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Beaverton Symphony’s Travis Hatton dies

Hatton had led the orchestra for a dozen years. Plus: A memorial concert for PSU's Mary Hall Kogen, radio raves, more music news.

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Travis Hatton conducting Opera in the Park. Andie Petkus Photography

We’re saddened to open this occasional roundup of Oregon classical music news with Monday’s sudden death of Beaverton Symphony music director Travis Hatton. During the dozen years he led the orchestra, Hatton created its annual Young Artist Concerto Competition, and showcased at least one work by a living Northwest composer each season — a commitment I wish every orchestra and classical ensemble in Oregon would adopt. He also conducted the Sunnyside Symphony Orchestra, the Salem Philharmonia Orchestra, and worked with orchestras around the country and in Europe. All Classical Portland host Christa Wessel will honor Hatton’s life on the air today – Friday, October 7 – at 2 p.m. Pacific Time. 

“My dear, dear family, friends, friends of friends, colleagues, complete strangers… Travis’s students, faculty, fellow musicians and friends – all of you… There are no words for the devastation that we as a family are feeling,” Hatton’s wife, Lynelle, wrote. “We have been following your posts and are overwhelmed at the outpouring of grief and support from literally hundreds of you – and yet we are not the least bit surprised. My Travis – our Travis – was also your Travis: kind, generous, funny, loyal, hard-working and extremely devoted to his family and his music.

“Travis died on Monday of an apparent cardiac event. He was resting peacefully when I found him and seemed not to have experienced any pain or even knowledge of what had happened. He was simply gone. Our hearts are broken and our universe has been altered in an unfathomable way. … (Y)our heartfelt support and words of comfort are felt deeply.”

Many Oregon musicians and music followers have responded with sorrow to Hatton’s death. “Travis had a great sense of humor, a serious appreciation for music, and a love for educating those who were interested in learning more about the music and composers he and his organizations were presenting,” the band 3 Leg Torso, which collaborated twice on concerts with Hatton and the Beaverton orchestra, wrote in a Facebook post. “We send our love to his family, colleagues, and closest friends. Travis will be greatly missed.”

All Classical Portland has assembled a page in Hatton’s memory, here.

A memorial service has been scheduled for 4 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 30, at Sunnyside Adventist Church, 10501 S.E. Market St., Portland.

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Mary Hall Kogen.

The life of another longtime fixture on the Oregon music scene, Mary Hall Kogen, will be celebrated at 4 p.m. October 23 in a free concert in Lincoln Recital Hall at Portland State University, where she taught piano and pedagogy for almost three decades. PSU faculty members Susan Chan, Hamilton Cheifetz, Chuck Dillard, Darrell Grant, Julia Lee, Lisa Marsh, and Connie Titterington will honor the memory of their colleague in a concert that also includes her granddaughter Elli Busam and current PSU student Benjamin Gimm. The school’s Coordinate Movement Program, which she helped found, has created a scholarship in her name, which is accepting contributions in her memory.

Arrivals & Departures

Wynn Kiyama, moving on from Portland Taiko.

Another PSU prof, Wynn Kiyama, who teaches musicology and ethnomusicology and serves as the school’s music history coordinator, has stepped down from his position as executive director of Portland Taiko, which he led for seven years. The organization’s announcement praised his “record-breaking fundraising campaigns, an influx of regional and state grants, six balanced budgets, strong reserve funds, the construction of a festival float, a gala 25th anniversary celebration, and the winning proposal for hosting the biennial North American Taiko Conference,” along with spearheading PT’s Sound in Motion with Taiko Project (2016), Taiko Together with four Portland-based taiko groups (2017), Sticks and Strings with a commission by Kenji Bunch and Fear No Music, and more, including curating the museum exhibit Making Waves: Portland Taiko’s 25th Anniversary at the Japanese Museum of Oregon, teaching online classes during the pandemic, and guiding the group back to in-person activities.

Braeden Ayres, new leader of Portland Gay Men’s Chorus.

Portland Gay Men’s Chorus appointed Dr. Braeden Ayres its new Artistic Director and Conductor. He previously served as the Assistant Artistic Director of Out Loud: The Colorado Springs Men’s Chorus and led a successful career in secondary music education. Ayres is also an active, award-winning composer.

Isabella Vickers joins In Mulieribus.

Portland’s In Mulieribus vocal ensemble has hired Isabella Vickers as its first Executive Director. The music educator and arts administrator has held leadership roles with the Oregon Symphony, Oregon Repertory Singers, Portland State University Music Department, and membership on the Boards of Friends of Chamber Music and the OSU-Corvallis Symphony.

Pat Zagelow at Friends of Chamber Music’s Dinner with Friends in 2019. Photo: John Green

Friends of Chamber Music executive director Pat Zagelow began her term on the board of the nation’s most prominent chamber music organization, Chamber Music America

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We were hoping to tell you about the Oregon Bach Festival’s choice of a new artistic director about now, but as Amy Adams noted in her OAW coverage of this summer’s fest, the organization has decided to extend and expand its search. We’ll keep you posted.

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Speaking of Bach, check out this video from another Eugene-based music hub, Central Lutheran Church’s magnificent Brombaugh organ, featuring Hungarian organist Bálint Karosi and a cameo by the instrument’s creator himself. 

Radio Daze

Portland’s All Classical Radio’s playlists just keep getting hipper and hipper, with more new music, including works by Oregon composers, and not just during the always fascinating weekly Club Mod. This month we can welcome the release of AMPLIFY, a new album featuring new works that the station commissioned from rising composers of color Jasmine Barnes, Lauren McCall, and Keyla Orozco, plus older works by French composer Melanie Helene Bonis and 20th century African American composer Coleridge-Taylor Perkinson. It’s part of the station’s admirable Recording Inclusivity Initiative, which we’ve told you about before. Next time, how about Oregon’s premier classical radio station give some love to Oregon composers, and help get Oregon music out on the international airwaves and inter tubes? 

All Classical Portland is also adding a new show to its Sunday lineup, as host Lynnsay Maynard devotes the noon hour to exploring the intersection of classical music and literature (think of the many musical masterworks based on novels, plays, et al), which should appeal to notoriously book-loving Oregonians. I still await a weekly show devoted entirely to Oregon classical music; there’s plenty out there, from eminences like Lou Harrison, Tomas Svoboda, David Schiff and Robert Kyr, and more being recorded all the time. 

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The busy station also announced its latest Young Artist in Residence, 16-year-old double bass player Maggie Carter, along with expanding the estimable program to include a quartet of Young Artist Ambassadors: 16-year-old Grant High School sophomore Noah Carr, violin; 17- year-old South Salem High School junior Diego Fernandez, flute; 18-year-old Grant High School senior Ben Price, oboe; and 18-year-old Oregon Episcopal School senior Nate Strothkamp, violin. “The six-month young artist roles include a financial award to support continued studies, opportunities to perform on radio programs and at events, as well as access to All Classical Portland’s expansive network, recording facilities, and digital archives,” the press release informs us. “The Artists in Residence (AIR) program is a part of JOY (Joyous Outreach to You/th), All Classical Portland’s initiatives dedicated to equity and inclusion.” It’s hard to think of another station that’s created so many ambitious, public spirited initiatives, all begun since Suzanne Nance assumed All Classical’s leadership.

Kudos

One Oregon classical music institution — which happens to share a home with All Classical Portland — that did create an artistic opportunity for an Oregon composer is Portland Opera, which commissioned composer (and PO’s own interim artistic director) Damien Geter and librettist and author Lorene Cary to create a new opera, Jubilee, that links the heroic story of the original Fisk University Jubilee Singers with their current, Grammy-winning descendants. “Jubilee investigates Black legacy, love, death, trauma, and joy,” the company announced, and assuming the busy Geter (an occasional ArtsWatch contributor) can somehow find the time to get all those notes on the page amid the overwhelming flurry of commissions that have come his way, Oregonians will be able to see it at Portland’s Newmark Theatre in March 2026.

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Rose Ann Abrahamson and Justin Ralls, telling Sacagawea’s story.

Another Portland opera company, Opera Theater Oregon, just landed a Creative Heights award from the Oregon Community Foundation to support its new original opera Nu Nah-Hup: Sacajawea’s Story, created by a librettist and Culture Bearer Rose Ann Abrahamson (Sacajawea’s great-great-great-grandniece), Shoshone flutist and composer Hovia Edwards, Portland composer Justin Ralls, and dramaturg Katherine Goforth. That’s on top of the $25,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Arts for the project we told you about earlier.

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Portland State professor and violin virtuoso Tomas Cotik’s recent, rapturously reviewed recording of solo fiddle music by the prolific and elegant Baroque composer Georg Philipp Telemann has been named a Silver Medalist in the annual Global Music Awards.

Oregon visual artists have until Monday, October 10, to submit an application for another music-related commission: a grant from Eugene’s Chamber Music Amici to create three original works to promote its upcoming season on posters and other announcements. Now in its 14th year, the program also bestows on the chosen artist an exhibition at Springfield’s Emerald Art Center and more.

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Diane Retallack, inducted into the Recording Academy.

Eugene Concert Choir and Vocal Arts Ensemble artistic director Diane Retallack was inducted into the Recording Academy (mission: “recognize excellence in the recording arts and sciences, cultivate the well-being of the music community, and ensure that music remains an indelible part of our culture,”), which also produces the Grammy Awards. 

The choir’s Highlights & Harmony fundraiser happens Friday, October 14, at Lane Event Center’s Wheeler Pavilion, and its next concert (with superb Portland-based soloists Arwen Myers and Hannah Penn) November 13 at Eugene’s Soreng Theater. Meanwhile, you can stream its newly released album, In Celebration of Women.

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Finally, although we were bummed to learn of the pandemic-induced demise of Eugene’s Sessions Music Hall (formerly Hi-Fi Music Hall) at the end of this month after seven-plus years of hosting concerts, we are happy to welcome Portland’s first classical music themed bar, Mendelssohn’s, at 3955 N. Mississippi Ave. It’s another creative product of owner Lisa Lipton, a descendant of the bar’s namesake, Felix Mendelssohn, and also a fine clarinetist and executive director of Opera Theater Oregon (see above) and the Newport Symphony. Along with weekly performances of chamber and solo sounds and classical music-themed adult beverages, the club calendar also includes karaoke, “operoke” (with live accompanists) and more. 

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Got more news about Oregon music or other arts? Please let us know at music@orartswatch.org

Brett Campbell is a frequent contributor to The Oregonian, San Francisco Classical Voice, Oregon Quarterly, and Oregon Humanities. He has been classical music editor at Willamette Week, music columnist for Eugene Weekly, and West Coast performing arts contributing writer for the Wall Street Journal, and has also written for Portland Monthly, West: The Los Angeles Times Magazine, Salon, Musical America and many other publications. He is a former editor of Oregon Quarterly and The Texas Observer, a recipient of arts journalism fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts (Columbia University), the Getty/Annenberg Foundation (University of Southern California) and the Eugene O’Neill Center (Connecticut). He is co-author of the biography Lou Harrison: American Musical Maverick (Indiana University Press, 2017) and several plays, and has taught news and feature writing, editing and magazine publishing at the University of Oregon School of Journalism & Communication and Portland State University.

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