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MusicWatch Weekly: Music Notes


The annual summer slowdown in Oregon’s live music season gives us a chance to catch up on some recent news. Do check out other events this week we’ve already previewed elsewhere, including a pair of vintage shows: an encore of a Aquilon Music Festival opera Thursday in Dundee, and Willamette Valley Music Festival’s closing weekend concerts (Saturday’s is sold out but Sunday’s has tickets available) featuring a string quartet by Rebecca Clarke, cello and violin duets by Philip Glass (from his Double Concerto), and one of the pinnacles of 19th century chamber music, Schubert’s Cello Quintet. Read Angela Allen’s ArtsWatch preview.

Willamette Valley Chamber Music Festival concludes Sunday.


Third Angle New Music has selected Sarah Tiedemann as its fifth artistic director. After a national search, the Portland flutist, educator and arts administrator, who’s been interim artistic director since the organization abruptly parted ways with longtime AD Ron Blessinger (who quickly landed at 45th Parallel Universe), won the position over a couple dozen well qualified applicants. In addition to several performances with the 33-year-old Portland new music ensemble, Tiedemann has played with the Oregon Symphony, Oregon Ballet Theatre Orchestra, Chamber Music Northwest and Salem Chamber Orchestra. Read my ArtsWatch story about Third Angle’s future, including an interview with Tiedemann.

Sarah Tiedemann performed on a different instrument at a Third Angle concert. Photo: Jacob Wade.

PDX Jazz, Portland’s jazz music presenting organization, has named Christopher Doss its first executive director. A former managing director of Monterey Jazz Festival founding marketing executive of Dallas’s AT&T Performing Arts Center, Doss has worked in performing arts for two decades, and will work alongside veteran artistic director Don Lucoff.


• Oregon composer Andrea Reinkemeyer was one of only three American composers to receive $15,000 Women Composers Commissions from the League of American Orchestras. (The Linfield College music professor’s fellow honorees, Stacy Garrop and Robin Holcomb, are well known in contemporary classical music circles.) Reinkemeyer’s new composition will be premiered by the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra in January 2019. Let’s hope an Oregon orchestra performs it soon. What we’ve heard of her music in Oregon makes her one of the state’s most promising compositional voices.

Composer Andrea Reinkemeyer.

• Speaking of prestigious premieres, Bridgehampton Chamber Music Festival, one of the great East Coast classical music summer events, featured the world premiere of a new commissioned work (his second for the festival) from Oregon composer Kenji Bunch at its August 5 concert in the Hamptons. The festival teems with Chamber Music Northwest regulars; maybe we’ll get to hear it there someday.

• Another rising young Portland composer, Justin Ralls, won third place in the American Prize student composition competition for his Tree Ride.


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Cult of Orpheus composer Christopher Corbell has been awarded a Career Opportunity Grant from the Oregon Arts Commission and Oregon Community Foundation to support the recording of a full-length album of original vocal works by Corbell, featuring Cult of Orpheus troupe singers and chamber musicians. Read my ArtsWatch story about the Cult and preview of its Saturday show, a five-year retrospective of Corbell’s music at Portland’s Alberta Rose Theatre.

• University of Oregon alum Huck Hodge, who now teaches at the University of Washington, won the $200,000 Charles Ives Living Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. Chosen by a panel of distinguished American composers, the award aims “to free a promising American composer from the need to devote his or her time to any employment other than music composition.”

Michael Harrison

• Still another UO alumnus, the great New York composer Michael Harrison, received a 2018 Guggenheim Fellowship to create a new work for the terrific new music band Alarm Will Sound. Harrison, who grew up in Eugene, won the UO’s Distinguished Alumnus Award in 2014. Read my Oregon Quarterly profile.

• More Third Angle news: the organization has received a $90,000 grant from the Creative Heights Initiative of the Oregon Community Foundation to produce Sanctuaries, an original contemporary chamber opera composed by Portland composer/educator/pianist Darrell Grant set to the rhythms of jazz and slam poetry, which explores gentrification and the displacement of residents of color in Portland’s historically African-American Albina district.

Francesco Lecce-Chong leads the Eugene and Santa Rosa Symphonies. Photo: Amanda Smith.

• Oregon East Symphony scored a $38,000 grant from the Creative Heights program of the Oregon Community Foundation to fund the commission and premier performance of a new chamber music composition by Raven Chacon. The commissioned work will feature musicians from the Oregon East Symphony and student musicians from Nixya’awii Community School. While in Northeastern Oregon coaching musicians on the performance of his commissioned work, Mr. Chacon will concurrently be working with Crow’s Shadow Institute of the Arts in producing a series of prints based off the commission score. Both the music and prints will premiere at the Oregon East Symphony’s annual Winter Chamber Music concert next February.

• Eugene Symphony music director Francesco Lecce-Chong has been appointed to the same position with the Santa Rosa Symphony. He’s maintaining his residence in Eugene and position with the ESO, which also received $15,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Arts to support a concert and residency with the superb new music ensemble eighth blackbird, which will perform leading American composer Jennifer Higdon’s concerto On a Wire with the orchestra in November and engage in various community outreach and education efforts.


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Oregon Mandolin Orchestra was one of only three North American ensembles accepted to perform at the BDZ Eurofestival Zupfmusik this summer in Bruchsal, Germany.  About 1,500 musicians gathered from around the world — Europe, Israel, Japan, Korea and Australia — for several days of concerts and social events. Before several hundred listeners (it’s largest ever audience), the ensemble played an excerpt from Schubert’s (Unfinished) Symphony No. 8, “Northern Waters,” an original piece written by its former music director and the 1920-era swing classic “Chicago.” OMO’s fall concert is September 16 at Portland’s Old Church.

• Next week, Portland Gay Men’s Chorus becomes the first LGBTQ chorus to tour the People’s Republic of China, performing a new composition featuring classical texts found on the walls of Portland’s Lan Su Garden, and a chorus signature piece, “Never Ever,” which will be translated into Mandarin and become the finale of each concert performance on tour. On the four-city swing, they’ll bring along two Chinese choirs, Beijing Queer Chorus and Shanghai’s Hyperbolic Chorus, to increase their visibility and status. And Portland city council has designated August 30 PGMC day.

• We’ll be telling you more about Portland State University’s award-winning chamber choir’s latest international destination: South America. Here’s a snippet for now.


• One of Oregon jazz’s stalwarts, bassist Andre St. James, died suddenly in May, a tremendous loss for our jazz scene. Here’s an interview with St. James from Portland jazz radio station KMHD.

Andre St. James.

• When the great Neville Brothers’ saxophonist Charles Neville died a few weeks earlier, his hometown of New Orleans grieved, but I also thought back to the time he spent here in rehab back in the 1970s, which he credited for helping him turn his life around. He told me a few years ago that he always cherished his time in Oregon and the friends he made here, and made it a point to perform here on every tour he could, with or without his brothers. He’ll be missed. His brother Aaron will be performing in Oregon this fall.

• Ernest Bloch II (a/k/a ‘Ernie’ a/k/a ‘Jody’), grandson of composer Ernest Bloch, died August 10 at age 79, following a severe stroke. He and his partner Judy had recently returned to their home in Portland, where he was born and graduated from Portland State University, from the dedication of the monument to his grandfather’s memory at Newport’s Ernest Bloch Memorial Wayside in Agate Beach, where the composer lived for many years. Eugene Symphony will perform his grandfather’s Schelomo next month.


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Random Notes

• Portland Youth Philharmonic has released a sampling of its artistry on a Soundcloud mixtape, Hear PYP, that showcases the long-running youth orchestra’s live performances of Beethoven’s inevitable Symphony No. 5, Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 4, and George Butterworth’s A Shropshire Lad.

• Beginning with its 2018 production of RigolettoPortland Opera now allows beverages in the theatre during performances. Three cheers for historically informed performance practice!

Finally, here’s a chance to hear several dozen Oregon Symphony members tooting Oregon’s horn, courtesy of Travel Oregon.

Got more news about Oregon music that we should consider for these occasional updates? Please send them along, or note in the comments section below.

Want to read more about Oregon music? Support Oregon ArtsWatch!
Want to learn more about contemporary Oregon classical music? Check out Oregon ComposersWatch.


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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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