WESTAF Shoebox Arts

From cloister to back porch to altar: Wintry Lent gives way to Springy Easter

Choral offerings from Bach chorales to world peace to Sweet Honey in the Rock.

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"Adoration of the Lamb from the Ghent Altarpiece," Jan van Eyck, oil on panel, 1432. Photo courtesy of Wikicommons.
“Adoration of the Lamb, from the Ghent Altarpiece,” Jan van Eyck, oil on panel, 1432, collection of Saint Bavo Cathedral, Ghent, Belgium. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

When we leave the Christmas season it takes a while to get those tunes out of our heads. The other day a neighbor – joyously relishing the recent sunshine – was whistling “Good King Wenceslas” as he trudged behind his lawn mower. It was an incongruous delight. 

Why wasn’t he whistling a tune from the current Christian calendar season? A Lenten tune. Talk about incongruous. The solemnity of the commemoration of Jesus’ 40-day fast traditionally calls for abstinence, penitence, and contemplation. In strict adherence, restrictions are even imposed upon the “playing of the merry organ” and “sweet singing in the choir.” 

But sweet seasonal singing we shall have! Embrace the conclusion of the season of Lent in Portland on March 24 with the Bach Cantata Choir and Cantores in Ecclesia. And celebrate Easter in Salem, on the St. Paul’s Episcopal Church Music Series, on April 7.  Three choral concerts, three different Christian traditions, three musical eras.

Setting the Seasonal Tone

Palm Sunday afternoon with the Bach Cantata Choir will begin with a pre-concert lecture and demonstration by Portland State University Emeritus Professor Dr. William B. Fischer – “All the Music that’s fit to Print.” Fischer will explain why Bach’s music, largely unprinted during his lifetime, presented challenges to the hand-operated wooden presses of his day. Read the entire premise of Fischer’s lecture here

The music-making begins with the Cantata Choir “Discovery Series” composer Chevalier de Saint Georges, whose Symphony No. 1 in G Major is featured on this concert. 

And then a triple-Bach set, starting with a Johann Sebastian Bach chorale, “O Haupt voll Blut und Wunden” (Oh, Sacred Head Now Wounded) from the St. Matthew Passion. Discover a different branch of the Bach family tree with Straf mich nicht in deinem Zorn (Do not punish me in your anger) a cantata by Johann Ernst Bach II, student and cousin-once-removed of Johann Sebastian. Then follows another Bach chorale, this one from the St. John Passion.

Rounding out the concert are the passion cantata Die sieben Worte Jesu Christi am Kreuz (Seven Last Words from the Cross) by Heinrich Schütz and Johann Pachelbel’s Christ lag in Todesbanden (Christ lay in the bonds of death).

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MYS Oregon to Iberia

For more information about this concert, including a short BBC video about Chevalier de St. Georges, read the BCC Newsletter “BachBeat” at this link

Join the Bach Cantata Choir for “Music for Holy Week” on Sunday, March 24–lecture at 2 pm, concert at 3 pm–at Rose City Park Presbyterian Church. The concert is free. Donations are always appreciated. 

As the Palm Sunday sun sets you may join Cantores in Ecclesia for “Attende Domine: a Lenten Journey.”  Cantores offers seasonal insights from within the repertoire as they present music from each week of the season of Lent. Beginning at Ash Wednesday, which immediately follows the pious Mardi Gras practice of consuming high-caloric nutrients (traditionally anyway) in preparation for fasting, you will hear William Byrd’s Memento homo (Remember, man), a call to repentance. It does get a bit serious when Cantores sings Inter vestibulum et altare (From back porch to altar) by Rodrigo de Ceballos. But fear not, humanity is treated with more tenderness in Dufay’s Audi Benigne Conditor (Oh kind Creator, bow Thine ear).

The journey continues with music of renaissance genius Thomas Tallis paired with late romantic composer Josef Rheinberger. Then from the Book of Lent (Livro da Quaresma) of Portuguese composer Estêvão Lopes Morago a communion chant “Passer invenit sibi domum” (Sparrow has found a home). 

You can already appreciate the variety of choral styles and colors offered on this concert. Artistic Director Blake Applegate has created a program that honors the spiritual essence of the season and the choral intellect, a wonderful balance further evidenced in the bookend program design. The concert begins with the Gregorian chant Attende Domine and concludes with that chant in a full choral setting by 20th century French composer Pierre Villette.

“Each week of this season has its own distinct flavor” writes Renaissance scholar Kerry McCarthy in her always enlightening and always pleasurable program notes, which you can enjoy in their entirety here

“Attende Domine” is offered by Cantores in Ecclesia on Sunday, March 24 at 7 pm, St. Patrick Catholic Church. Tickets may be purchased here

Sponsor

MYS Oregon to Iberia

St. Paul’s Episcopal Music Series offers an Easter choral in Salem on April 7. The Five Mystical Songs of Ralph Vaughan Williams showcase the choral and orchestral talents of one of the great 20th Century British composers. Set to the poems of Anglican priest George Herbert, the work is a tour de force for baritone with choir and orchestra, which first premiered in 1911. Why mystical?  Herbert’s works are replete with metaphysical imagery and metaphor. It can be your choice to find the devoutly spiritual or the divinely secular in these texts and in Vaughan Williams’ melodic lines and fluid harmonies. To better understand, listen here to the fourth and penultimate movement, “The Call,” a piece as cherished from the choir loft as in a garden wedding.

Director Paul Klemme will lead the Trinity Choir of St. Paul’s Episcopal Choir and orchestra in the Mystical Songs and also conduct the orchestra in Rimsky-Korsakov’s Easter Festival Overture, Opus 36 which, in the composer’s own words, is “the transition from the gloomy and mysterious evening of Passion Saturday to the unbridled pagan-religious merrymaking on Easter Sunday.” (From My Musical Life, Rimsky-Korsakov’s posthumously published autobiography.)

As he does with his Willamette Master Chorale, Klemme is honoring the works of Oregon composers. David Schmidt has been writing and arranging for the Willamette Master Chorus for several years. In this concert we have an opportunity to hear the world premiere of Schmidt’s Easter Hymn Suite for orchestra. 

Might we recognize some familiar Easter melodies in the suite? Tunes to whistle while mowing the lawn? Perhaps. Of course, there’s always the “Hallelujah Chorus.”

You can also view this concert on livestream (see below).

The St. Paul’s Episcopal Church Music Series presents this Easter celebration on Sunday, April 7, 4 pm in Salem at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church. The concert is free. Donations are always appreciated. More information on the live and live-stream concert options here

Choral music in a state

“The (Voices of Washington) concert promises to be a feast for both eyes and ears” wrote Reprise Choir co-conductor April Duvic in recent email to Oregon Arts Watch. Duvic and co-conductor Janet Reiter have curated a choral event which not only showcases the compositional talents of 14 Washington State composers, but visual and dance artists as well. A feast indeed. Washington’s got talent!

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MYS Oregon to Iberia

Hear a world premiere, Celebrate Time, by Vancouver organist and choir director Martin Ellis, with text by Reprise singer Amber Tripp. Among other represented composers are Bronwyn Edwards, John Muehleisen, Giselle Wyers, Judith Herrington and Daniel Schreiner. The artwork of Reprise soprano Jeanine Clark will be on exhibit. And dancers from Carla Kendall-Bray’s Dance Fusion Northwest will perform to composer Reginal Unterseher’s She Was Dancing.

Reprise Choir shares the stage with Camas’ Liberty Middle School Choirs directed by Erik Edmundson on Wednesday, March 20, 7 pm, Joyce Garver Theater, Camas. 

“Voices of Washington” is also presented on Saturday, March 23, 7 pm and Sunday, March 24, 3 pm at Vancouver First United Methodist Church. Suggested donation information is available here

Satori Men’s Choir is celebrating 30 years with their March 23 concert “In Hope for a World in Peace.”  Throughout those years, almost all under Artistic Director Susan Dorn, singing for peace has been their mission. Their adherence to that mission and to their community service is being honored by proclamation of the City of Portland, presented at the concert. Bravo.

The texts of the pieces you will hear in this concert are that of Barack Obama; Alfred, Lord Tennyson; and Saint Francis of Assisi. The melodies from John Lennon; Ysaye M. Barnwell; and Pete Seeger. “All of the music has one goal in mind,” Satori states in media communication: “To encourage us to live in peace and harmony, no matter what life may throw at us.” They believe it and they sing it out.

Satori invites all to join “In Hope for a World in Peace” on Saturday, March 23, 7:30 pm at Unity Spiritual Center of Portland. More information on tickets is available here. “No one is ever turned away” (website)

A world premiere of a piece by Portland composer Sydney Guillaume will be presented to us by Portland Gay Men’s Chorus on March 24. You might use words like ‘uplifting’ and ‘loving’ and ‘energizing’ to describe both Guillaume and his compositions. In this concert Artistic Director Braeden Ayers is relying on this Guillaume premiere to counterbalance the intensity of Joel Thompson’s Seven Last Words of the Unarmed. Where the Unarmed addresses the horror of lives taken by violence, Guillaume’s I Will Not Look Away directs the eye and heart toward love.

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MYS Oregon to Iberia

About this composition, Guillaume said (as quoted in media communication) that before he began composing the piece “we had lengthy conversations on what this work needed to say, especially following Thompson’s Seven Last Words of the Unarmed. This piece became my way of raising my voice…. We must not allow anything to keep us from loving.” 

Another Guillaume work–Renman, Renman–and a TTBB arrangement of Jake Runestad’s Ritual are paired with works by Khyle Wooten, Katrina Gimon and Toku-Toku composed by conductor Ayers.

PGMC invites all to “Go On and Love” on Sunday, March 24, 4 pm at the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall.  Tickets are available here.

The Portland Symphonic Girlchoir’s “Music in the Making” is a multi-faceted annual event. During a mini-residency the Girlchoir singers are introduced to a real-life, and generally real cool, established composer and their works; the composer talks about the ‘making of the music’…style, voices, text, interpretation; then the Girlchoir and resident conductor invite you to join them in concert on April 14. This year’s guest is composer Jim Papoulis who creates music for chorus, dance and film and “firmly believes that music can heal, educate, celebrate and empower the lives of children” (composer website).

Portland Symphonic Girlchoir “Music in the Making” concert is Sunday, April 14, 2:15 pm at Trinity Episcopal Cathedral.  Tickets are available here

Music in Our Schools Marches On

We are just past the halfway point of Music in Our Schools Month. The school music program, first initiated in 1973 as a day of awareness, became a month-long celebration in 1985. Check out some of the remaining MIOSM events calendar here.  

One organization in Oregon, cherished for bringing world class performances to our region since 1971, has been touching the lives of students in our school music programs for about six years. It began as part-time staff person and stalwart board members, regrouped after the pandemic hiatus, and emerged in 2021 with a full-time commitment to support school music.

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All Classical Radio James Depreist

This organization is Chamber Music Northwest. Yes. Those well-loved, summertime music festival folks. Oh, we do look forward to attending those wonderful events in shorts and shirt sleeves. When many musical organizations take the summers off, that’s when CMNW turns on, right? Well, now you know, they are ‘on’ all year long and they are supporting music in our schools.

It’s true, and Lauren Watt, Operations and Community Programs Director,  agreed in recent phone conversation with Oregon Arts Watch that many people have been unaware of their relationships with the schools and with student artists. Children in Neskowin, Beaverton, Reynolds, Portland, Hillsboro and many more interacted with some of the world class visiting artists, like Catalyst Quartet, this past year. CMNW tells schools when and what artists are available but “we don’t do just what we think is right; they tell us what might be the best thing for their students,” said Watt. Age levels, curriculum, programs–they design a visit that will have the greatest impact. And there is never a cost to the school.

The in-school programs are only a portion of the CMNW’s young-artists initiatives. Learn more about Chamber Music Northwest’s music education initiatives here.  Cheers!

Filling the Stage

What an opportunity! Two beloved standards in the choral/orchestra repertoire in live concert this April. Are you in the mood for a full bodied, wall-of-sound, chorus, orchestra and solo quartet experience? Here you go.

Let’s do a good ol’ Music 101 “name that tune” puzzler to introduce the first large work. You’ve got this, trust me. Spoiler alert – close your eyes when you click the link. Ready….go.

Ah, you came back. And you now know that the Mozart Requiem is on the choral calendar for April. Your Oregon Symphony Orchestra and the Portland State University Chamber Choir are bringing it on April 6, 7 and 8.

That “Lacrimosa” sound bite illuminates one of the reasons the Requiem can be interesting every single time you hear it. Claudio Abbado’s tempo is a cortege walking pace. Another interpretation might be a slower mournful swaying at the gravesite pace. What tempos will OSO conductor David Danzmayr take?  Attend and find out.

Sponsor

All Classical Radio James Depreist

The Oregon Symphony presents the Mozart Requiem on Saturday, April 6, 7:30 pm, Sunday, April 7, 2 pm, and Monday, April 8, 7:30 pm. All performances take place at the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall, Portland. For more information and tickets visit the OSO site here.  

Festival Chorale Oregon first programmed Antonin Dvořák’s Stabat Mater in 2015, recalled FCO Artistic Director Solveig Holmquist in recent email; she wrote, “We love it even more this time around.” Holmquist fell in love with the piece in 1995 as a member of the Oregon Bach Festival chorus. Her margin notes from that performance remind her of how adroitly conductor Helmuth Rilling would set the scene of a work. Here’s her documented Rilling quote about the opening movement: “In the introduction we see Bohemia, a vast land with nothing for miles. Then the approach to the church and the Stations of the Cross, where you kneel down and make your prayer.” Listen to one of those Stations here.

The 90-ish minute work in 10 movements is characterized as both cantata and oratorio. It premiered in 1880–the Romantic Era–but Dvořák’s romanticism is informed by his nationalistic style, even in a sacred work such as this.  “Bohemian style, with dumplings!” is another Rilling quote in Holmquist’s treasured 1995 score.

Soloists for this single performance are, in SATB order: Jocelyn Thomas, Hannah Penn, Les Green and Brett Peldyak.

Join the Festival Chorale Oregon for Dvořák’s Stabat Mater on Sunday, April 14, 4 pm in Salem at the Elsinor Theatre.  Tickets are available here

Radix Vocal Ensemble was founded in November 2019 but, understandably, their first full season began with a December concert in 2022. “We are as an organization still very young,” wrote Artistic Director Amy Stuart Hunn in recent email to Oregon Arts Watch. “But the core group of founding members has also weathered a lot together, so we share a special bond.”  In their April 14 concert, “From cloister to back porch,” the treble-voice ensemble will begin the concert with the music of Hildegard von Bingen and finish with folk tunes. The music along the way introduces us to diverse communities with Ladino and Yiddish arrangements and a set of folk tune arrangements by Imogen Holst, Gustav Holst’s very talented daughter. Come hear Radix Vocal Ensemble in this concert of varied, significant and enjoyable works 

Radix Vocal Ensemble performs “From Cloister to Back Porch. Community Built Through Song” on the Ascension Episcopal Parish Salon Series, on Sunday, April 14, 4 pm at Ascension Episcopal Parish. Tickets are here.

Sponsor

All Classical Radio James Depreist

MAKE SPACE, THEY’RE COMING THROUGH

Hearken, Portland, we’ve got some choral royalty coming to town. Mark your calendars for Sweet Honey in the Rock on April 5 and 6 and the Tallis Scholars on April 18. Though these two choral ensembles seem far apart in style and repertoire they have much in common. 

Isn’t it fascinating, for example, that both groups were founded in 1973 – Sweet Honey in Washington, DC, Tallis Scholars in England. Their reputations for 50 years of excellence and innovation are known around the globe. The singer-hours they have clocked on tour would fill several calendar years. 

In their bio, Sweet Honey states that their performances fuse “the elastic 360 degree possibilities of the human voice with a theatrical flair that keeps avid audiences returning for more year after year.”  From them we can expect an a cappella vocal blend that curls our toes, solo moments that mesmerize and an extraordinary stage presence. 

Like the ladies of Sweet Honey, the Scholars are exquisitely flexible vocal experts. Their blend is like the last spoonful of a fudge sundae on a warm afternoon. And entertaining! Raise your hand if you agree that both groups know how to engage, maintain and thrill their audiences. That’s entertainment. Right? 

Resonance Ensemble is sponsoring Sweet Honey in the Rock’s two concerts; Cappella Romana welcomes the Tallis Scholars to Portland and Seattle. We who appreciate these two local groups know that their common missions are making music that has a positive impact on the health of our society.

You’ll hear a set by Resonance as they serve as ‘opening act’ for Sweet Honey, whose repertoire will include the socially conscious music rooted in African American history and culture for which they are so well known.

A highlight of the Tallis Scholars program will be back-to-back Renaissance Lamentations, one by Robert White and the other by Thomas Tallis. And the emotions of the Easter season will be brought to life in William Byrd’s propers for Easter day, including the ground shaking word painting of “Terra tremult.”

Sponsor

All Classical Radio James Depreist

How fun to have the excellence of these two touring groups enliven our Spring choral lineup. Hmm. Thought for the future: Have them share a concert stage? Whoa. Hold that thought while you grab your tickets for these concerts.

Resonance Ensemble presents Sweet Honey in the Rock on Friday, April 5, 7:30 pm at the Patricia Reser Center for the Arts in Beaverton and Saturday, April 6, 7:30 pm at The Armory in Portland.  Tickets and more information here.

Cappella Romana brings the Tallis Scholars to Portland on Thursday, April 18, 7:30 at St. Mary’s Cathedral and to Seattle on Friday, April 19, 7:30 pm at St. James Cathedral.  Tickets and more information here.

Mathematicians, please help us out here. There just has to be a mathematical concept to explain the music phenomenon that is going to take place at Jefferson High School on April 19. 

How about one of those great SAT-like math story problems? 

If a musical force in motion, let’s call it the Jefferson High School Music Program, invites X area groups/soloists to an event, and the West Linn Lutheran Church Choir invites Y, but three of them are the same, and the total number of groups/soloists in this concert event equals 16 and individual performers over 200 – solve for X and Y.

Doesn’t quite work does it? How about a Venn diagram? Okay, getting weird. Let’s take a step back. Ah, ha! That’s it. In order to understand the purpose – the joy – of this event we could pixelate photos of all of the organizers, administrators, performers, students, parents and throw in some audience members including yourself. Then place all of the wonderfully diverse pixelated colors and shapes in a rectangular grid. Now step back, and back again and watch as each ‘one’ becomes part of the whole. Won’t it be beautiful? This beautiful work of art shall be called CONNECTED Part II. 

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WESTAF Shoebox Arts

Here are the artists and organizations to which you will be CONNECTED at this concert:

Jefferson High School Music Program and Joshua Somerville; Pacific Ringers, Cascade Zydeco, PDX Waldorf School Choirs, Aurora Chorus, Clan Macleay Pipeband, World Stage Theater Company, Encore Treble Choir, Janae Witcher, Portland Boychoir, Khadijah Reeves, West Linn Lutheran Church Choir, GODSISTAS, Derrick McDuffey and Kingdom Sound and Seasons of Love, the traveling ensemble of the Gay Men’s Chorus of Washington, D.C.  

Be CONNECTED Friday, April 19, 7 pm, Jefferson High School Auditorium. See the whole line-up here and just come. 

Other connections

Aren’t coincidences interesting sometimes? In the above preview you have noticed that one of Cantores’ pieces, by Rodrigo de Ceballos, is called “From back porch to altar.” Did you also notice that the title of the Radix Vocal Ensemble concert is “From cloister to back porch”? We’ll just let that lay there. 

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Photo Joe Cantrell

Daryl Browne is a music educator, alto, flutist and writer who lives in Beaverton, Oregon.

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