Getting a drop on the New Year

Forget Times Square: For New Year's Eve, the Oregon Symphony downloads a concert hall of balloons at the climax of Beethoven's "Ode to Joy"

Photographs by JOE CANTRELL

First came the audience, filling downtown Portland’s Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall. Then the musicians, and the tuning, and the program, which was fitting for a celebration: some selections from Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn’s sprightly and creative Nutcracker Suite; leading to a pair of pieces by the great stride pianist and composer James P. Johnson, Drums: A Symphonic Poem and Victory Stride; the full windup for Beethoven’s glorious Ninth Symphony and its Ode to Joy. Don’t forget the full-throated applause.

And then the balloons: a full concert hall’s worth, cascading from the rafters and into the crowd, bright and bubbly promises for the year to come. Eat your heart out, Times Square: This is the way to celebrate the arrival of the New Year.

Photographer Joe Cantrell was on hand for Sunday night’s big blowout of a performance by the Oregon Symphony, and captured the vitality and celebratory spirit of the scene. There was plenty of both, with vocal soloists Jenny Schuler, Sienna Licht Miller, Andrew Haji and Richard Zeller, and with a sterling chorus made up of singers from Portland State University, the Oregon Repertory Singers, and the Pacific Youth Choir. “Music, both ‘big band’ and LvB 9, was superb, fresh and bright, and Ethan Sperry’s combined choruses with the soloists embraced the Ninth for the monument to all that’s good,” Cantrell reported, adding that this year, the hall’s first few rows were left empty for the balloons to bounce freely.

What better way to celebrate New Year’s Eve? The concert repeats tonight, Monday the 31st, at 7:30 p.m. Ticket information here.

The map to the music: tracking the score.

Conductor Carlos Kalmar digs deep.

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Violinist Jen Arnold, “one of the best and brightest,” in Cantrell’s words.

A mighty sound of strings.

Cellist Ken Finch focuses in.

Carlos Kalmar anticipates the downbeat …

And raises the stakes …

And lengthens the music …

And pinpoints the sound.

Ethan Sperry’s combined choir leans into Beethoven’s music …

And makes a joyful noise unto the crowd.

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Orchestra and chorus at full force.

A job well done.

Let the balloon cascade begin!

More, more!

A bright bouquet for the musicians.

Happy New Year!

 

 

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About the author

I spent my first 21 years in Tahlequah, Cherokee County, Oklahoma, assuming that except for a few unfortunate spots, ‘everybody’ was part Cherokee, and son of the soil. Volunteered for Vietnam because that’s what we did. After two stints, hoping to gain insight, perhaps do something constructive, I spent the next 16 years as a photojournalist in Asia, living much like the lower income urban peasants and learning a lot. Moved back to the USA in 1986, tried photojournalism and found that the most important subjects were football and basketball, never mind humankind. In 1992, age 46, I became single dad of my 3-year-old daughter and spent the next two decades working regular jobs, at which I was not very good, to keep a roof over our heads, but we made it. She’s retail sales supervisor for Sony, Los Angeles. Wowee! The VA finally acknowledged that the war had affected me badly and gave me a disability pension. I regard that as a stipend for continuing to serve humanity as I can, to use my abilities to facilitate insight and awareness, so I shoot a lot of volunteer stuff for worthy institutions and do artistic/scientific work from our Cherokee perspective well into many nights. Come along!

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