Oregon Composers Forum: Seeding new Oregon music

Fresh sounds flourish from University of Oregon new music program, guest artists, and student-led ensembles


As autumn’s leaves fall, fresh new music is already springing up at the University of Oregon School of Music and Dance’s Oregon Composers Forum (OCF), the state’s primary seedbed of new Oregon music.

“The Forum is at the core of the school’s composition program,” texts Robert Kyr, founder and director of OCF, and chair of the university’s composition department. “It offers our students the opportunity to compose and perform their own works and music by their colleagues, while also learning how to found and direct new music ensembles.”  Such experiences, he adds, “deeply connect audiences with an exceptional broad range of contemporary music, including multimedia collaborations.”

OCF premiers new music by young composers. Photo: G. Ferrington.

OCF premiers new music by young composers. Photo: G. Ferrington.

The forum promises a diverse menu of concert options and it all begins with a fall OCF concert at 7:30 pm (Pacific), Tuesday, November 10. This live-streamed event from the University of Oregon’s beautiful Beall Concert Hall, features an array of new music ranging from Li Tao’s Illusion of Fog (2013) for solo piano to large ensemble pieces such as Benjamin J. Penwell’s Kafkaesque (2015) for Flute, Clarinet, Horn, Trumpet, Percussion, Piano, Violin, Viola, Cello, and Bass. Other selections include Passacaglia by Emily Korzeniewski, Echoes from the Void by Aidan Ramsay, Prayer for Roethke by Stephen Anthony Rawson, Tempest by Michael Dekovich, Stilly Sleep by Ramsey Sadaka, 7F by Cara Haxo, June by Madeline Cannon, Spaces by Izabel Austin, and Cascade by Nathan Engelmann.

This season, OCF holds four more concerts featuring music written by student composers from the composition studios of Dr. Robert Kyr and Dr. David Crumb.

Solos and Duos, November 17, UO’s historic Collier House.
This free, short pre-Thanksgiving program showcases diverse instrumental music by OCF composers Pedram Diba, Cara Haxo, Martin Quiroga, Madeline Cannon, Stephen Rawson, Emily Korzeniewski, Michael Dekovich and Justin Ralls.

Soprano Esteli Gomez performs music by young composers. Photo: G. Ferrington.

Soprano Esteli Gomez performs music by young composers. Photo: G. Ferrington.

Esteli Gomez, January 20, Beall Hall Eugene, Portland (TBA)
Visiting artist soprano Esteli Gomez will sing pieces composed specifically for her by students she will mentor in an unusually extensive ten-day January residency.

Roomful of Teeth, January 31, Aasen-Hull Hall, Music Bldg.
Gomez is a member of Roomful of Teeth, a Grammy award winning vocal ensemble dedicated to the expressive potential of the human voice. While in residency, the ensemble will hold a reading session of OCF member compositions written expressly for them. Although none of the student work is scheduled for public performance, visiting ensembles have sometimes found a piece they want to share and will include it at the last minute.

Saxophone Collaborations, March 15, Aasen-Hull Hall, Music Bldg.
Collaboration is the theme of a concert in which members of the Oregon Composers Forum and the saxophone studio of UO faculty member Idit Shner play new music composed for saxophone soloists and ensembles. Such collaboration has become an annual tradition, as last year with Molly Barth’s  flute studio and the piano studio of Alexandre Dossin.

Student Spearheaded Shows

Six OCF student formed, programmed and managed chamber ensembles will perform concerts from January through June focused on sharing the creativity of instrumentalists, singers, and composers interested in today’s music.

ECCE performed at Portland’s AudioCinema last year. Photo: G. Ferrington.

ECCE performed at Portland’s AudioCinema in 2013. Photo: G. Ferrington.

Eugene Contemporary Chamber Ensemble
Founded in 2005, ECCE has premiered more than 100 works by emerging composers in Eugene, Portland, and other venues around the state. The dynamic group of composers and instrumentalists, dedicated to promoting and performing a diverse repertoire by today’s established and emerging Northwest composers, offer a winter themed concert that combines existing and new compositions by UO composers and a collaborative session with dancers in a spring event, according to co-coordinator Ramsey Sadaka.

Sospiro Contemporary Vocal Ensemble
The 14-24 member group composed of singers drawn from the school’s thriving choral community specializes new choral music. Co-coordinator Nathan Engelmann notes that the ensemble plans at least two performances in the coming months featuring choral music by UO Composers. Sospiro will also be performing in those student composition recitals requiring a vocal group.

sonos domum
Formed just last year, the cross-disciplinary ensemble explores innovative and experimental approaches to contemporary music. This year it is collaborating with department of dance graduate students to perform improvised music and dance movement using the vocabularies of both disciplines. Three concerts feature narrative episodes that arise from interactions between, within, and across media.

Ova Novi Ensemble
ONE champions women composers. The coming season includes works by OCF women composers and their contemporaries, as well as women of historical importance in music. Ova Novi’s first concert during the week of March 7-11, will coincide with Women’s History Month and International Women’s Day (March 8). A second concert tentatively planned for the week of April 25-29 focuses on vocal music by women composers.

Tai Hei Cross-Cultural Music. Photo. G. Ferrington.

Tai Hei Cross-Cultural Music: Photo. G. Ferrington.

Tai Hei ensemble
Devoted to creating and performing new music that explores and enhances the dialogue between cultures, the ensemble includes a mix of western and non-western instruments. Its intercultural programs are inspired by non-western traditions.

New Wind Speaks
Dedicated to the performance of music written today for the woodwind quintet, the new ensemble includes pieces composed for a full ensemble, or smaller wind configurations such as flute and clarinet. “Any music is fair game with us,” notes co-coordinator Rebecca Larkin, as the ensemble looks forward to performing at least two public concerts this year.

Winter and spring term performance dates and venues will be announced on the UO School of Music and Dance Events Calendar. Events listed as live-streamed can be viewed as webcast over the Internet. Printed programs can be downloaded when available.

Gary Ferrington is a Senior Instructor Emeritus, Instructional Systems Technology, College of Education, University of Oregon. He is an advocate for new music and serves as project coordinator for Oregon ComposersWatch.

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

One Response.

  1. G Goose says:

    Excellent summary of OCF events! Thank you for such a clear article!

Comments are closed.

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