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MusicWatch Monthly: Nasalrod at Mississippi, Gershwin with Ray Ushikubo, and a month’s worth of Black music from Michelle Cann to mousai REMIX to the Albina Music Trust

The pronk quartet returns to live music, Oregon Symphony celebrates the “Rhapsody” centennial, Grammy-winner Cann performans a recital of Black women composers for PPI, Eugene Concert Choir releases their “Black is Beautiful” CD, and the Albina Community Archive goes live.

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Nasalrod vocalist Jeffrey "Chairman" Couch with drummer Tim "Spit Stix" Leitsch. Photo by Michael Jung.
Nasalrod vocalist Jeffrey “Chairman” Couch with drummer Tim “Spit Stix” Leitsch. Photo by Michael Jung.

This is it, everybody. The moment you’ve been waiting for. Last August, we introduced you to Nadine Records founder and Nasalrod bassist Mandy Morgan. The label has continued to crank out vinyl this whole time, and their latest release–Nasalrod’s split LP with Santa Rosa weirdos Victims Family, In The Modern Meatspace–is now available for pre-order in various colored vinyl editions as well as a limited edition metallic gold swirl pressing.

You can order that, and the rest of the Nadine catalog, via Bandcamp (just in time for the return of Fee Free Fridays this week).

But it’s been a minute since the band itself has played out, live and in person, loud and proud, for sweaty humans in tight quarters, which is the best way to experience this particular band. This weekend, Saturday February 3, the quartet performs at Mississippi Studios with Black Shelton and The American Dream and Nadine labelmates Tacos!–and you can get your tickets to that right here.

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Maybe that doesn’t float your bubble, though. Perhaps you’d rather spend February 3 (or 4) heading downtown to The Schnitz, where Your Oregon Symphony is performing George Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue with piano soloist Ray Ushikubo and clarinet soloist Mark Dubac. This year Ushikubo has been making the rounds for the Rhapsody’s centennial, performing it with orchestras in Kansas City and San Diego, commemorating one of the first truly grand and uniquely American classical compositions. Also on the program: more Gershwin, soprano Kearstin Piper Brown and bass Kevin Deas, and the Portland State University Chamber Choir.

More information and tickets for that one are available right here. And you can get a taste of Gershwin himself playing his Rhapsody via this curious historical artifact: a player piano with multi-part piano rolls recorded by Gershwin in an early instance of overdubbing.

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You can get even more piano February 4 & 6, when Portland Piano International presents Grammy-winner Michelle Cann. She’ll be at Portland State on the 4th and at The Reser on the 6th, performing a recital of six composers from a very specific time and place and demographic: they’re all Black, all women, all from 1930s Chicago. The biggest name, the one you probably already know, is Florence Price. The others are Margaret Bonds, Betty Jackson King, Irene Britton Smith, Nora Holt, and Hazel Scott. Cann won her Grammy for a performance of Price’s Piano Concerto in One Movement, which you can listen to right here:

You can read more about Cann and this program in James Bash’s recent interview for The Oregonian right here, and you can get your tickets to the concerts right here.

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The Price continues to be right in Oregon this month. On the 6th at The Old Madeleine Church, mousai REMIX (one of 45th Parallel Universe’s two string quartets) will perform a program pairing Price’s Piano Quintet in A minor with Teresa Carreño’s String Quartet in B minor. Now, mousai has been playing Price since damn near the beginning of their run, and the guest pianist on the quintet is worth the price of admission: Monica Ohuchi of Fear No Music fame. More information and tickets are available here, and you can hear mousai performing Price’s Five Folksongs in Counterpoint on their 2019 Sons of the Soil concert right here:

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On the 9th, out on the coast, the Siletz Bay Music Festival will present a pair of off-season performances of My Words Are My Sword, a collaborative piece for orchestra and voice composed a couple years back by jazz pianist Jasnam Daya Singh and poet-actor Darius Wallace; both men also perform in the piece, accompanied by orchestra.

Phil Darius Wallace performing 'My Words Are My Sword' in 2022. Photo by Joe Cantrell.
Phil Darius Wallace performing ‘My Words Are My Sword’ with Portland Chamber Orchestra in 2022. Photo by Joe Cantrell.

It’s glorious when musical organizations not only commission new works by living local artists but also give repeat performances–we’ll never tire of repeating this truth. When conductor and new music champion Yaacov “Yaki” Bergman premiered the work with Portland Chamber Orchestra in 2022, ArtsWatch correspondent Angela Allen wrote about it twice (here and here). Now, in honor of both Bergman (an important part of the annual festival who passed away last year) and Black History Month, SBMF will present two concerts in one day, a matinee and an evening show. ArtsWatch coast correspondent Lori Tobias writes, in her recent preview:

The festival will put on two performances Feb. 9: a 1:30 p.m. performance free of charge to students, and a second one at 7 p.m. Tickets to that concert are $40 for adults and $15 for students. Both performances will be held at B’nai B’rith Camp in Otis. The evening performance will also feature a separate piece honoring Bergman, titled Maestro, written by Wallace and composed by Singh. Raúl Gómez-Rojas will conduct both concerts, joined by Wallace and Singh.

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Also on the 9th, Eugene Concert Choir will release their album Black Is Beautiful, a live recording of last year’s concert of the same name. Here’s what ECC and Artistic Director Dr. Diane Retallack have to say about it:

The release of this album represents the conclusion of the Black is Beautiful Project, which included a 4-day EXIGENCE residency in Eugene, workshops and masterclasses led by EXIGENCE members for students of the University of Oregon and Eugene area high schools, the collaborative Black is Beautiful concert at the Hult Center, a community forum on the importance of the Black is Beautiful repertoire, an on-demand video recording of the concert, and the live concert recording.

“We are honored to share the beauty and power of this music,” says Dr. Retallack. “We hope that listening to this album will be a meaningful and inspiring experience. It is a celebration of Black artists and a reminder of the importance of diversity in our communities.”

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The Black is Beautiful Project was supported by generous funding from the Hult Endowment, the Oregon Cultural Trust, A-Squared Productions, and the Eugene Concert Choir’s very first grant award from the National Endowment for the Arts.

Recorded at the Eugene Concert Choir’s Black is Beautiful concert with guest choir EXIGENCE on May 9, 2023, this album features the first publicly available audio recording of Scenes from the Life of a Martyr, a 16-part oratorio on the life of Martin Luther King Jr.

Written by Undine Smith Moore, a Black female composer born in Virginia in 1904, Scenes from the Life of a Martyr was performed to acclaim at Carnegie Hall in 1982 and was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize, yet it has remained largely unknown, as is historically typical of classical works by Black female composers. Due to the attention and dedication of Dr. Diane Retallack and Dr. Eugene Rogers, Scenes From the Life of a Martyr is now having a public resurgence and will finally be available for listeners to enjoy at home on their favorite streaming platforms.

The Black is Beautiful album also includes the contemporary masterwork Seven Last Words of the Unarmed by Joel Thompson, “Glory” from the film Selma, and a world premiere performance of “The Hymn!” by Stacey V. Gibbs, conducted by Dr. Eugene Rogers.

The album will be released on the usual streaming places and also on a physical CD, complete with the requisite “beautiful 24-page booklet with concert photos, program notes, and all musical texts”–this is an absolute must for all classical releases on physical formats (and bands could stand to learn this lesson too). You can get a sample of that album here, pre-order it here, and watch the behind-the-scenes video right here:

ECC also has a concert coming up later this month, Music of the Americas on the 25th, and you can read all about that (and Cappella Romana’s collaboration with gospel choir Kingdom Sound, and also SuperBach Sunday) in Daryl Browne’s recent choral column right here.

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I know, I know, I know: You’re wondering about Resonance Ensemble’s Black Art Song concert on February 25, right? It’s been sold out for a month, sucker–you snooze, you lose! Good news or bad news, depending on your perspective. But you can still get on the waitlist right here, and no doubt you’ll eventually be able to watch the livestream thanks to Resonance’s somewhat-hauntingly-titled REAP initiative.

Don’t be afraid–that just stands for “Resonance Ensemble Access Project,” and it was launched during The Unmentionable Time to help artists and audiences stay connected. It’s the reason you can watch, for instance, their short film Around The Requiem (about the making of Damien Geter’s An African American Requiem) or the entirety of many Resonance concerts, like last year’s Dirty, Stupid Music and 2022’s Abya Yala and oh so much more.

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We leave you, for now, with a trove of buried treasures to spend the rest of Black History Month exploring: the Albina Community Archive is now live. You may have already read about this one last week in Lynn Darroch’s feature profile, and now you can check the whole thing out. It’s a searchable or browse-able collection; go looking for old photographs and recordings of funk bands and jazz bands and all manner of stuff from Old Portland, or just browse one of the featured collections: photography; poster art and handbills; digitized tape reels and vinyl and cassettes; newspapers and zines; VHS and 16mm film and old TV spots; and a wide variety of oral histories narrated by people who were there.

The Albina Music Trust is celebrating the Archive’s release with a few events this month. From 8-10 pm this Friday (tomorrow evening, if you’re reading this on Thursday the 1st) the Archive will be featured on KMHD, which you can stream here–or if you still have a radio in these strange times, turn that dial to 89.1 FM. That will continue every Friday at 8, and here’s what the Trust folks have to say about it:

Music from our community archive will be aired each and every Friday from 8pm-10pm Pacific, on air and streaming online. Additionally, a segment within the program called “The Trifecta” invites YOU to browse music from the archive site and email us tracks we should be listening to. We’ll play it!

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Albina Music Trust, L to R: Calvin Walker, Ken Berry, Paul Knauls, Norman Sylvester, J.W. Friday, Jeddy Beasley, Rickey Brame, Bobby Smith seated. Photo by Eric Mast.
Albina Music Trust, L to R: Calvin Walker, Ken Berry, Paul Knauls, Norman Sylvester, J.W. Friday, Jeddy Beasley, Rickey Brame, Bobby Smith seated. Photo by Eric Mast.

On Saturday the 3rd, the Archive gets its own release party at the Oregon Historical Society on Southwest Park Avenue, an “evening of storytelling” featuring “the digital archive on screen at multiple kiosks” and a panel discussion with AMT members Kenneth W. Berry, Paul Knauls, Sr., Norman Sylvester, Calvin Walker, and Bobby Smith. Doors at 6 pm, program starts at 7, and you can read more about it here.

You’re too late for the Archive Listening Party on the 7th at Leftbank: that one’s sold out (you snoozed). Console yourself with this documentary on the Archive by Portland photographer Jason Hill:

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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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