MUSIC

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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A hearty encore for David Shifrin

After 40 years, the clarinetist supreme retires as director of Chamber Music Northwest. His colleagues give him a round of applause.

Even the most ardent classical-music enthusiasts may not know several details about celebrated clarinetist David Shifrin, who retired this summer after 40 years as artistic director of Portland’s Chamber Music Northwest.

  • He uses synthetic — not cane — reeds.
  • His distant relative Lalo Schifrin (different spelling), who came to Hollywood from Argentina, persuaded David Shifrin’s parents to buy him a clarinet when David was growing up in Queens, New York. Pianist Schifrin, now 88, composed the theme from Mission Impossible, and David Shifrin, 18 years his junior, decades later commissioned him to compose pieces for the clarinet that ended up on the Aleph Label in 2006, Shifrin Plays Schifrin. The compositions were played at CMNW.
David Shifrin: a song and a smile. Photo courtesy CMNW
  • Hearing Benny Goodman play Mozart’s Clarinet Concerto and “lots and lots of swing” in the 1956 movie The Benny Goodman Story assured Shifrin that he had picked the right instrument. “I just fell in love with the clarinet,” said Shifrin, who at 13 attended Interlochen Center for the Arts in Michigan. Surrounded by serious young players, including violinist sisters Ida and Ani Kavafian (who perform often at Chamber Music Northwest), he convinced himself that to be a musician, “I’d have to work very, very hard, practice and practice, and be the best I could be.” That summer, he thought he’d give the career a shot. He’s never recalibrated his aim.

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Flights of music from a barrel room

Composer Gabriela Lena Frank and the musicians of Willamette Valley Chamber Music Festival create an album in the J. Christopher cellars

On a bone-chilling March day in 2018, Gabriela Lena Frank flew in from her Northern California farm to rehearse with Willamette Valley Chamber Music Festival members. Bundled up in fleece and flannel, the group descended into the barrel room at J. Christopher Wines in Newberg, Oregon, a place they’d inhabited in summer 2017 with Frank as composer-in-residence and the string players bringing her music to life. The weather  was warmer then.

This time they planned to record two of Frank’s major chamber compositions, “Milagros” (“Miracles”) and “Leyendas: An Andean Walkabout.” The cellar’s temperature hovered around the mid-50s, “tough for the fingers to move fast enough,” said cellist and WVCMF co-founder Leo Eguchi

Composer Gabriela Lena Frank. Photo: Mariah Tauger

 Named by the Washington Post  in 2017 as one of the Top 35 Women Composers in Classical Music and called “an exciting and necessary voice” by the Los Angeles Times, Frank was not worried about this chamber group taking her work into the recording world.

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Now Hear This: August edition

Vibrant hip-hop, contemporary classical, and data music for Bandcamp's Free Friday

By ROBERT HAM

Now Hear This is a monthly column that scours the pages of music distributor Bandcamp, looking for new work from local artists that would make fine additions to your digital library. This time around, that includes some vibrant hip-hop, contemporary classical vocal pieces, and experimental work inspired by a score made up of reams of raw data.

Rasheed Jamal, High Tech. Low Life

Local rapper Rasheed Jamal has slipped quietly in to take over the lane that Kanye has abandoned in favor of his spiritual reawakening and his absurd Presidential ambitions. The bite and urgency of Jamal’s delivery and the rock-leaning boom of his productions evoke the same full body joy of West’s best. This new three song collection closes out a summer series of releases that Jamal has been slipping into the world through Bandcamp and, as it should, ends it on a high note. 

House of Warmth, <3

House of Warmth sounds exactly as their moniker suggests: cozy, clambering, synth-dusted folk-pop songs that feel like they were constructed in the afterglow of a boisterous communal meal and a shared bottle of wine.

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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.

Want to read more music news in Oregon? Support Oregon ArtsWatch

MusicWatch Monthly: Sour grapes

Eschew the news and venues’ booze

I know. There are more important things to talk about and think about right now. Hopefully you’re staying informed about What’s Going On during this Important Historical Moment, both in terms of the bigger picture and the ground-level perspective of the myriad local journalists documenting the last two months of Black Lives Matter protests here and around the world.

We could never make an exhaustive list of people who can speak for what’s happening here in Portland, but a good place to start listening might include: former and current mayoral candidates Teressa Raiford, Sarah Iannarone, and Jessie Sponberg; Alex Zielinski and Sergio Olmos, just two of the many livestreamers who’ve been on the ground since the beginning; The Only Robert Evans, who’s been belling feral cats for years; and the few local politicians worth a damn, a short list that can’t exclude Wyden and Blumenauer and Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty.

Okay, good, you’re staying informed. But you need a break from staying informed, right? We therefore offer this humble distraction. 

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Chamber music and a virtual toast

Willamette Valley Chamber Music Festival, known for blending sounds and wine, pops the cork on its fifth vintage – this time, via streaming

Minus the barrel room and live applause, members of Willamette Valley Chamber Music Festival will play music for three August weekends at three stellar wineries (J. Christopher Wines, Archery Summit Winery and Sokol Blosser Winery) beginning Saturday, Aug. 8. Though you’ll have to savor the vintages at home in front of your computer, it’s a small sacrifice for these dedicated musicians’ performances. Longtime friends, the WVCMF string players have quarantined, masked up, and practiced outdoors before the festival begins.

In its fifth year—this is the first virtual one—the festival will showcase the music of Ludwig van Beethoven (this year marks his 250th anniversary) and the work of living American composers. Five contemporary composers’ works will be performed, including Portland composer/violist/Fear No Music artistic director Kenji Bunch’s “Four Flashbacks” for violin and cello. Several composers will appear virtually for question-and-answer periods after the concerts.

Music amid the (virtual) vineyards: Willamette Valley Chamber Music Festival founders and directors Leo Eguchi and Sasha Callahan. Photo: Rachel Hadiashar

In the past, the festival has collaborated with one composer a year. Joan Tower, Jessie Montgomery and Gabriela Lena Frank have been in residence. This season, Montgomery and Frank will show up again, along with Daniel Roumain (DBR), all of whom will be communicating virtually from their homes (Montgomery from New York City, Frank from northern California, DBR from Massachusetts). Festival directors Sasha Callahan and Leo Eguchi make it their mission to collaborate with BIPOC, women, unsung, and minority composers. “We deeply believe that the life and vibrancy of this art form hinges on reflecting the world we live in, with all its diverse voices and experiences,” artistic co-director Callahan says.

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