Portland Opera Puccini

Music Notes: new year, new directions


Portland’s classical music scene is experiencing a leadership transformation. This season, Third Angle New Music selected Sarah Tiedemann as its artistic director, replacing Ron Blessinger, who had moved over to 45th Parallel Universe as interim artistic director of the now collectively run organization. Now two of the city’s biggest classical presenting organizations have announced upcoming new directors.

Marc-André Hamelin

Portland Piano International announced that one of today’s most esteemed performing classical pianists, Marc-André Hamelin, will curate the presenting organization’s 2019-2020 SOLO season. The Boston-based Canadian ultra-virtuoso is the first guest curator in PPI’s new, annual single-year guest curatorial system, instituted after artistic director Arnaldo Cohen ended his five-year tenure last year, leaving founding artistic director Harold Gray to step in and curate PPI’s current season.

• Another venerable Oregon classical music institution that recently flirted with the rotating curator model PPI has adopted is evidently having second thoughts. The Oregon Bach Festival has announced a search for a new artistic director, apparently prompted by its School of Music and Dance’s new dean, Sabrina Madison-Cannon, who oversees the festival. (Last year’s festival was run by a committee of music school faculty and others.) Eugene writer and longtime festival observer Tom Manoff argued recently in ArtsWatch that the absence of a single artistic leader in the wake of the messy and still mysterious dismissal of its respected previous AD created a vision vacuum at the nearly half-century old Oregon music institution. The good news: the search will be headed by savvy Eugene lawyer Roger Saydack, who spearheaded the successful searches for Eugene Symphony conductors Marin Alsop, Giancarlo Guerrero, and others who have gone on to starry careers on larger stages.

Soon-to-be CMNW artistic directors Kim and Chien

Chamber Music Northwest announced that violinist Soovin Kim and pianist Gloria Chien will become joint artistic directors in fall 2020. They will succeed David Shifrin, the New York clarinetist who has led the organization since 1980 and who will curate the next two summer festivals before passing the baton to the husband and wife team, chosen from among 60 candidates. They’ve run chamber music series in Tennessee and Vermont, and Chien was a CMNW Protege artist in 2017.

• Portland’s BRAVO Youth Orchestras named Cecille Elliott to the newly created position of Director of Creative Play, which has to be the coolest title on any music resume in memory. “Her primary responsibility is to find existing activities and develop new ones that are not usually seen as components of classical music education,” the press release says, “using body percussion, rhythmic chants, songwriting, singing, circle songs and games, as well as body movement.” She’s been with the admirable youth organization since 2015.

BREAK THE CAGE – Collective Composition at BRAVO from Seth Truby on Vimeo.

•  All Classical Portland’s new Artist in Residence program has chosen renowned Portland pianist Hunter Noack as its first Artist in Residence, and  Lakeridge High School senior and cellist Taylor Yoon as its first Young Artist in Residence. The program provides residency for both a professional and a young musician, with plans to announce a poet and visual artist in the fall of 2019. They’ll have access to All Classical Portland’s facilities and studio time, including on-air opportunities including appearances on Thursdays @ 3, at station events, concerts and special broadcasts. Noack is best known here for his In a Landscape: Classical Music in the Wild project, an outdoor concert series involving a 9-foot concert Steinway in state and national parks, historic sites, and other spectacular locations. Yoon and her sisters formed a musical group, Yoontrio, and she helped launch Olivenbaum, a non-profit organization that uses music to promote social harmony. This past summer, the group performed in the demilitarized zone between North and South Korea as part of the Lindenbaum Music Festival. Noack and Yoon will make their performance debut at All Classical Portland’s Lovefest Concert on February 26 at Portland’s Newmark Theatre.


Portland Opera Puccini

Hunter Noack, playing in the wild

• The Siletz Bay Music Festival named Karin M. Moss as the festival’s new executive director. She’s a 30-year veteran of music promotion and business development at organizations in California, New York, Chicago, North Carolina and beyond.

• Recent Portland State University graduate and cellist Zach Bloch has been named conductor of La Grande’s Grande Ronde Symphony Orchestra, and strings instructor with Oregon East Symphony.

Oregon East Symphony

Seattle Opera artistic director Aidan Lang is departing the company after four years to become General Director of Welsh National Opera.


• And speaking of our Northwest neighbor, the Seattle Symphony won the inaugural Orchestra of the Year Award presented by the leading classical music magazine, Gramophone — the only Gramophone Award voted for by the public. This month, the orchestra premieres a new piano concerto by one of America’s leading composers, Pulitzer Prize winner Caroline Shaw, at a time when orchestras are roundly and rightly criticized for ignoring the works of female composers.

Pianist and composer Darrell Grant.

• At next month’s PDX Jazz Festival, Portland pianist, composer, and educator Darrell Grant will be honored as this year’s Portland Jazz Master. Last fall, Grant also received major grants from Regional Arts & Culture Council (for 21 Cartas, a song cycle based on letters written by mothers held at an immigrant detention center in Dilley, Texas, created with singer/songwriter Edna Vazquez), and a Creative Heights grant from the Oregon Community Foundation for SANCTUARIES, a chamber opera that “will use the rhythms of jazz and slam poetry to explore gentrification and the displacement of residents of color in Portland’s historically African-America Albina district.”

Teaming Up

Third Angle New Music is joining Cappella Romana vocal ensemble as tenant in Portland’s Gus J. Solomon U.S. Courthouse, which now houses various offices and organizations. Since 2016, Cappella Romana has been housed in the 1932 courthouse, downtown across from the Newmark Theatre and the Schnitzer Concert Hall, and is subletting office space to Third Angle.

Portland saxophonist Mary-Sue Tobin. Photo: Tom Sugden

• Portland jazz, like the long-contracting national jazz scene, was looking bleak not long ago, what with several long time clubs closing, including the venerable Jimmy Mak’s. But plenty of good jazz news is emerging, from new venues for Portland jazz, to the genre’s embrace of other musical forms, to the creative revival led by millennial and younger jazz artists, especially those in Portland Jazz Composers Ensemble. All those factors converge in the welcome news of a new partnership between PJCE (which also presents concerts and runs a diverse record label) and The 1905, one of the city’s hottest new spots for jazz: a monthly series of free concerts. The second installment happens February 3, with George Colligan’s electric group Other Barry. And as ArtsWatch’s Marty Hughley revealed here recently, Jimmy Mak’s itself will be returning soon.


Seattle Opera Barber of Seville

• Portland’s Montavilla Jazz Festival and PDX Jazz announced a new partnership to bring three jazz education programs to Vestal School in 2019: an artist in residence program, with veteran Portland saxophonist Mary-Sue Tobin; the Incredible Journey of Jazz interactive program for students that recounts the history of America’s indigenous musical art form; and Jazz in the Schools, which demonstrates to students jazz’s influence and impact on American culture.

• The Mt. Hood Community College District Board of Education has voted not to extend the decade-long partnership between the college’s invaluable Portland jazz radio station KMHD and Oregon Public Broadcasting, and instead to pursue the station’s return to its original home on the MHCC campus.

• The Central Oregon Symphony has commissioned Bend-based composer Chris Thomas to write a five-movement symphonic musical tribute to Malheur Wildlife Refuge, incorporating recorded sounds and images of the amazing bird life there. The orchestra will premiere it in Burns in May and later in Bend.

• Which genre of music grew faster than any other last year? Why, classical of course. And note that propelling the growth wasn’t old music, but film soundtracks, many scored by today’s composers.

Got more news about Oregon music that might interest ArtsWatch readers? Let us know in the comments section below, or contact us.

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Portland Opera Puccini

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Photo Joe Cantrell

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. PSU Noon Concert: The critically acclaimed Oregon Guitar Quartet is an ensemble of four of the finest classical guitarists residing in Portland, Oregon. The group’s members include Mario Diaz, John Mery, Jesse McCann and Bryan Johanson. Thursday, January 17, 2019 12:00pm PST.

    Link: https://www.facebook.com/SOMTPDX/

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