SUDDENLY IT’S MID-DECEMBER, nearly Solstice, with Christmas, Kwanzaa, and New Year’s Eve hot (or chilly) on its heels. Not to mention the made-up holidays: Yesterday, for instance, was National Cupcake Day. Today has been proclaimed, by someone somewhere, National Chocolate Covered Anything Day – including, presumably, yesterday’s leftover cupcakes. Tomorrow is both National Ugly Sweater Day and National Maple Syrup Day, a confluence that has the potential to spill over at the breakfast table and create the birth of a new celebration, National Sticky Sweater Day. Happy holidays!
Here in Oregon (and just about everywhere else on the map) the cultural calendar’s turned decidedly toward seasonal celebrations. Hanukkah ended on December 6, but not before Portland Chamber Orchestra gave a pair of performances with the fabulous klezmer clarinetist David Krakauer that ArtsWatch’s Angela Allen called “an exuberant trip through celebratory and revived Eastern European Jewish (Ashkenazi) music.” She also happily proclaimed Krakauer “the dapper undisputed rock star/king/god of the klezmer clarinet.”
Seasonal sounds abound. As I was making notes for this column I was listening to a favorite Christmas CD, the wondrous Portland choral group In Mulieribus‘s 2010 recording A December Feast, which includes music from the 12th through the 20th centuries. By happy circumstance, the choir is also preparing a new program, Love’s Pure Light, for a pair of live performances Dec. 19-20 at Portland’s St. Mary’s Cathedral. Daryl Browne has details on those shows and several by other choral groups in her column Choral musicians of the Pacific Northwest, reconnected.
Among a host of other offerings, a few go-yourself-or-take-the-whole-family options catch my eye:
- Portland’s fun-loving marching samba band Lions of Batucada is teaming with Go Samba and the music store Rhythm Traders for a Brazil Day celebration 11:30 a.m.-6:30 p.m. this Saturday, Dec. 18, at Rhythm Traders, 3904 N.E. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. There’ll be a free samba class at 11:30, demonstrations of Brazilian percussion instruments all day, performances at 2 and 4 p.m., and “a rumored appearance by Samba Claus.”
- Oregon Children’s Theatre’s holiday extravaganza Merry Happy Everything! is nearing the end of its merriment; you can catch one of its final five performances Friday-Sunday, Dec. 17-19, in the Brunish Theatre of Portland’5 Centers for the Arts.
- Another family-theater fixture, Portland Revels – part of the international Revels movement that includes the likes of Morris dancing, old-time musical instruments, dragons, caroling, and other solstice-y entertainments – is back, this year in a trio of live-streamed performances Dec. 17, 19, and 21, called Portland Jam. The shows will then be available to stream Dec. 22-Jan. 10.
At the airport, a cultural banner flies high
PORTLAND INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT is moving into high-traffic holiday season, and when the crowds hit the airport’s newly refurbished Concourse B they’ll be greeted not just by incoming and departing flights but also by a 50-foot-wide Oregon cultural banner installed on Tuesday. The banner, designed and painted by Eugene artist Liza Mana Burns, is a replication of her design for the new Oregon Cultural Trust vehicle license plate, which was released in September: You can read about it here.
Tuesday’s unveiling – banners had already been hung at airports in Medford, Redmond, and Eugene – showed off Burns’s design in wide-screen glory: a depiction of the state’s land and water with 127 cultural symbols embedded in it. The installation also includes a new 16-foot mural by Burns, along with 40 of the license-plate artwork’s symbols and their stories. (You can access an interactive key to all 127 symbols via a QR code.) Among the celebrants at Tuesday’s ceremony were the Grand Ronde Singers and members of the performance troupe Kúkátónón, who were joined by hip-hop star Cool Nutz, primary source for the description of artwork symbol #124: Microphone/Rap and Hip Hop. With their performances, you might say the whole celebration took flight.
ArtsWatch & the Cultural Trust: Double your impact
THE CULTURAL TRUST’S MURAL AND LICENSE-PLATE PROJECT is just a small slice of the work it does to help keep Oregon arts and culture thriving. Here at ArtsWatch, we have the same goal – and you can help. December is a time of giving, and we’re grateful for the many individuals, foundations, and agencies who have helped us grow and thrive over the years. We celebrate ten years of publishing this year, and thanks to your generosity, over that decade we’ve considerably expanded of our coverage of arts and culture in Oregon. ArtsWatch is a nonprofit journalistic enterprise, which means we rely on the help of friends and readers who believe in what we do. To so many of you reading this, thank you for the support you’ve given us. As the year draws to a close we’d like to ask you to give again, or for the first time, to help us continue to report on the state of Oregon’s culture as all of us deal with the many changes and challenges the past two years have brought. Just click on the graphic below or here to make your gift. Thank you!
THANKS TO OREGON’S INNOVATIVE CULTURAL TRUST TAX CREDIT, you can make a donation to Oregon ArtsWatch and essentially double your gift by matching your donation to the Oregon Cultural Trust. It works like this: You can make a gift to ArtsWatch or any other nonprofit arts, heritage, or humanities groups from a long list, then make a gift of the same amount (you can bundle several eligible donations, within limits) and receive 100 percent of your Cultural Trust donation back as a credit on your state income tax. The Cultural Trust, in turn, dispenses your gift to worthy groups across the state. Click below or on the link in this paragraph for details, And, thanks doubly!
Museum show: Private lives of the Nabis
WALLPAPER AND BABIES: THE NABIS AT PORTLAND ART MUSEUM. The museum’s expansive show of 180 works by the Nabis, the group of young artists in fin de siècle Paris, concentrates on Pierre Bonnard, Edouard Vuillard, Maurice Denis, and Félix Vallotton and their home lives as the young artists were establishing their careers. Maybe their youth and ambition, Laurel Reed Pavic suggests would make a better frame than home life for the show’s art: “The whole background of the Nabis sounds like a setup for a coming-of-age film. … Youthful self-importance, young love, portfolio-building, and weird babies? Now, there’s a theme with broad appeal.”
Movie remakes, Cold Flows, unharnessed energy
FILMWATCH WEEKLY: “NIGHTMARE ALLEY” AND “SWAN SONG.” Marc Mohan takes a look at Guillermo Del Toro’s new big-star version of the 1947 film noir Nightmare Alley, thinks some more about Stephen Spielberg’s new West Side Story, and considers the perils and possibilities of remakes. Then he digs below the surface of the sci-fi flick Swan Song, in which Mahershala Ali gives appealing performances as a terminally ill man and his clone, and considers the us and downs of the double take.
“COLD FLOW, A SLOWER FOUNTAIN” AT HOLDING CONTEMPORARY. Hanna Krafcik takes in the artist cooperative Physical Education’s DIY exhibition, which weaves the history of their collaboration into personal gift shop memorabilia, and which curator Ashley Stull Meyers calls a “chaotic reflection on moving in this era of physical and functional distance.”
WEEKLY PREVIEWS: UNHARNESSED ENERGY. Robert Ham talks with the pianist Saloli and with Julia McGarrity, singer/songwriter of folk/pop ensemble June Magnolia, about their music and their upcoming shows.
Starting over: Music in Ashland, theater on the Coast
RED OCTOPUS GETS BACK IN THE SWIM. It’s been two years since Newport’s Red Octopus Theatre Company performed a live show – back to its last Christmas show, in 2019, before Covid shut things down. At last the company’s back onstage with its new holiday entertainment – called, as always, The Christmas Show, although it changes with every edition – for two performances this Friday and Saturday, Dec. 17-18, at the Newport Performing Arts Center. It’s part of a continuing comeback for the arts center, too, which was dark for a year and a half before reopening for live shows this fall.
CHAMBER MUSIC IN THE TIME OF COVID. After long pandemic layoffs filled with streaming concerts but no live shows, Ashland’s Chamber Music Concerts series has returned to the stage for concert-hall performances with audiences in the hall. Alice Hardesty talks with cellist David Ying of the Ying Quartet and violist Ruth Gibson of the Castalian Quintet about how good that feels.