Weekend MusicWatch: Women’s Voices Ringing

True Life Trio sings in Portland and Corvallis.

True Life Trio sings in Portland and Corvallis.

For fans of female voices, this weekend finds them in full bloom like the azaleas and rhodies blossoming in western Oregon. The biggest voice on stage no doubt belongs to Portland’s own rock star, Storm Large. Having already demonstrated her adeptness at avocations like theater and memoir writing, she joins her biggest band ever to sing – no doubt informed by first hand experience – Kurt Weill and Berthold Brecht’s scathing 1933 satire, “The Seven Deadly Sins,” which requires her to play two characters; Large’s personality is big enough for both. The Oregon Symphony’s Saturday and Sunday performances at Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall also feature fine Portland Opera singers including the great baritone Richard Zeller, and the splendid program also includes Ravel’s brief, wild 20th century classic, “La Valse”; contemporary Cambodian composer Narong Prangcharoen’s short, whirling “Phenomenon,” a hit at its 2009 OSO performance; Schubert’s unfinished yet powerful Symphony 8, and more.

On Friday night (at Portland’s First United Methodist Church) and Sunday afternoon (at Boring’s Good Shepherd Community Church), the Portland Columbia Symphony Orchestra also offers one of the great showcases for female vocals, Richard Strauss’s valedictory “Four Last Songs,” with soprano Carol Walterman in the spotlight. Emeritus conductor Huw Edwards returns to lead the way in Edward Elgar’s Symphony #2, probably inspired by a secret affair between composer and paramour.

In Mulieribus literally means “among women,” and on Sunday at southeast Portland’s St. Stephen’s Catholic Church, the alluring Portland vocal ensemble joins local legends Phil and Gayle Neumann of the Oregon Renaissance Band (who create and perform on replicas of antique musical instruments) in a highly recommended program of music originally sung by troubadours, pilgrims and other ancient travelers.

Still another group of double X (chromosomes, that is) -rated singers arrive from the Bay Area for performances Saturday (at northeast Portland’s Polish Hall) and Sunday (at Yoga Center of Corvallis). True Life Trio, a spinoff of the long-running California Eastern European women’s choir Kitka, will sing music of Poland, Ukraine and (if their debut EP is any indication) Appalachia and more.

More voices sing out at Beaverton’s Bethel Congregational United Church of Christ Friday and Sunday when iSing Choir performs music about animals, featuring Benjamin Britten’s “Rejoice in the Lamb” along with music by Eric Whitacre and folk songs from around the world. And Oregon Repertory Singers Youth Choirs sing American music Sunday afternoon at Portland’s First United Methodist Church.

PSU's "La Rondine" closes this weekend at Lincoln Hall.

PSU’s “La Rondine” closes this weekend at Lincoln Hall.

Keyboard Kahunas

Another course of Britten’s tasty “Lamb” is on the menu Sunday at Portland’s Trinity Cathedral when Indiana University prof Bruce Neswick leads the Pacific Youth Choir’s Chamber Choir and Trinity Choir in that work and music of Charles Villiers Stanford. On Friday,  the former director of New York’s Cathedral of St. John the Divine gives a free recital on Trinity Episcopal Cathedral’s Rosales Organ featuring Louis Vierne’s 1911 Third Symphony, plus a contemporary sacred work by New York composer David Hurd and more.

Portland Piano International closes its season and opens a new chapter Sunday at Portland’s Newmark Theatre when the estimable Brazilian classical pianist Arnaldo Cohen assumes his new position as its artistic director and gives his farewell solo recital in Portland, featuring music by Chopin, Bach, Brahms, and more. He’ll also announce PPI’s next season. See Jana Hanchett’s ArtsWatch preview.

Pickings are relatively slim this weekend, but chamber music fans should set their sights on the Oregon Chamber Players, who’ll perform music by Telemann, Bach and more Saturday night at southeast Portland’s All Saints Episcopal Church. Is it still chamber music if a flock of cellists joins a ruckus of young rockers? That’s what’s happening Saturday at southeast Portland’s Aladdin Theater when Portland Cello Project corrupts the young minds of Portland School of Rock as they join to play music of Beck (whose score-only 2012 album PCP was the first to cover in its entirety), recently ascended-to-the-firmament jazz legend Dave Brubeck, and a composer who knew something about cellos, J.S. Bach.

More vocal vivacity is on display during this closing weekend of Portland State University Opera’s production of Puccini’s “La Rondine” at Lincoln Hall. Read Angela Allen’s ArtsWatch preview, and Bob Hicks’s ArtsWatch review. It’s easy to understand why the now obscure operetta flopped; the story moves from bubbly, breezy scenes of Boho Parisian delights to a sudden, inexplicable reversal of fortune and bummer ending whose dramatic set up is totally inadequate. Until then, the story is burdened by two-dimensional characters whose relationship remains pretty static throughout. But though it lacks the depth and dramatic tension of Puccini’s great operas, “The Swallow” does boast some sumptuous music, and PSU’s production rewards audiences with attractive sets and costumes, smart directing, springy student energy especially appropriate to the second act’s admiring depictions of youthful revelry and demimonde indulgence, generally appealing performances by the two leads and delicious comic turns by the supporting couple of Hannah Consenz and (the night I saw it) Alan Smith.

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