Weekend MusicWatch

Most of us will be occupied by other traditional events than live music concerts over the next few days, but never fear: like many of our volcanos, Oregon’s music scene is ever-active, and only seemingly dormant for certain stretches like this one. In fact, some of these musical offerings have become beloved end of year traditions themselves. As always, we can list only a smattering of the available options, so be sure to check the All Classical cultural events calendar for more options.

Portland Youth Philharmonic opened its 90th season at Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall.

David Hattner leads Portland Youth Philharmonic’s annual concert at Christmas at Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall.

The Ensemble
December 26, Central Lutheran Church, 1857 Potter Street, Eugene; December 27, First Christian Church, 1314 SW Park Avenue, Portland.
If you can only make one show this week, make it this one. Read my Willamette Week preview of the superb Portland-based vocal ensemble’s Christmas concerts.

Portland Youth Philharmonic
December 26
Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall, Portland.
Nativity scenes are all the rage this month, but there’s another event at the end of December that signals youthful renewal. The 300 or so young classical musicians who perform Portland Youth Philharmonic’s annual family friendly concert at Christmas remind us that classical music will always be about the future as well as the past. The past will also be present in this edition as PYP’s alumni orchestra brings back 100 musicians who’ve played with the nine-decade orchestra, including some who played under each of its five music directors, including the current one, David Hattner. The program, performed by various PYP ensembles (strings, winds, etc.) includes selections from Handel’s stirring Water Music, Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 2, and more, including Respighi’s Fountains of Rome, the 1918 symphonic poem that musically portrays various aspects of the great city at different times of day and from different perspectives — four of the city’s most famous fountains — with moods ranging from pastoral to playful to triumphant to melancholy. With PYP playing one of classical music’s most colorful sonic postcards, it’s more like a fountain of youth.

ORBOregon Renaissance Band
December 26-7
Community Music Center, 3350 SE Francis St, Portland.
Read my Willamette Week preview of the early music ensemble’s homemade celebration of really old-school Christmas music.

“Bachxing Day”
December 26
Classical Revolution PDX, Vie de Boheme, 1530 SE 7th Ave. Portland.
Venerable Portland cellist (from Portland State University and the Florestan Trio, among many others) likes to tell a story about how a gaggle of Chamber Music Northwest musicians had to take a break after bickering for hours over how their ensemble was going to interpret a particular piece. Finally someone suggested a break, and to ease the grumpiness, Cheifetz asked each which was her or his favorite composer: the unanimous answer, among these strong headed musicians who minutes before couldn’t agree on anything else: JS Bach. So no wonder CRPDX chose the Western classical tradition’s most beloved composer as the subject for its annual December 26 jam — that and the fact that his name perpetrates a pun on Boxing Day. Dozens of community musicians have signed up to play “any Bach, any interpretation, any instrument,” culminating in the signature Big Bach piece: JSB’s Orchestral Suite #2 in B minor, featuring Liberty Broillet, principal flutist of the Portland Columbia Symphony Orchestra.

Cult of Orpheus
December 27
Jade Lounge, 2348 SE Ankeny St., Portland.
Fresh off selling out the three-day run of his new opera Viva’s Holiday, Portland composer and poet Christopher Corbell is premiering a slew of his new original poetic songs, including his brief Insect Songs, a cycle of settings for flute (Liberty Broillet) and soprano (Camelia Nine) of Robert Hass’s English translations of haiku by 18th century Japanese poet Issa; original sonnets for classical guitar and voice performed by Corbell himself; a new setting of one of the great Bohemian/Swiss poet Rainer Marie Rilke’s celebrated Sonnets to Orpheus that Corbell will play with cellist Betsy Goy; plus a Sylvia Plath setting and a Mussorgsky song from a Rilke poem. Further underscoring the music-poetry connection, local poets Elie Charpentier and KMA Sullivan will also give readings of their work.

Oregon Symphony, Portland Symphonic Choir, Thomas Lauderdale, Meow Meow
December 29-30
Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall, Portland.
Read my Willamette Week preview of the symphony’s annual NYE (approximately) show, one of the city’s most delightful celebrations of that otherwise often woozy holiday.

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

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