MusicWatch Weekly: spring songs

Choral concerts showcase songs of peace, love, hope … and monsters

These dark days, it does indeed take a lot of audacity to hope, much more than it did when those words first inspired the nation. Portland Gay Men’s Chorus’s concert of that title includes pop faves like Marvin Gaye’s “Mercy, Mercy Me” and “You Don’t Own Me,” plus other contemporary works including an original piece, “Face the Mirror,” by PGMC’s own Wesley Bowers.
Saturday and Sunday, Kaul Auditorium, Reed College.

Portland Gay Men’s Chorus offers high hopes Saturday and Sunday.

• Along with hope, peace is another virtue in short supply, which makes Satori Men’s Chorus’s “Our Songs of Peace” 1820 NE 21st Ave. Portland, so welcome. Of course, every Satori show offers odes to peace, including “Peace Is a’Come,” and this one includes words and music by Leonard Cohen, Kahlil Gibran and Ysaye Barnwell, Robert Burns, Portland composer Joan Szymko and more.
Saturday, Central Lutheran Church, 1820 NE 21st Avenue, Portland.

• Vancouver Reprise Choir’s “The Singing Heart” is all about love, with music from Renaissance to Brahms to Bacharach to “If I Can Stop One Heart from Breaking” by Reprise member Shane W. Dittmar.
Saturday, St. Paul Lutheran Church, 1309 Franklin St, Vancouver, WA.

• Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein has inspired untold numbers of movies, musical settings, even spoofs like Mel Brooks’s Young Frankenstein. Now it’s, er, sparked Portland composer Duncan Neilson to create a new work for orchestra and chorus, The Monster, which depicts a conversation between creator and his creation. The Portland Chamber Orchestra & Choral Arts Ensemble concert “Monsters & Mandolins” also includes another contemporary work, Colorado-based Israeli-American composer Ofer Ben-Amots’s Klezmer-meets-Bluegrass mashup Intermezzo, featuring mandolinist Sierra Hull, and Maurice Ravel’s sublime yet surprisingly un-somber tribute to friends he’d lost in the first World War and French Baroque composers, Le Tombeau De Couperin.
Sunday, Lewis & Clark College, Agnes Flanagan Chapel.

• Another Portland orchestra performs Monday, but if you want to hear the Oregon Symphony’s nearly sold out concert with Pink Martini and the divine Meow Meow, better move fast or be an April fool.

Chamber Music

David Shifrin may be retiring this summer after 40 (!) years as artistic director of Portland’s Chamber Music Northwest — but he’s not putting down his clarinet. Still regarded as one of the finest classical clarinetists, Shifrin appears with orchestras and ensembles around the world as a soloist. And now, freed from running the Portland festival, he’s formed a new trio with former Beaux Arts Trio cellist Peter Wiley (who he’s played with for half a century, since their student days) and pianist Anna Polonsky. Like Shifrin, they’re superstars in the classical world, having performed with many top ensembles and at CMNW.

Anna Polonsky and Peter Wiley join David Shifrin in a new trio.

Polonsky/Shifrin/Wiley Trio play two of the classics of the admittedly limited piano-clarinet-cello literature: Brahms’s late-life melancholy beauty and Beethoven’s youthful delight. The wild card is a 1973 trio by famous film composer Nino Rota (who scored The Godfather around the same time, as well as most of Fellini’s flicks), that starts out like a sweeter serving of Stravinsky’s neo-classical style and winds up as breezy, wistful and whimsical as some of his film music.
Saturday, Alberta Rose Theatre. 3000 NE Alberta St. Portland.

• Of course you knew Friday, the 88th day of the year, is International Piano Day, but you may not have remembered that the enthusiasts at Portland Piano International are sponsoring a Portland edition for the third year, and you can sign up to play at one of the eight locations in the Portland Metro area.  Local pianists of all ages will play on grand pianos to celebrate the instrument and raise funds for Portland Piano International’s educational programs. Performers choose the music they play; there are no restrictions on what can be played, and admission is free to all.

Jazz, Folk and More

• Mike Gamble sports many identities: adventurous composer, experimental guitarist, improviser, producer, sideman (Bobby Previte, Earth, etc.), prof (at Oregon State), teacher, and artistic director of Portland’s Creative Music Guild. Now, add filmmaker and multimedia maven. Gamble’s MultiMeteorchestra mixes electric bass, guitar, and keyboard with cello, violin, and drums with Gamble’s atmospheric guitar, compositions, improvisations, audio effects and surreal projections. Disjecta seems an excellent venue for a show whose visual component is integral to the sonic experience. Chloe Alexandra Thompson opens with her own electronics ’n voice sonic minimalism that ranges from drone to noise to ambient and beyond.
Thursday. Disjecta, Portland.

• One of America’s sometimes overlooked subcultures, Gullah developed among West African-American slaves and their descendants on the South Carolina coast and Sea Islands. (You might remember its depiction in Julie Dash’s luminous, recently reissued 1991 film Daughters of the Dust.) Five South Carolina jazz musicians decided to form a band to play a contemporary version of music from the Gullah culture, which mingles spirituals, West African, British, even Brazilian forro and other influences. Ranky Tanky (which basically means “get funky”) augments the original a cappella, stomping and clapping with trumpet and guitar, bass and drums, plus the powerfully expressive vocals of lead singer Quiana Parler, producing lively, folky contemporary music with deep, ancient roots.
Monday, Newmark Theatre, Portland.

• Before Woodstock and Coachella and Big Ears and all the other famous music festivals, there was the Monterey Jazz Festival. If you can’t make it down to Monterey Bay, never fear: the Monterey Jazz Festival on Tour is coming to us, bringing some of the brightest stars of the millennial generation. They missed International Women’s Month by a couple days, but still, how cool is it to see an all-femme frontline, including maybe today’s hottest jazz singer, the fabulous Cécile McLorin Salvant (read Angela Allen’s ArtsWatch review of her last Portland show), rising Canadian star trumpeter/singer Bria Skonberg, Chilean tenorwoman Melissa Aldana (like Salvant, a winner of the prestigious Thelonious Monk Competition), and some guys, including pianist and music director Christian Sands, yet another Monk winner, drummer/singer Jamison Ross, bassist assist Yasushi Nakamura.
Tuesday, Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall, Portland.

• And don’t forget two shows previewed in last week’s MusicWatch: Portland Opera’s As One (read Matthew Andrews’s ArtsWatch review), and Light Opera of Portland’s We Met in Moscow, which close this weekend.

Feel free to recommend other springy sounds in the comments section below.

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