imani winds

MusicWatch Weekly: new sounds from Oregon

This week’s Oregon music schedule boasts numerous new works by today’s composers from the Northwest, Midwest and beyond, mixed in with classics from across the ages and oceans

Big Horn Brass, a baker’s dozen of brass players and two percussionists, feature brassy new music by Cascadia Composers Greg Steinke, Jan Mittelstaedt, John Billota, Greg Bartholomew, and fellow Northwest composer Anthony DiLorenzo at their Saturday night concert at Beaverton’s St. Matthew Lutheran Church. Some other guys named Debussy, Bach and Puccini will provide filler.

New Oregon music by Eugene composer Paul Safar is also on the program when Eugene’s excellent Delgani String Quartet goes all homicidal Friday at Portland’s and Saturday at Springfield’s Wildish Theater. The program features music inspired by murder, with theatrical readings from literary works that inspired them interpolated by actor Rickie Birran of Man of Words Theatre Company. Janacek and Shostakovich will be represented too. Read Gary Ferrington’s ArtsWatch preview.

Speaking of new music by Oregon composers, read Gary’s ArtsWatch preview of Oregon composer Ethan Gans-Morse’s new composition commissioned by Rogue Valley Symphony, which the orchestra performs this weekend in Medford and Grants Pass. Beethoven is the closing act.

Estelí Gomez sings new music by University of Oregon composers at  Eugene’s Beall Concert Hall. Photo: Gary Ferrington.

There’s even newer Oregon music for voice Sunday at the Oregon Composers Forum’s Sunday concert at the UO’s Beall Concert Hall. The superb soprano Esteli Gomez, one of the singers in Grammy winning Roomful of Teeth ensemble, returns to sing new music by UO composers.

Joe Kye performs at Portland State Friday.

That same night, Portland based, Korea-born songwriter-composer and looping violinist Joe Kye plays his engaging, often autobiographical songs at Portland State’s Lincoln Recital Hall.

Shades of Sufjan Stevens and his albums inspired by American states! Does a symphony called “Portland” and named after Oregon’s largest city qualify as Oregon music — if it wasn’t written by an Oregonian? Decide for yourself at the University of Portland’s free concert featuring Erich Stem’s orchestral work Tuesday night at Buckley Auditorium. His website bio says nothing about where Stem resides or was born, but Indiana seems a likely suspect. The piece is part of Stem’s project called America By: A Symphonic Tour, which includes a collection of commissioned works from across the country, “each work reflecting the unique qualities and history of a specific location.”

New American Sounds

One of the most frequently performed and commissioned composers of choral music, Minnesota’s Jake Runestad, seem poised to follow Morten Lauridsen and Eric Whitacre as a choral music star, and he’s also written several operas and other works. On Saturday night at Lewis & Clark College’s Agnes Flanagan Chapel, Choral Arts Ensemble and Linn-Benton Community College Chamber Choir team up to present the Music of Jake Runestad, the first major opportunity for Portland to get a healthy sampling of his heartfelt songs and broad, audience-friendly musical range.

Bells toll in Chicago composer Augusta Read Thomas’s new, half-hour orchestral composition, Sonorous Earth (an evolution of her earlier Resounding Earth), which Eugene Symphony performs Thursday at the Hult Center to complete her artistic residency there. Each of its four-movements also uses techniques associated with the major composers who made percussion the defining sound of 20th century classical music: Stravinsky, Messiaen, Varese, Berio, Cage, Ligeti, Partch and Oregon’s own Lou Harrison.

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DanceWatch Weekly: Nine-dance week

The week in dance from Alvin Ailey's "Revelations" to OBT's Man/Woman and far, far beyond

There are nine dance performances this week beginning with the Original Bad Unkl Sistas (a performing duo made up of Anastazia Aranaga and Mizu Desierto, at the Headwaters Theatre) and ending with Degenerate Art Ensemble (from Seattle next Wednesday, also appearing at the Headwaters). Both are part of the Butoh College Performance Series: The Future is Female (and trans and queer and in celebration of all ages, all bodies, all genders, all colors), curated by Water in the Desert artistic director Mizu Desierto. In between, we have a full range of seven dance offerings from smaller, experimental works, to large scale, time-tested, historical dances that have been seen by audiences around the world. There is something for everyone. Check below for details and enjoy!

Performances this week

The Original Bad Unkl Sistas Anastazia Aranaga and Mizu Desierto. Photo courtesy of Mizu Desierto.

Original Bad Unkl Sistas
Anastazia Aranaga and Mizu Desierto
Presented by Water in the Desert
8 pm April 18
Butoh College student performance/offering
7 pm April 22
The Headwaters Theatre, 55 NE Farragut St. #4
This improvised duet by Portland dance-theatre artist, co-founder and artistic director of Water in the Desert, Mizu Desierto, alongside long-time collaborator, founder and artistic director of Bad Unkl Sista, Anastazia Aranaga, will follow a minimal structure, take imaginative pathways, and will be full of surprises. This performance is part of Butoh College 2018. Desierto and Aranaga will also offer a workshop titled Original//Freedom which “will be full of unknowns, delicate presence, deep stillness, rampant chaos, visceral intimacy & care.”

Emily Parker and Christopher Kaiser performing Nicolo Fonte’s “Left Unsaid,” one of five ballets presented in Oregon Ballet Theatre’s MAN/WOMAN, April 12 – 24, 2018 at the Newmark Theatre. Photo by James McGrew

Man/Woman
Oregon Ballet Theatre, Artistic Director Kevin Irving
Choreography by Mikhail Fokine, Darrell Grand Moultrie, Nicolo Fonte, James Canfield, and Jiří Kylián
April 19-21
Newmark Theatre, 1111 SW Broadway
Curated by Oregon Ballet Theatre’s artistic director Kevin Irving, this program of five ballets juxtaposes all-female ballets against all-male ballets exploring gender stereotypes.

Last week I interviewed Irving about whether or not classical ballet can catch up with contemporary values and be something that future generations will want to support. “We’re not the entire conversation,” he said. “We can only be a contribution to the conversation, incomplete, but hopefully insightful and maybe even revelatory in some ways.” You can read our entire conversation here and Heather Wisner review of Man/Woman here.

The program includes: The Dying Swan, a solo for a female dancer by Michel Fokine, staged by Lisa Sundstrom; a new commissioned work called Fluidity Of Steel by Brooklyn-based Darrell Grand Moultrie for an all-men ensemble; Left Unsaid by Oregon Ballet Theatre resident choreographer Nicolo Fonte for both men and women; Drifted in a Deeper Land for another all-men ensemble, by former Oregon Ballet Theatre artistic director James Canfield; and Falling Angels, and all-women dance by Jiří Kylián.

push/FOLD artistic director Samuel Hobbs and dancer Briley Jozwiak. Photo by Jingzi Zhao.

Early
push/FOLD
Music and choreography by Samuel Hobbs
April 19-28
A-WOL Warehouse, 513 NE Schuyler St.
Following the performances on April 19 and 28, Dance Wire founder and director Emily Running will facilitate a Q&A with the push/FOLD artists.

Featuring an original score and choreography by push/FOLD artistic director Samuel Hobbs, this evening-length/world premier combines Hobbs’ eclectic background in dance, partnering, martial arts, athletics, and Visceral Movement Theory™, a somatic theory rooted in the anatomy and kinesiology of the organs. The work, developed from a 2014 duet, will be performed in the round by dancers Jessica Evans, Briley Jozwiak, Holly Shaw, and Samuel Hobbs.

Hobbs performanced professionally with Lauren Edson, Lindsey Matheis, Éowyn Emerald & Dancers, Minh Tran & Co., BodyVox, and Rainbow Dance Theatre, and has shown his choreography throughout the Pacific Northwest. He also works as a Licensed Manual Therapist and Software Developer.

Pictured left to right; Patsy Morris, Jana Zahler, Lisa Greco. Photo courtesy of Jana Zahler.

In layers
Choreography by Jana Kristi Zahler
April 20-21
Performance Works NW/Linda Austin Dance, 4625 SE 67th Ave.
Using visceral and sensory motifs, dance, music, and visual art, collaborators Jana Zahler, Charlie Stellar, Patsy Morris, Kia Metzler, and Lisa Greco will explore the theory of Core Energetics—a somatic-spiritual-psychotherapy developed by Dr. John C. Pierrakos in the 1970s. The theory says that we are psychosomatic beings, that we have the ability to heal ourselves, and that the body’s energy can become blocked from its inability to express emotions. In order to break through our “mask” and work through our “defensive layers,” physical exercise is prescribed to bring awareness back to the authentic, emotional self.

My Turn: A Claire Underwood Story. Photo courtesy of TriptheDark Dance Company.

My Turn: A Claire Underwood Story
TriptheDark Dance Company, Ellen Margolis and Diana Schultz
April 20-28
Chapel Theatre, 4107 SE Harrison St., Milwaukie
In collaboration with Portland playwright Ellen Margolis, TriptheDark Dance Company combines dance, theatre, and puppetry to discuss communication breakdowns in politics. Through the fictional character Claire Underwood from the Netflix series House of Cards, My Turn, reveals Congress’s struggle to work together to defeat corruption.

My Turn will be performed in the newly renovated, two-story, 4,554 square foot Chapel Theatre in Milwaukie, Oregon.

The students of Oregon Ballet Theatre. Photo by Yi Yin.

Oregon Ballet Theatre School’s Annual Performance
April 21-22
Newmark Theatre, 1111 SW Broadway
The students of Oregon Ballet Theatre will perform two different programs on two separate nights.
The April 21 program includes: Valse Fantaisie by George Balanchine with music by Mikhail Glinka; Don Quixote Vision Scene After Marius Petipa with music by Ludwig Minkus; and A Grand Etude by Oregon Ballet Theatre school faculty to music by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky.

The April 22nd program includes: Satanella pas de deux , After Marius Petipa/Cesare Pugni, after a theme by Niccolò Paganini, Accidental Signals by Nicolo Fonte to music by Benjamin Britten.

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater’s Jacqueline Green and Jamar Roberts. Photo courtesy of White Bird.

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater
Presented by White Bird
April 24-25
Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall, 1111 SW Broadway
America’s first multicultural modern dance company, formed in 1958 by celebrated choreographer Alvin Ailey, will perform two different programs both culminating in a performance of Revelations; Ailey’s 1960 work that explores joy and grief using African-American spirituals, song-sermons, gospel songs, and the blues. Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater now directed by Robert Battle, was formed to preserve African-American culture and give opportunity to African American dancers.

April 24th program: Stack-up, choreography by Talley Beatty in 1982; rE-volution, Dream, choreographed by Hope Boykin in 2016; and Revelations, choreographed by Alvin Ailey in 1960.

April 25th program: Untitled America, choreographed by Kyle Abraham in 2016; The Golden Section, choreographed by Twyla Tharp in 1983; Ella, choreography by Robert Battle in 2008, premiered by the Ailey Company in 2016; and Revelations, choreographed by Alvin Ailey in 1960.

Imani Winds returns to Chamber Music Northwest this week and will perform with BodyVox Dance Company.

In Motion with BodyVox-The Wind and the Wild
BodyVox and Imani Winds
April 24-25
Revolution Hall, 1300 SE Stark St.
In town this week for a series of concerts, dance performances and educational and outreach programs, Imani Winds, a classical wind ensemble, and artist-in-residence at Chamber Music Northwest (ArtsWatch’s Brett Campbell has the full scoop), will perform in a combined program with BodyVox dance company at Revolution Hall. The program includes BodyVox dances Sideshow, S.O.S., a trio of dances set to Chopin, and two Mitchell Rose/BodyVox films, Unleashed and Treadmill Softly. In 2013, dance critic Martha Ullman West reviewed their first collaboration in Chambered nautilus: BodyVox’s unsinkable classic which you can read here.

Haruko “Crow” Nishimura of Degenerate Art Ensemble. Photo courtesy of Water in the Desert.

Degenerate Art Ensemble/Haruko “Crow” Nishimura + Joshua Kohl
Presented by Water in the Desert
8 pm April 25
The Headwaters Theatre, 55 NE Farragut St. #4
7 pm April 29, Degenerate Art Ensemble: Student Performance/Offering
Degenerate Art Ensemble (DAE), based in Seattle, will perform a duet as part of the Butoh College performance series presented by Water in the Desert. DAE creates performances inspired by punk, comics, cinema, nightmares, and fairy tales driven by their own style of live music and dance/theatre. The ensemble is made up of dancer / vocalist / choreographer Haruko Crow Nishimura and composer / music director/ conductor, Joshua Kohl.

Upcoming Performances

April
April 26-28, Jefferson Dancers Spring Concert
April 26-28, Early, push/FOLD, Music and choreography by Samuel Hobbs
April 27-28, My Turn: A Claire Underwood Story, TriptheDark Dance Company, Ellen Margolis and Diana Schultz
April 27-29, Junior Artist Generator Annual Performance, BodyVox
April 27-29, Tetris, Arch8 (Netherlands), artistic director Erik Kaiel
April 27-29, Uprise, Rejoice! Diaspora Dance Theatre, artistic director Oluyinka Akinjiola
April 29, Degenerate Art Ensemble: Student Performance/Offering, Presented by Water in the Desert

May
May 4-5, Reed Spring Dance Concert
May 4-4, The Space Between, Tempos Contemporary Circus
May 4-5, Let Alone, Heidi Duckler Dance Theatre/Northwest (HDDT/NW)
May 4-5, Current/Classic, The Portland Ballet
May 10-12, New work premiere, Rainbow Dance Theatre, Western Oregon University, Monmouth
May 10-19, Rain & Roses (world premiere), BodyVox
May 11-13, Compose, PDX Contemporary Ballet
May 11-13, Alice in Wonderland, Ballet Fantastique, Eugene
May 12, Feria de Portland, Espacio Flamenco Portland
May 14, Noontime Showcase: OBT2, Presented by Portland’5
May 16, Ballet Hispȧnico, presented by White Bird
May 17-20, CRANE, The Holding Project, directed by Amy Leona Havin
May 18, The “B” Project, Durante Lambert and LYFE Dance Company
May 23-June 3, Closer, original works by the dancers of Oregon Ballet Theatre

June
June 8-10, Up Close, The Portland Ballet
June 10, Coppelia, Bolshoi Ballet in Cinema Live from Moscow
June 14-16, World Premiere – Ihsan Rustem, MemoryHouse – Sarah Slipper, NW Dance Project
June 15-17, New Expressive Works Residency Performance
June 24, Salem World Beat, Rainbow Dance Theatre, Salem

 

Imani Winds preview: celebrating the differences

Chamber Music Northwest brings the renowned wind ensemble back to Portland this week as its artists in residence

Classical music has a diversity problem. So it marked a turning point when the Portland classical music presenter Chamber Music Northwest announced that its next annual artists-in-residence — following the 2015-16 tenure of the storied Emerson Quartet, composed entirely of older white men — would be Imani Winds, a younger, equally talented and until recently, entirely black ensemble.

Bassoonist Monica Ellis, hornist /composer Jeff Scott, flutist/composer Valerie Coleman, oboist Toyin Spellman-Diaz and clarinetist Mark Dover delighted audiences at last summer’s annual summer festival. They’re also in town this week for a series of concerts, dance performances and educational and outreach programs, and will return to this summer’s Chamber Music Northwest festival.

Imani Winds returns to Chamber Music Northwest this week.

It’s not just the group’s race and age that represents greater diversity in chamber music. At last summer’s CMNW festival, Scott noted in a composers panel discussion that the group’s values arise in part from its music. Unlike the Emersons or any other string quartet,  “a wind ensemble is celebrating the differences among instruments, rather than the homophony of string or sax quartets,” he pointed out — a metaphor for Imani itself. “Chamber music, more than orchestral music, allows the individuality of the musicians to shine through to audiences, because there’s no conductor intermediary,” Scott continued. “The musicians are allowed to establish their own individuality and tradition. ”

Imani’s 2017-18 residency grew out of the ensemble’s long relationship with CMNW. “We’ve been coming to Portland every two or three years for 15 years,” Scott recalls. “The audiences have been so nice to us!” says Spellman-Diaz. “It’s hard to think of nicer audiences than in Portland and Eugene.” The ensemble enjoyed their Oregon experiences so much that when artistic director David Shifrin asked if they’d be interested in becoming CMNW’s resident ensemble, Scott says, “it took about five seconds for us to say yes!”

The feeling is mutual. Since their founding in 1997, Imani has cultivated a substantial, diverse and enthusiastic audience in Oregon and beyond. Their skill as musicians plays the biggest role, of course — they’re among the finest of all chamber ensembles. But their genuinely enthusiastic, refreshingly un-canned stage charisma, and their audience-conscious programming, also encourage broader listenership than most classical music concerts’ traditionally narrow demographic. They’ve collected innumerable awards, toured the globe, given hundreds of concerts, and made eight recordings.

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ArtsWatch Year in Music 2017

ArtsWatch chronicles a year that showcased women's music, natural inspirations, and institutional evolution

Oregon music is surging, and this year, Oregon ArtsWatch has been your personal surfboard to keep you on top of the tide instead of inundated by it. And to bring you views of the powerful creative forces beneath the waves. This roundup is in no way a comprehensive or even representative sample of the dozens and dozens of music-related previews, reviews, features, interviews, profiles, and more we presented in 2017. Instead, we’ve chosen mostly stories whose value transcends a particular concert, leaned toward Oregon rather than national artists (who can get plenty of press elsewhere), favored music by today’s American composers instead of long-dead Europeans, and tried to represent a variety of voices and approaches. We hope this roundup gives a valuable snapshot of an eventful, fruitful moment in Oregon’s musical culture.

Homegrown Sounds

Although we also write about jazz and other improvised music and other hard-to-classify sounds, ArtsWatch’s primary musical focus has always been contemporary “classical” (a term we’d love to replace with something more accurate) composition by Oregon composers, and this year presented a richer tapestry than ever. As always, Cascadia Composers led the way in presenting new Oregon music in the classical tradition, but others including FearNoMusic, Third Angle New Music, the University of Oregon and even new entities like Burn After Listening also shared homegrown sounds. ArtsWatch readers learned about those shows and composers from accomplished veterans like Kenji Bunch to emerging voices such as Justin Ralls.

Wright, Brugh, Clifford, Safar, and ?? play with toys at Cascadia Composers’ Cuba concert.

Cascadia Composers and Crazy Jane fall concerts: Spanning the spectrum
Quartet of concerts reveals rich diversity in contemporary Oregon classical — or is that ‘classical’ ? — Music. JANUARY 20 MATTHEW ANDREWS.

Kenji Bunch: Seeing the Elephant
After returning to home ground, the Portland composer’s career blossoms with commissions from the Oregon Symphony and Eugene Ballet. MARCH 7 BRETT CAMPBELL.

45th Parallel preview: from conflict to collaboration
ArtsWatch review provokes contention, then cooperation as ensemble invites writer to co-curate a concert featuring music by young Oregon composers. MARCH 29  BRETT CAMPBELL. Also read Maria Choban’s review: 45th Parallel review: Horror show .

Burn After Listening: Stacy Phillips, Lisa Ann Marsh, Jennifer Wright.

‘Fire and Ice’ preview: accessible adventure
New Portland composers’ collective’s debut performance includes aerial dance, sculpture, poetry, icy instruments — and a close connection to audiences. APRIL 27 BRETT CAMPBELL

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Chamber Music Northwest review: winds of change

Imani Winds leads a series of wind-assisted concerts featuring new music

by MATTHEW ANDREWS

Strings tend to dominate chamber music concerts, so it was nice to hear so many wind instruments at this year’s Chamber Music Northwest summer festival. It helps that artistic director David Shifrin is himself a master clarinetist, frequently appearing on concerts both with other wind players and with the customary strings.

Tara Helen O’Connor performed at Chamber Music Northwest 2017. Photo: Tom Emerson.

My first taste of this year’s windiness came with CMNW’s July 21 New@Noon concert in Portland State’s Lincoln Recital Hall. Tara Helen O’Connor started us out with Allison Loggins-Hull’s Pray for flute solo and electronics, the flute part mostly straightforward modal melodies evolving into fancy, violinish arpeggios and creepy, cinematic dissonances, the backing track full of jazz organs, Björk-y electronic beats, watery reverb, and poppy chord changes like something from an ’80s Laurie Anderson tune. I wasn’t surprised to learn that Loggins-Hull’s “Urban Art Pop Duo” Flutronix has performed at the Brooklyn Museum and covered The Eurythmics’ “Sweet Dreams.”

Hsin-Yun Huang performed at Chamber Music Northwest 2017. Photo: Tom Emerson.

We did get a bit of strings that day, with Hsin-Yun Huang’s solo viola performance of Joan Tower’s Wild Purple, a merry crescendo of energetic virtuosity packed with Tower’s usual post-serial melodicism, dissonant glissandi against open strings giving way to Bartóky suggestions of folky pentatonicism and jolly bouncing tritones.

Then, Imani Winds breezed onto the stage. Bassoonist Monica Ellis introduced the group: “me and my winds are so happy to be back in Portland. We think it’s our fourth time…we’ll have to fact check that. It’s also a pleasure to be ensemble in residence.”

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Violinist Joel Link and the Dover Quartet joined steel pan virtuoso Andy Akiho at Chamber Music Northwest.

Violinist Joel Link and the Dover Quartet joined steel pan virtuoso Andy Akiho at Chamber Music Northwest.

Anyone checking out the audiences (and occasionally ambulances) at Chamber Music Northwest has reason to worry about its enthusiastic but aging audience – and its sometimes-faltering veteran performers. Too often in recent years, performances by CMNW’s regulars have seemed rough and under-rehearsed, with the regular stable of New York-based classical musicians perhaps riding too much on their long relationship with Portland fans and their starry names that seem to garner ritual standing Os, no matter how occasionally shaky the playing. As accomplished as these performers are, they still need to rehearse to achieve more than superficial competence and chemistry.

Note: some of the material here appeared in an earlier News & Notes post, which we’ve updated to include new reviews and provocations, and separated for easier reading.

To be fair, the touring ensembles CMNW brings in during the festival and in its non-summer series are usually much sharper. Clarinetist and artistic director David Shifrin’s incisive playing seems as sturdy as ever. And in the first weekend’s concerts, CMNW regulars showed that they’re capable of gripping performances, in duos by Kodaly and Ravel, especially in the latter, which featured that ever-genial ambassador of new (and often not-so-genial) music, the great cellist Fred Sherry and the exuberant young violinist Yura Lee, whose striking orange dress and flopping bangs made her resemble an aquatic anemone, swaying in the current while persuasively surging through Ravel’s sonata.

But even though the festival still offers occasional-to-frequent delights, as some recent concerts have demonstrated,  CMNW has clearly recognized the need for revitalization. Can those efforts succeed in helping the festival reach the new audiences it will need when its current one is gone?

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Helmuth and Martina Rilling, with Matthew Halls, looking at the score of James MacMillan's "Allelulia" at its July 6 world premiere.

Helmuth and Martina Rilling, with Matthew Halls, looking at the score of James MacMillan’s “Allelulia” at its July 6 world premiere.

By BRETT CAMPBELL

Last Saturday, the Oregon Bach Festival chorus sang a sweet surprise 80th birthday gift for retiring founding music director Helmuth Rilling – an “Alleluia” commissioned from the great contemporary Scots composer James MacMillan, who is working on a big new commission for the 2016 Festival. It’s a treat to see the OBF returning to sparking the creation of new music, as it did for awhile every other year a decade or ago, resulting in major works by Arvo Part, Osvaldo Golijov and other composers. (You can hear some of that music this Saturday night at 8 pm, and on demand for two more weeks, on Robert McBride’s excellent Club Mod radio show on Portland’s KQAC radio.)  It’s a coup made possible by a $25,000 NEA grant and by the festival’s executive director, John Evans, a fellow Brit who goes way back with Jimmy Mac.

Note: This story was originally published as part of a larger News & Notes post, but because of the volume of comments and interest, we’re republishing it and the other components as separate stories. Please continue this fascinating discussion below!

Yet amid all the good news, one question kept troubling me: why do our major Oregon classical music institutions keep sending American taxpayer dollars to non-American composers at the same time they fail to invest in the development of contemporary Oregon music? Of course, no Oregon composer is as famous as the above-listed worthies. But MacMillan didn’t reach the stratospheric compositional heights that qualified his for that august OBF commission by accident, or, as the old Romantic mythology would assume, solely by virtue of innate genius. In large part, MacMillan’s success stems from early and continuing support from his homeland music institutions—the kind of nourishment that backward-gazing organizations like OBF and others have failed to provide Oregonians.

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