MusicWatch Weekly: celebrations and appreciations

This week's Oregon concerts celebrate a famous composer's centennial, an Oregon professor's creative  work, early Italian baroque, female composers, and American jazz

The adventurous Portland/Seattle ensemble Sound of Late premieres Book of the Dark by American composer Alan Shockley at their Saturday night informal, hour-long show at Portland’s New Expressive Works. The chamber music score incorporates references to James Joyce’s Finnegan’s Wake, moody English composer John Dowland’s darkly compelling Lachrimae, occult symbolism, and more.

Sound of Late performs at Portland’s N.E.W. studios Saturday

The intriguing program also includes the still-startling solo flute showcase Diaphonic Suite #1 by one of America’s first great female composers, Ruth Crawford (who later added a husband and a surname, Seeger), a chamber ensemble arrangement of Arvo Part’s choral classic Summa, Argentine composer Adriana Verdié’s Confluencia and Michigan composer Alexander Miller’s Short Stanzas.

Lisa Neher performs Sunday at Lewis & Clark College.

As we noted in the previous MusicWatch, last weekend saw three Portland concerts that featured new music by female composers. This Sunday afternoon, a free recital at Lewis & Clark College’s Agnes Flanagan Chapel offers another. Her Songs: A Recital of Music by Women, features composer, mezzo-soprano and L&C alumna Lisa Neher and pianist Stephanie Thompson performing songs by early 20th century French composers Germaine Tailleferre and Lili Boulanger, California’s Gabriela Lena Frank, Broadway composer / lyricist / conductor Georgia Stitt, and Neher herself.

Since graduating from Lewis & Clark, Neher has built a career as choral performer and vocal recitalist and created One Voice Project, a one-woman performance combining contemporary poetry and new musical works for unaccompanied voice chosen through a call for scores and teaches college in Iowa.

On Sunday afternoon at Eugene’s First United Methodist Church, some of Eugene’s top musicians including Michael Anderson, Alice Blankenship, Brian Scott and Laura Wayte celebrate the longtime former head of the University of Oregon composition program, Hal Owen, in performances of his music for choir, flute, marimba, clarinet and more. We’ll tell you about another tribute to a beloved longtime Oregon music prof, Lewis & Clark’s Vincent McDermott, next week.

Speaking of college classical music, Chamber Music Northwest is presenting a concert Friday at Portland’s Alberta Rose Theatre featuring musicians from Philadelphia’s prestigious Curtis Institute that celebrates the centennial of one of that conservatory’s most renowned alumni, Leonard Bernstein. Along with his songs (including elections from West Side Story), the concert includes Bernstein’s Clarinet Sonata, the Sextet by his friend/mentor Aaron Copland, and George Gershwin’s lovely Lullaby for string quartet. Joining the current students are a couple of distinguished Curtis alums, including one very well known in Oregon, clarinetist David Shifrin.

Portland Piano International brings Xiaohui Yang to Oregon.

Another emerging young star, pianist Xiaohui Yang, is featured in Portland Piano International’s latest Rising Star series recital. She’ll play Ravel’s luminous Sonatine, a great Schubert sonata, and music by Bartok, Elliott Carter and Chopin in free recitals in Astoria (Thursday, Liberty Theatre), Portland Piano Company (Friday), Cannon Beach Community Church (Saturday) and Hood River (Sunday afternoon, Valley Christian Church). Unlike the other recitals in this series, this one doesn’t appear to contain a new piece by an Oregon composer.

Sunday’s concert by Zakir Hussain and Rakesh Chaurasia at Portland’s First Congregational Church brings tabla master Hussain back to his musical origins in the Hindustani musical tradition. Born into Indian musical royalty, the tabla master long ago achieved worldwide renown, founding a school in the San Francisco Bay Area, becoming a mainstay of the jazz-world music fusion pioneers Shakti, performing with everyone from jazz masters to rock stars to classical musicians including Yo Yo Ma, and even collaborating with masters from other percussion traditions and with dance masters such as Mark Morris. In this concert presented by Portland’s valuable Kalakendra organization, he’s playing North Indian classical music with another virtuoso (and occasional fusion explorer) from a long line of Indian musicians, bamboo flutist Rakesh Chaurasia. Stay tuned for an interview with Hussain.

Baroque and Beyond

A pair of historically informed concerts celebrate early and late Baroque music. On Friday and Saturday at First Baptist Church and Sunday at Reed College, Portland Baroque Orchestra’s chamber ensemble plays delectable music by rarely performed early Italian baroque composers Buonamente, Farina, Cavalli, Castaldi, Marini Bertali, Rossi, Legrenzi. And on Sunday afternoon at Eugene’s Church of the Resurrection, Oregon Bach Collegium’s Baroque violinist Michael Sand and harpsichordist Margret Gries play some of JS Bach’s scintillating sonatas on the instruments and in the tunings the composer had in mind when he wrote them.

Fans of choral music, symphonic music, and opera can all celebrate the Oregon Symphony’s performances of Verdi’s mighty Requiem with Portland Symphonic Choir and University of Puget Sound Adelphian Concert Choir this weekend. Written to honor the creative life of the great 19th century Italian poet Alessandro Manzoni, it packs all the drama of Verdi’s operatic masterpieces into a choral-orchestral landmark.

Frank Boyd stars in “The Holler Sessions” at Artists Repertory Theatre this weekend.

Finally, jazz fans suffering withdrawal symptoms from last month’s overindulgence at PDX Jazz Festival might be interested in a theater piece at Portland’s Artists Repertory Theater this weekend. No proselyte is more ardent than a recent convert, and that’s the character featured in Seattle-based actor/writer Frank Boyd’s one-maniac show The Holler Sessions. You might have seen Boyd at TBA Festival performances with his Brooklyn-based theater company the TEAM (which co-created this show) or Elevator Repair Service. A portrait of a jazz-headcase / radio DJ who evangelizes for the music in uproarious, often profane riffs, the show, which originated at Seattle’s On the Boards and went on to well-received performances in New York and beyond, sounds  like an entertaining character study as well as a blast through jazz history. This production even includes some actual live music. Stay tuned for an interview with Boyd. And feel free to recommend other Oregon musical performances this week in the comments section below.

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