ArtsWatch Weekly: making it work

You can help us keep the engine running; summer music festivals, "Cabaret" and "The Addams Family," "Baskerville" and more

We have a lot on our minds here at ArtsWatch this week, from the kickoff of the Chamber Music Northwest season to free ballet in the park to a chorus line of Broadway musicals. We’ll get to all of that, and more.

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Oregon Ballet Theatre dancer Xuan Cheng in rehearsal for Giaconda Barbuto’s new work in “Choreography XX” at the Washington Park Rose Garden Amphitheater Thursday and Friday. Photo: Yi Yin



Chamber Music Northwest, Portland’s premiere summer music festival, has just begun its five-week run through July 30, and as Angela Allen writes in her ArtsWatch table-setter, this year’s festival is distinguished by its commitment to the work of women composers, from the 12th century Hilda von Bingen to Clara Schumann and Amy Beach to such contemporary music creators as Bonnie Miksch and Kati Agóks. “About a quarter of the programing, including lectures, rehearsals and concerts, is devoted to women composers,” she writes, and notes: “It’s about time.” And see Brett Campbell’s extended notes below on what’s coming up at the festival this week.

Cabaret. Broadway in Portland brings the touring show of Roundabout Theatre Company’s Tony-winning revival of the Kander and Ebb musical to Keller Auditorium for eight performances through Sunday.

Choreography XX. Oregon Ballet Theatre brings two free performances to the Washington Park Rose Garden Amphitheater, at 7:30 p.m. Thursday and Friday, and like this year’s Chamber Music Northwest, the emphasis is on women creators: the program features world premieres from choreographers Gioconda Barbuto, Helen Simoneau, and Nicole Haskins, all three commissioned by OBT.


Lisamarie Harrison as Morticia and Joe Theissen as Gomez in “The Addams Family” at Broadway Rose. Photo: Sam Ortega

The Addams Family. The musical-theater specialists of Broadway Rose open this puckish Broadway comedy, based on the celebrated macabre cartoons by Charles Addams, on Thursday with a promising cast including the likes of Lisamarie Harrison as Morticia, Isaac Lamb as Uncle Fester, and Joe Theissen as Gomez. Through July 23.

Baskerville: A Sherlock Holmes Mystery. Not to be outdone in the light-summer-theater sweepstakes, Clackamas Repertory Theatre is getting all mock-mysterious with the intrepid John San Nicolas as Holmes and Dennis Kelly as Watson. Ken Ludwig’s play sports five actors, 40 characters, and who knows how many clues? Thursday through July 23.

Come to the Table, Mike Pence. CoHo Summerfest continues with Shaking the Tree’s invitation to the vice president, who is known to shun dining with any woman who is not his wife. Eve, Salome, and Queen Elizabeth I try to persuade him otherwise. Thursday through Sunday.


Jon Peterson as the Emcee and the national touring cast of “Cabaret,” at Keller Auditorium. Photo: Joan Marcus




Chamber Music Northwest
The venerable summer festival’s opening Tuesday night concert at Portland State’s Lincoln Performance Hall featured music by three female Romantic composers: Clara Schumann, Fanny Mendelssohn and Amy Beach, along with Brahms’s big Piano Quintet. Male Romantics (Chopin, Saint-Saens, early 20th century English composer Benjamin Dale) take over for Thursday’s concert, while it’s tango time Friday and Saturday at Reed College. Sunday’s recommended concert features chamber music by Bartok, Shostakovich, Prokofiev and tidbits by lesser-known composers, while Monday’s show brings Martinu’s Kitchen Revue (in which dinner utensils come to life, musically at least), William Walton’s percussion-powered setting of Edith Sitwell poems Facades, and a major event: the premiere of a new Sextet by one of America’s greatest living composers, Seattle-born Pulitzer Prize winner William Bolcom, who also contributes his own voice, as does his wife, the admired Portland-born singer Joan Morris, to the concert. Tuesday-Monday, Kaul Auditorium, Reed College, and Lincoln Hall, Portland State University.


Jazz clarinetist and saxophonist Ken Peplowski at the Siletz Music Festival.

Siletz Bay Music Festival
The Oregon Coast sounds mighty appealing right about now, and this festival’s second week makes it even more so. Tuesday’s chamber music concert featured Iowa-born composer Ching-chu Hu’s striking Asian-influenced 2013 string sextet “Spheres of Influence” and another sextet by Mikhail Glinka. Wednesday’s show goes light (the venerable film/American music performer/arranger Dick Hyman’s sextet on his In Hot Pursuit (with lyrics by the notable word-player Willard Espy) and Songs from Almanac of Words. Hyman brings another New York-based champion of classic American jazz, clarinetist Ken Peplowski, and fellow frequent Shedd performer Clairdee in Thursday night’s cabaret show and Friday night’s big band jazz orchestra bash. Festival director (and Portland Chamber Orchestra conductor) Yaacov Bergman brings music by the other Mendelssohn, Felix, plus Verdi and great concertos by Shostakovich and Beethoven to Saturday’s orchestra concert, and Tsvi Avni’s The Three Legged Monster to Sunday’s family show. We won’t tantalize you with the great program for Sunday’s sold-out American music show, but tickets remain for the July 4 all-American concert featuring works by Duke Ellington, George Gershwin, Leroy Anderson, Carlisle Floyd, and more. Tuesday-Monday, Salishan Resort.

Makrokosmos Project
New York piano duo Stephanie and Saar’s annual Portland new music happening has become one of the city’s go-to gateways to summer. This time it honors the 80th birthday of America’s greatest living composer, Steve Reich, who’s been feted around the world for the past year, with a performance of his classic Six Pianos. Portland Percussion Group also plays a Reich classic and music by another terrific contemporary American composer, Paul Lansky, plus a work by one of Portland’s own finest, Michael Johanson. Pianist Monica Ohuchi plays music by another top Portland composer, Kenji Bunch, and Third Angle New Music’s Ron Blessinger and Susan Smith play a pair of modern classics by one of Reich’s musical descendants, John Adams. You can come and go as you please throughout the five-hour contemporary music extravaganza, held for the first time in one of the city’s coolest recent building reconstructions, the US HQ of the Danish alternative energy company. Thursday, Vestas building, 1417 N.W. Everett Street.

Oregon Bach Festival
The annual Eugene-based extravaganza is smaller this year but still offers much to savor. St. Matthew Passion on opening night features one of the greatest of all choral orchestral masterpieces — and in the ideal place to hear it, Beall Concert Hall, performed by a historically informed orchestra and chorus led by last-minute substitute conductor Scott Allen Jarrett, the OBF Vocal Fellows and Back Bay Chorale director who steps in for OBF music director Matthew Halls — who just flew home to Toronto to be with his wife and newborn son. Halls will return for the festival’s second week. The German Baroque concert on July 1 features Portland Baroque Orchestra music director Monica Huggett, one of the world’s finest historically informed fiddlers, leading performances by J.S. Bach and other composers of his era, including Telemann (regarded in their time as the greatest German composer), Fasch, and more, including Bach’s own son Wilhelm Friedemann. The week features many other performances and events, including some attractive free shows. Thursday-Monday, various venues, Eugene.

David Murray and Kahil El’Zabar
PDX Jazz brings the Grammy winner, one of jazz’s greatest and most prolific (200 albums as a leader and counting!) living saxophonists and the Chicago avant jazz drummer/percussionist for a summit meeting of esteemed improvisers. Thursday, The Old Church.

In Good Hands
Cascadia Composers frees young Oregon music students to perform music of their own time and place in this annual free showcase of music by Oregon composers. Thursday, The Old Church.

Somjit Dasgupta
The Kolkata virtuoso of the rare sarod-like surshringar Indian instrument plays a benefit for the preservation of historic Indian instruments like the one he plays. Thursday, 1141 S.E. 72nd Ave.

Improvisation Summit of Portland
The Creative Music Guild’s annual convocation of spontaneous creation has become an essential Oregon summer arts event, and this year’s lineup may be its most impressive yet, featuring dance masters like Linda Austin, jazz masters like Rich Halley and Blue Cranes Reed Wallsmith and Joe Cunningham, the terrific Seattle drummer and composer Bobby Previte’s Voodoo Orchestra, and many other improvisers from various traditions. Friday and Saturday, Disjecta Contemporary Art Center, 8371 N Interstate Ave.

Piano Push Play Kick-Off Concert
The free annual celebration of pianos that places 10 instruments around Portland for the public to play during the sunny months features a passel of pianos scattered around the art museum courtyard, performances by local pianists, and the opportunity for attendees to try their hands too.
Friday, Portland Art Museum

Marylhurst Chamber Choir
The award winning chorus sings the program it’s taking to a major choral competition in Latvia next month. Friday, Chapel of the Holy Names, Mary’s Woods and Sunday, St. Anne’s Chapel, Marylhurst University.



Nellie McKay
The gloriously witty and unpredictable singer/songwriter brings her new cabaret revue, A Girl Named Bill, which spotlights jazz bandleader Billy Tipton, who performed as a man but was really a woman in disguise. Saturday, The Shedd, Eugene.





ArtsWatch links


Mini Music Fest: a hoot in the heat. Outdoors the sun was sizzling, the bikers were naked, and Mother Nature beckoned. Indoors, the Portland Mini Musical Festival was larking it up with half a dozen new short musicals – just 15 minutes each on average. It was, Brett Campbell reports, a hoot.

Ambrose Akinusire, embracing risk. Trumpeter and composer Douglas Detrick praises the fearlessness and skills the young trumpeter revealed at a PDX Jazz concert: “He runs towards the difficulty, rather than avoiding it.”

Creek College: planting seeds on the Columbia Slough. Hannah Krafcik explores the ripples and tides of an experimental “school” that bridges art and conservation.

A chat with the pianist of Willesden Lane. Alice Hardesty gets the inside word from pianist and actor Mona Golabek, who stars at Portland Center Stage in her own mother’s tale of escaping the Nazis and beginning a musical career.

Northwest Piano Trio: three, four, five. Terry Ross praises the trio’s recent foray into Mozart, Schubert, and Dvorak.


Pam Tzeng’s “’A Meditation on the End’ by Jo-Lee” at the Risk/Reward Festival. Photo: Chelsea Petrakis

Risk/Reward: value proposition. Brett Campbell takes a fascinating, in-depth look at both the risks and the rewards of the new-works festival.

Islamabad, on common ground. I go to rehearsal for an inside look at an international work from Theatre Wallay of Islamabad, Pakistan, which is playing a final show Wednesday at Artists Rep in Portland before moving on to the Oregon Shakespeare Festival.

Moon Hooch: danceable complexity. Saxophonist and composer Patrick McCulley praises the technique and pop accessisibility of the New York jazz/experimental trio, which winds its way to Oregon in August.

From trauma to opera: The Woman of Salt. Rachael Carnes tells the backstory of Oregon composer Anise Thigpen’s new opera.

Jason Silva’s furniture music. Jason Silva considers the odd depths and perspectives of the New York artist’s deceptively simple drawings at Ampersand Gallery.


Jason Silva, “2-19-17″/Courtesy Ampersand Gallery



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