MusicWatch Weekly: Jazz feasts, choral desserts, operatic reunions

Contemporary opera, jazz and holiday music -- and jazzy holiday music -- crowd this week's overstuffed Oregon music calendar

To prepare yourself for the rest of the month’s onslaught of Christmas candy music desserts, there’s some meaty jazz and other improvised music entrees on Oregon stages this weekend, along with plenty of holiday oriented concerts to consider while dodging snowflakes and ice-skids. Please suggest other recommended shows in the comments section below.

Soprano Helen Funston as Viva, bass­-baritone Bobby Jackson as Dad, mezzo­soprano Sadie Gregg as Mom, and tenor  Matt Storm as Brother in last year’s premiere of “Viva’s Holiday.”

Viva’s Holiday: An Opera in One Act
Dec. 7-8 and Dec. 14-17
Star Theater, Portland.
Portland composer Christopher Corbell’s entertaining homegrown indie opera, based on the memoir of Portland writer/singer/stripper Viva Las Vegas, returns for its second run, featuring an all-Oregon cast and 12-member orchestra conducted by Opera Theater Oregon’s Erica Melton. Premieres tend to get all the attention in the classical music world, but the second and subsequent runs are almost as important for securing new music’s place in the repertoire and, in this case, in the heart of the community that spawned it. Shows always develop more when everyone involved gets another crack at them. This year’s revival includes a few adjustments, some new musical material, a new tenor, and a new opening act, comedian Wendy Weiss. Read our preview and review of last year’s premiere, and help turn this DIY, made-in-Oregon production, set at a family Christmas party in which secrets are revealed and freedom of expression asserted, into an Oregon holiday tradition.

Rich Halley/ Carson Halley, The Tim DuRoche/ Andre St. James/ John Savage Trio
December 7
Turn Turn Turn, 8 NE Killingsworth, Portland.
If there’s an all star team of adventurous Portland jazz, everyone on this terrific Creative Music Guild bill might be on it. The occasion: the Portland release for Rich and Carson Halley’s new Pine Eagle Records CD, The Wild. Saxophonist father (Rich) and drummer son have been performing as a duo for two decades, and the inventive has released 20 albums of his inventive improv and compositions. Veteran drummer DuRoche and bassist St. James have worked together often, and this welcome new trio with the superb saxophonist/flutist Savage promises exciting musical explorations.

December 7
Holocene, 1001 SE Morrison St. Portland.
The renowned, always intriguing conceptual electronics duo (Drew Daniel and M.C. Schmidt) returns with a new album inspired by… their washing machine.  Recorded in the basement studio of their Baltimore home, they fashioned entirely out of the sounds generated by their Whirlpool Ultimate Care II model. Of course, besides using it as a percussion instrument, they also recorded and sampled and processed and otherwise folded, spindled and transmogrified the sounds it produced. It’s not clear whether the Whirlpool will appear onstage with the rest of the band, but they’re skilled enough not to require its additional spin.

PSU Orchestra
December 7 and 8
Mission Theater, Portland.
Read Matthew Andrews’s ArtsWatch preview of this “remix” concert of music by Bowie, Bizet and Piazzolla.

Hershey Felder as Irving Berlin
December 7-30
Portland Center Stage.
Read Bob Hicks’s ArtsWatch’s review of this musical biography of the prototypical American songwriter.

Eugene Symphony
December 8 & 11
Hult Center, Eugene.
After the overture from Mozart’s opera The Magic Flute, the orchestra, led by its first finalist candidate for its music directorship, Montreal-based conductor Dina Gilbert, plays the popular violin concerto by another child prodigy named Wolfgang, Erich Wolfgang Korngold, who became best known in this country after he moved to LA and scored some of Golden Age Hollywood’s biggest films. Speaking of films, Thursday’s concert also features the music that made Mickey Mouse a megastar, The Sorceror’s Apprentice, which French composer Paul Dukas wrote decades before it charmed everyone in Disney’s 1940 animated classic, Fantasia. And speaking of fictional creatures, the concert’s real highlight is the magnificent ballet score about a puppet named Petrouchka, in composer Igor Stravinsky’s lean 1947 revision that allows its sly melodic and rhythmic beauty to shine. The orchestra also plays a live accompaniment to the film Amadeus on the 11th.

A Liberace and Liza Christmas
December 8-11
CoHo Theater, 2257 NW Raleigh St. Portland.
Read Christina Morletti McIntyre’s ArtsWatch review of longtime Liberace impersonator David Saffert and Jillian Snow Harris as Liza Minnelli in this throwback to TV’s holiday variety shows that features some excellent Portland guest singers.

Glory of Christmas
December 9 & 11
Oregon Repertory Singers, First United Methodist Church, 1838 SW Jefferson St.
Read my Willamette Week preview of the big choir’s annual holiday program — a Portland institution for more than four decades — featuring music by Oregon native Morten Lauridsen, Norwegian American composer Ola Gjeilo, excerpts from Handel’s Messiah, and local middle school choristers and other young singers.

“Handel’s ‘Messiah’”
December 9-12
Portland Baroque Orchestra and Cappella Romana, First Baptist Church, 1110 SW Taylor St.  Portland.
PBO’s version of Handel’s beloved oratorio regularly receives the highest  recommendations among the many available each holiday season, in part because of the quality of the historically informed expert performers, in part because it’s the closest to what the composer intended, using period instruments and other appropriately Baroque inflections. This time there’s yet another reason: New York-based music director Gary Wedow, a Juilliard School prof whose interpretations have won high praise from reviewers ‘round the globe. The first three performances offer the full meal deal, while the two-hour abbreviated final show presents the good parts.

Emerald City Jazz Kings
December 8 and 11, The Shedd, Eugene. December 13, LaSells Stewart Center, Corvallis. December 14, Florence Events Center.
Jesse Cloninger leads the vintage jazz band in music by Berlin (including his immortal White Christmas” of course), Frank Loesser, Schubert, and other jazzy holiday faves and a few relative rarities.

The Bylines Quartet
December 9
Portland Piano Company, 711 SW 14th Ave. Portland.
Trombonist John Moak and bassist Leah Hinchcliff join jazz poppers Reece Marshburn and Marianna Thielen to perform Bylines originals and holiday tunes. The core duo is playing other gigs around Oregon this month too.

“Gospel Christmas”
December 9-11
Oregon Symphony, Northwest Community Gospel Choir, Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall, Portland.
Guest conductors Charles Floyd and Gary Hemenway lead this 18th annual community holiday favorite, featuring familiar carols and uplifting gospel seasonal classics.

Annie Get Your Gun
December 9-18
Jaqua Concert Hall, The Shedd Institute, 868 High Street, Eugene.
Ah, the holidays, time for families and friends to get together and celebrate love and friendship and all those other virtues. So what’s the big family friendly musical onstage this season about? Why, guns, of course. Hey, this is America! Actually, when Irving Berlin’s Annie Get Your Gun, loosely based on the real life Wild West Vaudeville show sharpshooters Annie Oakley and Frank Butler, opened 70 years ago, Americans had had plenty of experience with gun violence — that four-year unpleasantness of the history’s worst catastrophe, World War II and its associated horrors. The songs’ military metaphors — “You Can’t Get a Man With a Gun,” “My Defenses Are Down” — reflect the battle of the sexes: the title character’s self-directed brassiness, evident in songs like “Anything You Can Do (I Can Do Better),” must have resonated with the Rosie the Riveters who’d had to take over so much homefront business while the men were fighting abroad. As must have Annie’s ultimate decision to defer to fragile male ego and pretend to be less competent than she really is. Otherwise, next thing you know, we’d have a woman running for President. Robert Ashens leads the band, Ron Daum directs, Caitlin Christopher choreographs, and Shirley Andress leads a cast of other Shedd regulars.

Portland Classic Guitar brings Scott Kritzer Marylhurst.

Scott Kritzer
December 10
Marylhurst University’s Wiegand Hall, Marylhurst University: 17600 Pacific Highway, Marylhurst.
One of the Northwest’s most esteemed classical guitarists, the Oregon resident plays music by JS Bach, William Walton, Heitor Villa-Lobos, Sylvius Leopold Weiss, and more.

December 10
Valentine’s, 232 SW Ankeny St. Portland.
One of New York’s avant garde legends, guitarist Elliott Sharp, a student of Morton Feldman, has made 85 albums, worked with everyone from Laurie Anderson to Debbie Harry to Jack DeJohnette, and has long been regarded as a trailblazing improviser and composer in electronic music, jazz, contemporary classical, techno, rock and noise music. He’s also been known to wail on sax and bass clarinet. This show reunites him with the group that won admiration two decades ago: Fred Chalenor, Joe Trump, and Henry Franzoni.

“Believe in Peace” Community Christmas Concert
December 10
First United Methodist Church, 1376 Olive St. Eugene.
Eugene-based a cappella superstars Peter and Eyvenne Hollens, who launched their musical careers at the University of Oregon, lead some of the region’s top performers and youth singers in new and classic holiday music from their new album.

Unistus Chamber Choir
December 10
Milwaukie Lutheran Church, 3810 SE Lake Rd, Milwaukie.
The excellent choir’s annual Christmas by Candlelight concert includes a cappella and accompanied Christmas favorites and new seasonal compositions.

Lonnie Cline leads Unistus Chamber Choir in Milwaukie.

‘Hansel and Gretel’
December 10
Portland Opera To Go, Hampton Opera Center, 211 SE Caruthers St. Portland.
Opera musicians perform a 50-minute, English language, family-friendly production of Engelbert Humperdinck’s fairly tale opera.

December 10-11
Portland Symphonic Choir, Rose City Park United Methodist Church, 5830 NE Alameda St. Portland.
The 140-member choir continues its venerable tradition of holiday and other seasonal music from many traditions, this time including the Portland premiere of Shawn Kirchner’s Behold New Joy: Ancient Carols of Christmas, accompanied by percussion and an eight-piece brass ensemble.

“Love from Far Away” (L’Amour de Loin) (film)
December 10 and 21
Various cinemas.
Finnish composer Kaija Saariaho’s acclaimed opera, which premiered at the Salzburg Festival and Santa Fe Opera in 2000, finally gets its Metropolitan Opera premiere (only the notoriously hidebound company’s second new opera by a female composer) in a new production by Robert Lepage, with set and costume design by Oregon’s own Michael Curry Design. This Met Live in HD is broadcast to theaters around the country twice during its Met run.

Christian Gerhaher
December 11
Lincoln Performance Hall, Portland State University. $30 – $52.
Let’s play classical music word association! Word: ‘Mahler.’ Reply: ‘EUUUUUGE!’ Right: massive orchestras, hour-plus-long symphonies, megalomusical ambition to capture the whole world in music. But there’s another side to the German Romantic composer, and it’s in his songs. In Friends of Chamber Music’s all-Mahler afternoon recital, German baritone Gerhaher — who’s won acclaim for his European opera performances, for singing with orchestras like the Berlin Philharmonic, and for art song recitals — reveals  the composer’s more intimate side by singing music from his song cycles, accompanied only by pianist Gerold Huber.

Evil Genius / Dead White / Uneasy Chairs and Kole Galbraith
December 12
The Waypost, 3120 N Williams Ave. Portland.
The LA/PDX experimental jazz trio has been compared to Captain Beefheart meeting John McLaughlin, which sounds about right — jazz, rock, classical, improv, speed. The other acts also roam various noise/experimental territories.

 Windham Hill Winter Solstice 30th Anniversary Concert
December 12
Newmark Theatre, Portland.
Call it American acoustic, New Age, or whatever, the music of guitarist Will Ackerman’s Windham Hill label, born at Stanford University, epitomized a folky, jazzy hybrid sound in the 1980s and ‘90s. He’s joined by two of the label’s mainstays, his finger-picking guitarist cousin Alex de Grassi and fiddler Barbara Higbie, plus next-gen steel guitarist Todd Boston and Ellen Sanders.

Robert Glasper Experiment
December 13
Revolution Hall, Portland.
The Grammy-winning pride of Houston (along with other modern jazz giants like Jason Moran), fresh off scoring Don Cheadle’s recent Miles Davis biopic, returns with his 21st century mix of jazz, hip hop, R&B and more. It’s not so much that Glasper is “saving jazz”; instead, rather than trying to freshen up a museum, he’s using jazz’s tools and vocabulary along with others to make music relevant to contemporary audiences.

December 13-15
Artists Repertory Theatre, Portland.
Matthew Hayward, Tim Suenkel and Norman Wilson sing classic and new three-part harmony arrangements of holiday standards. Read Susannah Mars’s interview with the project’s mastermind, Rick Lewis.

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