Some say summer ends after Labor Day. Others are more orthodox and place it with the “official” date on or around the equinox — these are political, solar time-markers. But it’s a different turning point we have in mind today: the end of September and beginning of October. There are a few month-based turning points like this throughout the year, most notably New Year’s Day and Samhain (to which we will return in about a month). The monthly shift is a lunar shift, marked by this Friday’s new moon — the Harvest Moon of Yore.
Moon phases aside, something about the very beginning of October always feels like fall has truly arrived, especially in Oregon. Most of September still feels more or less like summer, but that ended with the rainfall that pummeled us this week and promises more of the same this weekend. So it’s appropriate that now is the time to get out our rain gear, start up new concert seasons, and have the last of our garden parties.
Don’t forget your greens
Let’s begin with three events that signal the last hurrah of summer: Terry Longshore’s OSF Green Show (the end of his balance | flow Pacific Northwest tour), the Spotlight Family Arts Festival at The Judy in Downtown Portland, and the last of 45th Parallel Universe’s garden parties.
We already enthused about percussionist Longshore’s bizarro program of very new music, a “solo intermedia percussion performance of music by a diverse body of composers integrating live performance with digital audio, video, and integrated lighting,” back in May when the tour started, and here’s a tidbit from the program notes that stood out:
mini works 2021 was a commissioning consortium organized by New Works Project featuring three composers, each writing a very short piece (about one minute) for four small percussion instruments of the same materials – wood, stone, metal, and a tambourine. My instrument choices are as follows:
- a small slat of purple heart wood (this much-loved piece has been in my collection since 1995 and has expressed music from Applebaum to Skin & Bones to Xenakis)
- a 12” x 12” ceramic tile purchased at ACME Garage, a funky antique shop in Medford, Oregon
- a small “Chanchiki” gong used in Japanese taiko – a lovely gift from Jordan Curcuruto
- a Black Swamp TD1S SoundArt tambourine
All three mini works 2021 compositions are featured in balance | flow, and the brilliant animator Miles Inada, my colleague at the Oregon Center for the Arts at Southern Oregon University, created incredible animations for them. I have been a long-time fan of Miles’ work, and I was thrilled when he was excited to join this project! The characters Miles developed for each composition are intriguing, comical, and exhibit his darkly humorous style.
The shindig reaches its logical conclusion on Friday, September 29, back in Ashland, where Longshore teaches at Southern Oregon University. This performance is “a slightly pared down version” designed to fit the constraints of Oregon Shakespeare Festival’s Green Show outdoor twilight format. It’s also the second-to-last of these summer concerts: The season closes the following night with Unchosen: A Rap Fairy Tale by Rogue Valley rapper and RSMX Rap Academy founder Rory Noone (get a little taste of that right here).
We’re talking about outdoor concerts, at one of the most beautiful spots in all of Oregon, on the night of the full supermoon. Don’t forget your blankets and picnic basket.
Terry Longshore’s balance | flow, September 29. RSMX’s Unchosen: A Rap Fairy Tale, September 30. Both concerts are free, and start at 6:45 at the Bricks in Ashland. More information available here.
On September 30 and October 1, Northwest Children’s Theater and School presents its one-weekend festival, and there’s plenty going on there. With Alex Addy, BodyVox, enTaiko, Gerardo Calderon, clowns, dance, comedy, and plenty more, it’s a multi-culti smorgasbord of family fun! One thing stood out in this lineup: the return of Renegade Opera’s Bird Songs of Opera. You may have read all about this marvel of creative opera programming in Lorin Wilkerson’s review of their May performance at Leach Botanical Gardens. Whether you missed it the first time or just want to hear it all again, here’s your chance.
Renegade Opera performs “Bird Songs of Opera” twice on September 30, at 10:45 am and 12:45 pm, on The Judy’s Black Box Stage. Tickets and more information available here.
On October 1st, the 45|| people are hosting the last garden party of the summer at Jacob’s Garage, which is not a garage but a courtyard garden in Southeast Portland. Previous events have featured specific programs, but this one is an audience-request “musical tasting menu.” It’s not quite the Pyxis Quartet: violinist Ron Blessinger, violist Charles Noble, and cellist Marilyn de Oliveira will be joined by flutist Martha Long and clarinetist James Shields.
We highly recommend calling for any of the various Kenji Bunch works in this crew’s repertoire; Shields’ quartet for clarinet and string trio, Cataclysmic Hyper-virtuosity in Perpetual Motion; Terry Riley’s ever-popular In C; and anything from Long’s extensive solo-flute-and-electronics catalog (Allison Loggins-Hull, Eve Beglarian, Nathalie Joachim, et alia).
45||’s Musical Tasting Menu starts at 6 pm, October 1. Tickets and info available here.
A single corpus
Three very different concerts on Saturday, September 30, grabbed at our ears: Big Mouth Society’s drag show, Kalakendra’s next Indian classical concert, and Oregon Symphony’s Mahler & Kahane affair.
You recently heard all about this summer’s BMS concert, The Common Opus, in Charles Rose’s review and chat with BMS “not the leader” Emily Lau. Their next concert’s title is a real mouthful: Queer & Dear: Echoes of Queerness through Song and Sequins. The whole thing is hosted by Betty Poops, aka Bryce Caster, a violinist who should be familiar to any ArtsWatch readers who’ve been with us long enough to remember Sound of Late and ARCO-PDX.
The program features a whole raft of composers we can get excited about: Caster himself; fellow locals Drew Swatosh and Jesse Ehrenberg (both familiar from recent appearances with FearNoMusic, Third Angle New Music, New Music Gathering, and so on); Resonance Ensemble composer-in-almost-residence Melissa Dunphy; choral darling Craig Hella Johnson; everybody’s darling Dolly Parton; and the goddess of deep listening, Pauline Oliveros.
Here’s Swatosh themself singing the role of Orpheus in their 2015 one-act opera Eurydice:
Two performances, 2 pm and 7 pm, on Saturday September 30. Tickets and info available here.
Way over on the other end of the musical spectrum is Kalakendra, a Beaverton-based arts organization that’s been producing concerts of all varieties of Indian classical music (and dance and plenty more besides) for decades. Sometimes the musicians are locals, sometimes they’re from California, sometimes they’re from Mumbai – and they’re always beyond excellent. We simply can’t enthuse enough, but since we already have (here and here) we’ll just leave it there.
On September 30 at First Baptist Church in Downtown Portland, you can hear Indrayuddh Majumder (sarod) and Indranil Mallick (tabla) do their thing. The sarod is a fretless oud-like instrument most closely associated (in the West) with the great Ali Akbar Khan; the tabla is a pair of tuned drums that you have definitely heard before (if only on Beatles albums). Here’s Majumder performing the haunting raga “Puriya Kalyan” with his father and sarod maestro, Tejendra Narayan Majumdar, in 2019:
Indrayuddh Majumder and Indranil Mallick perform at 7 pm on September 30 at First Baptist Church. Tickets and more information available here.
Gabriel Kahane’s latest commission with Oregon Symphony, for whom he bears the esteemed title “Creative Chair,” is Judith, based on a song off Kahane’s 2011 album Where Are The Arms.
Here’s what the man himself has to say about sharing the stage with Gustav Mahler:
For the last fifteen years, I have split my time between singing in clubs and writing music for the concert hall. But increasingly, I’ve tried to treat my work as a single corpus, rather than distinguishing between high or low, folk or classical. So when I was asked to write a piece that would share a program with Mahler 1, I knew that I would draw on my own song materials, just as Mahler drew heavily from his Lieder eines fahrenden gesellen when composing his symphony.
For Judith, I’ve retained aspects of the formal structure of the original song, while expanding it into a brief set of variations based on that fourteen-bar refrain. But perhaps more importantly, I’ve tried to hold onto the feeling of a character study – now through strictly instrumental music – that is psychologically complex. In these eight minutes, I hope that the listener can sense a woman who, grappling with mortality, remains wholly unwilling to surrender to death. Here is contemplation, joy, grief, libido, rage, and delight. Almost fifteen years after creating this character in the song, “Last Dance,” I’ve finally given a name to its protagonist: Judith.
And we hardly need to belabor the value of hearing Mahler in a concert hall – for all our bemoaning the Dead White European Males, this is one DWEM whose music always deserves to be heard in the largest possible acoustic environment, and his First Symphony is particularly delightful on a wet autumn evening. Take off your earbuds, relax into the apex of the lush Austrian orchestral tradition, and–to gratuitously quote the Coens – “squint against the grandeur!”
Oregon Symphony performs Mahler’s “First Symphony,” Gabriel Kahane’s “Judith,” and (with violinist Benjamin Beilman) works by Saint-Saëns and Ravel. Three performances: 7:30 pm September 30, 2 pm October 1 and 7:30 pm October 2. Tickets and more information available here.
Petticoats be damned
We leave you with Third Angle New Music’s season opener, vocalist Hannah Penn and pianist Maria Garcia performing October 4 & 5 at Curious Comedy Theater on Northeast Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard in Portland. How’s that for a bizarre venue for classical music? Yet it’s perfectly appropriate for a concert program called Slipping Off The Petticoat and described as Penn “channeling her inner Gertrude Stein.”
Two Stein texts fill the heart of this poetry-centric program: Vivian Fine’s The Human Mind and Richard Hundley’s Well Welcome. You’ll also hear Virginia Woolf, in Dominick Argento Pulitzer-winning song cycle From the Diary of Virginia Woolf; Edna St. Vincent Millay in Sheila Silver’s Beauty Intolerable); and Jane Bowles in Eve Beglarian’s Farther from the Heart. Garcia will perform solo piano music by Angelica Negron, Johanny Navarro, and Clarisse Assad, and will also recite the poetry of Tatiana de la Tierra.
Also on the program, an electronic piece composed by Penn’s daughter Genevieve Muir. As explained to James Bash:
The program will also include videos of Woolf, Millay, and Stein reading from their own works. The voices of these authors will figure into the world premiere of “Impossible to Invent New Words” by Hannah’s daughter, Genevieve Muir.
“She loves to compose at the computer,” said Penn of her daughter. “The piece has a beautiful melody that she wrote. It is fragmented and recombined and overlaid with text from Woolf, Stein, and Millay. We have a recording of these women reading their own poems. So, this is a pre-recorded electronic piece. I won’t be performing it.”
We recently called Penn “Oregon’s Greatest Living Singer” and we damn well meant it – there are roughly one thousand extraordinary singers in Oregon, a state blessed with an abundance of fine vocalists, and obviously we can’t claim to have heard them all. Nevertheless, we persist. No arguments will be seriously considered. Go hear for yourself.
Hannah Penn and Maria Garcia perform at Curious Comedy Theater, 7:30 pm, October 4 & 5. Tickets and information available here.