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Anderson & Roe: Daring Musical Mix

The acclaimed bicoastal piano duo brings a Portland twist — and adult beverages — to Portland Piano International's multimedia extravaganza

Allow music to transform you. The prerequisites for transformation: the openness to experience events and the willingness to be changed by them. — Anderson & Roe, A Music Listening Manifesto.

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Performers around the world are coping with the pandemic-induced shutdowns in many ways. For one of America’s most celebrated classical music duos, the sudden deprivation of the thrill — not to mention the income — of touring and live performance drove them to drink. But not quite in the way you might expect.

Alcohol — specifically, mixology — will be on the menu at Anderson & Roe’s live-streamed Saturday and Sunday performances presented by Portland Piano International. But the duo’s Virtual Piano Extravaganza program also boasts birds, video, photography, and plenty of Portlanders. Plus, yes, alcohol.

Anderson & Roe. Photo: Lisa Maria Mazzucco.

It’s a wildly experimental two-day presentation — make that party — that creatively tries to solve a pressing dilemma. How do musicians create substitutes for the very elements — intimacy, spontaneity, connection — that make live performance so attractive to audiences and performers alike?  

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Music Notes: gone virtual

With so many performances going online, our news roundup follows suit with video and audio from Oregon musicians

With so many performances going online, our news roundup follows suit with video and audio from Oregon musicians for your home streaming enjoyment

Since we’re all streaming instead of attending these days, this latest edition of our irregular music news roundup accordingly boasts lots of  recent music related video and audio treats to tune into while we impatiently await the return of live music. And it’s replete with announcements of upcoming music seasons gone virtual. Since for the most part we can’t actually be there, we’ll just have to be square — or actually (checks screen dimensions) rectangular.

Double Dash offered a behind-the-scenes peek at the improvisational creative process.

However, live music is creeping back in occasional, socially distanced performances featuring a few musicians and spaced-out audience members. Last time, we told you about the Driveway Jazz Series (streamable socially distanced outdoor performances by top Portland jazz artists held in front of a bungalow in Southeast Portland, which continues every Friday at 4 pm), Boom Arts’s parking lot shows, and Eugene Symphony/Delgani Quartet cellist Eric Alterman’s solo recitals (featuring his own music and J.S. Bach’s) in a Eugene park. Now comes news that pianist Hunter Noack’s In a Landscape project and the Oregon Garden have each found ways to bring the music back to live. 

• On August 21–23, IAL will present Noack at Sunriver Resort as part of the Sunriver Music Festival (which Noack’s mom used to run), in three already sold out performances with strict social distancing rules: masks, spacing, sterilized headphones or bring your own. The site also wisely warns that refunds will provided if state and local regulations require it.

• The Oregon Garden’s Tunes and Tastings Summer Concert Series opens Friday with country singer Britney Kellogg, turns toward smooth jazz with Patrick Lamb’s quintet August 14, and presents an act every Friday, through rock violinist Aaron Meyer’s September 4 show. All shows feature local wine and beer tastings and safety guidelines including six-foot separation between household groups, face coverings etc. 

Of course it helps that both series were already located in magnificent scenic Oregon outdoor landscapes, and science keeps reaffirming that being outside is about as safe as it gets, virus wise, these days.

• Eugene singer Laura Wayte and keyboardist Nathalie Fortin are doing a pair of porch/driveway shows Friday and Sunday, featuring an eclectic mix of music by great American composers including Cole Porter, Samuel Barber, Paul Bowles and more, plus German songs by Meyerbeer, even some sea shanties.

If you want to hear live music, with a bonus of Oregon natural beauty, these outdoor shows might be the best chance to do so before the rains and darkness return, and the music goes away again. Shows like these could provide a test run for other music presenters hoping to find alfresco alternatives to live performance.

• Speaking of Sunriver festival, its first-ever Festival Faire online auction begins today, August 6, and runs through August 11. Register online to help support music education scholarships, festival performances and more.

Last week’s story by Portland opera singer Onry mentioned his film in progress about Black Lives Matter. Today, he released a music video drawn from that project, Livin’ in the Light.

• One of the many events we were looking forward to experiencing live before the deadly twin viral afflictions of COVID-19 and presidential malfeasance struck was a performance of Portland composer Darrell Grant’s Ruby Bridges Suite. Here’s an inspirational taste of what we missed, with newly added connections to today’s crises. 

Grant just dropped a new video, Take Flight, featuring vocalist Michelle Willis and co-created with filmmaker Adolfo Cantú-Villarreal and visual artist Alex Chiu. Half of all funds raised through the release on his social media channels and Bandcamp will be donated to the Portland branch of the national non-profit Friends of the Children, an organization breaking the cycle of generational poverty through one-on-one youth support. To support the project, make a direct donation to Paypal.me/Takeflightsong, through Venmo or Cashapp, or purchase through Bandcamp. And, for another week or so on All Classical’s Played in Oregon, you can hear more Grant music performed in Portland back in November with his MJ New Quartet.

Portland Jazz Composers Ensemble Online series last weekend featured Portland duo Double Dash. Drummer Machado Mijiga and keyboardist Dario LaPoma took an online audience behind the scenes as they workshopped original compositions for an upcoming album project — a fascinating glimpse of how music is born and evolves, from the inside. 

• We at ArtsWatch grieve the apparent if so far unannounced departure of Oregon Public Broadcasting’s State of Wonder show and its whip-smart founding host, April Baer, who left for Michigan. But the station still offers occasional artsy treats like these videos.

Portlanders joined the national outpouring of violin vigils lamenting the atrocity in Colorado that resulted in the death of gentle violinist Elijah McClain.

And here’s a cool OPB story featuring Portland drummer/composer/entomologist Lisa Schonberg’s creative work with music and … ants.

Cascadia Composers continues to present new music from its members via Cascadia Streams, a monthly livestream series hosted by Daniel Brugh. Check its website regularly for updates on those and other livestreamed concerts, including the latest addition, the In Good Hands recital we told you about last month.

•  Portland classical music commentator and violinist Casey Bozell has launched ​Keep Classical Weird​, a new 15-20 minute weekly podcast that “connects the Portland arts scene to weirdness in classical music at large,” according to the press release. “Casey explores all manner of kooky, mysterious and outlandish oddities associated with the wide world of classical music…. With friendly cameos from local and national figures in classical music, this is a light-hearted and joyful look at why weirdness in classical music is part of what makes this art form so special.” Find it on Apple podcasts, Spotify podcasts, or Google podcasts 

• We’ve posted several stories recounting the educational adventures of intrepid Metropolitan Youth Symphony Music Director Raúl Gómez-Rojas. Hear him talk about his own life with Third Angle New Music’s Sarah Tiedemann.

Regrets & Reschedulings

• Not all outdoor concerts will work amid the pandemic, of course. Last weekend, Pickathon fans had to be content with watching (excellent!) archived videos from our home screens instead of Pendarvis Farm, just as last month’s Northwest String Summit moved from Horning’s Hideout in North Plains to your screen. The Eugene Symphony’s summer concerts, which would have been happening in Cuthbert Amphitheater and in Cottage Grove and Roseburg, have been canceled, and all remaining 2019-20 concerts postponed till next season, leaving fans to connect only through its Virtual Hub, which we detailed in last month’s roundup. 

Eugene Concert Choir cautiously announced its new season, commencing in November with a concert dedicated to women’s voices, with a caveat that each program is “being creatively re-imagined to include a mix of live and recorded content.” Exact details are still up in the air, much like the respiratory droplets that make choral music so problematic these days, but the choir is figuring out how to sing in a way that protects both choristers and audients. 

• Portland’s Choral Arts Ensemble put its next season on hold, canceling its opening October show and “will make a call on the rest of our season’s concerts as more information comes in,” the announcement reads. “We recognize that the situation is changing rapidly, and that there is a strong possibility of a ‘second wave’ this fall.” 

• The Oregon Symphony canceled the rest of its 2020 concerts and — well, let symphony prez Scott Showalter tell you the rest.

Please do help out your favorite organizations by checking out their current plans — and being patient and flexible in the likely event they change.

• After what it termed a successful virtual summer festival, Chamber Music Northwest has decided to take its 2020-21 season digital, again streaming live performances to audience living rooms. We’ll tell you more about this summer’s festival, and the upcoming season, soon. 

Friends of Chamber Music is moving its four fall 2020 concerts online, with the Pacifica Quartet, Richard Goode and Sarah Shafer, Tambuco Percussion and Faure Piano Quartet performing virtually instead of at Lincoln Hall or Kaul Auditorium. For now, the 2021 shows remain scheduled for Portland venues.

Oregon Mandolin Orchestra is taking a course navigated by other music organizations by periodically posting past concerts online, while producing “a COVID, socially distanced performance video of orchestra members playing separately in their own homes, but united by modern technical magic and a longing to play music,” and planning to resume live performances in 2021.

Oregon Koto-Kai’s annual October concert has gone temporarily digital, but not before making face-masked performance last month at the Portland Japanese Garden. 

By the way, both those last two groups play Western classical music along with the rest of their diverse menus. You can find a helping of Handel and a dash of Vivaldi among many treats at their respective websites, YouTube channels and social media outlets.

Kudos

• We’re big fans of the words and music of Portland composer, singer and occasional ArtsWatch contributor Damien Geter, but we’ve been jonesing to see more of his trenchant thoughts on our pages. It’s hard to be too miffed at his absence here, though, since he’s drowning — or at least swimming — in commissions for new music. While Geter’s African American Requiem premiere was pandemically postponed till January by Oregon Symphony and Resonance Ensemble, he’s hard at work on new commissions from Washington Choral and Washington National Opera, and just received another from Portland’s Opera Theater Oregon to compose a new work for voice and chamber ensemble adapted from the prologue of Ralph Ellison’s classic novel​, ​Invisible Man. 

Damien Geter and Catherine Olson in Opera Theater Oregon’s ‘The Little Prince.’ Photo: Theodore Sweeney

You can hear the premiere of yet another new Geter creation, Neo-Soul, this coming November 19 on All Classical Portland radio and online. The station commissioned Geter’s first string quartet along with another new work to be broadcast, a poem by another Resonance Ensemble performer and multifaceted Portland creative “heARTivist,” writer S. Renee Mitchell.

Geter and soprano Karen Slack have also been appointed as Artistic Advisors to Portland Opera, where Geter has sung in many productions. In  a medium many decry as racist, the company is commendably seeking the two African American artists’ advice on “expanded repertoire, casting, public programming, and community engagement.” 

• Of the five winners of Oregon’s 2020 Governor’s Arts Awards, two were Portland musicians: composer/pianist/educator Darrell Grant, and Portland Gay Men’s Chorus. They’ll be celebrated during a virtual ceremony at 7 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 12, on the Oregon Arts Commission Facebook page.

• Portland composers Luz Mendoza, Olivia Awbrey, Susan Chan and ArtsWatch contributor Christina Rusnak received Oregon Arts Commission grants to support creative work, tours or residencies.

Random Notes

• Portland writer Aaron Gilbreath offers reading lists for classical, hip hop, jazz, and country music newbies. 

• Clean sweep. Portland’5 Centers for the Arts became one of the first performing arts centers to pursue Global Biorisk Advisory Council STARTM accreditation, which the press release calls “the gold standard for prepared facilities…. Portland’5 will implement the most stringent protocols for cleaning, disinfection and infectious disease prevention at the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall, Keller Auditorium, and the Brunish, Winningstad and Newmark theatres in Antoinette Hatfield Hall.”

• “I really fear for classical music in America. We’re a slow-moving art form, not particularly able to adapt to change.” How are classical composers and performers navigating the shutdowns? It’s tough.

• The future of orchestra music? One word for you: crossover. “A marketing machine capitalized on the ideas we had about classical music, manufactured an entire genre for it, succeeded for a while, then lost us the moment our imagination shifted.” Before the pandemic struck, orchestras were finding success in gaining cultural relevance — and customers — through new kinds of crossover concerts.  YouTube chic?

• We know music can heal. Here’s how one scientist / musician does it. 

• Remember, tomorrow, the first Friday in August, is Bandcamp’s monthly fee-free day, so if you go there and purchase music by Oregon artists — like, say, any of the many recordings we surveyed in our recent threepart series — the artists get to keep 100 percent of whatever you pay.

• Who says early music has to be staid? I’m waiting for Portland Baroque Orchestra to try this…

… but until then, you can always catch PBO’s new season, which — whoa!– opens Friday night with a live-streamed performance featuring violin goddess and PBO music director Monica Huggett and fellow baroque music superstar Byron Schenkman performing several of J.S. Bach’s lambent sonatas for violin and harpsichord.

• I always enjoy ArtsWatcher Marty Hughley’s sign- offs: best thing I read this week. Here’s a few I spotted recently.

“It’s a privilege to have a “safe haven” where you can squeeze your Airpods into your auditory canals and block out the ongoing calls for racial equality, the protests against police brutality, or the other literal cries for help from marginalized communities that have been amplified by bands like Rage.” —  Jelisa Castrodale, Vice 

“I don’t miss concerts half as much as I miss running into people at concerts.” -— Marc Weidenbaum, Disquiet

“I enjoy listening to classical music, but even more I enjoy telling people I enjoy listening to classical music.” — Stephen Colbert

Got more music news you think ArtsWatch readers need to know? Let us know in the comments section below, or email music@orartswatch.org.

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The Art of Astrology

Renee Sills, founder of Embodied Astrology, talks about developing a creative life with help from the cosmos

For many, the time-honored tradition of astrology is a staple of contemporary life in confusing times. With the psychic upheaval this tumultuous year has brought us, it seems fitting to turn to the cosmos for guidance. As it so happens, it has a lot to say!

Renee Sills (she/her & they/them), a local artist and founder of Embodied Astrology, offered me some insight into the signs of the times. Sills’ astrology practice draws on artistic interests—which include dance and social practice. In a recent conversation, we discussed how her work with the cosmos interweaves with her creative life.

In popular culture, astrology is associated with horoscopes. Take, for example, Puerto Rican astrologer Walter Mercado, whose beloved horoscopes are chronicled on the recent Netflix documentary Mucho Mucho Amor. Usually horoscopes offer advice for each sun sign in the zodiac, and the reader can apply that advice to such personal affairs as relationships, careers, and finances.

Photo by Salty Xi Jie Ng for the #EABodiesProject creative exchange

Embodied Astrology, however, differentiates itself from that general approach through its focus on “embodiment”—a term that can encompass one’s personal and ancestral history, identity, movement and physical sensations, among other meanings. This relationship of astrology to embodiment is not new. In the ancient practice of medical astrology, each sign in the zodiac also “rules” or connects to various body parts. Sills sometimes works with medical astrology methods in her practice with clients. She has suggested that, “If you can speak from your body, oftentimes, you can speak to the truth of something.”

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Black Opera: Singing Over Ourselves

The Portland opera singer Onry raises his voice for inclusion


By ONRY


I was born and raised in Portland, Oregon, often called “the Whitest City in America.” I’m a Black opera singer, dancer, actor, composer, musician, and educator. I strive to weave all these worlds together and bring culture and diversity to my listeners.

When I was around seven years old, I turned on the TV one day and saw my first opera. It was on the only channel that came through at the time. I sat down, and I started to recognize the grand gestures of 1990s Marvel superheroes. Many may think opera is a stuffy thing, but for this seven-year-old’s eyes, it was full of villains, people cheating on one another, hearts being broken, death, betrayal. Fascinated, I ran to my siblings and to my stepdad and said, “I want to be an opera singer! Oooo-ooh!” I hadn’t hit puberty yet. I had this high soprano voice, and I was singing around.

Onry singing at Yale Union. Photo: Tiana Avila

Little did I know, years before I was born, my mother also wanted to be an opera singer. She auditioned and was accepted for the Portland Opera. Then someone came along and told her that she couldn’t do it because she had three kids. She gave up that dream and never told me until later in life.

When I was ten years old, my father passed away, and there wasn’t a lot of conversation around his death. From that moment on, I went mute. I was quiet that entire year, except for when I made music. People didn’t have a chance to get to know me. One thing I held close was music. I would sing over myself. I’d weep and cry. I would sing hymns from church. Songs would comfort and console me.

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A new home for the Native Arts and Cultures Foundation

Yale Union transfers its building at SE 10th and Morrison to the Native Arts and Cultures Foundation and will dissolve by the end of 2021

by ROBERT HAM

About two years ago, T. Lulani Arquette, president and CEO of the Native Arts and Cultures Foundation (NACF), got a call out of the blue from Yoko Ott, a fellow former Hawaiian and a fellow figure working in the field of arts and culture. Ott had recently been hired as the new executive director of Yale Union, the nonprofit contemporary art organization, and she invited Arquette over to their headquarters on SE Morrison. 

“I thought we were just getting together to catch up,” Arquette remembers, “and ‘talk story’ as we say in Hawaii.” 

Instead, Ott had something much bigger in mind: she and Yale Union wanted to transfer ownership of their building, and the land it sits on, to NACF. 

T. Lulani Arquette. Photo courtesy of the Native Arts and Cultures Foundation.

“I was stunned into silence,” Arquette says. “I was shocked. Pleasingly shocked. This has been a really amazing experience and very profound for all of us that are involved.” 

The shockwaves have yet to die down since the transfer was announced this past Thursday, especially as their joint news release also included the detail that, at the end of next year, Yale Union would dissolve their nonprofit and cease operations. 

That decision, as well as the building transfer, came as a result of long discussions that Ott had with Yale Union co-founder and board president Flint Jamison after she took over as executive director in 2018 after the abrupt resignation of acting director (and YU’s other founder) Curtis Knapp. 

“Our conversations concerned problems around art institutions as well as society at large,” Jamison said, via email. “We talked about resisting the drive for growth, slowing down the pace of programming, insisting on different modes of earning funds to pay artists, and about the development we saw happening in our inner SE neighborhood. More broadly, we talked about just what role an art institution could play in proposing models for restorative social change. We didn’t want to put out any statements. We wanted to do something.” 

The choice of NACF as the recipient of their goodwill gesture was a deliberate one. All of the land that Portland was built on was once the home of various Native tribes, including the Multnomah, Clackamas, Kathlamet, and Chinook, and the space that Yale Union occupies on 10th and Morrison was prime fishing and hunting ground for those original residents. The building that sits on that space now has further historical resonance as it served as an industrial laundry in the first part of the 20th century and became central to a 1919 labor strike and fight to unionize the workers, almost all of them women. 

“We realized this is such an incredible opportunity when you think of what that place represents,” Arquette says. “The land that the building is on and what it was used for before it was built. It carries a memory.”

Historic Yale Union Building at 800 SE 10th Avenue.

The building will soon become the Center for Native Arts and Cultures and the NACF’s new headquarters. As the press release announcing the transfer put it, it “will be a vibrant gathering place for Indigenous artists and local partnerships. It will provide space to present and exhibit, places to practice culture and make art, and areas for cultural ceremony and celebration.”  

While Arquette says that she and her team can move into the building as soon as they want to, the bigger vision for the space is a long way down the road. NACF already has architectural and design plans for renovations for the interior of the building, including some much-needed seismic upgrades. And they’ve already chosen the construction company to do the work. Now, they just need to raise the money to pay for it all. When I spoke with Arquette last week, she was scheduled to speak with consultants about starting a capital campaign for these renovations. To see their dreams become a reality, she says, they’ll need to raise at least $15 million. 

In the meantime, NACF and Yale Union will collaborate on some future exhibitions and events that will hopefully be open to visitors next year. Already in the works is a solo show from Marianne Nicolson, a Canadian artist and member of the Dzawada’enuxw tribe who blends modern media with presentations of Native art and expressions, that will hopefully open in the spring of 2021. 

A huge source of pride for Arquette and her team at NACF in accepting this transfer and moving forward with their plans is that, by doing so, they’re honoring the legacy of Ott, who died from unknown causes a mere six months after accepting the role of executive director of Yale Union. 

“This has been very profound for all of us involved,” Arquette says. “The tragedy and the joy of this process has been really powerful. Because of the nature of how this all started, we kind of feel like there was an angel sitting on our shoulders guiding us through this process.”

Pandemic Ed: Dancing remotely and well

Dancers will dance, together in the studio or, these days, together on Zoom

As dance studios start to look towards re-opening—clad in masks and doused in hand sanitizer—ArtsWatch takes a moment to look at what’s been happening at home for the past four months. That involved dancers and instructors re-arranging their bedrooms, kitchens, and living rooms to create makeshift dance spaces at home. And specifically for dance teachers, it also has meant adapting a new technology for an old form: dance classes on Zoom.

While the rest of us may have been using the video chatting app for tedious work meetings (with your camera off to shield your coworkers from the fact that you’ve been in pajamas since March), dancers (perhaps also in pajamas) have found a different use for the software: joining meetings a few times a week to wiggle and move around in their homes making that 8-count work from their alternative spaces. 

I entered the reporting for this story skeptical of dance via Zoom. I was certain that in interviewing kids, teachers, and adult students about their thoughts on Zoom class for this article, I’d be putting a nail in the coffin of online dance. After taking a few classes via Zoom myself, I’d hit about every piece of furniture in my room, knocked over a cactus plant, and reckoned with the fact that I could only hear every 6th beat of the music—not to mention half of the instructor’s words. To put it in a nutshell, I wasn’t satisfied. Thinking everyone felt the same, I was expecting this article to end up being an ode to the beloved practice of dancing together in studios and how much the community is struggling without it.


THE ART OF LEARNING: An Occasional Series


Well, I was wrong. Thanks to a dose of creativity, there’s been a lot of progress made in training via Zoom. Those coffin nails are back in their boxes and the dancers are moving about the world just fine.

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$50 million? It’s a beginning

ArtsWatch Weekly: An emergency lifeline to Oregon's cultural sector staves off pandemic disaster. But the economic problem is still urgent.

FIFTY MILLION DOLLARS SOUNDS LIKE A LOT. AND IT IS. But spread it across the entire state of Oregon to aid a cultural infrastructure devastated economically by pandemic shutdowns and the cash runs out pretty quickly. The Legislature’s Joint Emergency Board approved the bailout on Tuesday, as part of a $200 million general economic package distributed by the state through the federal Coronavirus Relief Fund. The significant cultural part of the package came after a spirited lobbying push by groups and individuals, and notably recognized an economic truth that is often overlooked: Cultural workers are workers, and when they lose work they undergo the same stresses as anyone else thrown out of a job. “People who work in cultural organizations have families, have to pay the mortgage or the rent, have children to feed,” Brian Rogers, executive director of the Oregon Cultural Trust and the Oregon Arts Commission, said in a telephone conversation on Wednesday. “Without these funds coming in, these organizations are having a difficult time.”

The Emergency Board, and the state itself, can’t solve all the problems of the reeling cultural sector by themselves. The $50 million E Board allocation is exactly what it says it is – an emergency measure, meant to lend a significant hand during a disaster and help stave off collapse. It can’t magically make up the lost income of an entire industry that’s been hit exceptionally hard by the pandemic. A statewide Cultural Trust survey in May projected a $40 million loss by June 30 for the 330 cultural groups (out of more than 1,400 that the Trust tracks) that responded. It’s now mid-July, with no clear end in sight, and the losses keep piling up. For perspective, the $4.71 million that the E Board is delivering to the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, which got the biggest allocation granted, covers a little more than 10 percent of the festival’s annual budget.
 

Everything’s coming up virtual. The 70-year-old Salem Art Association Art Fair and Festival, pictured in a previous year, becomes a virtual event this year, celebrated long-distance on Saturday and Sunday, July 18-19. Photo courtesy Oregon Cultural Trust 

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