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MusicWatch Monthly: A long day’s journey into night

Xhurch and regular church; so many difficult Friday the 13th shows; LISTENing to Resonance; Prefontaine again; a new Machado Mijiga album.

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Yes, that’s right, everybody, Machado Mijiga has released yet another album. The man is relentless! This month’s offering, Outdated ‘90s References II, is his third release of 2023, following March’s Uncharted and April’s GB3. The brilliant drummer-saxophonist-producer seems to keep up this pace by being both absolutely self-sufficient and a humbly intrepid collaborator. For example, Uncharted’s album credits go like this:

Literally Everything–Machado Mijiga

And GB3’s are like this:

All instruments, mix, master, and production by me.

Album photography, artwork, and editing by me.

All tracks recorded in my bedroom.

But you can hear Mijiga perform live with other humans pretty regularly at places like the 1905, Jack London Revue, The Armory at Portland Center Stage, and so on. And this latest, like its predecessor (2019’s Outdated ‘90s References), is a group-improvised quartet affair – with the jams given appropriately outdated titles like “Alrighty Then” and “Bye Felisha” (the first one included such gems as “Hello Newman” and “Hasta La Vista, Baby”). The band here consists of “three creative geniuses and a so-so drummer”: keyboardist Andre Raiah (who recorded the “eclectic afrofuturist gumbo” at his Brown Calvin Studios in Corbett), bassist Alex Meltzer, cellist Harlan Silverman, and Mijiga (in reality one of the finest drummers in Oregon).

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Metropolitan Youth Symphony Music Concert Rooted Newmark Theatre Portland Oregon

Check it all out right here, just in time for Bandcamp’s next Fee Free First Friday:

This weekend

You may be asking yourself: what the hell is “xhurch,” and how do you pronounce it? Perhaps the “venue” itself has answers:

Xhurch (pronounced ‘church’) started as a live-work space and gathering spot for friends, artists, and collaborators, and soon blossomed into a unique venue for performance and art-making. The space has played host to a long list of creative practitioners hailing from near and far, offering lecture series, film showings, regular art and music happenings, exploratory VR nights, “Summer of Science,” fundraisers, an ambient music series, Sanctuary Sunday, curated by Coco Madrid, and the annual NTVTY scene ritual/alternative holiday display. Xhurch remains an integral arts venue catering to fringe creative expression.

Well, that sounds just exquisitely Portland, doesn’t it? You can read more about the, um, building’s storied history right here. And you can see it for yourself this weekend, on Friday, October 6, when Cyane performs there with Cruel Diagonals and Coco Madrid. You’ve heard Cyane before, dear reader: it’s Sage Fisher, aka Dolphin Midwives, the infamous singing-and-looping harpist with all the electronics, one of Oregon’s greatest musical treasures. Her press-grabbing albums (yes, they’re available on vinyl) are extraordinary slices of surreal interior loveliness, and her live shows are rituals of pure sonic bliss. Not to be missed, whatever her name.

Also this weekend, out in Beaverton at a regular church – St. Matthew Lutheran, on Southwest Canyon Road – the “thirteen brass and two percussionists” of Big Horn Brass will play an assortment of their usual brassy stuff: Copland’s classic Fanfare for the Common Man, the spicy “Bacchanale” from Saint-Saëns’ Samson et Dalila, a bunch of Respighi, and plenty more. What’s extra special is that this free concert on the 7th will also feature the St. Matthew Exaltation Handbell Ensemble, for a classy and truly brasstastic afternoon.

Two touring quartets are rolling through Portland in the week ahead. This weekend, on Friday the 6th, Chamber Music Northwest hosts the Orion String Quartet’s farewell tour. This is the group’s 36th and final season, and they’re going out playing Haydn (Op. 33/3, “The Bird”), Schubert (Op. 161), and (with violist Ida Kavafian) Mozart’s String Quintet (K. 593). That’s at The Old Church in Downtown Portland, and you can learn more about it right here.

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Metropolitan Youth Symphony Music Concert Rooted Newmark Theatre Portland Oregon

On Sunday and Monday, October 9 & 10, Friends of Chamber Music brings the Fauré Piano Quartet all the way from Germany. And no, dear reader, that’s not four pianos: it’s one piano plus violin, viola, and cello. The quartet performs a different program each night, with some highlights on each night. On the 9th: Rachmaninoff’s Études-tableaux, Schubert’s Adagio e rondo concertante, a selection of songs by namesake composer Gabriel Fauré, and an arrangement of Mussorgsky’s notorious Pictures at an Exhibition – neither the lush Ravel version nor the bizarre Emerson Lake & Palmer rendition, but a new arrangement by the quartet’s pianist, Dirk Mommertz. Night two is the second piano quartets of Fauré and Dvořák, plus music by the German rock band Polarkreis 18 and American rock band Steely Dan.

Difficult music

Everything is happening on Friday the 13th. In Southeast Portland, it’s Roselit Bone at Lollipop Shoppe. In Eugene, it’s the start of Eugene Difficult Music Ensemble’s three-day New Music Festival. In St. Paul, it’s mezzo-composer Lisa Neher’s Evergreen & Oak Trio at Lady Day Winery. In Downtown Portland, Kalakendra hosts Hindustani vocalists Ritesh and Rajnish Mishra. In Northeast Portland, 45th Parallel Universe starts their season. And at Dante’s on West Burnside, the Swiss deathcore band Paleface melts your face off.

Phew! Let’s take those one at a time, starting with Paleface.

First of all, these dudes are nuts. Secondly – they’re not, though, not really. They’re just a Swiss metal band doing what metal bands have always done, which is make horror movies for your ears. In a sense it’s not too different from Sophocles or Euripedes or any of the various Medieval Passion Plays or Elizabethean Revenge Tragedies or the Bach Passions we all adore. This stuff exists for the sake of catharsis. Paleface vocalist and co-founder Marc Zelli explains:

Back in the day it was scary to listen to this kind of music; it was like when you watch a horror movie for the first time, when you’re not supposed to watch it but you do it anyway. I think it is still as scary as it was back in the day, but a lot of people realized that it’s really scary and the music is hard but once you’re in, you’re overwhelmed with love and welcomed and everyone is accepted the way they are in this metal community. Everyone is in shock because it seems to be very scary but at the same time, everyone is very lovely.

Maybe a lot more people have noticed that the metal community is a lot more open. They care about each other. Yeah, it’s angry and scary stuff, but the community really does care about people. And I think people have realized that the metal community is a good place to talk about feelings because you are accepted the way you are. With me, the music scared me at first, but now I feel so comfortable in this community.*

The horror aspect used to be the image everyone had, now emotions are more scary.

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Portland Opera The Snowy Day Newmark Theatre Portland Oregon

I feel like the people back then were very entertained by the fiction horror stuff. They knew it wasn’t real. But now that everyone has opened their eyes, they can see the real scary stuff that we all deal with, like mental health problems. I think people are opening their eyes and seeing you can’t make this up, it’s real. Which makes it more scary for me, but people are so open to talking, which also makes it less scary.

Nothing at EDME’s festival in Eugene can really compare with that in terms of real “difficulty” — but, adjusting for a certain bourgeois academic value of “difficult,” it’s still bound to be a solid sampling of edgy experimental music. Lineup includes a variety of local and visiting composers, including headliners Don Haugen, Free Static, Mrs. Hands, M Denney, and the infamous Skeleton Piano of Cascadia Composer Jennifer Wright.

The fest runs for three free concerts in Eugene: 7 p.m. on Friday the 13th at Farmer’s Market Pavilion Plaza; 2 p.m. on Saturday the 14th at WOW Hall; and 2 p.m. on Sunday the 15th (Friedrich Nietzsche’s birthday) at First Christian Church. Complete lineup right here.

Indian classical music is an entirely different kind of “difficult” — doubly so if you’re a white-ass U.S. American. No matter who you are or where you come from, Hindustani music is religious and intellectual in almost precisely the same sense that Bach is; you have to pay attention, deep attention, with your entire mind, heart, body, and soul. And if this music isn’t familiar to you, it’s difficult in the same sense that watching a foreign film is. Both of these are good reasons to get into it, because the difficulty makes it all the more rewarding.

This concert features singers Ritesh and Rajnish Mishra (backed by Tanmay Bichu on tabla and Manoj Tamhanker on harmonium), and Kalakendra describes it as “a tribute to Pandit Rajan Mishra” — that would be the brothers’ father and guru, who passed away from COVID-19 complications in 2021. Rajan and his brother Sajan spent four decades as a terrifically successful vocal duo, and now Rajan’s sons continue the centuries-old singing tradition. You can hear all four singing together in 2016 right here:

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Portland Columbia Symphony Realm of Nature Beaverton and Gresham Oregon

There’s nothing particularly difficult about Lisa Neher’s concert with her trio Evergreen & Oak, unless you count the drive to Lady Hill Winery in St. Paul out in the wine country between Wilsonville and McMinnville. The group – which also includes flutist Rose Bishop and pianist Abbie Brewer – will perform an evening of solos, duets, and trios in a program that includes music by Jennifer Higdon, Sabrina Peña Young, Leslie Uyeda, Gwyneth Walker, Sonya Leonore Stahl, Judith Lang Zaimont, and Neher herself (read Bennett Campbell Ferguson’s ArtsWatch interview right here).

Neher describes the program as “lyrical and dramatic, illustrating the lives of animals, the experiences of living in urban and rural environments, the beauty found in the natural world around us, and questions of revenge versus justice in the wake of witch trials.” So maybe it’s a little difficult. You can listen to Bishop performing Neher’s Reach Out right here:

In our interview with Roselit Bone bandleader Charlotte McCaslin, she describes the music on her band’s new album Ofrenda as a “salve,” and it surely is that. But it’s the sort of salve that kinda burns when you apply it, like Tiger Balm. The music is dark, catchy, hypnotic, sorrowful, danceable – just the right mix for an evening out on Friday the 13th.

Listen to Ofrenda (and order the vinyl) right here:

45th Parallel Universe violinist and founder Greg Ewer describes Osvaldo Golijov’s Last Round like this:

Osvaldo Golijov’s Last Round is one of a very special breed of classical pieces that has the power to routinely stop first-time listeners in their tracks. Compositions like Caroline Shaw’s Partita for 8 Voices, Arvo Part’s Spiegel im Spiegel, and Bach’s famous Chaconne for solo violin are, in my opinion, also in this category. My first hearing of Last Round left me completely taken with its harmonic and rhythmic language, and absolutely gobsmacked by its raw energy.

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Portland Center Stage at the Armory Quixote Nuevo Portland Oregon

The piece is inspired by the sudden death of the great Argentinian tango composer Astor Piazzolla, who in Golijov’s own words, “left us … without saying goodbye,” felled by stroke in 1992 at the peak of his creativity. Golijov continues in his composer’s notes, “That day the musical face of Buenos Aires was abruptly frozen. The creation of that face had started a hundred years earlier from the unlikely combination of African Rhythms underlying gauchos’ couplets, sung in the style of Sicilian canzonettas over an accompanying Andalucian guitar. The title is borrowed from a short story on boxing by Julio Cortazar, the metaphor for an imaginary chance for Piazzolla’s spirit to fight one more time (he used to get into fistfights throughout his life). The piece is conceived as an idealized bandoneon. The first movement represents the act of violent compression of the instrument and the second a final, seemingly endless opening sigh … but Last Round is also a sublimated tango dance. Two quartets confront each other … The bows fly in the air as inverted legs in crisscrossed choreography, always attracting and repelling each other, always in danger of clashing, always avoiding it with the immutability that can only be acquired by transforming hot passion into pure pattern.”

You can read more about the music on 45||’s upcoming concert Out of the Dark right here. Also on the program: Eleanor Alberga’s Succubus Moon and Kenneth Fuchs’ Out of the Dark (After Three Paintings by Helen Frankenthaler).

Shout for joy

Woohoo! Resonance Ensemble is finally releasing their debut album, LISTEN, and they’re performing the whole thing in concert at PSU’s Lincoln Hall on the 14th and 15th. One of the best things about Resonance – besides, of course, their amazing musicianship and their total commitment to making meaningful music meaningful – is how they’ll not only commission new works by living (and in some cases local) composers, they’ll perform that music more than once. That’s not weird in the pop/rock/metal/etc. world, where a band might labor over ten songs and then tour that album for the rest of their career. But in the classical world this is something truly special.

Three works from this album really stand out. The first is Oregon composer Renée Favand-See’s Only In Falling, based on poetry by Wendell Berry – a beautifully original work with the power to make you weep uncontrollably before you’ve even heard it. Resonance premiered the piece in summer 2017, and sang it again on 2019’s aptly titled Intensive Care program. The second is the incredibly haunting Witch Trial by another Oregonian, Stacey Philipps. Resonance performed it on 2019’s Women Singing Women concert, and again on last year’s We Dissent program; you can read all about the piece right here.

Finally, there’s the title track, Melissa Dunphy’s LISTEN – yes, the title is supposed to be in all caps like that, and surely you can understand why. Resonance commissioned this one in 2019, and you can watch the premiere performance (with opening commentary from Dunphy) right here:

Also on the 14th and 15th (so plan accordingly) is Portland Baroque Orchestra’s 40th anniversary celebration, Shout for Joy! PBO is 40. The program features music by the Big Three of the Baroque (Handel, Vivaldi, Bach), fitting for the commencement of Julian Perkins’ tenure with the orchestra – the English conductor and harpsichordist was chosen in a three-way contest last fall, which ArtsWatch correspondent James Bash covered and correctly called.

You can read Perkins’ account of his preparations for this particular concert right here. The stars of this concert, besides Perkins, will be PBO’s principal trumpet Kris Kwapis and soprano Arwen Myers. You can read Mr. Bash’s interview with Myers here, and here’s Kwapis explaining the Baroque trumpet:

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Portland Area Theatre Alliance Fertile Ground Portland Oregon

We leave you with Eugene Symphony Orchestra and one of Oregon’s dearest composers, David Schiff. On the 19th, ESO will perform Schiff’s Prefontaine, and it’s another of those repeat performances – they commissioned and premiered the piece last year, which you can read about here and here. ArtsWatch correspondent Angela Allen had this to say about it at the time:

The last and most intricate movement, “5K,” is named for the race most closely connected to Prefontaine, which the runner never lost in his four years at the University of Oregon. As part of Schiff’s program notes, he writes that the movement “is organized as a sequence of 12 compact fugues that represent 12 laps in a 5K race, each one approximating Steve Prefontaine’s actual best timings, and each scored for a different group of players, beginning with small ensembles and gradually building to include the entire orchestra. Each lap has its own theme and character, ranging from exhilaration to exhaustion to final victory.”

So you hear high woodwinds, trumpets, xylophone, and marimba for the first lap; trombones and percussion in the second; woodwinds, the third; brass for the fourth; violins, the fifth; low woodwinds, strings and percussion for the sixth; pitched percussion and pizzicato strings for the seventh, etc. The full orchestra takes over in the final, 12th lap.

This music was riveting to listen to as the timer in the onstage video marked the seconds of each lap. You were there, running with Pre or cheering with the crowd, imagining yourself flying with the Oregon breeze around the track. Matching Pre’s relentless and determined running so precisely with ever-building music was a brilliant idea of Schiff’s.

And there’s another Oregon composer on the program, Andrea Reinkemeyer (read Ferguson’s profile here) — her Water Sings Fire opens the concert. In between, a brace of Baroque concerti, Handel’s Harp Concerto (with Chloe Tula) and Vivaldi’s Violin Concerto in E minor (with Searmi Park), with ESO music director and conductor Francesco Lecce-Chong on harpsichord.

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Photo Joe Cantrell

Music editor Matthew Neil Andrews is a composer, writer, and alchemist specializing in the intersection of The Weird and The Beautiful. An incorrigible wanderer who spent his teens climbing mountains and his twenties driving 18-wheelers around the country, Matthew can often be found taking his nightly dérive walks all over whichever Oregon city he happens to be in. He and his music can be reached at monogeite.bandcamp.com.

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