News & Notes: Happenings in Oregon music

Newsworthy recent developments in Oregon classical and jazz music

Every now and then, when the press of covering live performances briefly abates, we try to catch up on a few recent announcements in the Oregon music world.

Head Honchos

 Portland Youth Philharmonic appointed Noreen Murdock as its executive director. Now the development director at Chamber Music Northwest and former executive director of the Salem Chamber Orchestra, she replaces Kiri Murakami-Lehmann, who’s moving to California.

Sarah Tiedemann

Sarah Tiedemann

Young Musicians & Artists (YMA) has named Portland flutist Sarah Tiedemann as its next executive director. Now entering its 51st year, YMA sponsors summer visual arts and performing arts programs in areas such as photography, dance, composition, and more for about 250 students grades 4-12.A frequent performer with Third Angle New Music, Salem Chamber Orchestra, and other classical music groups, Tiedemann moves from her communications position with Third Angle (and before that, Chamber Music Northwest) to replace Quinlan Porter, who departs after eight years.

Oregon Bach Festival selected Janelle McCoy its new executive director, replacing John Evans, who departed the University of Oregon institution last year. The mezzo soprano formerly directed Chamber Orchestra of Philadelphia and the city’s Mendelssohn Club chorus, which premiered Julia Wolfe’s 2015 Pulitzer Prize winning Anthracite Fields. She’s also worked on the staff of several other arts and music institutions and performed as a singer with the Atlanta Symphony and other orchestras.

• Seattle’s Medieval Women’s Choir chose University of Oregon prof Eric Mentzel as its director. A member of the renowned early music vocal ensemble Sequentia, Mentzel also founded and directs Eugene’s Vox Resonat.

Eric Mentzel

Singer and professor Eric Mentzel.

Radio Waves

• The parade of classical music radio personalities to Oregon continues with the arrival in Eugene of Peter van de Graaff as music director and host of the University of Oregon’s KWAX radio, replacing the retiring Caitriona Bolster. His burnished basso profundo (he’s also a professional singer who’s performed with orchestras and opera companies around the country) has long graced the national late night classical radio program broadcast by Chicago’s WFMT since 1988.

• Portland’s all classical radio KQAC earlier lured national radio hosts Brandi Parisi and recently Suzanne Nance to Oregon, perhaps in exchange for Bill McLaughlin, the former Eugene Symphony conductor who long hosted the excellent St. Paul Sunday public radio program. And of course Portland’s incomparable mandolinist/ singer/ composer Chris Thile (Punch Brothers, Nickel Creek) is taking over as host of public radio’s Prairie Home Companion.

In the Money

Portland Piano International, which this year debuted a series that features new music by Oregon composers, received a four-year $92,000 grant from the James F. & Marion L. Miller Foundation.

Chamber Music Northwest scored a $20,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Arts to support its summer festival.

• The NEA also gave Seattle’s Music of Remembrance $22,000 to produce a new opera, Out of Darkness by composer Jake Heggie and librettist Gene Scheer.

• The Seattle Symphony’s bold decision to commission a major new work from a Northwest composer, John Luther Adams, has paid off not just in a beautiful piece of music, a 2015 Grammy award and a 2014 Pulitzer Prize for music, but also a $50,000 donation from none other than pop star Taylor Swift. Her donation will support the orchestra’s Link Up music education fund and the musicians’ pension fund. Maybe this will Swiftly encourage more Oregon orchestras to invest in homegrown music of the future, following the Eugene Symphony, as chronicled (along with other forward looking orchestras) in Symphony magazine and in ArtsWatch this fall.

• Speaking of the ESO, the NEA is also helping fund a joint initiative between the symphony and the University of Oregon school of Music and Dance that enables five high-school student composers from Oregon to collaborate with UO composition professor Robert Kyr and UO graduate composition students to co-create a new work based on the “Ode to Joy” from Ludwig van Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony. The students, selected through a competitive statewide application process (application deadline: March 15), will study the score of Kyr’s new Piano Concerto (commissioned by the Eugene Symphony), attend rehearsals and the May 12 world premiere concert, and participate in discussions about the genesis of the concerto. The concert also features the orchestra performing Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, which participating students will use as the basis for their composed work. Eugene Symphony will perform the resulting theme and variations at the Symphony’s November 17, 2016 concert at the Hult Center for the Performing Arts.

• And speaking of the UO, University of Oregon alumnus Herbert Merker gave $125,000 to the UO School of Music and Dance to fund the creation of a new ensemble composed entirely of scholarship recipients, the JazzArts Oregon Combo.

• Speaking of young music lovers, Eugene’s The Shedd used major grants from Chamber Music America and the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation to establish an annual program that sets aside a substantial block of tickets to each of The Shedd’s plethora of annual jazz concerts for middle, high and college students.

PIanoPushPlay puts pianos around Portland. Photo: Benji Vuong.

PIanoPushPlay puts pianos around Portland. Photo: Benji Vuong.

• Portland’s PianoPushPlay, which partners with many organizations and people to bring pianos to people in the community, collaborated on an LED-enhanced instrument with Cymaspace (an organization that makes arts accessible to Deaf and hard of hearing people) that’s been on display this winter at Oregon Museum of Science & Industry.

PIANO.PUSH.PLAY. from Alicia J. Rose on Vimeo.

Awards & Acclaim

• Oregon composer, UO alumna and Eugene resident Rebecca Oswald’s chamber work Theseus and the Minotaur won Honorable Mention in the American Prize, Chamber Music Professional Division. Her composition for horn, oboe, percussion and piano was commissioned and premiered by hornist and fellow Duck alum Matt Monroe.

Felicia Moore

Singer Felicia Moore.

• Portland singer Felicia Moore won the Metropolitan Opera National Council Northwest’s Regional Auditions in Seattle’s Benaroya Hall. Her performances of “Non piu di fior” from Mozart’s La Clemenza di Tito, and “Einsam in trüben Tagen” from Wagner’s Lohengrin vaulted her ofer a dozen other contestants to the $5,000 prize plus the Met’s $800 First Place Edgar M. Tobin Award, and the $500 awarded each contestant. Moore advances to the semifinals at the Metropolitan Opera House in New York City in March, where she will compete with the winners of twelve other regional auditions, and receive coaching from the Met’s artistic staff.

• Singers from Portland State University and Oregon Episcopal School were named North American Champions of the Carnatic Premiere League, consequently earning an appearance on “Sangeeth Samraat – Carnatic Premier League 2015,” a popular South Indian music reality show that showcases for the best in the classical music of South India. The Portland performers were the first American choir to appear on Indian TV.

•  Schoenberg’s Twelve-Tone Music: Symmetry and the Musical Idea, by University of Oregon professor of music theory Jack Boss, won the 2015 Wallace Berry Award, the top national book award for music theory and analysis.

Obviously this is only a smattering of the news in Oregon classical and jazz music. Feel free to use the comments section below to alert our readers to other Oregon music news, or contact ArtsWatch directly.

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