eugene symphony

Eugene Symphony preview: Northwest dawn

Eugene composer Robert Kyr’s new Piano Concerto was inspired by Oregon landscapes

By GARY FERRINGTON

When Eugene composer Robert Kyr was a 16 year old cellist, his high school music director asked him to compose a piano concerto for the orchestra– and perform as the soloist. “After we premiered the work, the director decided to record it—on vinyl!—and the entire experience of composing, performing, and recording instilled in me a love for orchestral composition, which has only grown stronger over time,” Kyr remembered in an ArtsWatch interview.

University of Oregon Prof. Robert Kyr. Photo: John Strieder/OPB.

University of Oregon Prof. Robert Kyr. Photo: John Strieder/OPB.

Next Thursday, May 12, pianist Alexandre Dossin and the Eugene Symphony Orchestra premiere the first piano concerto Kyr has written since then, Dawning of the World, at the Hult Center for the performing arts. The third and last new work the ESO commissioned for its 50th anniversary season (along with Mason Bates’s Gramophone Depot and Roberto Sierra’s Loíza), it closes a circle began with that previous concerto, written a couple of years after the Eugene Symphony was founded.

Continues…

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.

Continues…

Eugene Symphony at 50: Looking back, moving forward

Orchestra celebrates its golden anniversary with five commissions of new works.

The Eugene Symphony has long enjoyed a reputation as Oregon’s most forward-looking orchestra. Particularly after visionary music director Marin Alsop ascended the podium in 1989, the ESO’s programming of contemporary, and especially American, music put it — and Alsop — on the national map. While the usual 19th century classics have always dominated the repertoire, Alsop’s successors Miguel Harth-Bedoya and Giancarlo Guerrero continued to feature more 20th– and 21st century music than typical American orchestras.

The progressive pace seemed to flag in the first few years of Danail Rachev’s regime, but recently the new sounds have begun to flow again. Half a century after its inception with a rehearsal in Caroline Boekelheide’s living room, it seems to be entering a new era — or re-entering an earlier one, the one that embraced contemporary as well as classic sounds. Beginning this Thursday with a new work commissioned from young West Coast composer Mason Bates who, more than any other American writing for orchestra, embraces a 21st century aesthetic that speaks to listeners beyond the cozy classical club, Rachev is featuring music by five living composers in the ESO’s golden anniversary season, including the world premieres of three original works written for the orchestra. Not that there’s a whole lot of competition in an orchestral landscape largely bereft of originality, but he’s restored ESO to its place as the most visionary of Oregon orchestras.

Eugene Symphony executive director Scott Freck.

Eugene Symphony executive director Scott Freck.

“Too often, we have this sense that classical music is this dusty canon, this revered library,” says ESO executive director Scott Freck, who took over in June 2012. “People forget that all music was new once. New music can be as valuable as older music because there’s a contemporary human relevance to it. And there’s power in putting new works up against old works and seeing what we learn about ourselves and the music. Even our existing audience will listen to the classics with fresh ears.”

Continues…

News and Notes Oregon music edition

Oregon musicians and musical arts institutions score honors and dollars.

Let’s indulge in some holiday cheer by sharing some of the good news Oregon music artists and institutions have recently received. Information comes directly from press releases.

Eugene Symphony NEA Grant

Just in time for its 50th birthday, the ESO scored a $20,000 Art Works award National Endowment for the Arts – its biggest in more than 15 years and second largest ever. It’ll support a January residency and concert with alto sax master Branford Marsalis, who often performs in classical and pop music settings too. He’s performing with the orchetra January 22 at the Hult Center and will work with students from area middle and high schools and the University of Oregon and Lane Community College.

CD Booklet Cover and Back - Semifinal - 8-13

New Jazz Competition

Speaking of jazz, Portland State University will host the first annual Jazz Forward Competition on February 20 and 21, 2015 during the 12th Annual Portland Jazz Festival. Designed and curated by Origin Records recording artist and PSU Jazz Faculty member Jeff Baker, a critically acclaimed performer and award winning educator educator in the Northwest region, Jazz Forward is an outgrowth of the four year PSU Student Stage, organized by the Leroy Vinnegar Jazz Institute @ PSU. The partnership with Portland Jazz Festival joins other major regional student jazz competitions across the country and represents a worthy investment in the future of Oregon music.

Chamber Music Northwest NEA Grant

The annual Portland summer festival also received a $20K NEA Art Works award, largest in its history, to support this summer’s 30-concert festival, which includes seven world and regional premieres commissioned and co-commissioned by CMNW, and composed by Peter Schickele (the nom de norm of PDQ Bach and an excellent composer in his own right), Pulitzer Prize winners David Lang and Aaron Jay Kernis, Pulitzer finalist Paul Schoenfeld, and the terrific Portland composers Kenji Bunch and David Schiff. Several other Oregon theaters, dance companies and other artists received Art Works grants.

Portland State Chamber Choir Award

The latest CD by the PSU Chamber Choir, Into Unknown Worlds, has been named a “2014 Recording to Die For” in Stereophile magazine. The list, which includes very few classical recordings and no other student recordings, will be published in the February. “This marvelously recorded compendium of ‘modern choral music from the far reaches of the globe’ rises to the top thanks to the quality of its music and singing and to its captivating sense of space,” raved Stereophile and San Francisco Classical Voice contributor Jason Serinus. It’s available at available at Oregon-based CDBaby.com, Amazon.com, and iTunes. I’ll have a review on ArtsWatch soon, just in time for stocking stuffer season. Spoiler alert: buy it!

Oregon Musicians RACC Up Support

Darrell Grant and Hamilton Cheifetz performed in Grant's "The Territory." Photo: Jim Leisy.

Darrell Grant and Hamilton Cheifetz performed in Grant’s “The Territory,” at Chamber Music Northwest. Grant won a 2015 RACC Project Grant to turn the composition into a CD. Photo: Jim Leisy.

The Regional Arts & Culture Council, which covers the three-county Portland metro area, has awarded $693,959 in project grants for calendar year 2015, including 66 grants to nonprofit organizations and schools, and 80 individual artists in Clackamas, Multnomah, and Washington Counties. Oregonians winning support for various music-related projects include Beaverton Symphony Orchestra, Big Horn Brass, Matt Carlson/Golden Retriever, Creative Music Guild, Fear No Music, 45th Parallel, Metro Arts, Michelle Fujii, Darrell Grant, Jen Harrison/Northwest Horn Orchestra, Nat Hulskamp, Theresa Koon/John Vergin/ Sandra Stone, My Voice Music, Travis Neel, Obo Addy Legacy Project, One World Chorus, Stephen Osserman, PDX Pop Now!, Portland Symphonic Choir, Raphael Spiro String Quartet, Resonance Vocal Ensemble, Resonate Choral Arts, Ethan Rose, Venerable Showers of Beauty Gamelan, Vibe, and Jennifer Wright. Other grants (in theater, dance, education, and media arts, for example) have musical components.

This year’s project grants (one of several categories of grants doled out by RACC, including others for professional development, individual artists, and general operating support) were funded by the City of Portland, RACC’s workplace giving program, Work for Art, Clackamas County, Washington County, Multnomah County and Metro. Congrats to all — and to the Oregon audiences who’ll get to experience the music these grants help make possible next year.

Know of other recent good news in Oregon music? Please share it in the comments below.
Want to read more about Oregon music? Support Oregon ArtsWatch!
Want to learn more about contemporary Oregon classical music? Check out Oregon ComposersWatch.

Oregon Mandolin Orchestra plays classical music in Portland and Hillsboro this weekend.

Oregon Mandolin Orchestra plays classical music in Portland and Hillsboro this weekend.

I guess it’s a healthy sign when a single weekend on the Oregon classical music scene literally packs more recommended concerts than one person can attend. This weekend, for example, offers a pair of excellent choral programs featuring early music. But you can see  only one of them. On Friday at Northwest Portland’s St. Mary’s Cathedral, the superb Portland choir Cappella Romana makes one of its periodic forays away from its usual Byzantine core repertoire, straying into the Iberian sounds of the great Spanish and Portuguese Renaissance composers Tomás Luis de Victoria, Duarte Lobo, and Francisco Guerrero – some of the most glorious music of the era.

Friday night’s other attractive choral concert happens at downtown Portland’s First Christian Church, when the Portland Camerata sings French and Italian Renaissance music, plus works by English Baroque master Henry Purcell and 20th century masterpieces by Arvo Part and Astor Piazzolla. It’s a shame to have to miss either of these fine programs. On the other hand, what a delightful dilemma to have.

Continues…

Weekend MusicWatch: October 11-16

When did October get so... musical?

Christine Meadows, Erik Hundtoft, and Audrey Sackett
in Opera Theater Oregon’s The Old Maid and the Thief.

There’s too much recommended Oregon music going on to cram into just Saturday and Sunday, so this weekend’s survey extends from Thursday through Tuesday. Here’s the lowdown, arranged by genre.

Vivid Voices

“The Old Maid and the Thief,” Opera Theater Oregon, Thursday and Friday, Mission Theater, Portland: “Radio,” goes a line from an old “Twilight Zone” episode, “has to be believed to be seen.” In this ingenious, pell mell-paced new production of American composer Gian Carlo Menotti’s sly, funny and ultimately poignant one-act 1939 opera buffa about small town gossip, “The Old Maid and the Thief,” the ever inventive alt opera company brilliantly takes an opera that was intended to be heard on the radio and realizes it onstage — and in this case, meta is better. With help from sound effects artists and voice actors, the company transforms Northwest Portland’s vintage Mission Theater into a 1930s radio studio, with the audience witnessing not just the story itself but also the new frame narrative: a live recording of the performance for chamber quintet and a cast of singer-actors led by PSU prof and superb soprano (and PSU prof) Christine Meadows. It’s sort of a combination of a live opera and a radio production, but the clever concept never distracts from the fun and fine music making by a chamber ensemble skillfully led by OTO’s Erica Melton.

Continues…

Portland Opera presents Philip Glass's Galileo Galilei. Image: Courtney Weaver

Portland Opera’s latest collaboration with today’s best known composer, Philip Glass, Galileo Galilei, opens Friday night at the relatively intimate Newmark Theater in the Portland Center for the Performing Arts, with further performances Sunday (matinee), Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday, April 1, 3, 5, and 7. It feels so strange and good to say that, like collaborations with living composers were a routine thing with big Portland music institutions. You can read my preview of this new production, directed by Kevin Newbury, of Glass’s 2002 chamber opera — written in roughly reverse chronological order, which is how the show proceeds, and including interviews with librettist Mary Zimmerman and Portland Opera artistic director Christopher Mattaliano.

Between PO’s Galileo and Eugene Opera’s production of John Adams’s important 1983 opera Nixon in China a couple weeks back, plus the continuing frenzy of new sounds that populate March Music Moderne, Oregon almost feels like the welcoming capital of contemporary music many of us fancy it to be. “I think that the future of opera depends on fostering new work,” Newbury said on PO’s website. “Opera should be as current and relevant as film, television and theatre. What are the stories that we need to tell today? How can we use music to look at life in the 21st century? For me, Galileo is a very contemporary story… all you have to do is turn on the news to see the battle between science and religion raging on.”

Continues…

  • Season1617_artswatch
  • BV_DandD_300x250-1 (2)
  • WilderpeopleAd
  • 300X250_artswatch
  • Print
  • Oregon ArtsWatch ad 300x250px_5
  • CMNW-Tile-Ad1
  • Artslandia Daily Calendar

  • Subscribe to Blog via Email

    Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.