Year-end MusicWatch: End of the world, er, year sounds

Oregon Renaissance Band

Oregon Renaissance Band

Unlike even death, classical music, it seems, never takes a holiday. There are only a couple of major classical concerts this weekend, but they’re both recommended.

Oregon Renaissance Band, Friday and Saturday, Community Music Center, Portland, and Sunday, St. Aidan’s Episcopal Church, Gresham: We’re lucky to hear plenty of Baroque music in Oregon, but Renaissance sounds — especially instrumental varieties — are rarer, in part because many of the instruments are obsolete. Portland’s Phil and Gayle Neuman solve that problem by making their own replicas of archaic axes like the tartold, rackett, sackbutt, and using early versions of violins, guitar, recorder and others. They’ll play and sing music by William Byrd, Michael Praetorius and other Renaissance composers European and Latin American, known and unknown.

The Ensemble, Saturday, Grace Memorial Episcopal Church, Portland: After arriving in Portland from the choral hotbed of St. Paul a year or so ago, bass singer Patrick McDonough (a veteran of the Dale Warland Singers and other top vocal groups) promptly put together a mid-sized, all-star aggregation comprising some of the cream of the cream of Portland singers skimmed from the city’s finest choirs (Cappella Romana, Cantores in Ecclesia, and others) to sing works that are less often performed than they should be because they were composed for groups smaller than the usual big choirs. They’ll sing two 20th century Christmas classics: Poulenc’s “Four Christmas Motets,” and Britten’s “Hymn to the Virgin,” plus works by one of today’s leading choral composers, Stephen Paulus and more.

Rebecca Kilgore and Randy Porter, Monday, The Old Church, Portland: This is a jazz show — specifically, standards from the 1930s and ’40s — but it benefits Friends of Chamber Music, one of Oregon’s most valuable classical presenting organizations. And besides, when the singer and pianist are among the Northwest’s most deservedly venerated, who cares what pigeonhole they occupy? It’s a musically magnificent way to spend New Year’s Eve.

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