Weekend MusicWatch: Cellos, mandolins, ugly sweaters, beautiful voices

Fiddle phenom Mark O’Connor’s ensemble plays Christmas music and more Friday at Portland’s Scottish Rite Center.

Portland Cello Project, Saturday, Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall, Portland. In its most “classical” project so far, the ever-inventive ensemble enlists superb Oregon Symphony principal cellist Nancy Ives, along with its customary collection of indie folk and rock singer/songwriters (Portland faves Laura Gibson and Laura Veirs, and former Giant Sand frontman Howe Gelb), to help deliver wintry music from its new EP, and more. Don’t forget to wear your ugliest holiday sweater!

106 Keys, Saturday, Portland Piano Company. Portland pianist Beth Karp (who’s impressed audiences at Classical Revolution PDX stage shows) and flutist Amalia Blumberg debut their new project devoted to Jewish music with a splendid program including works by Philip Glass, Erwin Schulhoff, Darius Milhaud, Paul Ben­Haim, and, happily, Portland composer David Schiff’s delicious “After Hours” suite.

Oregon Mozart Players, Thursday and Friday, First Christian Church, Eugene. The chamber orchestra’s popular Candlelight Baroque concert features J.S. Bach’s ever-popular Cantata #51, Exult in in God in Every Land; a suite from Henry Purcell’s opera Dido and Aeneas; Corelli’s Christmas Cantata; a  sinfonia by another great Italian Baroque composer, Alessandro Scarlatti; a lively oboe concerto by still another wonderful Italian Baroque master, Tomaso Albinoni, and more.

Mark O’Connor, Friday, Scottish Rite Center, Portland. Possibly the world’s greatest fiddler, the Seattle-born star of country, folk, and classical (including composing string quartets, concertos, and symphonies) music brings the sound of his popular “Appalachia Waltz” combo, this time with a sextet featuring a pair of excellent roots-oriented singers, to holiday music.

Oregon Symphony, Saturday and Sunday, Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall, Portland; Friday, Smith Auditorium, Willamette University, Salem. Friday and Sunday’s program features the orchestra and acclaimed tenor Dominic Armstrong performing seasonal favorites, with an audience participation Christmas medley sing-along. On Saturday, after the orchestra plays holiday favorites in the first half of the program, nine time Grammy winner Natalie Cole sings holiday songs, standards and new songs from her album, “Natalie Cole en Español.”

Wildwood Consort, Sunday, 2 pm, Collins Gallery, Multnomah Central Library, Portland. The estimable historically informed early music ensemble plays the glorious Baroque chamber music of Jean-Philippe Rameau, along with poetry of Rainer Maria Rilke read by Brian Myers.

Portland Jazz Composers Ensemble, Saturday, Secret Society Ballroom, Portland. One of Oregon’s most valuable young music institutions debuts four new works of partially improvised chamber music (by  James Miley, Ryan Meagher, Thomas Barber, and Lars Campbell), along with music by a welcome recent arrival, pianist Kerry Politzer and her quintet featuring Barber, David Valdez, George Colligan, and Essiet Essiet.

Oregon Mandolin Orchestra, Friday, Walters Cultural Arts Center, Hillsboro. If cellos work for holiday sounds, why not mandolins? Lots of them, in various sizes and ranges.

CHORAL

In Mulieribus, Friday, Proto-Cathedral of St. James, Vancouver, and Sunday, St. Philip Neri Church, Portland. Maybe the top recommendation of the entire season, some of the Northwest’s finest female voalists, drawn from Portland’s top choirs, sing rarely heard Advent and Christmas carols and songs from medieval England and the world premiere of a new piece the group commissioned (yay!) from one of today’s finest choral composers, Ivan Moody, whose music you might have heard on Cappella Romana concerts.

Portland Chamber Orchestra, Choral Arts Ensemble, Friday, St. Matthew’s Catholic Church, Hillsboro; Saturday and Sunday, Lewis & Clark College, Portland. PCO’s historically informed performance of a 1744 version of Handel’s “Messiah” features a formidable lineup of soloists, including top Northwest singers Angela Niederloh, Brian Tierney, Anne McKee Reed, and Anton Belov.

Bach Cantata Choir, Friday, Rose City Park Presbyterian Church, Portland. The chorus sings cantatas by their namesake, fellow Baroque composer Johann Kuhnau, and Vivaldi’s ever-popular “Gloria.”

Portland Symphonic Girlchoir, Saturday, Zion Lutheran Church, Portland. The award-winning K-12 chorus, now celebrating its quarter-centenary, sings holiday favorites and less familiar yet equally appropriate fare, including one of their signature “Eclectic Masses,” this time including music from Africa, the Caribbean, Bernstein and Chilcott.

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