Glass shortage has blowers holding their breath

Coast artisans coping with a lack of cullet glass are trying solutions ranging from a raffle to all-night "cooking" to stay afloat during their busy season

On the Oregon Coast, creating a work of glass art is a bucket-list favorite, and there’s plenty of places to make that happen. But recent weeks have stressed some mom-and-pop glassblowing studios to the point of, well, a meltdown. It seems there’s just not enough glass to go around.

Robin and William Murphy, owners of the Oregon Coast Glassworks in Newport, ran into problems earlier this month when they tried to buy a new supply of “cullet” glass – furnace-ready recycled glass pellets that glassblowers turn into floats, bowls, and other art. There was “no glass anywhere available for purchase,” Robin Murphy said. Nor would there be any until November, they were told. The shortage seems to be the culmination of stricter environmental laws, which led to a cutback in suppliers, compounded most recently by heavy demands on an overseas supplier.

William Murphy begins creating a piece of glass art in his Oregon Glassworks studio in Newport. Photo by: Lori Tobias

The Murphys have launched a fundraising raffle – of a glass sea turtle crafted by William – to help finance a new furnace that will melt “batch,” a pelletized powder that is an alternative to cullet. It requires a natural gas furnace or what’s known in the industry as a “moly” (short for molybdenum) furnace – a piece of equipment that generally comes with a price tag ranging from $30,000 to $50,000. The Murphys have a less expensive wire-melt furnace, but it doesn’t get hot enough to melt batch.

“We’re the little kids on the block,” William Murphy said. “Our systems can only melt glass that has been turned into little pellets. Bigger companies can melt batch. Batch is a Betty Crocker cake mix – you have to add cake and temperature and time. Cullet is like a Lunchable. You just melt it and use it.”

Oregon Coast Glassworks isn’t the only small shop facing the shortage. The Edge Art Gallery in South Beach is also experiencing it, as is the Lincoln City Glass Center. One of the largest of the dozen or so glassblowers on the central and north Coast with 21 employees, the Glass Center does have a “moly” furnace, capable of melting batch or cullet. Owner and glass artist Kelly Howard prefers to use cullet, but she also has been unable to get any.

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MusicWatch Weekly: Music Notes

Rounding up spring and summer news in Oregon music

The annual summer slowdown in Oregon’s live music season gives us a chance to catch up on some recent news. Do check out other events this week we’ve already previewed elsewhere, including a pair of vintage shows: an encore of a Aquilon Music Festival opera Thursday in Dundee, and Willamette Valley Music Festival’s closing weekend concerts (Saturday’s is sold out but Sunday’s has tickets available) featuring a string quartet by Rebecca Clarke, cello and violin duets by Philip Glass (from his Double Concerto), and one of the pinnacles of 19th century chamber music, Schubert’s Cello Quintet. Read Angela Allen’s ArtsWatch preview.

Willamette Valley Chamber Music Festival concludes Sunday.

Arrivals

Third Angle New Music has selected Sarah Tiedemann as its fifth artistic director. After a national search, the Portland flutist, educator and arts administrator, who’s been interim artistic director since the organization abruptly parted ways with longtime AD Ron Blessinger (who quickly landed at 45th Parallel Universe), won the position over a couple dozen well qualified applicants. In addition to several performances with the 33-year-old Portland new music ensemble, Tiedemann has played with the Oregon Symphony, Oregon Ballet Theatre Orchestra, Chamber Music Northwest and Salem Chamber Orchestra. Read my ArtsWatch story about Third Angle’s future, including an interview with Tiedemann.

Sarah Tiedemann performed on a different instrument at a Third Angle concert. Photo: Jacob Wade.

PDX Jazz, Portland’s jazz music presenting organization, has named Christopher Doss its first executive director. A former managing director of Monterey Jazz Festival founding marketing executive of Dallas’s AT&T Performing Arts Center, Doss has worked in performing arts for two decades, and will work alongside veteran artistic director Don Lucoff.

Laurels

• Oregon composer Andrea Reinkemeyer was one of only three American composers to receive $15,000 Women Composers Commissions from the League of American Orchestras. (The Linfield College music professor’s fellow honorees, Stacy Garrop and Robin Holcomb, are well known in contemporary classical music circles.) Reinkemeyer’s new composition will be premiered by the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra in January 2019. Let’s hope an Oregon orchestra performs it soon. What we’ve heard of her music in Oregon makes her one of the state’s most promising compositional voices.

Composer Andrea Reinkemeyer.

• Speaking of prestigious premieres, Bridgehampton Chamber Music Festival, one of the great East Coast classical music summer events, featured the world premiere of a new commissioned work (his second for the festival) from Oregon composer Kenji Bunch at its August 5 concert in the Hamptons. The festival teems with Chamber Music Northwest regulars; maybe we’ll get to hear it there someday.

• Another rising young Portland composer, Justin Ralls, won third place in the American Prize student composition competition for his Tree Ride.

Cult of Orpheus composer Christopher Corbell has been awarded a Career Opportunity Grant from the Oregon Arts Commission and Oregon Community Foundation to support the recording of a full-length album of original vocal works by Corbell, featuring Cult of Orpheus troupe singers and chamber musicians. Read my ArtsWatch story about the Cult and preview of its Saturday show, a five-year retrospective of Corbell’s music at Portland’s Alberta Rose Theatre.

• University of Oregon alum Huck Hodge, who now teaches at the University of Washington, won the $200,000 Charles Ives Living Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. Chosen by a panel of distinguished American composers, the award aims “to free a promising American composer from the need to devote his or her time to any employment other than music composition.”

Michael Harrison

• Still another UO alumnus, the great New York composer Michael Harrison, received a 2018 Guggenheim Fellowship to create a new work for the terrific new music band Alarm Will Sound. Harrison, who grew up in Eugene, won the UO’s Distinguished Alumnus Award in 2014. Read my Oregon Quarterly profile.

• More Third Angle news: the organization has received a $90,000 grant from the Creative Heights Initiative of the Oregon Community Foundation to produce Sanctuaries, an original contemporary chamber opera composed by Portland composer/educator/pianist Darrell Grant set to the rhythms of jazz and slam poetry, which explores gentrification and the displacement of residents of color in Portland’s historically African-American Albina district.

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Theater review: Words from home

In Imago's 'Title and Deed" Todd Van Voris is quizzical edging toward melancholy

At the start of Imago Theatre’s production of Title and Deed, a monologue by Will Eno, the actor Todd Van Voris enters — or not quite. He appears at the curtained doorway between the theater’s main hallway and auditorium, but before he crosses the threshold he hesitates, peering at the audience curiously though not unkindly. Eventually he steps into the stage space, adjusts the lighting with a control board placed downstage left, then after a spell tells us matter-of-factly, “I’m not from here.”

Not just the manner of that entrance but the manner of Van Voris’ entire performance underscores that notion: We’re watching and listening to a man who is with us but not of us. He is present and engaging, but engaged himself in musings and memories of somewhere else. He is familiar yet strange; his life has been unusual, and just like ours. He is away from home. And therefore he is — in a sense that’s not so much directional or aspirational as it is existential — homeward bound, tangled in the ties that bind, no matter where he hangs his hat.

Todd Van Voris gets into the ring with the powerful wordplay of Will Eno’s “Title and Deed” at Imago Theatre, and everyone wins. Photo: Sumi Wu

Home is the putative central theme of the piece, though it’s addressed with the discursive, philosophically comic pointillism that makes Eno’s work so distinctive and so hard to pin down. “Home, where the hat’s hanging and the placenta’s buried,” Van Voris’ nameless character says at one point. That’s just one of the many characteristic Enoisms sprinkled through these 90 minutes — curlicues of pithy observation, droll wordplay, jokey logic, curiously inverted cliches and so on, little windows in which we might glimpse something of the human condition, or at least catch our own reflections glinting off the glass at a new angle: “If you’re half a man — and I can say without bragging that I am…” “(S)tarting out in the world, one foot in the grave and the other in my mouth, and how’s anyone supposed to walk like that?” “I’m describing it (a funeral) from the perspective of the living — which is how we see everything.”

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Uday Bhawalkar review: a quick primer on Indian music appreciation

Legendary singer's transcendent Portland concert provides a gateway to understanding the sophisticated beauty of Indian classical music

You’ve probably heard Indian classical music before. Perhaps you’ve listened to a Ravi Shankar tape or watched videos of his daughter Anoushka, or maybe you’ve encountered its distinctive sounds in a Bollywood movie. If you’re extra lucky, you might live in a region blessed with an arts organization like Kalakendra, as Portland is. The performing arts society produces several concerts a year, and the last one I went to—starring vocalist Uday Bhawalkar, at PCC Rock Creek in Washington County in May—changed my life. But then, they’ve all changed my life.

Kalakendra presented Pratap Awad, Uday Bhawalkar and Michael Stirling.

It’s true! I know it sounds like a gross exaggeration (surely every concert can’t be a life-altering event), but that’s the way it is with Indian music: a raga performance is like an initiatory experience, soul-stirring and spiritually transformative in the way church is supposed to be. This was the third time I’ve heard Bhawalkar sing in concert, and each time I’ve come away shaken, invigorated, and possessed of a deeper understanding of Life, the Universe, and Everything.

To really appreciate what makes concerts like these so powerful, it helps to understand a little about Indian classical music. For the next few minutes, before returning to Bhawalkar’s performance, indulge me in a brief primer that may, in combination with the next Kalakendra or Rasika concert, repay you with hours of transcendent bliss. If you’d like to listen to Indian classical music and get more out of it than “wow, that was cool,” read on.

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Rick Bartow, drawing writers

In Newport, a trove of seldom seen drawings from Auden to Tolstoy by the late, great Oregon artist goes on display

Photos by JOE CANTRELL

A collection of seventeen drawings by the late Oregon artist Rick Bartow, From the Heart: Author Drawings by Rick Bartow, is on view through September 29 in the Upstairs Gallery of the Newport Visual Arts Center, and it includes work that’ll look both familiar in style and distinctive in content to followers of Bartow’s career.

Bartow, who was born in Newport and lived and worked in South Beach, just across the Yaquina Bay Bridge, died in 2016 at age 69, of congestive heart failure. Of Native American and European heritage, he was a member of the Mad River Band of Northern California’s Wiyot Tribe, and had close ties with the Siletz tribes on the Oregon coast. The drawings in this show, which he donated in 2000 to the Newport Public Library, haven’t been exhibited as a group in public until now.

In tandem with Times of Our Lives, an exhibit of large-scale watercolors by Henk Pander, many from his series on the 1948 Vanport Flood, the Newport center is featuring work by two of Oregon’s most prominent contemporary art figures. Pander’s show, which ArtsWatch’s Lori Tobias wrote about here, continues through September 2 in the center’s large Runyan Gallery.

Joseph Conrad, by Rick Bartow.

Photographer Joe Cantrell, a longtime close friend of Bartow, took in the new exhibit for ArtsWatch and filed this report along with his photos:

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‘Porgy and Bess’ review: Catfish Row Northwest

Seattle Opera’s elaborate new production complements Gershwin’s American classic 

by ANGELA ALLEN

The stars, and there were several, could have carried Seattle Opera’s Porgy and Bess. But they didn’t have to. Conceived by Francesca Zambello, the production was spot-on in so many ways—emotionally attuned, musically uplifting, edgily designed and lit— that there was no need for the fine singers, several on the rise, to work overtime.

A co-production with Glimmerglass, the three-hour opera, with a 30-minute intermission, continues with several performances through Aug. 25 at McCaw Hall. It is selling well, but not sold out.

Angel Blue (Bess) and Alfred Walker (Porgy) in Seattle Opera’s ‘Porgy and Bess.’ Photo: Philip Newton.

If you argue with George Gershwin’s music and librettists DuBose and Dorothy Heyward’s (with help from Ira Gershwin) portrait of Catfish Row in the mid-1930s, as many have over time, suspend your imagination. Just dive into this piece and leave the cultural politics for another time. Or another discussion. You can’t put this piece into a box: It’s sad, but not a tragedy. It’s funny but not a comedy. Porgy and Bess is utterly moving—hopeful yet stuffed with such tough realities as poverty, fatherlessness, drugs, unfaithfulness, racism, ostracism, crime.

The heart-rockin’ beauty of the music (“Summertime,” “I Got Plenty of Nuttin,” “It Ain’t Necessarily So,” “A Woman Is a Sometime Thing,” and “My Man’s Gone Now”) and the libretto’s variety and cleverness outclass so many operas plagued with dull and stupid words and plots. The songs alone, and you’ve heard them over and over (“Summertime” is one of the most covered songs in history), place the opera at the top of the American repertoire.

John DeMain, 74, who conducted the opera for Seattle in 1987, was back on the podium for this run. He’s led this music many times (the first, at age 32), and his Tony-award-winning Houston conducting helped bring the opera back to life in 1976, so his Porgy history has been a storied one. The music is part of the seamless artistic blend that works so well in this show, with jazz, folk music, klezmer, gospel and classical influences mixed into Gershwin’s Americana pot. Some jazz- and folk-driven instruments are atypical for opera: trombones, saxophones, banjos, clarinets and trumpets, leaving out the strings, except the bass.

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Photo First: Saturday Market

Portland's iconic open-air market, the largest of its kind in the nation, is a bustling village of arts and crafts and people-watching in the city

Portland Saturday Market (which is, of course, open on Sundays as well) is a sort of curated street fair. Founded in 1974 by Sheri Teasdale and Andrea Scharf as a support for local artisans, it has grown over the years into the largest weekly open-air arts and crafts market in the United States. This is its 45th season, and it’s open most of the year, from March through Christmas Eve.

Incorporated as a special class of institution, the market (nonprofit) is governed by its members (for profit). At present there are about 250 booth spaces available every weekend. With more than 400 members, a steady stream of newcomers, and occasional participants, the mix of vendors is never quite the same on any given day. These vendors offer an amazing array of items—audio recordings, earrings, coffee mugs, sculptures, drawings, musical instruments, leatherwork, cat toys, curious cabinetry, jams and jellies, walking sticks, and more.

  Saturday Market is a bustling village inside the city.

Everything for sale at the market, which sprawls along Southwest Naito Parkway in Old Town south of the Steel Bridge, has been handmade by the people selling it. Each individual vendor has gone through a rigorous vetting process to assure compliance with market standards that focus heavily on artistic involvement and quality of craftsmanship.

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