Seattle Opera Pagliacci

Music Notes


As a new year begins, here’s one of our periodic roundups of recent news in Oregon music. This is only a smattering, of course. Got more news about Oregon music? Let us know, or leave it in the comments section below.

High Notes

On Sunday at its 40th Anniversary National Conference, Chamber Music America (CMA), the national network for ensemble music professionals, awarded longtime Chamber Music Northwest artistic director clarinetist David Shifrin its 2018 Richard J. Bogomolny National Service Award, which annually  recognizes an individual or entity that has provided historic service to the small ensemble music field.

Chamber Music Northwest artistic director David Shifrin.

Congrats to Oregon music stalwarts Randy Porter and Nancy King. The superb pianist and Lewis & Clark College faculty member and legendary singer received a Grammy Award nomination for their new album Randy Porter Plays Cole Porter, special guest Nancy King (Heavywood).  “If Randy Porter played more widely outside the US Pacific Northwest, he would likely be lauded as one of the leading contemporary jazz pianists,” wrote eminent jazz journalist Doug Ramsey. “This new album of songs composed by his namesake Cole Porter could go a long way toward bringing about wide recognition of an artist with a record of achievement going back more than three decades. Porter has toured extensively in Europe and Asia [and] is known on the west coast well beyond his home base in the Portland, Oregon, area. Six of the nine tracks find Nancy King, at 77, as musicianly as ever—individualistic and expressive, one of the few vocalists capable of improvising with harmonic wisdom equal to that of experienced instrumentalists.”

Eugene-based production company AO Films and Eugene Concert Choir won “Best Documentary” from the Oregon Independent Film Festival for their collaborative film, ”The Story of Shadow and Light: Giving Voice to an Alzheimer’s Journey”’

As we reported before the original performance, Eugene Concert Choir was awarded a $125,000 Creative Heights Initiative grant from the Fred W. Fields Fund of the Oregon Community Foundation to help fund the commission of a new composition for chamber choir and orchestra by Portland composer Joan Szymko of Oregon, as well as the world premiere performance in the University of Oregon’s Beall Concert Hall, professional concert video and audio recordings, and the film documentary of the artistic journey.


All Classical Radio James Depreist

Earlier this year ECC artistic director and conductor Diane Retallack, along with the Eugene Vocal Arts won the American Prize Ernst Bacon Memorial Award for the Performance of American Music in the community division for the recorded performance of the newly commissioned world premiere.

To contribute to the grassroots campaign or to purchase the DVD/CD set of Shadow and Light, visit, or contact the Eugene Concert Choir office at 541-687-6865 or email at

Eugene Opera completed its resurrection from its latest near-death experience with New Year’s Eve performance of Rossini’s The Barber of Seville. The company’s fundraising campaign cleared past debts and is well on the way to covering costs for the current season. Its new executive director, Erika Rauer, moved to Eugene this fall. Longtime conductor Andrew Bisantz, based in Florida, takes over as artistic director. Rauer’s husband, Craig Phillips, a bass-baritone with New York Polyphony, has also migrated, joining the faculty of the University of Oregon School of Music and Dance.

In other operatic high notes, Gov. Kate Brown named Portland Opera one of five recipients of this year’s revived Governor’s Arts Awards from among 110 nominees. And Portland State music alumna Audrey Luna made national headlines for singing highest note in Metropolitan Opera history, during this fall’s Met production of Thomas Ades’s new opera, The Exterminating Angel. For the record, that note is an “A” above high “C.”

Eugene composer/bandleader/trumpeter Tony Glausi won the $10,000 first prize in the 2017 Carmine Caruso Jazz Solo International Trumpet Competition, considered the world’s most prestigious for jazz trumpeters. Last summer, the Eugene native and University of Oregon alum won first prize in the jazz division of the ITG International Trumpet Competition. Glausi, who has recorded numerous albums and directs the Shedd’s Youth Jazz Orchestra (which he founded), is moving to New York to pursue the jazz dream. Read Gary Ferrington’s ArtsWatch profile.


Washougal Art & Music Festival

All Classical radio staffers helping feed hungry Oregonians.

Lewis & Clark music prof Michael Johanson  is one of two recipients selected for an Honorable Mention in the Music Teachers National Association (MTNA) Distinguished Composer of the Year Award for his Three Moods for Viola and Piano.

Kudos to All Classical Portland radio station, which partnered with Olson & Jones Construction and the Oregon Food Bank to help provide 30,000 meals to food insecure Oregonians during Hunger Action Month. Throughout September, each donation made to All Classical Portland triggered a third-party donation from Olson & Jones Construction directly to the Oregon Food Bank, which provided six meals to individuals and families in need.

Arrivals and Departures

Sabrina Madison-Cannon is the new dean of the University of School of Music & Dance.

Sabrina Madison-Cannon has been named the next dean of the University of Oregon School of Music and Dance. Now a dean  at University of Missouri-Kansas City, she’s a choreographer who had an international performing career as a soloist with the Philadelphia Dance Company, known as Philadanco. She replaces Brad Foley, who’s returned to teaching at the UO and will direct its long-running ChamberMusic@Beall series.

Speaking of classical music series, several new ones are arriving this season.

Later this month, Spontaneous Combustion New Music Festival debuts in Portland, Eugene, and Seattle. Founded by Portland-based Cascadia Composer Scott Anthony Shell, the new festival, which runs January 19-February 10, features music by mostly contemporary composers Steve Reich, György Ligeti, Lou Harrison, Hans Abrahamsen, Julia Wolfe, David Lang, Esa-Pekka Salonen, Andy Akiho, Andrew Norman and many more. Performers include renowned New York new music cellist Ashley Bathgate, Boston based flutist Orlando Cela, Eugene’s Delgani Quartet, City of Tomorrow wind ensemble, and more. Shell eventually intends to expand to 11 West Coast cities. Stay tuned to ArtsWatch for extensive coverage of this year’s concerts.

This fall, Eugene’s Shedd Institute announced a new classical music series, including a the creation of microphilharmonic, a unique chamber music ensemble directed by veteran Eugene classical musicians Michael Anderson and Alice Blankenship. The new series, which joins the Shedd’s other series in jazz, American Songbook, blues, musicals and more, returns the organization to its original roots, when it began as mostly an American classical music festival. The series opened with Siri Vik’s recital of American art song in November and continues with micro philharmonic  performances in March and April. Stay tuned to ArtsWatch for previews.


Seattle Opera Pagliacci

This summer, Aquilon Music Festival, an intensive three-week vocal music workshop, will launch at Linfield College with the first modern-era production of the opera parody La Chûte de Phaëton by French Baroque composer Marc-Antoine Le Grand. Directed by Linfield music prof Anton Belov, the new festival, which runs July 1-22, is dedicated to teaching and performing unknown and rarely heard vocal repertoire, and includes master classes in conducting, deconstructing baroque opera and more. Faculty include Daniel Helfgot, Barbara Day Turner, Hannah Penn, Ian Pomerantz, Byron Schenkman, Natasha Roule, Richard Zeller and Monica Huggett. Applications are currently being accepted for students or early-career singers and instrumentalists.

Francesco Lecce-Chong rehearses with Eugene Symphony musicians. Photo: Amanda L. Smith.

Newly arrived Eugene Symphony music director Francesco Lecce-Chong is a finalist for another position. The rising young conductor recently led an audition concert for California’s Santa Rosa Symphony, and has signed with prestigious IMG Artists for management and representation. Read my ArtsWatch profile.

One of Lecce-Chong’s predecessors as Eugene Symphony honcho has just been appointed principal guest conductor of Lisbon’s Gulbenkian Orchestra. Giancarlo Guerrero, who last year was also named music director of NFM Wrocław Philharmonic in Poland, will continue his leadership of the Nashville Symphony, where he’s established an international reputation for his dynamic programming featuring abundant contemporary music by American composers that have earned the orchestra numerous awards, including eight Grammies. It sure would be nice to have him back in Oregon….

Partly counterbalancing November’s closing of yet another Portland jazz venue, Fremont Theater, Portland’s Teutonic Wine Company has launched a live jazz series on Wednesdays. Curated by the great Portland drummer and teacher Alan Jones, it brings nationally recognized and local up-and-coming jazz musicians. Fremont Theater’s PDX Jazz Festival concerts have been rescheduled to other festival venues such as The Old Church and Revolution Hall.

Finally, ArtsWatch bids farewell to Portland native and Juilliard String Quartet founding first violinist Robert Mann, who died last week in New York at 97. He performed with the legendary ensemble for over half a century (and more than 6,000 concerts!) and also played a large role in other classical music institutions, and maintained his Portland ties, throughout his career.


Washougal Art & Music Festival

Want to read more about Oregon music? Support Oregon ArtsWatch!

Want to learn more about contemporary Oregon classical music? Check out Oregon ComposersWatch.

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Photo Joe Cantrell

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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.


One Response

  1. Really looking forward to the Spontaneous Combustion New Music Festival with works by Ligeti, Salonen, Abrahamsen, Norman & more!

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