Weekend MusicWatch: Covering for classical

Ethan Sperry leads several PSU choirs Friday and Sunday.

Ethan Sperry leads several PSU choirs Friday and Sunday.

That pre-summer interregnum in classical programming we mentioned last week continues, which in music-mad Portland offers the opportunity to hear some of the sounds ArtsWatch lacks the bandwidth to cover at the height of the classical season.

But if you insist on a classical connection, check out Sunday afternoon’s season finale of the Bach Cantata Choir at Portland’s Rose City Park Presbyterian Church, featuring a pair of Johann Sebastian’s great cantatas and works by the great English Renaissance composer John Dowland, and more, including a contemporary work by Portland tenor David Foley. It’s still a little early for the Oregon Bach Festival, but if you’re still craving still another Bach cantata, you can probably make it to the St. James Bach Choir’s 5 pm Bach Cantata Vespers at downtown Portland’s St. James Lutheran Church.

For a very different but no less appealing choral concert, try Portland State University choirs‘ season-capping concert Friday night and Sunday afternoon at First United Methodist Church. It’s really a world music concert in disguise, featuring music from Bollywood (Grammy winning film composer A. R. Rahman), Zimbabwe, South Africa, Baltic and other Eastern European regions, and even PSU’s glittering new taiko drum ensemble.


Earlier on Sunday afternoon, Portland’s First Presbyterian Church’s excellent Celebration Works Series closes its season with more world music: Lewis & Clark College’s Venerable Showers of Beauty Gamelan (disclosure: I play in that ensemble) performing classical music of Java for the orchestra of gongs and other mellifluously tuned percussion instruments, fiddle, flute, and voices — including the visiting Javanese vocalist Heni Savitri, who’ll sing the ravishing solo soprano parts that are often omitted (because they demand astonishing skill and range) in non-Indonesian performances. The group will be directed by its former teacher at L&C, Midiyanto, who now runs the gamelan program at the University of California at Berkeley.

In Eugene, the University of Oregon Symphony plays the west coast premiere of a work by contemporary composer Roberto Sierra on May 30 at Beall Concert Hall, which the next two nights hosts the UO Opera Ensemble’s staged readings of scenes from Mozart’s opera. The school’s percussion ensemble and Gospel Singers perform in separate concerts there on June 2.

Brassy, Horny, Jazzy

Sunday features a brass double header, with Big Horn Brass playing film music (from the Star Trek films, very timely, and others) to Portland’s Old Church that night, while the Portland Wind Symphony (nee Pacific Crest Wind Symphony) bringing more film music and Giannini’s Symphony #3 to PSU’s Lincoln Hall that afternoon.

Another semi-classical experience happens Monday night, June 3, at a jazz club: Jimmy Mak’s in Portland’s Pearl District, in which violinist Lindsay Deutsch joins singers Susannah Mars and Rocky Blumhagen in music by the Gershwins, with proceeds benefiting the Portland Chamber Orchestra.

Jimmy Mak’s offers its usual jazz excellence on Thursday and Friday night, when the Azar Lawrence Quintet offers music from John Coltrane’s last classic period in the mid 1960s. Also on Thursday at Portland’s Doug Fir Lounge, busy Portland jazz pianist Asher Fulero performs music from his lovely new solo acoustic piano album, Liminal Rites, plus electronic sounds from his anagrammatical alter ego, Halo Refuser.

More jazz is afoot in Eugene Sunday in the latest in the intimate Broadway House concerts, this one featuring guitarist John Stowell and trombonist Dave Glenn. On Friday and Saturday at northeast Portland’s Sandbox Studio, the Creative Music Guild‘s annual Improvisation Summit of Portland offers not just jazz but other forms of making it up, including Battle Hymns & Gardens (with members of Blue Cranes), avant electronic musicians like Why I Must Be Careful, Golden Retriever and Doug Theriault, and much more, including dance by Tere Mathern, Linda Austin and more. At Portland’s Disjecta, still another youngish festival returns Friday and Saturday, when – shhh!– the Quiet Music Festival offers just that.

Opera season is over, but if you just can’t survive with a little operatic exposure, try the Jewish Community Orchestra concert featuring music from operas and more Sunday afternoon and Portland’s Mittleman Jewish Community Center. Or catch French director Philippe Béziat’s 2012 film about the staging of Verdi’s La Traviata at the Portland Art Museum’s Northwest Film Center Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights.

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