News & Notes: Musical Travelers

Oregon musicians take their sounds overseas.

Summer is travel time, and Oregon music is on the move. Last week, we told you about Oregon City’s Unistus Choir and its impending trip to Estonia. But they’re hardly the only Oregon musicians heading out this summer.

This Wednesday, June 25, you can bid bon voyage to Portland Youth Philharmonic at its free noon concert in Portland’s Pioneer Courthouse Squre, where they’ll perform music by two of today’s most appealing contemporary composers, Christopher Theofanidis (Visions and Miracles) and Portland’s own Kenji Bunch (Supermaximum!) along with 20th century American music legend (and West Coast contemporary music godfather) Henry Cowell (Ancient Desert Drone), plus Dvorak’s Symphonic Variations and Brahms’s Academic Festival Overture. After that, they fly to Chicago to conclude their 90th anniversary season with a July 5 performance at the annual Grant Park Music Festival, which is led by none other than Oregon Symphony music director Carlos Kalmar, who extended the invitation.

Oregon Jazz Ensemble swings to Europe. Photo: Erin Zysett.

Oregon Jazz Ensemble swings to Europe. Photo: Erin Zysett.

Flying even farther afield next month: Prof. Steve Owen leads the Oregon Jazz Ensemble on a four-festival tour of Europe. The University of Oregon’s 20-member big band plays the Vienne Jazz Festival in France on July 11, Switzerland’s ultra-prestigious, invitation-only Montreux Jazz Festival on July 12-13, Italy’s La Spezia Jazz Festival on July 14 and Umbria Jazz Festiva on July 16. You can even watch them (vicariously, via streaming video, of course, unless you have plane and concert tickets) perform and read their travel diary.

The students will play their own originals, plus classics by Duke Ellington, Count Basie and more on stage, and also participate in jam sessions. According to the UO, since 2000, the OJE has been named Outstanding College Big Band for eight of the ten years the ensemble has attended the Reno Jazz Festival—more so than any other college ensemble. Just this year, members have won several competitions, including Yamaha Jazz Division of the National Trumpet Competition, the Seattle Women’s Jazz Orchestra’s composition contest, and a jazz arrangement award from Downbeat magazine.

PSU Chamber Choir performing in Italy last summer.

PSU Chamber Choir performing in Italy last summer.

They came, they sang, they conquered: Speaking of Italian triumphs, Portland State University’s Chamber Choir scored a stunning victory last summer, becoming the first U.S. choir in the 52-year history of Italy’s Seghizzi International Choral Competition to win the coveted Grand Prix. It was the first U.S. ensemble in nine years to be invited to the competition, which featured 22 top choirs from 21 countries, and its win earned it an invitation to sing at this October’s International Tolosa Choral Contest in Spain, one of five, highly selective linked competitions that comprise the European Grand Prix in Choral Competition. From there, the choir embarks on a week-long Spanish concert tour. But before all that, PSUCC heads north to compete at the International Choral Kathaumixw (not a typo!) in Powell River, British Columbia next month. Although the competitions subsidize lodging and food, the PSU students still need help to pay for their transportation, and you can help.

The PSU Chamber Choir sings Amazing Grace as arranged by one of today’s hottest choral composers, Latvia’s Eriks Esenvalds.

Speaking of worthy musical causes and Oregon students, congrats to the Siletz Bay Music Festival, which just earned a $210,000 Studio to School Grant from the Oregon Community Foundation. In partnership with Lincoln City Cultural Center and area schools, the festival will help teach music (camps, artists in residence, concerts, workshops, classes etc.) to students in north Lincoln County Schools. It’s one of 18 new OCF grants from the the Fred W. Fields Fund and the Dorothy F. Sherman Music Education Fund for Children that help bring arts to Oregon students. Travelers note: the festival starts tomorrow with a chamber concert featuring music by Debussy, Stravinsky, Chopin and more,  and we’ll tell you about the rest of the schedule in our Weekend MusicWatch.

All Classical Director of Radio Operations, Jordan Lewis, directing the very first moments in  the station's new main on-air studio.

All Classical Director of Radio Operations, Jordan Lewis, directing the very first moments in the station’s new main on-air studio.

Another big move in Oregon classical music isn’t too far, distance wise, just a few miles across town, but it represents a big transition in many other ways. We’re excited that Portland’s all-classical radio station, KQAC, is completing its move to the Portland Opera building this week. ArtsWatch broke the story of the impending move, which will make it possible for the station to again offer live performances (as it did back in the day) from its studios, better connect with its community, and perhaps relieve the ghostly pallor of the ever-engaging on-air hosts who have for years labored in mole-like conditions.

Your meanderings may not have taken you to Seattle earlier this month for the League of American Orchestras annual meeting, but anyone interested in the future of classical music institutions can learn from the important discussions that took place there via the inter webs.

By the way, if you’ve been traveling or just cavorting alfresco in Oregon’s sunny summer, you might have missed some of OAW’s fascinating (if we do say so ourselves) music coverage in recent days, including Jana Hanchett’s report on a program that uses music training to provide career opportunities for Native Oregon youth, Gary Ferrington’s story about the making of a new, original Oregon opera, and James Ralph’s recounting of a new Oregon production of a “lost” version of a famous Gershwin musical. All of those stories are still relevant, so while you’re resting up from summer fun, take a moment to check them out.

It’s great to see all these Oregon groups performing far and wide, and we wish them safe, successful and enlightening sojourns, but even our sublime summers can’t stem the flood tide of musical adventures happening here on the home front. And with the Astoria festival in progress, the Siletz Festival,  Oregon Bach Festival, Chamber Music Northwest, and more getting underway, keep followinging ArtsWatch to find out about Oregon’s unceasing summer musical excitement. And if you know of other Oregon performers hitting the road this summer, please let ArtsWatch 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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