May MusicWatch

Selected musical highlights on Oregon stages in May.

The unofficial classical music season draws near its end with an explosion of attractive concerts this month, of which we can list only a smattering, though we’ll try to update it occasionally throughout the month. Please tell our readers about other shows we may have missed in the comments below, or consult the following resources:

“Hearing Voices”
May 1
Third Angle New Music, Alberta Rose Theater, 3000 NE Alberta St., Portland.
Read my Willamette Week preview of the veteran contemporary music ensemble’s season ending show featuring New Yorker classical music critic and author Alex Ross in performances and discussions of West Coast classical music by Henry Cowell, Portland’s Lou Harrison, John Cage, Harry Partch, Harrison’s protege, 2014 Pulitzer Prize winner John Luther Adams, and more.

“Show Boat”
May 1–9
Portland Opera, Keller Auditorium, SW 3rd & Clay, Portland.
Read Angela Allen’s ArtsWatch preview and Bob Hicks’s ArtsWatch review of the Portland premiere of director Harold Prince’s award-winning 1994 version of Jerome Kern’’s groundbreaking 1927 musical.


Showboat opens Friday at Portland Opera. Photo: Cory Weaver.

“Magnetic West”
May 1
Oregon Mandolin Orchestra, Walters Cultural Arts Center, 527 East Main St., Hillsboro.
The ambitious mandolinists play Beethoven, Tchaikovsky, Strauss, Bizet, Beatles, Heavens on Earth, a contemporary suite for mandolin orchestra by Iowan composer John Goodin, and excerpts from Portland Cello Project co-founder Gideon Freudmann and Oregon Mandolin Orchestra Music Director Brian Oberlin’s new debut duo album, Magnetic West.

May 2
Ted Clifford, Woodstock Wine & Deli, 4030 S.E. Woodstock Blvd., Portland.
One of Cascadia Composers’ most promising new voices releases his new album of original non-standard jazz compositions. Clifford plays piano backed by a stellar duo of the internationally renowned Portland bassist David Friesen and drummer Charlie Doggett.

“A Taste of Our City”
May 2
Portland Jazz Composers Ensemble, Disjecta Interdisciplinary Art Center.8371 N. Interstate Ave., Portland.
Read my Willamette Week preview of this food themed concert of original Oregon music by members of Portland’s young jazz contingent.

“Shakespeare in Song”
May 2-3
Portland Symphonic Choir, Portland Actors Ensemble, St. Mary’s Cathedral, Portland.
Singers and actors join forces for a Shakespearean salute in music by American composer Emma Lou Diemer, jazz piano great George Shearing, Ned Rorem, and Matthew Harris.

“Points of Departure”
May 3
Sound of Late, home of Bryce Caster, 4072 NE 10th Avenue, Portland.
Read Gary Ferrington’s ArtsWatch preview of this new young ensemble’s debut Portland appearance in a house concert.

“Spring Concert”
May 3
Portland Youth Philharmonic, Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall, 1037 SW Broadway, Portland.
The teenage winners of PYP’s 2015 Soloist Competition star in a celebration of 20th century American music. Cellist Annie Zhang plays Tchaikovsky, trombonist Spencer Schaffer takes the lead in José Berghmans’ “The Bearded Lady,” and the award winning orchestra also performs a pair of World War II era American classics: Walter Piston’s 1944 Symphony #2 and Aaron Copland’s exuberant 1938 ballet score, Billy the Kid.

Ani & Nia Sulkhanishvili
May 3
Portland Piano International, Newmark Theatre, Portland.
The Georgian sister duo play music by Lutoslawski, Dvorak, Ravel, Chick Corea and more.

“Spring Adventures: Thirteen Premieres”
May 4
Oregon Composers Forum, Beall Concert Hall, University of Oregon, Eugene.
Read Gary Ferrington’s ArtsWatch preview.

Tim Berne’s Snakeoil, 

Blue Cranes
May 5
Creative Music Guild, Jimmy Mak’s, 221 NW 10th Ave., Portland.
The acclaimed New York avant jazz altosaxophonist/composer joins pianist Matt Mitchell, clarinetist Oscar Noriega, percussionist Ches Smith and guitarist Ryan Ferreira in this CD release concert for their incendiary new ECM album, You’ve Been Watching Me. Portland’s own jazz stars, Blue Cranes, open this recommended Creative Music Guild show.

“Beethoven’s Odyssey”
May 6-21
Gregory Partain, The Old Church, 1422 S.W. 11th Ave., Portland.
The pianist, who grew up in Camas, earned critical praise in a three-decade performing career, and now teaches at Transylvania University in Kentucky, returns for a seven-recital series of 22 Beethoven piano sonatas.

“Mozart vs. Clementi”
May 8
Portland Piano Company
PSU School of Music faculty and students recreate the famous keyboard duel between two of the late 18th century’s most renowned musicians.

Marc Ribot
May 8-9
Creative Music Guild, St. Anne’s Chapel, Marylhurst University, Portland.
Read my Willamette Week preview of the great improvising guitarist’s solo and group concerts.

Portland Percussion Group
May 9, 2 p.m.
The Old Church, 1422 S.W. 11th Ave. Portland.
Read my Willamette Week preview of this concert featuring new music by Oregon composers and a couple of classics, including a Steve Reich masterpiece.

“Earthly Delights”
May 9
Vox Resonat, Central Lutheran Church, 18th and Potter, Eugene.
The early music vocal ensemble sings a program of English, German, French and Spanish songs celebrating the arrival of spring and composed by Renaissance masters Thomas Weelkes, Leonhard Lechner,  Jacques Arcadelt, Nicholas Gombert, Juan del Encina, Pedro de Escobar, and others.

Sax And The Symphony
May 9–11
Oregon Symphony with James Carter, Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall, 1037 SW Broadway, Portland.
The orchestra brings in one of jazz’s greatest living saxmen in a concert of 20th century American music. One of America’s leading composers, Roberto Sierra, wrote his 2002 Concerto for Saxophones for Carter, who’ll display his usual mastery on both tenor and soprano saxes. The splendid program also boasts another strong contemporary American work, Christopher Rouse’s Concerto for Orchestra, and a pair of familiar 20th century US classics: Samuel Barber’s poignant “Adagio” for strings, and the Symphonic Dances Leonard Bernstein drew from his immortal “West Side Story” score.

“Mostly Mozart”
May 9
Oregon Mozart Players, Beall Concert Hall, University of Oregon, Eugene.
The chamber orchestra plays music by its namesake (Overture to The Magic Flute, Symphony No. 35, “Haffner”) and, with help from soprano Julie Miller, Mozart’s aria “Ch’io mi scordi de te” and French romantic composer Ernest Chausson’s Poem of Love and the Sea.

“We The People: Music of Colonial America”
May 9
Musica Maestrale, First Christian Church, SW Park and SW Columbia, Portland.
Read my Willamette Week preview of the early music ensemble’s enlightening concert of American colonial music.

Recorder Orchestra of Oregon
May 9
St. David of Wales Church, 2800 SE Hawthorne, Portland.
In this free, debut concert, recorders ranging in size from six inches to seven FEET intone a tango, Baroque battle tune, an English ballad, and mountain music by composers ranging from Banchieri to Vaughan Williams.

Classical Performers of Holland
May 9
St. Mary’s Cathedral, 1716 NW Davis St, Portland.
Three young award-winning Dutch performers (violinist Svenja Staats, pianist Florian Verweij, tenor Sander de Jong) perform music by J.S. Bach, Schubert, Quilter, Liszt, and more.

“Universal Harmony”
May 10
Oregon Bach Collegium, United Lutheran Church, 2230 Washington Street, Eugene.
The historically informed ensemble plays a pair of J.S. Bach’s Brandenburg Concertos, one of his lovely flute sonatas, and a violin sonata by the fine French Baroque composer Elizabeth Jacquet de la Guerre.

Uday Bhawalkar
May 10
Dhvani, Christ United Methodist Church,12755 NW Dogwood St., Portland.
Accompanied by Pratap Awad on phakwaj percussion and local Indian music guru Michael Stirling on tanpura drone, the veteran Dhrupad singer performs traditional music in one of North India’s most ancient forms.

Avishai Cohen’s Triveni
May 13
Jimmy Mak’s, 221 NW 10th Ave., Portland.
One of today’s rising young jazz trumpet stars brings his trio with bassist Eric Revis and drummer Nasheet Waits to Portland to celebrate the release of the trio’s third album of stylish modern jazz.

“After Life”
May 11
Music of Remembrance. Illsley Ball Nordstrom Recital Hall, Benaroya Hall, Seattle
Oregon music usually keeps us busy enough, but sometimes we must direct readers’ attention northward, especially for the premiere of a new work by companies more forward-looking than most of our own. That’s the case in Music of Remembrance’s new one-act opera by Tom Cipullo (whose recent Vietnam-themed opera, Glory Denied, drew strong acclaim) with libretto by David Mason, which pits estranged (and, here, deceased) friends Gertrude Stein and Pablo Picasso in a posthumous debate about the responsibility of artists to address the world’s evils. Seattle Symphony musicians back soprano Catherine Cook and baritone Robert Orth. The rest of the show is also worth the trip, as it includes the great French composer Darius Milhaud’s 1936 Suite for Violin Clarinet and Piano, 1938 Music for a Farce by Paul Bowles (yes, THAT Paul Bowles, who was one of America’s most promising composers before turning to Tangier and fiction writing) and more.

Alexander Elliott
May 12
Whitsell Auditorium, Portland Art Museum
The Portland Opera resident artist, accompanied by chorus master Nicholas Fox sings an attractive program of mostly American music by Leonard Bernstein, Ned Rorem, William Bolcom, and more.

XX Digitus Piano Duo
May 14
The Old Church, Portland.
Read my Willamette Week preview of this excellent, mostly 20th century program (plus a Portland composer’s world premiere) by a pianistic piano pair that impressed us mightily in a recent Cascadia Composers concert.

“The Light Within: The Germany Concert”
May 14
University of Oregon Chamber Choir, Beall Concert Hall, University of Oregon, Eugene.
On the eve of its departure for Germany’s prestigious Marktoberdorf International Chamber Choir Competition, the award winning chorus sings an admirably varied program of sacred and secular music by ancient (Purcell, Brahms, Palestrina, and others) and modern (Stephen Paulus, Oregon native Morten Lauridsen, Scotland’s James MacMillan, Stacey Gibbs) choral masters, plus a high-speed medley of 16 American folk songs in four minutes.

Eugene Symphony
May 14
Hult Center, Eugene.
To close its season, the orchestra plays one of Haydn’s sparkling cello concertos, Strauss’s tone poem A Hero’s Life, and Samuel Barber’s famous Adagio for strings.

“Renaissance MayFest”
May 15-16
Eugene Vocal Arts, Oregon Renaissance Band, St. Paul’s Parish Hall, 1201 Satre St., Eugene.
The ensemble’s annual dinner-performance features madrigals by English composer Thomas Morley, sacred music by the great Spanish composer Tomas Luis de Victoria, plus authentic dances, food, decor, costumed actors, and the historical instruments (violin, recorders, sackbutts, viola da gamba, krummhorns, lute, tabor) fashioned by Portland early music mavens Phil and Gayle Neuman.

Roberto Fabbri and Alberto Cumplido
May 15, Marylhurst University, Wiegand Hall, Lake Oswego.
May 17, St. Catherine’s Episcopal Church, Nehalem.
The Italian and Chilean guitarists are both composers as well as internationally recognized performers, so along with 19th century music by Fernando Sor and Anton Diabelli, they’ll play originals — including an homage to Eddie Van Halen.

“New American Classics”
May 16
FearNoMusic, Mississippi Studios, 3939 N Mississippi Ave. Portland.
Despite what the backward-looking repertoire of most chamber music groups and festivals would suggest, classics are still being made. We won’t know for years whether the two attractive works by esteemed 21st century American composers on this program by Portland’s adventurous new music ensemble — Stephen Harke’s piano quartet King of the Sun and Osvaldo Golijov’s The Dreams and Prayers of Isaac the Blind for string quartet and klezmer clarinet — will rise to that exalted level, but they’re all worth hearing right here and now.

David Torn
May 16
Holocene, 1001 SE Morrison, Portland.
The acclaimed composer, who’s worked with everyone from David Bowie to Don Cherry to Madonna to Tim Berne, plays music from his atmospheric new solo album, in which his guitar slices shadowy near-ambient spaciousness with occasional serrated textures.

Intuitive Music
May 16
Jazz Station, 124 West Broadway, Eugene.
Bassist and composer Lyle Hopkins’s ensemble, featuring composer/flutist and ArtsWatch contributor Daniel Heila and multi-instrumentalist Christian Parkess, plays improvised sounds influenced by the music of John Zorn and John Cage.

Vidyadhar Vyas
May 16
The Old Church, 1422 SW 11th Avenue, Portland.
Accompanied by tablawallah Satish Tare and Vivek Datar on harmonium, the Mumbai-based vocal star sings classical Hindustani music.

David Saffert
May 16
Curious Comedy Theater, Portland.
With direction from the sequined one’s long time music director Bo Ayars, the Portland pianist revives his tribute to Liberace, a hit at the recent Fertile Ground Festival. This performance benefits Portland’s KQAC classical radio.

Portland Peace Choir.

Portland Peace Choir.

Portland Peace Choir
May 16
Unity of Portland, 4525 SE Stark St. Portland.
The annual free concert includes choral arrangements of music by Peter, Paul and Mary, Harry Belafonte, Cat Stevens, Cyndi Lauper, and Holly Near, plus a choral suite with lyrics arranged from President Lincoln’s writings.

“From Darkness to Light”
Cappella Romana, May 16, 8 pm, St. Mary’s Cathedral, 1739 NW Couch St, and May 17, 2 pm, Trinity Episcopal Cathedral, 147 NW 19th Ave. Portland.
Esteemed British composer Ivan Moody conducts Portland’s stellar vocal ensemble in rarely heard contemporary European choral works. Moody, an expert on the music of Alfred Schnittke, leads 26 singers in a performance of the great 20th century Russian composer’s powerful Verses of Repentance, along with a piece by Galina Grigorjeva, Rachmaninoff’s Concerto for Choir, and Moody’s own Anastasis setting of Eastertide texts in Greek and English.

Vancouver Symphony Orchestra
May 16-17
Skyview Concert Hall, 1300 NW 139th Street, Vancouver, WA.
Spanish clarinetists Juanjo and Tolo Mercadal join the orchestra in the Concerto for Two Clarinets by Franz Krommer, and the VSO closes its season with a selection chosen by ballot by audience members, and Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 5.


The Korean kayagum is one of the instruments featured at Portland State on May 17.

The Korean kayagum is one of the instruments featured at Portland State on May 17.

May 17
Portland State University, Smith Memorial Student Union Ballroom, 1825 SW Broadway, Portland.
A couple years ago, PSU’s Asian Studies program presented a fascinating concert of music featuring traditional Asian zithers from Japan (koto), Korea (kayagum), and China (guzheng), enabling Oregon listeners to hear the similarities and differences in the music and the instruments. They’re doing it again.

Instant Composers Pool Orchestra
May 17
Redeemer Lutheran Church, 5431 NE 20th Ave. Portland.
Read my Willamette Week preview of the venerable Dutch free-jazz big band’s latest Oregon appearance.

Laura Wayte and Julia Brown
May 17
First United Methodist Church, 1376 Olive Street, Eugene
The soprano and organist offer a wide-ranging recital of music from the 17th century to the present: Mozart, Monteverdi, Max Reger, Hugo Wolf, Maurice Ravel and contemporary composers Naji Hakim and Grigor Arakelian.

PSU Chamber Choir performs May 17.

PSU Chamber Choir performs May 17.

The Little Match Girl Passion
Portland State Chamber Choir
May 17
St. Stephen’s Catholic Church, 1112 SE 41st Ave.
Read my Willamette Week preview of the award winning student choir’s Oregon premiere of the recent Pulitzer Prize winner by David Lang. The choir will also sing a free outdoor performance on the evening of May 19, on Portland’s Waterfront Park, where homeless Oregonians might actually get to hear a piece inspired by homelessness.

Oregon Symphony, Pink Martini
May 19
Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall, Portland.
The retro-popsters join the even more retro orchestra for a salsafied take on Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf and other classics.

“PSU Celebrates the Music of Tomas Svoboda”
May 20
Lincoln Recital Hall, Portland State University, 1620 SW Park Ave., Portland.
In this free concert, Portland State University’s School of Music faculty and students perform the music of the school’s emeritus professor, Tomas Svoboda, in honor of Oregon’s greatest living composer’s 75th year.

“An Appalachian Spring”
May 22
St. Anne’s Chapel, Marylhurst University, Lake Oswego.
Read my Willamette Week preview of this concert featuring music by Tomas Svoboda, PSU prof Ken Selden, and more.

“Celebrating Innovation”
May 22
Oregon Composers Forum, Aasen-Hull Hall, University of Oregon, Eugene.
Read Gary Ferrington’s ArtsWatch preview of this free concert featuring nine premiere performances of chamber and solo works by UO composers.

“Modern Music: Mostly Winds”
May 23
Harrison Hill Chamber Players, St. David of Wales Episcopal Church, 2800 SE Harrison St., Portland.
A trio by still another Portland composer, Beth Karp, is featured on a program of duos and trios by the great 20th century American composer Walter Piston, Darius Milhaud, Ian Clarke, and Robert Muczynski, all performed by a new Portland-based chamber ensemble.

John Mery
May 24
Vie de Boheme, 1530 SE 7th Ave. Portland.
The accomplished Portland guitarist and Oregon Guitar Quartet member releases his new solo album of Argentine music, including some famous tangos.

Oregon Percussion Ensemble
May 28
Beall Concert Hall, Eugene.
The ever-exciting ensemble’s show this time comprises music written or arranged by UO percussion students.

The Piano Music of Heitor Villa-Lobos
May 29
Aasen-Hull Hall, Frohnmayer Music Buiding
UO prof Alexandre Dossin and his students play piano music by the famed Brazilian composer, including the “Ciclo Brasileiro” (Brazilian Cycle), a group of four pieces performed by the studio’s four Brazilians (Dossin, along with Ednaldo Borba, Priscilla Dantas, and Eduardo Moreira).

“Global Rhythms PDX IV”
May 29 and May 31
Portland State Man Choir, Vox Femina and University Choir, Lincoln Performance Hall, Room 175, 1620 SW Park Ave., Portland.
Always one of the most ear-expanding and exhilarating choral concerts in Oregon, this show usually features ingenious choral arrangements (often by PSU prof and conductor Ethan Sperry) of traditional and classical music from across the globe.

Spring Concert
May 30
Hult Center, Eugene
The University of Oregon’s University Symphony Orchestra, Oregon Wind Ensemble, and University Singers perform music from Stravinsky’s Firebird, Bartok’s Concerto for Orchestra, music by Saint-Saëns, Eriks Essenvalds, Vincent Persichetti and more.

“The Music of Spring”
May 31
Aaron David Miller, First Presbyterian Church, 1200 SW Alder, Portland.
To commemorate the 15th anniversary of the installation of the church’s mighty Jaeckel pipe organ, its Celebration Works series brings one of America’s finest organists to perform music by Bach, Mendelssohn, and Gigout and a specially improvised organ symphony based on themes suggested by the audience.

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Want to learn more about contemporary Oregon classical music? Check out Oregon ComposersWatch. 

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