MusicWatch Weekly: The fanfare zone

Gongs and songs, traditional guitars and uncommon fanfares, and a lecture on women in jazz

Tonight, tonight, tonight!

Your busy music editor has to miss a bunch of cool stuff tonight, dear reader: I’ll be schlepping gongs and playing reyong with Gamelan Wahyu Dari Langit, opening for Wet Fruit at Mississippi Studios. If you followed our adventures in Bali last summer and want to hear what all the fuss was about, here’s your chance.

We’ve been hearing the name Mary-Sue Tobin for years: her saxophone quartet Quadraphonnes is a real riot, and the composer/saxophonist herself gets involved in all sorts of Portland jazz shenanigans. Tonight at Literary Arts in Southwest, Tobin presents her free Women in Jazz lecture.

Across the river at Holocene on Southeast Belmont, local musicians Night Heron, Korgy & Bass, and Colin Jenkins join hands with local puppeteers for Pop + Puppetry. Meanwhile, down in Eugene, the symphony’s got a show tonight that Senior Editor Brett Campbell wants to tell you about:

Eugene Symphony’s Thursday concert at the Hult Center serves up meaty Romantic masterworks that have so long dominated classical orchestra programs: Brahms’s pastoral second symphony (an affable intro for newbies) and Sibelius’s glowering, symphonic 1904 Violin Concerto (starring fellow Finn Elina Vähälä in the virtuosic solo role).

Happily for 21st century music fans, the concert also features a cosmic 2013 appetizer by one of today’s most acclaimed American composers, Missy Mazzoli, who describes her 12-minute Sinfonia (for Orbiting Spheres) as “music in the shape of a solar system, a collection of rococo loops that twist around each other within a larger orbit. It’s a piece that churns and roils, that inches close to the listener only to leap away at breakneck speed, in the process transforming the ensemble turns into a makeshift hurdy-gurdy, flung recklessly into space.” The Oregon Symphony plays it next month in Portland.

Sing it

A couple of vocal-themed concerts this weekend caught our ear. First up, on Saturday evening at Hallowed Halls on Southeast Holgate, is Transitions, the premiere concert of vocal ensemble Motus–one of what seems like a dozen chamber classical vocal groups to have sprung up mushroom-like these last few years (see also: Nexus Vocal Ensemble). Hallowed Halls, which keeps a day job as one of Portland’s nicest recording studios, makes a curious venue for this contemporary classical concert.

Popular Northern European choral composers Arvo Pärt and Ēriks Ešenvalds top the bill, along with everyone’s favorite living composer Caroline Shaw (Nexus recently performed her To The Hands, and she’ll be in town again this spring for concerts with Third Angle and the Oregon Symphony). Rounding out the Hallowed program are works by Samson Matthews and Amelia Brey, Monteverdi and Palestrina, and an Arts Watch contributor we’ll be hearing a lot more about this year: singer-composer Damien Geter, whose An African-American Requiem will be premiered in May by Resonance Ensemble and Oregon Symphony.

Next up, on Sunday afternoon at Lewis & Clark College Evans Auditorium, mezzo-soprano Lisa Neher (who’s sung recently with Resonance Ensemble, Opera Theatre Oregon, Queer Opera, and Cascadia Composers) and Lewis & Clark faculty pianist Stephanie Thompson take flight on wings of contemporary songs by California’s Gabriela Lena Frank and Portland’s own Theresa Koon, who contributes the world premiere of her new song “Winged from Within” and a reading of her personal essay about raising a baby blackbird in the former East Germany. They’ll also perform feathery tunes by classic composers Aaron Copland, Charles Ives, Florence Price, Franz Schubert, Fanny Mendelssohn and more, and the Portland Audubon Society chirps in with a presentation.

Strum away

Friday night at Portland’s Old Church (and Saturday in Corvallis), guitarist-composer Berto Boyd’s Flamenco Pacifico performs an evening of their original traditional flamenco music. Saturday night at Dante’s on West Burnside, a different guitar tradition stays alive, with an evening of tribute bands faithfully keeping the classic metal fires burning. Maiden NW, Live Undead, and Megadead perform the traditional repertoire of ‘80s metal composer collectives Iron Maiden, Slayer, and Megadeth.

The fanfare zone

Call us crazy, but we just love hearing American orchestras performing American composers, even if it’s just an overture or sinfonia or fanfare. Nothing against Tchaikovsky and Dvorak, or Chopin and Rachmaninoff, but it’s Joan Tower and Texu Kim that we’re interested in this weekend. Saturday and Sunday across the river, Vancouver Symphony Orchestra performs Tower’s magnificent full-orchestra Sixth Fanfare for the Uncommon Woman, along with Tchaikovsky’s fourth symphony and Dvorak’s ever-popular cello concerto (featuring cellist Julian Schwarz).

This Friday in Salem and Saturday through Monday in Portland, Eun Sun Kim conducts the Oregon Symphony through Rachmaninoff’s third symphony and a Chopin piano concerto starring Benjamin Grosvenor, with an overture by occasional Portlander Texu Kim: Spin-Flip, a musical exercise in comparing the movements of subatomic particles and ping-pong balls. We’ve been following Texu’s work for a few years now, hypercomplex and paradoxically playful soundscape stuff, densely woven with sparse and elusive micromelodies that turn up unexpectedly in your head a week later. I don’t know of too many other composers who so deftly combine that rarefied post-Boulez pointillism so beloved in academia with a deeply curious and refreshingly honest addiction to pure sound (Andrew Norman also fits this description).

That’s all for now, dear reader–I’ve got gongs to carry! We’ll be back Monday with a forecast of February’s first weekend, featuring kid-friendly symphony concerts, Kalakendra’s community music concert, Portland Percussion Group’s collaboration with DUO Stephanie & Saar, and the all-important SuperBach Sunday.

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Music editor Matthew Neil Andrews is a composer, writer, and alchemist specializing in the intersection of The Weird and The Beautiful.

An incorrigible wanderer who spent his teens climbing mountains and his twenties driving 18-wheelers around the country, Matthew can often be found taking his nightly dérive walks all over whichever Oregon city he happens to be in.

He and his music can be reached at

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