MusicWatch Weekly: for the children

Music inspired by children lead this week's Oregon concert lineup

The Christmas season celebrates a child’s birth and delights kids all over the world. But there’s little comfort and joy for many children today. Even before little Alan Kurdi’s body washed up on that Turkish beach three years ago, children were bearing the brunt of the Syrian refugee crisis and so many other catastrophes. Fear No Music’s “All of the Future: In Celebration of Children” features chamber music on subjects especially significant to children, including gun violence (Larry Bell’s Newtown Variations, responding to the 2013 massacre), homophobia (Pulitzer Prize winner David Del Tredici’s Matthew Shepard), migration (Mary Kouyoumdjian’s A Boy And A Makeshift Toy, inspired by the 1990s Bosnian conflict), bullying (Barbara White’s Registering My Oppositions) and, yes, the plight of refugees crossing the Mediterranean (Nadir Vassena’s child lost at sea). The young musicians of Portland’s BRAVO Youth Orchestras contribute a collective compositional response to the new ICE crackdown on immigrants.
Monday. The Old Church, 1422 SW 11th Ave. Portland.

Portland Gay Men’s Chorus’s annual holiday concert happens this weekend.

• Like so many parents today, jazz pianist Ezra Weiss, the father of two young sons, worries about the turn the world has taken recently and what it means for his children’s future. And as one of Portland’s most esteemed jazz composers and arrangers, Weiss channeled those concerns when he created his latest and one of his most ambitious compositions. This concert, a fundraiser for the Cathedral Park Jazz Festival, features the premiere and live recording of Weiss’s new jazz suite We Limit Not the Truth of God, featuring many of the city’s top players (John Nastos, John Savage, Renato Caranto, Stan Bock, Alan Jones, Carlton Jackson, Thomas Barber and more, plus the Camas High School Choir. This new creation follows a string of successes, including his score for Portland Jazz Composers Ensemble’s multimedia concert and recording earlier this year, From Maxville To Vanport; three original musicals for Northwest Children’s Theater; three ASCAP Young Jazz Composer Award, half a dozen CDs, and a host of arrangements and compositions for various Portland jazz veterans. But fair warning: although inspired by concern for children, some of the themes in Weiss’s new composition may not be appropriate for all of them. Such is the state of our world.
Saturday. Alberta Abbey, Portland.

• The impressive Portland composer Renée Favand-See dedicated her new solo piano work Growing to her first son Owen, and suggests that its premiere performance would be a good one for adults and kids. It’s part of award winning rising star pianist Zhenni Li’s free, one-hour, no intermission recital presented by Portland Piano International, which commissioned it. Along with Growing (based on Britten’s folk song arrangement “The trees they grow so high,” which will be sung by Arwen Myers in Portland), the recital includes music by Beethoven, Bortkiewicz, and Mussorgsky’s Pictures of an Exhibition.
Friday, St. Paul’s Episcopal, 1444 Liberty Street SE, Salem, and Saturday, Portland Piano Company, 8700 NE Columbia Blvd, Portland.

Choral Concerts

• Children from ORS’s own youth choirs and student choristers from local middle and high schools join in some selections in Oregon Repertory Singers’ Glory of Christmas concert, annually one of the best bets of the holiday music season. The 20th and 21st century program includes excerpts from contemporary Norwegian composer Ola Gjeilo’s Northern Lights and Benjamin Britten’s enchanting Ceremony of Carols, Beaverton native Morten Lauridsen’s moving O Magnum Mysterium, Portland composer Naomi LaViolette’s Angel in the Snow, contemporary Estonian composer Arvo Pärt’s Bogoroditse Devo and Magnificat, contemporary Latvian composer Eriks Esenvalds’s Stars, Franz Biebl’s perennial Ave Maria, and more.
Friday (tickets available) & Sunday (sold out, call ahead), First United Methodist Church, 1838 SW Jefferson St, Portland.

Oregon Repertory Singers perform at Portland’s First United Methodist Church.

• Some of the same composers and even compositions appear on Choral Arts Ensemble of Portland’s CAE Yuletide: To Friends Old & New this weekend. The choir teams up with composers from our own time and place to perform new Northwest seasonal works created by members of Cascadia Composers, plus old favorites by other renowned contemporary choral composers (Gjeilo, Lauridsen, Stephen Chatman, Pärt), new works by rising young composers (Jake Runestad, Joshua Shank, Martin Åsander) and classics by Mozart, Britten, Ralph Vaughan Williams, Tavener, Elgar, and more. Portland composer Lisa Neher’s Three Basho Haiku includes ”harvest moon,” which conjures the image of a large, orange moon rising in the autumn sky; “first winter rain,” which likens the ending of the year with the waning of life, prompting the search for the comfort of companionship and “this fragrance,” which relates the experience of a particular scent awakening emotions and memories. Bill Whitley‘s Ecclesia is a tribute to the great Portland architect Pietro Beluschi. Read ArtsWatch’s interview with CAE artistic director David De Lyser.
Saturday night and Sunday afternoon. St. Philip Neri Catholic Church, 2408 SE 16th Ave. Portland.

• Another always delightful holiday tradition, Portland Gay Men’s Chorus’s The Most Wonderful Season includes music associated with Solstice, Hanukkah, Christmas, the New Year, and more. Don’t forget to bring a little something for PGMC’s Annual Food Drive in support of Esther’s Pantry.
Friday-Sunday, Newmark Theatre, Portland.

Cappella Romana joins Portland Baroque Orchestra in ‘Messiah.’

• Portland Baroque Orchestra & Cappella Romana’s annual performances of Handel’s oratorio Messiah are simply a hallmark of Oregon music. Performed in the style and on the instruments the composer intended — an annual privilege not many American communities enjoy — they breathe new life into this perennially performed masterpiece.
Friday-Sunday (full meal deal); Monday (highlights). First Baptist Church, Portland.

Portland Symphonic Choir’s Wintersong includes Charpentier’s Christmas Mass with strings, Mi Zeh Yemalel, a percussion-propelled Moroccan Jewish folk song, and other seasonal songs and carols from the Renaissance to the present.
Saturday night and Sunday afternoon. Rose City Park United Methodist Church, 5830 NE Alameda St. Portland.

Portland Symphonic Choir’s Wintersong returns.

Orchestra

• One of the most acclaimed living American composers, New York’s John Corigliano, scored an unexpected hit with his neo-Romantic score for the 1998 film The Red Violin, whose Twilight-Zoney story chronicled the adventures of a mysterious, possibly haunted fiddle and its owners over several centuries. Corigliano turned his film score into a popular violin concerto, a contemporary composition that can appeal to fans of all eras of classical music. Chloë Hanslip performs a movement from it with the Eugene Symphony in a concert that also features music by the great early baroque composer Buxtehude (in a 20th century orchestration), Saint-Saëns’s dreamy Cuban inspired Havanaise and Mendelssohn’s exuberant, ever popular “Italian” Symphony.
Thursday, Hult Center, Eugene

Oregon Mandolin Orchestra and Choro da Alegria play seasonal favorites, originals by OMO members, and Brazilian-inspired music at OMO’s annual holiday concert.
Friday, Walters Cultural Arts Center, 527 E. Main St., Hillsboro.

Oregon Mandolin Orchestra plays holiday music in Hillsboro this weekend.

Oregon Symphony’s ever-popular Gospel Christmas returns for its 20th anniversary with conductor Charles Floyd and the Northwest Community Gospel Chorus.
Friday-Sunday, Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall, Portland.

• In Oregon Mozart Players’ annual Candlelight Concert, the chamber orchestra joins University of Oregon Chamber Choir in Mozart’s sweetly somber Ave Verum Corpus and also plays his other great night music, the rousing Serenata Notturna, plus a suite from English baroque master Henry Purcell’s tuneful musical drama ​Abdelezar.​
Saturday and Sunday, First Christian Church, Eugene.

Jazz and other Chamber Music

• With bands as stylistically and instrumentally diverse as the Gravitas Quartet, Sweeter Than the Day, and Zony Mash, Seattle pianist/composer Wayne Horvitz has ranged from electric funk to classically inflected acoustic chamber jazz to theater, dance, TV and film scores and beyond, all of it — composed, improvised, or somewhere in between — of high quality and broad appeal. His apparently unbounded creativity just found another outlet: his Snowghost Trio with drummer Eric Eagle and bassist Jeff Harper that somehow organically combines several of his earlier styles and even compositions: the classic acoustic jazz piano trio; Horvitz’s characteristically moody, quietly spacious textures; and live amplified electronics with multiple keyboards. Like seemingly everything else Horvitz touches, it sounds simply yet uneasily beautiful.  Portland’s excellent Blue Cranes open.
Friday, Jack London Revue, Portland.

• J.S. Bach’s six sublime suites for solo cello are rightly regarded as some of the greatest and most spellbinding music ever written for any solo instrument, capable of inspiring such depths of contemplation that it still haunts even the world’s most famous cellist, Yo Yo Ma, who just released his third recording. But to really hear what Bach composed and intended, you need to hear them played on the kind of instrument and in the tunings he wrote them for. In an Oregon Bach Collegium concert, Delgani String Quartet/Eugene Symphony/Oregon Mozart Players cellist Eric Alterman plays and explicates Bach’s first three on the much more intimate baroque cello rather than the usual anachronistic modern instrument.
Sunday, United Lutheran Church, Eugene.

Opera & Musical

• Portland Opera to Go’s kid-friendly, bilingual production of Rossini’s The Barber of Seville gets a shave, a trim (50 minutes) and an afternoon performance.
Saturday, Hampton Opera Center, Portland.

Thomas Cilluffo as Count Almaviva, Jessica Blau as Rosina, Jorge-Phillipe Belonni Rosario as Figaro, and Sergio Monzo as Dr. Bartolo in Portland Opera to Go’s production of ‘The Barber of Seville.’ Photo: Garrick Antikajian/Portland Opera.

• Surrealist French poet Guillaume Apollinaire’s play The Breasts of Tirésias (Les Mamelles de Tirésias) imagined what would happen if a French woman refused to do her patriotic duty of producing cannon fodder for a war-ravaged regime, delegating the task to her husband — who in an outburst of patriotic fervor delivers — to the tune of 40,049 babies in a single day. French composer Francis Poulenc turned it into his own first opera. Portland State’s fab Poulenc@PSU series’ full staging with piano and percussion concludes this weekend.
Friday & Sunday. Studio Theater, Lincoln Hall 1620 SW Park Ave. Portland State University.

Premiered by Northwest native Bing Crosby as a single and then in the 1942 film Holiday Inn, Irving Berlin’s “White Christmas” remains the biggest selling single of all time. And it became the title track for Crosby and Danny Kaye’s 1954 film, a Berlin jukebox musical featuring a sleighful of his older hits (“Blue Skies” “Happy Holiday,” “How Deep Is the Ocean,” “I’ve Got My Love To Keep Me Warm” and many more). The American story, involving a pair of World War II vets turned song-and-dance team pursuing a singing sister act during a Christmas gig, may not boast the impact of the babe in the manger, three wise guys and an immaculate conception, but that didn’t stop the movie from grossing the biggest box office take of the year. “White Christmas” completed its sleigh ride from hit song to hit musical to hit film and back to stage with a 2000 theatrical adaptation of the 1954 film premiered by St Louis Municipal Opera Theatre that despite lukewarm critical reception went on to successful productions in San Francisco, Broadway, London and several American tours. That’s the version that music director Robert Ashens and director Ron Daum are leading in Eugene this month.
Through December 16. The Shedd, Eugene.

Live Streamed

Winter Choral Concert: The Lewis & Clark College Choirs present their annual Winter Choral Concert, with both holiday and secular music. Katherine FitzGibbon conducts Cappella Nova and Community Chorale, and Brandon Brack conducts Voces Auream. With Stephanie Thompson, piano. Friday, 7:30pm.

Lewis & Clark Orchestra Concert. Features LC student Oswald Huynh’s senior capstone orchestral tone poem in three movements, The Dragon Prince and Maurice Ravel’s Pavane for a Dead Princess Sunday, 7:30pm.

Inspired by Nature. Cascadia Composers monthly presentation featuring composer, mezzo-soprano, and actress Dr. Lisa Neher (whose music is on the Choral Arts Ensemble concert above), who will share recent chamber works about tornadoes, comets, and deep water fish in this presentation. Monday 7pm

Lewis & Clark Jazz Combos present jazz music. Tuesday 7:30pm

 The Palatine Trio (Susan DeWitt Smith, Nancy Ives, Inés Voglar-Belgique) perform trios by Gabriela Lena Frank, Jennifer Higdon, Shulamit Ran and Robert Schumann. Friday,  7:30pm.

We know, there’s so much more music for the holidays happening. Tell the tidings about the rest in the comments section below.

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

Join the discussion

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.