MusicWatch Weekly: musical collisions

Old and new, east and west, and other traditions interact in Oregon concerts this week

While some want to keep cultures/races/music “pure” and keep others out, history shows that the greatest accomplishment emerges from the collision of diverse influences, often originating where cultures cohabit. Cappella Romana’s performances of Renaissance music from the Greek islands Saturday night at Portland’s St. Mary’s Cathedral, and Sunday afternoon at Lake Oswego’s Our Lady of the Lake Church reflects the fruitful musical hybrids born on islands such as Crete, where Western/Italian music intermingled with Byzantine/Greek sounds. The estimable Portland vocal ensemble, which sang this music at the world’s pre-eminent early music festival in Utrecht, brings it home to Oregon for first performances and a recording.

Is this whole #meToo thing going #toofar? I don’t think so, but decide for yourself Sunday night at Portland’s Old Church Concert Hall when the superb singers of Portland’s Northwest Art Song seize a famous composition written for a single male singer with pianist and — transform it into a duet by two nonpareil female vocalists, soprano Arwen Myers and mezzo Laura Beckel Thoreson, with pianist Susan McDaniel. The gender switcheroo — and the transformation from monologue to dramatic dialogue — should add dimension, sugar and spice to Franz Schubert’s 1823 song cycle about unrequited love, The Miller’s Daughter (Die schöne Müllerin). It sounds fascinating, and with performers and music as great as those involved here, an experiment worth trying. By coincidence, another Oregon soprano is pulling the same move, as you’ll learn in this space next week.

Northwest Art Song sings Schubert on Sunday.

Earlier Sunday at Eugene’s United Lutheran Church, Oregon Bach Collegium’s all-JS Bach show features the Delgani Quartet and others performing three of his ever popular Brandenburg Concertos and a couple of equally lovely sonatas, all played on period instruments by historically informed experts.

Also on Sunday afternoon, Ukrainian pianist Vadym Kholodenko plays Mozart, Beethoven and Prokofiev at Corvallis’s LaSells Stewart Center Sunday afternoon.

For a glimpse into classical music’s future, check out either or both Sunday afternoon concerts in one of Oregon’s most valuable artistic incubators: Fear No Music’s Young Composers Project. Young composers, age 10 through 18 have been working with the Portland new music ensemble’s pros all year to develop their musical ideas into playable pieces, culminating in these concerts in Lincoln Hall at Portland State University.

Sonia Wieder-Atherton on cello in the frame of Chantal Akerman’s film “Saute ma ville” (1968). Photo: Fondation Chantal Akerman.

Wild card of the week: Tuesday and next Wednesday’s performances by Paris-based cellist Sonia Wieder-Atherton’s CHANTAL? A dialogue between a movie, a cello and a text at Pacific Northwest College of Arts’s Mediatheque. This intriguing multimedia collision about the great avant garde filmmaker Chantal Akerman involves film, personal memoir, and more; the musical segments include works by Prokofiev, Béla Bartók, Leoš Janáček and more.

And speaking of music and film, the documentary Itzhak about the legendary violinist whose last name, like Prince and Madonna’s, is unnecessary, returns this weekend to Portland’s Living Room Theaters.

Classical UpClose continues breaking down barriers between music fans and classical music with its third week of free Portland-area shows performed by Oregon Symphony musicians, including concerts Friday at Tigard United Methodist Church, and Tuesday at Rose City Park Presbyterian Church. Smaller scale mid-day chamber music “blitzes” pop up throughout the week at Tigard’s Symposium Coffee House, ​Milwaukie Center, and Hollywood Senior Center. Check the schedule and interactive map for details.

Speaking of family friendly classical fare, well known Eugene actor Bill Hulings stars in Eugene Symphony’s Sunday concert, The Composer is Dead, based on Lemony Snicket’s delightful murder mystery and featuring original music by American composer Nathaniel Stookey. It’s an inviting — and interactive — introduction to music and instruments.

Show Tunes

Music and theater also collide Friday and Saturday in Eugene at The Shedd’s annual cabaret presentation of Evynne Hollens’ Contemporary Songbook, which brings music from today’s Broadway stages to Oregon. This time the featured musicals are biographical, from Hamilton, Beautiful, Anastasia, Grey Gardens, Fun Home, Stephen Sondheim’s Assassins, and recent hits like last year’s Come from Away and the current movie musical The Greatest Showman inspired by the true story of P. T. Barnum’s creation of Barnum & Bailey Circus, plus a peek at singer Hollens’s new musical in progress with Portland singer-songwriter Anna Gilbert, Milagro.


Don’t cry for Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber, whose massive musical hit Evita returns to Portland’5 Brunish Theatre Thursday through May 13, courtesy of Stumptown Stages.

Portland State U’s nationally renowned opera program concludes its run of one of the 20th century’s most entertaining English-language comic chamber operas, Benjamin Britten’s Albert Herring, which runs through Sunday. Read Angela Allen’s ArtsWatch review.

Another musical theater collision hits the Hult’s Silva stage Saturday when Eugene Concert Choir joins DJ Prashant Kakad (the force behind those ebullient Jai Ho concerts around the Northwest) tabla player Ankush Vimawala and Eugene Bhangra dancers in the original musical A Bollywood Dream, which tells the story of young lovers caught between tradition and modernity using classic Bollywood songs (including Slumdog Millionaire’s “Jai Ho”) and traditional Indian ragas.

Speaking of musicals, new music director Christian McKee leads Oregon Mandolin Orchestra’s matinee Saturday at Vancouver’s First Presbyterian Church, which features not only Broadway and Hollywood show tunes, but also a folk-meets-classical collision involving a plucked string arrangement of Schubert’s “Unifinished” Symphony, which the award winning band, now under new management, then take to a prestigious European music festival.

Global Sounds

Flamenco guitarist/composer Jóse Antonio Rodriguez brings his masterful chops to Portland’s Old Church Saturday, abetted by singer/percussionist Patricio Cámara, bassist Paco Peña and guitarist Nat Hulskamp and singer Lamiae Naki from the excellent Portland band Seffarine.

Chicago Cuatro Orchestra plays traditional Puerto Rican music Friday night at the University of Oregon’s Beall Concert Hall. And on Tuesday at Eugene’s Hult Center, the acclaimed Japanese drum ensemble TAO play traditional and original percussion music from their own and other traditions, including Korean, Maori, and Indonesian influences. And they add a visual spectacle — dance — that complements the music.

Old Jazz, New Jazz

Seattle’s multifaceted composer/keyboardist Wayne Horvitz brings his sublime Sweeter than the Day quartet to Portland’s Jack London Revue Saturday with local greats Blue Cranes, two nights after the same venue hosts rising San Diego pianist Danny Green’s tight trio, unfortunately sans the string quartet that so enhanced his new chamber jazz album, One Day It Will — but with a tasty opening act, Mel Brown’s popular Portland mainstay B3 Trio.

Some sensational local singers and jazzers, including Saeeda Wright, Arietta Ward, Nafisaria Scroggins-Thomas and more pay homage to the great Billie Holiday Saturday at Portland’s Alberta Rose Theatre, in a benefit for Portland’s essential KBOO radio and Siren Nation.

The Oregon Symphony joins the retro-jazz movement Saturday by backing the NYC-based octet Hot Sardines at Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall. What erstwhile French travel writer and lead singer “Miz Elizabeth” Bougerol and the band’s tight horn section and slick showmanship propel jazzed-up covers as old as 1920s speakeasies standards to New Orleans sounds to more recent songs like Robert Palmer’s “Addicted to Love.”

A living master of old-time jazz, clarinetist and saxophonist Ken Peplowski, leads Clark College Jazz Band in a benefit for the Vancouver Symphony Saturday at the college’s Gaiser Hall, which will be bedecked with gangsters, cigar girls, and other retro nightclub scenery.

Got more live music recommendations, old or new? Let readers know in the comments section below.

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

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