cheer before Emerald & Co. move to Scotland, where they’ve scored enthusiastically reviewed successes during two recent appearances at the annual Edinburgh Fringe Festival.

Emerald, on top of the world in Edinburgh for the 2014 Fringe Festival.

As it happens, the first piece I wrote for ArtsWatch, back in January 2012, was about Emerald’s first show in town as a choreographer, at BodyVox, where she’d been dancing with BodyVox-2. Now here I was again, with a lot of other people, to witness her farewell gig in town. An eagerness bubbled in the crowd, a sense that a fresh contemporary voice was moving on to new things, and ought not be let to slip away without a warm farewell.


ArtsWatch Weekly: pop bang boom

Baseball, hot dogs, apple pie and freedom of the press; Gore Vidal's visitor from outer space; Shakespeare in the parks; music fests

It’s the Fourth of July, by general agreement the 241st birthday of the great American Experiment, although some might date the nation’s existence from the ratification on March 1, 1781, of the weak and short-lived Articles of Confederation, which declared a central government while reserving most authority to the independent states; or the signing of the Treaty of Paris on September 3, 1783, which ended the Revolutionary War; or the creation of the U.S. Constitution on September 17, 1787, or its ratification on June 21, 1788, or its effective date of March 4, 1789. Others might argue for something earlier and more gradual, dating to the establishments of the various colonies far from the British throne, a situation that gave rise to a sort of natural independence long before any official break. And many point out that the “new” continents and islands of the Americas contained thriving civilizations long before the permanent arrival of Europeans in 1492, and that the descendants of those civilizations justifiably might have radically differing points of view on what precisely the American Experiment means.

“A VIEW of the FIRE-WORKES and ILLUMINATIONS at his GRACE the Duke of RICHMOND’S at WHITEHALL and on the River Thames on Monday 15 May 1749. Performed by the direction of Charles Fredrick Esq.,” hand-colored etching, 1749, artist unknown.

Right now the Experiment, launched on the principles of an Age of Reason that seems to be slipping from our grasp, feels waist-deep in troubled waters. The First Amendment to the Constitution, which among other things guarantees the freedoms of speech and the press on which organizations such as Oregon ArtsWatch rely, is under strenuous attack from the center of the government that is supposed to be protecting them. The history of the Second Amendment is being so magnified and radically reinterpreted that you’d almost swear Moses had hauled it down from the mountaintop engraved in smoking Day-Glo lettering by an open-carrying Lord High Almighty Himself.


ArtsWatch Weekly: making it work

You can help us keep the engine running; summer music festivals, "Cabaret" and "The Addams Family," "Baskerville" and more

We have a lot on our minds here at ArtsWatch this week, from the kickoff of the Chamber Music Northwest season to free ballet in the park to a chorus line of Broadway musicals. We’ll get to all of that, and more.

But first, we want to talk about something basic.

ArtsWatch has been here when you’ve needed coverage. Now we ask you to support our important work. Unlike many media outlets, we don’t operate behind a paywall. Everything we publish is freely available to you and anyone who wants to read it. That means we’re in a partnership with our readers, and to continue to grow and thrive we need your support.
It’s especially key right now, as coverage of the fine and performing arts in other media continues to drop dramatically. ArtsWatch has become the leading source for substantial, informed arts news that you don’t find anywhere else.
 If you’re an arts organization, you count on us to get your word out. If you’re a devoted follower of the arts, you count on us to know what’s going on. You count on us to begin and continue compelling conversations. ArtsWatch can’t continue to do that without your contributions.
ArtsWatch is a crucial part of the arts ecosystem in the community. You rely on ArtsWatch to provide vital feedback, smart and substantive coverage, validation for grants, marketing gold in quotes and links, and a way to keep yourselves and your audiences engaged and educated.
Now we ask for your help.
How can you support us? It’s simple.
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EVERY donation and ad sponsorship goes to pay writers and editors for their professional time and effort. ArtsWatch is a nonprofit 501(c)3 organization, and you may be able to deduct your charitable contribution from your taxes.
Thank you for giving us the opportunity to cover the vibrant arts community in Portland and throughout Oregon. Everyone at ArtsWatch is deeply grateful for all our readers and supporters.


With heartfelt thanks,

Barry Johnson
Bob Hicks
Brett Campbell
Laura Grimes
and all of our talented freelance writers



Oregon Ballet Theatre dancer Xuan Cheng in rehearsal for Giaconda Barbuto’s new work in “Choreography XX” at the Washington Park Rose Garden Amphitheater Thursday and Friday. Photo: Yi Yin



Chamber Music Northwest, Portland’s premiere summer music festival, has just begun its five-week run through July 30, and as Angela Allen writes in her ArtsWatch table-setter, this year’s festival is distinguished by its commitment to the work of women composers, from the 12th century Hilda von Bingen to Clara Schumann and Amy Beach to such contemporary music creators as Bonnie Miksch and Kati Agóks. “About a quarter of the programing, including lectures, rehearsals and concerts, is devoted to women composers,” she writes, and notes: “It’s about time.” And see Brett Campbell’s extended notes below on what’s coming up at the festival this week.

Cabaret. Broadway in Portland brings the touring show of Roundabout Theatre Company’s Tony-winning revival of the Kander and Ebb musical to Keller Auditorium for eight performances through Sunday.

Choreography XX. Oregon Ballet Theatre brings two free performances to the Washington Park Rose Garden Amphitheater, at 7:30 p.m. Thursday and Friday, and like this year’s Chamber Music Northwest, the emphasis is on women creators: the program features world premieres from choreographers Gioconda Barbuto, Helen Simoneau, and Nicole Haskins, all three commissioned by OBT.


Lisamarie Harrison as Morticia and Joe Theissen as Gomez in “The Addams Family” at Broadway Rose. Photo: Sam Ortega

The Addams Family. The musical-theater specialists of Broadway Rose open this puckish Broadway comedy, based on the celebrated macabre cartoons by Charles Addams, on Thursday with a promising cast including the likes of Lisamarie Harrison as Morticia, Isaac Lamb as Uncle Fester, and Joe Theissen as Gomez. Through July 23.

Baskerville: A Sherlock Holmes Mystery. Not to be outdone in the light-summer-theater sweepstakes, Clackamas Repertory Theatre is getting all mock-mysterious with the intrepid John San Nicolas as Holmes and Dennis Kelly as Watson. Ken Ludwig’s play sports five actors, 40 characters, and who knows how many clues? Thursday through July 23.

Come to the Table, Mike Pence. CoHo Summerfest continues with Shaking the Tree’s invitation to the vice president, who is known to shun dining with any woman who is not his wife. Eve, Salome, and Queen Elizabeth I try to persuade him otherwise. Thursday through Sunday.


Jon Peterson as the Emcee and the national touring cast of “Cabaret,” at Keller Auditorium. Photo: Joan Marcus




Chamber Music Northwest
The venerable summer festival’s opening Tuesday night concert at Portland State’s Lincoln Performance Hall featured music by three female Romantic composers: Clara Schumann, Fanny Mendelssohn and Amy Beach, along with Brahms’s big Piano Quintet. Male Romantics (Chopin, Saint-Saens, early 20th century English composer Benjamin Dale) take over for Thursday’s concert, while it’s tango time Friday and Saturday at Reed College. Sunday’s recommended concert features chamber music by Bartok, Shostakovich, Prokofiev and tidbits by lesser-known composers, while Monday’s show brings Martinu’s Kitchen Revue (in which dinner utensils come to life, musically at least), William Walton’s percussion-powered setting of Edith Sitwell poems Facades, and a major event: the premiere of a new Sextet by one of America’s greatest living composers, Seattle-born Pulitzer Prize winner William Bolcom, who also contributes his own voice, as does his wife, the admired Portland-born singer Joan Morris, to the concert. Tuesday-Monday, Kaul Auditorium, Reed College, and Lincoln Hall, Portland State University.


Jazz clarinetist and saxophonist Ken Peplowski at the Siletz Music Festival.

Siletz Bay Music Festival
The Oregon Coast sounds mighty appealing right about now, and this festival’s second week makes it even more so. Tuesday’s chamber music concert featured Iowa-born composer Ching-chu Hu’s striking Asian-influenced 2013 string sextet “Spheres of Influence” and another sextet by Mikhail Glinka. Wednesday’s show goes light (the venerable film/American music performer/arranger Dick Hyman’s sextet on his In Hot Pursuit (with lyrics by the notable word-player Willard Espy) and Songs from Almanac of Words. Hyman brings another New York-based champion of classic American jazz, clarinetist Ken Peplowski, and fellow frequent Shedd performer Clairdee in Thursday night’s cabaret show and Friday night’s big band jazz orchestra bash. Festival director (and Portland Chamber Orchestra conductor) Yaacov Bergman brings music by the other Mendelssohn, Felix, plus Verdi and great concertos by Shostakovich and Beethoven to Saturday’s orchestra concert, and Tsvi Avni’s The Three Legged Monster to Sunday’s family show. We won’t tantalize you with the great program for Sunday’s sold-out American music show, but tickets remain for the July 4 all-American concert featuring works by Duke Ellington, George Gershwin, Leroy Anderson, Carlisle Floyd, and more. Tuesday-Monday, Salishan Resort.

Makrokosmos Project
New York piano duo Stephanie and Saar’s annual Portland new music happening has become one of the city’s go-to gateways to summer. This time it honors the 80th birthday of America’s greatest living composer, Steve Reich, who’s been feted around the world for the past year, with a performance of his classic Six Pianos. Portland Percussion Group also plays a Reich classic and music by another terrific contemporary American composer, Paul Lansky, plus a work by one of Portland’s own finest, Michael Johanson. Pianist Monica Ohuchi plays music by another top Portland composer, Kenji Bunch, and Third Angle New Music’s Ron Blessinger and Susan Smith play a pair of modern classics by one of Reich’s musical descendants, John Adams. You can come and go as you please throughout the five-hour contemporary music extravaganza, held for the first time in one of the city’s coolest recent building reconstructions, the US HQ of the Danish alternative energy company. Thursday, Vestas building, 1417 N.W. Everett Street.

Oregon Bach Festival
The annual Eugene-based extravaganza is smaller this year but still offers much to savor. St. Matthew Passion on opening night features one of the greatest of all choral orchestral masterpieces — and in the ideal place to hear it, Beall Concert Hall, performed by a historically informed orchestra and chorus led by last-minute substitute conductor Scott Allen Jarrett, the OBF Vocal Fellows and Back Bay Chorale director who steps in for OBF music director Matthew Halls — who just flew home to Toronto to be with his wife and newborn son. Halls will return for the festival’s second week. The German Baroque concert on July 1 features Portland Baroque Orchestra music director Monica Huggett, one of the world’s finest historically informed fiddlers, leading performances by J.S. Bach and other composers of his era, including Telemann (regarded in their time as the greatest German composer), Fasch, and more, including Bach’s own son Wilhelm Friedemann. The week features many other performances and events, including some attractive free shows. Thursday-Monday, various venues, Eugene.

David Murray and Kahil El’Zabar
PDX Jazz brings the Grammy winner, one of jazz’s greatest and most prolific (200 albums as a leader and counting!) living saxophonists and the Chicago avant jazz drummer/percussionist for a summit meeting of esteemed improvisers. Thursday, The Old Church.

In Good Hands
Cascadia Composers frees young Oregon music students to perform music of their own time and place in this annual free showcase of music by Oregon composers. Thursday, The Old Church.

Somjit Dasgupta
The Kolkata virtuoso of the rare sarod-like surshringar Indian instrument plays a benefit for the preservation of historic Indian instruments like the one he plays. Thursday, 1141 S.E. 72nd Ave.

Improvisation Summit of Portland
The Creative Music Guild’s annual convocation of spontaneous creation has become an essential Oregon summer arts event, and this year’s lineup may be its most impressive yet, featuring dance masters like Linda Austin, jazz masters like Rich Halley and Blue Cranes Reed Wallsmith and Joe Cunningham, the terrific Seattle drummer and composer Bobby Previte’s Voodoo Orchestra, and many other improvisers from various traditions. Friday and Saturday, Disjecta Contemporary Art Center, 8371 N Interstate Ave.

Piano Push Play Kick-Off Concert
The free annual celebration of pianos that places 10 instruments around Portland for the public to play during the sunny months features a passel of pianos scattered around the art museum courtyard, performances by local pianists, and the opportunity for attendees to try their hands too.
Friday, Portland Art Museum

Marylhurst Chamber Choir
The award winning chorus sings the program it’s taking to a major choral competition in Latvia next month. Friday, Chapel of the Holy Names, Mary’s Woods and Sunday, St. Anne’s Chapel, Marylhurst University.



Nellie McKay
The gloriously witty and unpredictable singer/songwriter brings her new cabaret revue, A Girl Named Bill, which spotlights jazz bandleader Billy Tipton, who performed as a man but was really a woman in disguise. Saturday, The Shedd, Eugene.





ArtsWatch links


Mini Music Fest: a hoot in the heat. Outdoors the sun was sizzling, the bikers were naked, and Mother Nature beckoned. Indoors, the Portland Mini Musical Festival was larking it up with half a dozen new short musicals – just 15 minutes each on average. It was, Brett Campbell reports, a hoot.

Ambrose Akinusire, embracing risk. Trumpeter and composer Douglas Detrick praises the fearlessness and skills the young trumpeter revealed at a PDX Jazz concert: “He runs towards the difficulty, rather than avoiding it.”

Creek College: planting seeds on the Columbia Slough. Hannah Krafcik explores the ripples and tides of an experimental “school” that bridges art and conservation.

A chat with the pianist of Willesden Lane. Alice Hardesty gets the inside word from pianist and actor Mona Golabek, who stars at Portland Center Stage in her own mother’s tale of escaping the Nazis and beginning a musical career.

Northwest Piano Trio: three, four, five. Terry Ross praises the trio’s recent foray into Mozart, Schubert, and Dvorak.


Pam Tzeng’s “’A Meditation on the End’ by Jo-Lee” at the Risk/Reward Festival. Photo: Chelsea Petrakis

Risk/Reward: value proposition. Brett Campbell takes a fascinating, in-depth look at both the risks and the rewards of the new-works festival.

Islamabad, on common ground. I go to rehearsal for an inside look at an international work from Theatre Wallay of Islamabad, Pakistan, which is playing a final show Wednesday at Artists Rep in Portland before moving on to the Oregon Shakespeare Festival.

Moon Hooch: danceable complexity. Saxophonist and composer Patrick McCulley praises the technique and pop accessisibility of the New York jazz/experimental trio, which winds its way to Oregon in August.

From trauma to opera: The Woman of Salt. Rachael Carnes tells the backstory of Oregon composer Anise Thigpen’s new opera.

Jason Silva’s furniture music. Jason Silva considers the odd depths and perspectives of the New York artist’s deceptively simple drawings at Ampersand Gallery.


Jason Silva, “2-19-17″/Courtesy Ampersand Gallery



Creek College: Planting Seeds on the Columbia Slough

“How do we get people to return to a place over time to develop a relationship to the place and community?"


“It is our birthright to listen, quietly and undisturbed, to the natural environment and take away whatever meanings we may from it.” — From One Square Inch of Silence by Gordon Hempton

It had been a long day. Fortunately, the weather was on our side this Saturday, supporting our time in nature: Gray skies were interspersed with the warmth of the sun that shone through at intervals. Most of our group had spent the day learning and working along the Columbia Slough, and it was time for a break. According to our itinerary, our next venture would take shape as a silent canoe ride along the Columbia River.

Paddling silently on Whitaker Ponds/Photo by Kristina Dutton

About 30 adults and a couple children met at the dock, where Jennifer Starkey (Education Director of the Columbia Slough Watershed Council) gave instructions on how to canoe safely down the river in silence. We boarded our vessels with utmost quietness and congregated together on the water for a brief reading with our leaders, Anke Schuttler and Shoshana Gugenheim. In addition to an excerpt from One Square Inch of Silence by Gordon Hempton, they offered a poem by Fasika Ayalew called Silence of Silence:

Mystic beauty
Endless pleasure
Filled with eternity
Cascade like a fall
Pour its waters
Into a valley of calmness
\when listening to the silence of silence

Once the reading came to a close, we all looked at one another across the water and affirmed the start of our journey. Many thoughts passed through my head. I had not canoed in about a decade, and I had never canoed in silence. I felt like I was paddling in sync with those in front of me, but occasionally my paddle knocked that of the person behind me. Was I the weak link in this canoe? Were we paddling too fast? Were we missing out on quiet observation of the nature around us? Eventually my mind drifted to consider what we had done all day, and what brought us to this point.