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.

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