All Classical Radio James Depreist

Music Notes


• This Saturday, March 3, Portland musicians and fans of long time radio host Robert McBride will gather to celebrate the All Classical Portland announcer and composer’s retirement from the airwaves in a live concert that you can hear over the air on Saturday night at 8 pm and via the internet for the next two weeks by clicking on the Listen button at the station’s website.

Robert McBride

It’s the former Oregon Public Broadcasting music director’s last time outing Club Mod, the fascinating  weekly show devoted primarily to modernist music of the 20th and 21st centuries. The concert features Fear No Music, Portland Percussion Group, March Music Moderne and additional local musicians performing works by Eve Beglarian, Claude Debussy, Tom Johnson, Libby Larsen, Witold Lutoslawski, Terry Riley, Ned Rorem, Toru Takemitsu, Somei Satoh and of course McBride, who earned a degree in music composition, himself.

Noted the press release: “Robert’s legacy at the station includes holding a regular air shift in prime time for all 17 years, founding and producing Club Mod (All Classical’s weekly Saturday night program dedicated to modern music), hosting the weekly live broadcast series Thursdays @ Three, contributing to original programs Played in Oregon and Northwest Previews, and regularly leading pre-concert conversations with Music Director Carlos Kalmar before Oregon Symphony concerts.”Although we will miss McBride’s wry humor and passion for modern music, we’re glad to hear that he promises to have more time to compose music after ending his 35-year day job on the air.   His music has increasingly appeared on Portland live music programs, more is scheduled for performances by Pacific Youth Choir, at Chamber Music Northwest, and Club Mod will continue with dulcet-voiced Andrea Murray as the program’s new host.

Suzanne Nance

• Speaking of All Classical Portland, the station recently announced the promotion of Suzanne Nance to president and CEO. The move culminates Nance’s rapid crescendo since arriving in Portland in 2015, from on-air host and programming director to vice president to interim CEO to the top job at one of the nation’s premier classical music broadcasters. She heads up community initiatives such as the recent JOY, hosts the recently launched on-air program Sunday Brunch and is executive producer of all nationally syndicated programs. She’s announced ambitious plans including creation of a children’s classical radio network.

Sarah Tiedemann

• Speaking of new leadership, Portland’s Young Musicians & Artists chose Neal Spinler as its new executive director of the organization that provides young people with “a unique personal experience in the visual and performing arts, where they share creative interests in a positive environment that builds confidence, enhances self-esteem and reinforces a sense of community.” He’s been an administrator with the Pasadena Symphony, Playwrights Foundation, and a California dance company. Spinler replaces flutist Sarah Tiedemann….

• … who in turn takes over as interim artistic director of Third Angle New Music, which announced that it’s parting ways with Ron Blessinger, the Oregon Symphony violinist who led the ensemble for just over half its 33-year existence.

Ron Blessinger

“His innovative programming has helped to propel the organization to creative heights that have been lauded locally and nationally,” says the organization’s press release, citing his role as performer and executive producer of 12 recordings, creating Third Angle’s commissioning fund and record label, performing in hundreds of concerts as a violinist, commissioning more than 60 new works and producing residencies with leading composers, creating the Frozen Music series, directing Third Angle collaborations with Oregon’s major arts institutions. The board release said it expects to continue Third Angle’s focus on today’s composers and that it will conduct a national search for its next artistic director.” ArtsWatch will have more on this story soon.


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• Speaking of contemporary classical music, PBS has released Symphony for Nature: The Britt Orchestra at Crater Lake, a documentary about the July 2016 premiere of Natural History at Crater Lake National Park. Written by New York composer and Bang on a Can co-founder Michael Gordon, who Third Angle brought to Portland a few years ago, the piece was commissioned by Jacksonville’s Britt Festival. The premiere featured the Britt Orchestra, a chorus of fifty regional choristers, ten members of Steiger Butte Drum, who are all from the local Klamath Tribes, and thirty brass and percussionists from Southern Oregon University, conducted by Teddy Abrams, who’s reprising the work with his other orchestra, the Louisville Symphony.

• Speaking of Oregon summer music institutions, Chamber Music Northwest’s headquarters, along with other Portland offices, were destroyed in a four-alarm fire that consumed the John’s Landing neighborhood building that housed them. No one was injured in the early morning blaze, but the four-plus-decade old chamber music organization lost office supplies and documents — only hours after concluding its winter festival and announcing its next summer edition. Oregon music lovers have stepped up to help, and you can contribute here.

David Ogden Stiers

• David Ogden Stiers, the Emmy-winning actor also known in Oregon for regularly conducting the Newport Symphony and other orchestras, died at his home in Newport at age 75. Stiers, who went to high school in Eugene and attended the University of Oregon, won worldwide fame for playing Major Charles Winchester in the TV version of M*A*S*H* and went on to voice many characters in Disney animated films. That voice as well as his conducting distinguished many orchestra performances around Oregon and beyond. “David Ogden Stiers was a generous, loving, and inspirational friend and pillar to our orchestra, and, indeed, to all of us individually,” wrote Newport Symphony music director Adam Flatt about the orchestra’s resident conductor. “Our orchestra would not be here if it weren’t for his great support and inspiration over three decades. His depth of musical feeling, love for our musicians, and charisma made his performances soar when he was on our podium. We will all work to keep David’s spirit alive in all of our performances.”

Tom Wheeler

• In other sad news for Oregon music, ArtsWatch extends condolences to the family and many, many friends, faculty colleagues, and current and former students of Tom Wheeler, who died last month at age 70. Not only was Wheeler a beloved journalism prof at the University of Oregon for decades, he was also a respected music journalist, former editor of Guitar Player magazine, and the pre-eminent authority on rock guitar history. He wrote several respected books on the subject, consulted with the Smithsonian, and even played in Eugene rock bands while leading the UO magazine journalism program to national acclaim.


Congrats to Metropolitan Youth Orchestra music director Raúl Gómez, named one of six conductors  selected to participate in the League of American Orchestras’ prestigious Bruno Walter National Conductor Preview, April 3-4, 2018 at Nashville’s Schermerhorn Symphony Center. While members of orchestra search committees look on, they’ll lead the multiple Grammy-winning Nashville Symphony in music by Beethoven, Debussy, Bernstein, Tchaikovsky, and rocker-turned-orchestral composer Kip Winger.

MYS music director Raul Gomez. Photo: Richard Kolbell.

Previous invitees include former Portland Youth Philarmonic conductor Mei-Ann Chen (now with Chicago Sinfonietta) and Giancarlo Guerrero, who now leads the Nashville Symphony that’s hosting the preview.

• Speaking of Guerrero, the former Eugene Symphony conductor tallied another Grammy award for their Naxos recording of the eminent American composer Jennifer Higdon’s All Things Majestic. Last month, the orchestra, which shows a commitment to the music of our time and country that Oregon orchestras might learn from, releases world premiere recordings of three concertos for wind instruments it commissioned from contemporary American composers.


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Former Eugene Symphony. music director Giancarlo Guerrero. Photo: Nashville Symphony.

• Another former Eugene Symphony conductor, Marin Alsop, added to her busy portfolio artistic director of the Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra, becoming the first woman to take up the prestigious role in a musical culture that’s historically been backward in its attitude toward women’s achievements and capabilities. The first woman to lead a major American orchestra, Alsop will retain that role with the Baltimore Symphony and her other major directorship, of the São Paulo symphony.

Got more news about Oregon music that we should consider for these occasional updates? Please send them along, or note in the comments section below.

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.


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