MusicWatch Monthly: Rain or shine, the weather’s fine

Symphonies, concerti, chamber collabs, extra-curricular improv, progressive jazz, and Zoomer B.S.

|

It’s that time of year again, when summer is over and the months of rain and overcast begin (at least on the I5 corridor; things east of the Cascades get cold but remain dry). For us, that means that the summer festivals and one-off shows are done and the major groups are getting back to regularly-scheduled programming. I foolishly forgot the obvious song to lead off last month’s column, a song which also has birthed one of the best annual traditions on the internet, so let’s start this one with an equally on-the-nose choice for October.

Students at public school are back in person, and this new school year is already tense. Local teens have already taken to city hall demanding action on climate change. In the ‘burbs, similar tensions are mounting as Newberg’s school board banned pride flags and students in Newberg and Tigard held solidarity demonstrations in protest. Meanwhile, lots of people remain unvaccinated (and if someone hasn’t gotten it by now, I have a hard time seeing what would convince them at this point), though I did see a few people at CVS the other day getting their shots.

As live music comes in out of the rain, the etiquette has remained as it has been: keep your masks on unless you’re eating or drinking, leave plenty of space between your party and others, show your vaccine cards at the door. The big stadium shows have resumed at the Moda Center and the Memorial Coliseum, but we won’t be talking about many of them. Because come on, do Judas Priest or James Taylor need any more press? (Stay tuned, however, for an oddly perfect combination of metal legends in April of next year…)

The resurrections are doing fine

The Oregon Symphony opens its season with new conductor David Danzmayr and a new acoustic system in the Schnitz–more on the latter soon. The festivities begin with the sold-out opening night gala, with cocktail attire and $300-a-seat tickets. This weekend they’ll perform the big show-stopper of Mahler’s massive Second Symphony (read Daryl Browne’s choral profile here), alongside Elegía Andina by Gabriela Lena Frank and a premiere by local composer Kenji Bunch, an overture/prelude called Time In. If you are unable to make the concerts in person–and I wouldn’t be surprised if these shows sell out–they are also live-streaming six of their most popular shows this year, starting with this one.

Later in the month we have Tchaikovsky’s first Piano Concerto, Music of the Harlem Renaissance, and a showcase of Austrian music from Haydn to H.K. Gruber. Those are just the big marquee names, however. Hidden inside the programs are some real gems, like Tchaikovsky’s popular concerto bookended with George Walker’s gorgeous Lyric for Strings (which seems to be becoming a new popular piece in the repertoire) and Sibelius’ First Symphony. We also get to hear concertmaster Sarah Kwak and principal oboist Martin Hébert on J.S. Bach’s Concerto for Oboe and Violin

The Symphony will also have its first Open Music concert, with Kenji Bunch, on October 6 at The Old Church Concert Hall. This is a new series led by creative director Gabriel Kahane, who is hosting smaller concerts and speaking sessions with various artists from here and abroad. They were supposed to start last year with Caroline Shaw, but you know how that goes. Other future guests will include Missy Mazzoli and a dual session with Nathalie Joachim and Pekka Kuusisto, and we’ll have more coverage of those in due time.

Speaking of The Old Church, local singer-songwriter Danni Lee is hosting a release party for her first album Truth Teller, after releasing a few singles over the last few years. There will be a special guest: Caroline Shaw, who has a guest spot on Lee’s album. Also: have you ever seen an electric ukulele? No? Well this is the perfect chance!

Other great shows at TOC this month include local group Flamenco Pacifico on the 7th, Zlatomir Fung & Benjamin Hochman (hosted by Chamber Music Northwest) on the 10th, and choral ensemble In Mulieribus’ tribute to the composer Pauline Garvia-Viardot on the 17th–her 200th birthday.

In Salem, Willamette University kicks off the first of its Distinguished Artists series on the 27th with violinist Anthea Kreston playing violin sonatas by Beethoven, Brahms and Clara Schumann. For those who want to venture across the Columbia, the Vancouver Symphony performs their second show of the season the weekend of the 23rd, with an excitingly modern program of Ravel, Debussy, Stravinsky and Kodály.

Sponsor

The same weekend, Portland Baroque Orchestra brings us a program of Concerto Grossi for their first in-person show in a year. The concerti are by Handel, Corelli and Vivaldi; I’m disappointed they’re not playing Schnittke’s, but why would they? On the 16th, a chamber ensemble from the Portland Columbia Symphony Orchestra performs Façade – An Entertainment, with William Walton’s music underscoring the poetry of Dame Edith Sitwell, narrated by Robert McBride and Lisa Neher.

Selling out

Sometimes, the best stuff sells out before we can tell you about it: Lucy Dacus is already sold out (though you may be able to catch her play this Thursday on the last of September), as is Dan Deacon–those are just two of the more well-known indie artists playing this month. I mention this to say that you should act quickly if you wanna see Yo La Tengo play at Wonder Ballroom on the 18th and 19th. When a touring band plays two shows back-to-back, it’s usually because they either expect the first to sell out, or it already has and they decided to stay another day. 

While they aren’t usually considered “experimental,” King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard have kept their sound fresh by trying out new sounds on each album: microtonal music on 2017’s Flying Microtonal Banana and its 2020 follow-up albums, K.G. and L.W.; polymeters on 2016’s Nonagon Infinity and 2017’s Polygondwanaland (my favorite of theirs); and old-school ‘80s thrash metal on Infest the Rat’s Nest. They perform at the Roseland on the 4th

I’m sure you’ve all heard someone say, “all music today sounds like garbage, it’s just bleeps and bloops and autotune and screaming.” Well, 100 Gecs is exactly that, and it rocks. The duo got famous for making the kind of music you listen to in order to piss off your stodgy parents who just want to listen to their Eagles compilations or the Kingston Trio or whatever else. They play on the 12th at Wonder Ballroom (Indigenous Peoples’ Day as well). A big dividing line in music is between those who say, “what the hell is this?!?” positively or negatively. I find 100 Gecs on the positive side, but I do not blame you one bit if you hear it and think it’s just some Zoomer B.S. 

Extra-curricular

On Oct 13, local avant-garde collective Creative Music Guild hosts their Improv Summit at Holocene. Three local artists take the stage: Methods Body, MSHR, and Patricia Wolf. If the Microsoft screensaver-like poster is any indication, the show will be wild and strange, the perfect show for some extra-curriculars, let’s say. 

Chamber music collective 45th Parallel Universe has two great shows lined up for this month. The first is the live performance of Currents, one of the best from their massive series of over fifty livestreams over the last year and a half. Currents centers around a chamber ensemble arrangement of Shostakovich’s Fifteenth Symphony in a tripartite collaboration between the Gemini Project (with piano trio), filmmaker Scott Ballard and dance troupe BodyVox. See it live on the 18th at Portland Center Stage.

The second 45th Parallel concert is Las Américas, a showcase of composers from New York to Buenos Aires performed by their wind ensemble, the Arcturus Quintet. George Gershwin and Astor Piazzola are the most recognizable names, but the real treats will be music from former Imani Winds flutist and composer Valerie Coleman and Cuban saxophonist Paquito D’Rivera. The show will be at the Jacob’s Center on the 28th starting at 7 pm.

Finally, Jack London Revue has a host of great jazz shows this month, including PDX Jazz-sponsored Theo Crocker on the 8th. But the one we’re most excited for is Trio Subtonic on the 22nd. Though their music remains fundamentally jazz, they take a lot from the music of the fifty years that have elapsed since the supposed salad days of the genre. As a young jazz musician I butted heads with teachers who wanted me to play Ellington charts note-for-note while I was more excited by Robert Glasper, Kamasi Washington, the Bad Plus and Medeski, Martin and Wood.

Trio Subtonic is firmly on the progressive side of this progressive-reactionary divide in jazz music. Their music grooves, and leader Galen Clark’s piano and keyboard takes it away from Ellington and Monk and towards Dawn of Midi. I could rhapsodize on the fault lines within modern jazz, but I’ll leave you with some good tunes and a hearty endorsement.

Want to read more cultural news in Oregon? Support Oregon ArtsWatch!

About the author

Charles Rose is a composer, writer and sound engineer born and raised in Portland, Oregon. He graduated from Portland State University with a degree in Sonic Arts and Music Production in 2019. His piano trio Contradanza was the 2018 winner of the Chamber Music Northwest’s Young Composers Competition. He releases music on BandCamp under various aliases. In addition to composing, he is a sound engineer for chamber music group FearNoMusic and is an editor of the Portland State music journal Subito. You can find his writing at Continuousvariations.com.

Share:

Share on email
Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on tumblr
Share on pinterest
Share on reddit
Share on linkedin
Share on print

3 Responses

  1. Speaking of OSO conductor David Danzmayr, his ProMusica band (Columbus, Ohio) is performing Alfred Schnittke’s great “Concerto Grosso I” on 6 & 7 November.

    Like you, Charles, I’m a big fan of that Schnittke work & would absolutely LOVE to catch it live here in Global Village PDX sometime – hint hint for Maestro Danzmayr!

  2. Correction: Facade is not a song cycle, and Lisa Neher doesn’t sing. She and I both speak Sitwell’s poetry. Walton was very careful about precise notation of rhythm, but he never indicates pitch, except in this way: there are three places where he asks the speaker(s) to slide or jump to a higher pitch. But no specific pitch is indicated. It’s big fun!

Comments are closed.

Sign up for our newsletter