Weekend MusicWatch: Porgy, Gertrude, Virgil, Byrd, CPOP

Cantores in Ecclesia performs at Portland's William Byrd Festival

It’s official: no Oregon weekend, even in the canine days of August, is free of fascinating music. Oregon State University’s La Sells Stewart Center in Corvallis hosts the 20th annual Zimbabwean Music Festival, where you can listen to and/or learn to play marimba, drum, mbira (the beautiful gourd-encased metal so-called “thumb piano”) and more music of southern Africa’s Shona people. Down in the Siskiyous, the Beloved Festival continues with various world music offerings. And Eugene’s Oregon Festival of American Music presents its final show of the Gershwins’ Girl Crazy tonight at the Hult Center.

Speaking of Gershwin, Barry has alluded to the controversy over the impending remake/reboot/desecration/ modernization of the 20th century’s greatest work of American music (although West Side Story, Appalachian Spring, Music for 18 Musicians, Einstein on the Beach, Charles Ives’s Symphony #4 and a few others also have a strong claim). This Friday and Sunday, and next weekend, you can see a more traditional version of Porgy and Bess, in a new Seattle Opera production directed by Chris Alexander and conducted by John DeMain (who helped revive Gershwin’s great American opera with the Houston Grand Opera in the 1970s). Portland writer Angela Allen reviewed it quite favorably on ConcertoNet.

Seattle Opera's Porgy & Bess runs this weekend and next. Gordon Hawkins (Porgy) and Lisa Daltirus (Bess). © Elise Bakketun photo

Another great American opera that premiered a year before Porgy, in 1934, gets a new production next weekend in San Francisco, courtesy of SF’s Museum of Modern Art, which, in conjunction with its much praised exhibit of Gertrude Stein’s et families’ art collection, commissioned a new version of Stein and Virgil Thomson’s delicious opera Four Saints in Three Acts — and a brand new response to it by a local, contemporary composer, Berkeley’s Luciano Chessa. (Attention Portland art institutions and classical music institutions: here are two good ideas for you borrow. ) Chessa’s A Heavenly Act takes the Stein texts Thomson cut from a later, truncated version of Four Saints and makes a new story from them, set to his original music. It runs next weekend, Aug. 18-20 only.

Portland’s new music / alt classical scene is about to get a boost from a new organization making its debut this Sunday at the city’s Someday Lounge. Composer Justin Ralls modeled his Contemporary Portland Orchestra Project on the celebrated Boston Modern Orchestra Project, and along with its first performances, the concert stars the great Portland new music ensemble FearNoMusic (embarking on its first season under new director and violinist Paloma Griffin), Eugene’s superb duo Beta Collide (trumpeter Brian McWhorter and flutist Molly Barth, with guests), New York experimental opera composers Jeff Young and Paul Pinto, Oakland percussionist Moe! Staiano, and sound artists Lucio Menegon and Sabrina Siegel. Some of these artists played parts of the same show at Eugene’s Jazz Station Wednesday.

Classical and choral music fans should check out the 14th annual William Byrd Festival, dedicated to showcasing the complete works (over several decades) of England’s greatest Renaissance composer (probably, depending on whether you count John Dowland as part of that period). On Friday, in maybe the top recommendation for this summer’s edition, David Trendell of London’s King’s College will conduct soloists from Portland’s Cantores in Ecclesia in music of Byrd’s last songbook, Psalms, Songs and Sonnets, on its 400th anniversary. Sunday’s Compline service, conducted by Cantores director Blake Applegate features Byrd’s music for the divine office, and Monday’s mass for the feast of the assumption will be accompanied by liturgical music from Byrd’s 1615 collection Gradualia, conducted by Duke University’s Kerry McCarthy.

Portland Taiko director Michelle Fujii’s solo show, Choking, finishes its run at the city’s Interstate Firehouse Cultural Center, 5340 N. Interstate. This multimedia exploration of Asian American identity involves dance, music, video and an art installation.


And if you missed Portland’s hottest jazz ensemble’s scintillating collaboration with Northwest Dance Project last year, you can see Blue Cranes and NDP dancers alfresco at Portland’s Washington Park Friday night. In fact,  you probably want to see them again even if you did catch them last time, especially because this time, it’s free!

Comments are closed.