Stars in our eyes and stripes on our back: Titus, Toots, Brahms and Bach

Really, Portland? Have we all just decided to take advantage of that Wednesday Fourth of July and start the weekend with a (may the fire gods forgive me) bang, three full days early? You were percussed last night and you’re going to stay percussed for the rest of the week? I think that very well may be the case. And when you throw in Monday, July 9, as a sort of “Hangover Day,” that’s a week we’re taking out of our work schedule for… frivolities. And those of us, ahem, “working” (you call this work?) are just sending out random emails to people we know aren’t going to respond or leaving distracted phone messages, “hey, if you happen to get this…” and then taking some long coffee breaks and lunches and then heading home early.

O, I know, not everybody, right? But enough. And it’s that “Let’s take a break” spirit that actually keeps the imagination of our little local culture fed, re-establishes our connections with each other and allows us to perfect our grilling skills (for my part, I’ve been tossing little chunks of wood from the woodpile on the coals to generate a little smoke and “get primitive”).

So, dear Portland, go right ahead. Take a seven-day weekend. I’d say you deserved it, but that would be a total lie, and it’s not about deserving anyway. After I finish this post, maybe I’ll join you?

Waterfront Blues FestivalThey seemed to be happily warming themselves in the natural amphitheater south of the west bank of the Hawthorne Bridge yesterday, thousands of them. I saw (and heard) them from across the way. Without doing a “study,” I’m wondering why the City doesn’t just make this an “improved” natural amphitheater, like the one at the Rose Garden and a hundred other places, with grassy step terraces curving upward. A City that was truly into this bread and circuses thing would do this, right?

Anyway, the July 5 schedule looks mighty fine, mighty fine, with Jesse Samsel and the New Iberians kicking things off around 3 pm. The rest of the day combines locals (Pete Krebs, Jim Mesi) with headliners (Toots and the Maytals, Booker T, JJ Grey and Mofro (see the clip below…) on four stages of blues, semi-blues and blues-related goodness. I’m suggesting that you dig around and find some sunscreen.

Chamber Music Northwest: Maybe when you weren’t looking last week, Chamber Music Northwest was well and truly launched by the Tokyo String Quartet. The festival, which continues through July 29, is going with the classical hard-core repertory tonight at Reed’s Kaul Auditorium: Bach, Brahms, Beethoven. Hey, aren’t those the 3 B’s? Or is that Bartok, Babbitt and Berg… I get so confused.

It’s great music, though, with some Chamber Music Northwest stalwarts onstage: Paul Neubauer (viola), Jennifer Frautschi (violin), Anne-Marie McDermott (piano), Ronald Thomas (cello) and Eric Ruske (horn). And it’s a great night for a picnic at Reed.

Just to get you in the mood: One of the pieces on the program is Brahms’ Trio in A minor for Viola, Cello and Piano, Op. 114, here played by Ettore Causa, Clive Greensmith and Boris Berman.

Oregon Bach Festival: The Bach festival, headquartered in Eugene with occasional forays up the valley and to the coast (Joshua Bell played Portland Saturday night, or rather, he played Mendelssohn on his violin in Portland Saturday night), is also in its second week and it continues today with a lecture by organist John Scott, a lecture/concert by Helmuth Rilling of Bach’s St. Matthew Passion, Part Two, and the fiery pianist Ya-Fei Chuang in recital playing a program with lots of Debussy along with Stravinsky, Gershwin, Mozart and Liszt. Here she is playing some Scarlatti and Chopin.

Kabuki Titus, Bag & Baggage: Shakespeare’s Titus Andronicushas become increasingly popular in our day, maybe because it’s so crazily bloody? We do love our horror movies, don’t we? Maybe the ascendance of “Titus” is part and parcel of the same phenomena? I just don’t know.

Bag & Baggage’s “Kabuki Titus”/ Casey Campbell

“Titus” seems made for a Kabuki-style shaking, though, and Bag & Baggage artistic director Scott Palmer’s 2002 adaptation also has the advantage of having former Oregon Ballet Theatre principal Anne Mueller in its cast as Lavinia. Bad things happen to Lavinia. Lots of bad things. (Marty Hughley’s preview should help you get your bearings.) This is an outdoor event in Hillsboro, the home of Bag & Baggage.

The show runs only through July 14, and it’s outdoors in the Tom Hughes Civic Center Plaza in downtown Hillsboro, located on E. Main street between 1st and 2nd. Public parking is available at the SW Corner of the Civic Center off of SE Washington street & 1st Ave and some nearby street parking is also available. The management suggests: “Please bring blankets or folding chairs for your seating, and blankets and jackets for warmth in the evening. Picnics are allowed and encouraged, but no alcohol is permitted.”

And good grief, that’s far from all. First Thursday, for example. This should be a WILD First Thursday. Maybe we’ll see you out there?

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