Cascadia Composers May the Fourth

MusicWatch Weekly: natural classical


Oregonians live in a nexus between the natural world that drew so many of us here and the human-created environment that nurtures us. That juxtaposition has inspired several of this week’s musical highlights.

Read my ArtsWatch preview of Habitat, Third Angle New Music’s immersive multimedia performance created by Portland composer/sound artists Branic Howard and Loren Chasse,
Thursday and Friday, Studio 2 @ N.E.W. 810 SE Belmont St. Portland.

• Lewis and Clark College faculty chamber ensemble Friends of Rain’s annual new music concert features music that responds to the natural world, written by a cast of top Northwest composers from accomplished veterans like Susan Alexjander to an award winning rising star, Andrea Reinkemeyer.
Friday. Evans Hall, Lewis & Clark College.

• One of the stalwarts of Portland’s classical music scene, Violinist Adam LaMotte is probably most familiar for his sterling work in Portland Baroque Orchestra. He’s launched a new, conductor-less orchestra to explore repertoire for bigger bands than the standard chamber ensembles he also performs with, and that stretches across a much wider time period than PBO — from the 17th to the 21st centuries. Amadeus Chamber Orchestra seeks to “bring new audiences into the realm of classical music via education, outreach, and vibrant live performances, collaborating with other entities to present multifaceted events.”

The added facets this time: interpolated readings by one of Oregon’s greatest nature writers, Kathleen Dean Moore (who has done similar shows with a pianist), and nature photography by Larry Olson. Both complement the nature-inspired musical selections in this “concert devoted to Mother Earth”: two of Vivaldi’s famous seasonal concertos, a flurry of English Baroque master Matthew Locke’s music for Shakespeare’s The Tempest, early 20th century English composer Ralph Vaughan Williams’s famous The Lark Ascending, long a popular evocation of spring’s impending arrival, and even an original composition for piccolo and strings by LaMotte himself.
Friday, Lincoln Recital Hall, Portland State University.

• There’s more English music for chamber orchestra in this Saturday’s Oregon Mozart Players concert. The program includes one of Haydn’s miraculous London symphonies (written for a much bigger orchestra than OMP’s chamber orchestra forces) to a couple of mid-20th century works, Benjamin Britten’s Rossini tribute ​Soirées Musicales and Malcolm Arnold’s ​Serenade for Small Orchestra​, to contemporary composer Jonathan Dove’s ​nifty Mozart tribute Figures in the Garden.​
Saturday, Beall Concert Hall, University of Oregon.


CMNW Council

• The Lark Ascending reappears, in a much larger flock, when the Oregon Symphony mixes a pair of much-beloved classics with a brand new piece from one of the country’s leading active composers. Oregonians can sympathize with a 19th century German composer’s joy in visiting sunny Italy — Felix Mendelssohn’s ebullient “Italian” Symphony. The big news is the world premiere of leading American composer Christopher Theofanidis’s new concerto Drum Circles, co-commissioned by the Oregon Symphony, which incorporates a percussion quartet as the soloists rather than the usual violinist or pianist. Theofanidis wrote it for an all-star group called the Percussion Collective, who will play it with the orchestra.
Saturday-Monday, Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall, Portland.

• To celebrate International Women’s Day, the Hillsboro Symphony plays music by female composers including young Portland composer Katie Palka, Kathy Brown, MeiLing Larson, Amber Gudaitis, and Catherine McMichael,
Friday, Trinity Lutheran Church, Hillsboro.

Chamber Music

• Vivaldi is far from the only composer to write seasonal music. DUO Stephanie and Saar (Stephanie Ho and Saar Ahuvia) and Portland Percussion Group members Paul Owen and Christopher Whyte team up to perform a free concert: Igor Stravinsky’s four-hand arrangement of The Rite of Spring with timpani and percussion, and American master George Crumb’s Makrokosmos III: Music for a Summer Evening.
Wednesday, Lincoln Recital Hall at PSU, 1620 SW Park Ave, Portland, and Saturday, Western Oregon University.

• In 2017, Delgani String Quartet’s performance of Portland composer eminence Tomas Svoboda’s blistering sixth quartet left the audience cheering. Ranging from bleak to ominous to tense, the homage to his idol Dmitri Shostakovich fully captured the Russian composer’s spirit without resorting to mere imitation. An ideal match of magnificent music, appropriate acoustic, and committed performers, it was one of the most powerful chamber music performances I’ve heard in Oregon. They’re playing it again this weekend, along with earlier Czech music by Dvorak (his final quartet), and a dance-inspired composition by Erwin Schulhoff, whose legacy of infusing classical and Czech traditional music with jazz, Dada, and other forward looking influences was cut short when he died in the Holocaust.
Sunday and Tuesday, United Lutheran Church, 2230 Washington, Eugene.

Delgani String Quartet plays music by Tomas Svoboda. Photo: Gary Ferrington.


• The divine Portland vocal ensemble In Mulieribus sings still more seasonal sounds in its program of 15th century courtly love songs celebrating spring, written by the great Renaissance composers Machaut and Dufay as well as lesser known masters Le Jeune, Landini, and others. They’ll be accompanied by veteranPortland early music masters and Oregon Renaissance Band founders Phil and Gayle Neuman.
Sunday afternoon and Tuesday night, The Old Church, Portland.


Portland Columbia Symphony Adelante

In Mulieribus sings spring songs. Photo: Tom Emerson.

• Portland State’s award winning Chamber Choir teams up with the school’s Rose Choir, Thorn Choir and Wind Symphony, plus the Union High School String Orchestra in Mozart’s mighty, valedictory Requiem.
Friday and Sunday, First United Methodist Church, Portland.

Jazz & More

• The raucous Brooklyn trio Moon Hooch (horn players Mike Wilbur and Wenzl McGowen, drummer James Muschler) can bring the noise like other bands (Morphine, Jerseyband, Skerik’s various groups) that have punked up sax, jazzy or otherwise. But while they play primarily acoustic instruments (saxes, drums, clarinet) with an occasional Moog synth and EWI electric wind instrument, the band runs its live feed through laptops, using digital magic to swerve their sounds even more. Moon Hooch “has effectively reverse- engineered EDM from a primarily electronic format into an acoustic one,” wrote Portland saxophonist Patrick McCulley in ArtsWatch after the band’s last Oregon visit. “Through that creative mashup of saxophones, drum set, musical skill, and dance music, they’ve brought together audiences that range from academic saxophonists to danceaholics.”
Friday, Wonder Ballroom, Portland, and Tuesday, WOW Hall, Eugene.

• Saxophiles might also plug into Circuits Trio, led by Chris Potter, one of the most in-demand sax masters of his generation, playing with everyone from Steely Dan to Herbie Hancock to Pat Metheny and many others, and scooping up some of jazz’s most top awards. His new trio gives plenty of room to keyboardist James Francies’ synth, sampling and other keyboard textures and powerful drummer Eric Harland’s driving polyrhythms, with Potter on both tenor and soprano sax, flute and clarinet in rhythmically propulsive electronic jazz-rock, in the Weather Report/ Michael Brecker tradition but updated for the 21st century.
Thursday, the Shedd, Eugene.

Antonio Rey performs at Portland’s Old Church.

• Spanish Flamenco guitar master Antonio Rey, Flamenco dancer and singer Mara Rey, and ace Portland Flamenco guitarist Nat Hulskamp team up in a rare performance with two of the world’s finest Flamenco performers.
Thursday, The Old Church Concert Hall, Portland.


PPH Passing Strange

Way back before the US government built concentration camps for Mexican immigrants and tore children from their parents, José Hernandez’s family brought him and his seven siblings to California from Mexico when he was four years old. In the years since, smitten by the mariachi music of his Mexican heritage, Hernández put together Sol de México, a baker’s dozen masters of this quintessential Mexican genre. The band embraces both classic and modern styles and has worked with Selena, Willie Nelson and more.
Saturday, The Shedd, Eugene, and Sunday, Newmark Theatre, Portland.


LIVE FROM BEALL HALL: Campus Orchestra and Repertoire Singers. Wednesday, March 6 at 7:30pm (PST)

PSU NOON CONCERTS: The PSU Laptop ensemble, SAMPLE, directed by faculty member Burke Jam performs Thursday, March 7 at 12:00pm (PST).

LIVE FROM BEALL HALL: Oregon Wind Symphony “Spring Has Sprung”. Thursday, March 7 at 7:30pm (PST)

LIVE FROM BEALL HALL: Isaac Smith Graduate Composition Recital. Saturday, March 9 at 3pm (PST)

LIVE FROM BEALL HALL: Liz Soper Flute Recital. Monday, March 11 at 7pm (PST)

LIVE FROM BEALL HALL: Oregon Wind Ensemble. Tuesday, March 12 at 7:30pm (PST)


CMNW Council

LIVE FROM BEALL HALL: UO Symphony Orchestra Concert. Wednesday, March 13 at 7:30pm (PST)

PSU NOON CONCERTS:  Student Chamber Music Thursday, March 14 at 12:00pm (PST).

LIVE FROM BEALL HALL: Messiaen’s Quartet for the End of Time. Thursday, March 14 at 7:30pm (PST)

LIVE FROM BEALL HALL: Chamber Choir and University Singers. Friday, March  15 at 7:30pm (PST)

LIVE FROM BEALL HALL: Thomas Janssen Euphonium Recital. Saturday, March 16 at 7pm (PST)

LIVE FROM BEALL HALL: Miya Saito-Beckman Violin Recital. Sunday, March 17 at 7pm (PST).

If you want to recommend other upcoming Oregon sounds, whether seasonal, natural, or otherwise, the comments section below is a natural place to do so.


Portland Opera Puccini

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Photo Joe Cantrell

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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CMNW Council
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Portland Opera Puccini
Cascadia Composers May the Fourth
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