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MusicWatch Weekly: hidden figures


Best known as the premier exponent and explorer of the musical traditions of Byzantium and other early Christian music, Cappella Romana has recently branched out into other Orthodox Christian music descended from Byzantine origins, including Russian, Finnish, Ukrainian and more. You’re unlikely to hear any of this music performed anywhere else by anyone. Now the incomparable vocal ensemble shares its latest discovery: long lost Armenian Orthodox liturgical music.

In a concert directed by founding artistic director Alexander Lingas and Haig Utidjian, a British conductor of Armenian descent, they’ll sing traditional Armenian chants and later arrangements of them by 19th century Armenian choirmaster Makar Ekmalian and his student, Komitas Vardapet, regarded as the savior of Armenian music, who collected and transcribed thousands of works that would have otherwise been lost to history. It’s a chance to experience a lost world through music.
Thursday, Central Lutheran Church, 1857 Potter St., Eugene; Saturday, St. Mary’s Cathedral, NW 18th & Couch St, Portland; and Sunday, St. Stephen’s Catholic Church, 1112 SE 41st Ave, Portland.

Edgar Meyer, here shown at Chamber Music Northwest, performs with the Oregon Symphony. Photo: Jim Leisy.

• Bassists usually lurk in the background onstage, but Edgar Meyer has turned his big acoustic bass into a lead instrument. One of the country’s most in-demand studio musicians, he’s scored a MacArthur “genius” grant, formed a popular ensemble with Yo Yo Ma and Bela Fleck named after his composition “Appalachia Waltz,” starred in bluegrass, classical, folk and country music recordings, and composed major orchestral works. Meyer joins the Oregon Symphony as soloist in his third double bass concerto, written in 2011, and he’ll be back this summer at Chamber Music Northwest. The concert also features an 1845 bass concerto by Italian composer Giovanni Bottesini, Aaron Copland’s ever-popular 1943 ballet score Appalachian Spring, and another tuneful, landmark 20th century work by the dean of African American composers: William Grant Still’s exhilarating 1930 Afro-American Symphony — a most welcome addition to an orchestral music scene still lacking demographic diversity.
Friday, Smith Hall, Willamette University, Salem, and Saturday Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall, 1037 SW Broadway, Portland.

Leslie Odom, Jr. performs with the Oregon Symphony.

• On Sunday, the orchestra backs Grammy- and Tony Award-winning show tune singer Leslie Odom, Jr., who er, shot to fame in the role of Aaron Burr in Hamilton, and parlayed it and his considerable vocal talent into a successful side career singing jazz and Broadway hits.
Sunday, Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall, Portland.

• More welcome diversity distinguishes Oregon Sinfonietta’s free Sunday concert: a work by a female composer. British composer Ethel Smyth’s breakthrough, four-movement 1890 Serenade silenced many skeptics who wondered whether women had what it takes to write for orchestra. She went on to excel in opera and choral composition before her career was sadly shortened by deafness. The concert includes music by  Mozart, Debussy and Smyth’s English contemporary, George Butterworth, whose career was truncated even more tragically and abruptly by a German sniper’s bullet in World War I at age 31.
Sunday, Sunnyside Seventh-day Adventist Church, 10501 SE Market St, Portland.

Chamber Music

Friends of Chamber Music brings the award winning young Escher String Quartet to Portland State University to play one of Mozart’s final quartets, Samuel Barber’s sole quartet (with that famous movement that later became a string orchestra and choral classic), Schumann, Haydn, Bartok and Smetana.
Monday and Tuesday, Lincoln Performance Hall, 1620 SW Park Ave, Portland.


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Escher Quartet performs Monday and Tuesday ni Portland. Photo: Sarah Skinner

Fear No Music’s annual Locally Sourced Sounds concert, one of Oregon’s most valuable music series, returns for its fifth installment with new music (including several premieres) by Oregon composers Yiyang Wang, Ryan Francis, John Peel, Julia Kinzler, and Oregon Symphony principal performer-composers Nancy Ives and James Shields. Stay tuned for my ArtsWatch preview tomorrow.
Monday, The Old Church, Portland.

Third Angle New Music’s Sarah Tiedemann and Portland choreographer Subashini Ganesan perform in ‘Indian Music Now’ Saturday in Hillsboro. Photo: Jacob Wade

• If you missed Third Angle New Music’s Indian Music Now shows last week, or if you’d rather see them in a sweet West Side venue, you have another chance at the spiffy new Vault, just steps from the Max Blue Line.  Read my ArtsWatch preview. Please also note that Third Angle is offering furloughed federal employees, their families and federal contractors free tickets to this performance while there are still seats available: Please contact for details.
Saturday, The Vault Theatre, 350 E Main St, Hillsboro.

Sage Fisher performs as Dolphin Midwives Thursday.

Liminal Garden, the scintillating new album by Portland composer and harpist Sage Fisher a/k/a Dolphin Midwives, is the most fascinating release I’ve heard so far in 2017, as colorful and eclectic as her always-engaging solo performances. You can hear her and score the album at Thursday’s release show with Portland’s new Balinese gamelan ensemble Gamelan Wahyu opening.
Thursday, Mississippi Studios, Portland.


PSU Noon Concert: The critically acclaimed Oregon Guitar Quartet (Bryan Johanson, John Mery, Jesse McCann, Mario Diaz).
Thursday, 12:00pm PST.

• Finally, it’s not a live concert, but the Northwest Film Center’s annual Reel Music Festival, which opens Friday, offers plenty of fascination for Oregon music lovers. Classical and electronic music fans might be especially interested in Coda, Sunday’s documentary film about Japanese composer Ryuichi Sakamoto, which includes a companion film chronicling the composer performing music from his gorgeous 2017 album async.

More, you crave? Let ArtsWatch readers know about other musical events of interest this week in the comments section below.


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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.


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