MYS Oregon to Iberia

Peace, love, fortune, and flowers: Spring concerts continue with Masses, a Lament and a Gloria, wedding music, and three performances of “Carmina Burana”

Every singer in Oregon, voices raised for spring.

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"Waldlandschaft" from the "Carmina Burana" manuscript, c. 1230.
“Waldlandschaft” from the “Carmina Burana” manuscript, c. 1230.

Spring choral music is flourishing like spring flowers this year. It sure looks like a colorful and fruitful April and May for Oregon choral ensembles. Here’s part two of what’s coming your way in the warmer weeks ahead (read part one here).

Varietal programs spice things up 

It is human nature to question our place in the world, what it means to be human. Portland Gay Men’s Chorus a cappella ensemble, Cascade, will perform songs that attempt to provide answers. Their concert on April 20 will feature the works of Stephen Sondheim, Joni Mitchell and more.

Join PGMC’s new Associate Artistic Director Garrett Bond for his solo podium debut. “What sets Cascade apart from my work with the larger Chorus,” says Bond, “ is the level of intimacy we can achieve because of our numbers” (media release). Join Bond and Cascade for this program about the “before, during and after” of human love.

“Human Nature” is on display when Cascade performs on Saturday, April 20, 8 pm at the Alberta Abbey, Portland. More information is here.

Are you a fan of movie music? Beaverton’s ISing Choir concerts on April 26, 27, 28 will have you ‘reeling’ from celluloid flashbacks. Big Horn Brass Octet and organist Dan Miller join ISing choir for “At the Movies.”

ISing can be ‘scene’ and heard on Friday, April 26, 7:30 pm, Saturday, April 27, 7:30 pm, Sunday, April 28 3:00 pm at Bethel Congregational United Church of Christ. Tickets can be purchased here

The variety of styles and genres in the Bravo! Concerts Northwest program on May 5 should make for a lovely afternoon of music. George Gershwin’s jazzy Rhapsody in Blue is 100 years old but still being introduced anew to modern audiences, this time in a piano/clarinet transcription. Bravo Artistic Director and Conductor Michael Kissinger sets aside his baton to perform on clarinet, with BCNW co-founder and Music Director Maria Manzo at the piano. 

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The choral forces then present a rare treat, To Hope! A Celebration, the wonderful choral mass by Dave Brubeck. You might know the small-combo Brubeck sound (read about his recently released Live In The Northwest, 1959 album here) but this is the jazz genius bringing his Catholic faith and full compositional skills to a sacred genre. It’s wonderful – fully scored but allowing for jazz improvisation to shine. Here’s Brubeck himself performing his 1979 Mass.

Rounding out the concert will be Jazz Psalms for Peace by conductor Kissinger who has expanded three earlier Psalms into a 20-minute five Psalm suite for SATB choir, piano, bass, drums, clarinet. 

Bravo Concerts! Northwest brings a variety of music to Portland on Sunday, May 5, 3:00 pm at Old Madeleine Church. Tickets are available here.

Folks in Ashland, Medford and surrounding communities–it’s time once again for your Southern Oregon Repertory Singers’ annual spring event. Yes! It’s the James M. Collier Festival of New Music and this year’s featured guest composer on May 11 and 12 is Alvin Trotman who will premiere his newest work, Tapestries. Some of Trotman’s growing oeuvre of works are boldly innovative and some more traditional. All offer a unique new voice in the choral world. That’s what the “Festival of New Music” is all about. Listen to an earlier Trotman work, Eternity, here.

Faces of Love, titular premiere from prolific SORS composer-in-residence Jodi French is another piece featured on this concert. This Southern Oregon composer does not get the attention she is due. Here is SORS performing French’s alluring Songs for the Journey

Come see the SORS ‘Faces of Love’ and celebrate new choral music on Saturday, May 11 at 7:30 pm and Sunday, May 12 at 3:00 pm at the Music Recital Hall at Southern Oregon University. Tickets are available here

O fortuna! A Carmina Burana I-5 triple play

Three chances to hear 25 movements of raucous and colorful text hurled at you by overenunciating choristers singing over the rhythmic carryings on of a full orchestra with a seriously overpopulated percussion section. Yeah, baby. We do love our Carmina.

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Perhaps it was the anticipation of the Solar Eclipse that caused the convergence of three Carmina Burana performances in Northwest Oregon. Full choral forces, full orchestra, powerhouse soloists, two consecutive weekends. Gosh, the timings might work; you could make all three! 

Orff No.1, on Sunday, April 28 will be performed by the Eugene Concert Choir and Orchestra. But the ECC is adding an additional layer of pagan lore, Goethe style, to the Sunday afternoon. Twenty-one-year-old Felix Mendelssohn composed version one of Die erste Walpurgisnacht (The First Walpurgis Night) in 1831. The work continued to evolve and was finally published in a ten-movement cantata for choir, orchestra and soloists in 1843. Wonderful pairing with Carmina for a full afternoon of music.

SATB soloists are Alexandria Crichlow, Laura Beckel Thoreson, Esteban Zúñiga Calderón and Phillip Bullock.

ECC presents “Carmina Burana” andDie erste Walpurgisnacht” on Sunday, April 28, 2:30 pm at Silva Concert Hall, Hult Center. Tickets are here.

Orff No. 2 is presented on May 11 in Tualatin by Portland Choir and Orchestra, which is concluding its first decade of music making in the Portland area. Soloists for this performance are soprano Emily Evelyn Way and baritone Stacey Murdock. 

This “Carmina Burana” is a premiere performance for the Portland Choir and Orchestra. Join them on Saturday, May 11, 2 pm at Rolling Hills Community Church, Tualatin. Tickets and more information are here

The slotted walnut and maple panels, the sleek new wood covering the stage, the comfortable 360-view seats waiting for you – welcome to the Patricia Valian Reser Center for the Creative Arts in Corvallis, Oregon. It is for the opening of this new hall that Stephen Zielke has programmed the Orff Carmina Burana. Zielke, Oregon State Director of Choral Activities and AD of Corvallis Repertory Singers, has played a significant role in the development of the Creative Arts center.

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Orff No. 3 raises the roof on the 500-seat long-awaited concert hall, testing the acoustic capacity for a maximum choral/orchestral experience. But the hall has also been designed to accommodate an a cappella choral experience. A thousand joys! Ah!

Corvallis Repertory Singers and Oregon State University Chamber choir and orchestra will fill the stage with soloists Taylor Hulett, soprano; tenor Leslie Green; and baritone Nicolai Strommer adding to the beauty and drama of the work. 

But, misery me, the concert is sold out. Watch for many excellent choral experiences in the next season of music. Read more about the numerous ways in which PRAx will elevate the creative arts in this recent Oregon ArtsWatch piece.

Corvallis Repertory Singers and the Oregon State University Chamber Choir and orchestra present Carl Orff’s “Carmina Burana” Sunday, May 12, 3 pm at the Patricia Valian Reser Center for the Creative Arts (PRAx).

Heirloom Works

Walk a magnificent grove of heritage pear trees or gnarly-limbed apple trees with decades of stories to tell. Embrace one of those sturdy trunks and sap up some of that vitality. Then go hear a Haydn or Beethoven Mass, that twentieth century jazz Mass of Brubeck, Orff’s Carmina Burana or a Poulenc Gloria and allow those choral heirlooms to embrace you. There is a reason they are still standing.

Scott Tuomi’s 38 years at Pacific University in Forest Grove began with a performance of the Beethoven Mass in C in which he was tenor soloist. It is fitting that the same work signal his retirement. On May 5 the combined choral and instrumental forces of Pacific University will fill the stage for this monumental work. Kudos to Tuomi, who just had his first photography exhibit open at Pacific University Cawein gallery – perhaps a glimpse of what’s next for the respected administrator, tenor soloist, conductor and educator. 

When Beethoven wrote the Mass in C he was a novice in the sacred text arena. Only his Christ on the Mount of Olives came before this 1807 work. Prince Esterházy, who commissioned the piece, was outspoken about his displeasure; one can image him grumbling: “this is really different from Haydn!” Indeed it is! It’s a powerhouse and a magnificent celebratory work. 

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Pacific University combined choirs present Beethoven Mass in C, Sunday, May 5, 3 pm at McCready Hall, Pacific University, Forest Grove. More information is available here.

Trinity Episcopal Church Choir and the Portland Baroque Orchestra are together for “Worlds Apart” on May 11. The title does not refer to the performing forces, for they are yearly colleagues, often gathering for a major work at Christmas time. But this season we are treated to a program that stretches deeply into the choral/instrumental repertoire to offer us Theresienmesse of Franz Joseph Haydn and Adam’s Lament of Arvo Pärt.

Not too familiar with either of these two works by iconic composers? Oh, goody! Then you are in for a treat. Still, you might make assumptions about the music. The Haydn will be clean, precise, thematic, symmetrical, and predictable. The Pãrt will be clean, precise, complex, perhaps intense, yet accessible. Yes, they are, in many ways, two pieces, two composers, worlds apart, and yet–

Haydn and his compositions were always in forward motion. This work is one of six masses Haydn wrote under his forty-eight year contract with the Esterhazy family. But this 1799 Mass, written in the last decade of his life, is so youthful and effervescent, maybe even a bit surprisingly so. No flutes, oboes or horns but two “specialty” clarinets. You might find this Mass to be a refreshingly, if still classical, “new” Haydn. Just listen to this remarkable “Credo” from the 45-minute work:

Those gorgeous solo roles will be sung in this concert by soprano Arwen Myers, mezzo-soprano Sarah Beaty, tenor Leslie Green, and baritone Daniel Myers. Goody again!

Speaking about the Pärt Adam’s Lament, Gabriel Crouch, PBO guest conductor for this “Worlds Apart” concert, offered this reflection in recent message to Trinity Music:

“Arvo Pärt’s music can unsettle and mystify us, at least at first, but we quickly learn to love its bleak landscapes; and as we draw in closer and closer, hoping to be enveloped in its embrace, we are ambushed by delicate harmonic changes – always perfectly timed – which pierce us right through to our defenseless hearts.”

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The Russian text is from the wisdom of Silouan the Athonite (1866-1938), Eastern Orthodox poet and monk. Pärt developed a deep affection for the works of Silouan – the chapel in the Pärt Center in Estonia is named for the Elder. The text is powerful; the music conveys the wrenching lament in arc, texture and harmonic design. Here is a brief excerpt from the 25-ish minute work:

Pärt and Haydn, both masters of structure and design. Both innovators. Both revered in their lifetimes. What is “Worlds Apart” all about? Conductor Crouch will have the final word on that. “To hear these wonderful works of Haydn and Pärt cohabiting the same concert program, is to experience beauty at the farthest opposing realms of the senses.” 

Trinity Episcopal Cathedral Choir and Portland Baroque Orchestra perform Pärt and Haydn on Saturday, May 11, 7:00 pm at Trinity Episcopal Cathedral. Tickets are here.

Heirloom Choirs

The women of Cappella Romana and special guests reprise their “Ukrainian Wedding” concert of 2023, spreading the love once again in Portland on May 19, and also to the Oregon coast on May 17 (Astoria) and 18 (Lincoln City).

Returning are Ukrainian folk music scholar Nadia Tarnawsky and singers Inna Kovtun and Hanna Tishchenko. Your attendance at this event offers you a chance to help Cappella Records release a CD of the unique music and of the gifts of these artists. Folks in Astoria and Lincoln City, put the word out–this is thrilling music. Oregon ArtsWatch spoke with Tarnawsky and previewed the concert in this May 2023 piece. And listen here to CR Artistic Director Alexander Lingas’ 2023 interview with Tarnawsky:

The folk music, the unique singing style, and artistry of Cappella Romana – it’s worth a second listen and a worthy project to support.

Come and hear Cappella women and guests at “Ukrainian Wedding” on Friday, May 17, 7 pm, at Grace Episcopal Church in Astoria, Saturday, May 18, 2 pm at Lincoln City Cultural Center and Sunday, May 19, 7 pm, Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Cathedral, Portland. Tickets and more information here

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The Vancouver Master Chorale 75th Anniversary concert on May 18 and 19 is a honkin’ big celebration of longevity, Vancouver community support and excellent choral arts. You’ll be offered some new choral sounds but also some of those stalwart favorites that we know and love. Golly, the opening work for the choir and VMC’s 48-piece orchestra is the 14-minute Serenade to Music by Ralph Vaughan Williams. Nice start, eh? Wait till you hear how they finish. 

One of VMC’s newest singers, Daniel Trushov, is also a composer whom Artistic Director Jana Hart says is a recent gift to the Northwest. You will hear the NW premiere of The Ruins of Mariupol by this 24-year-old with family roots in Ukraine and Kazakhstan who moved to Vancouver this past August. In recent conversation with Oregon ArtsWatch Trushov mentioned that he has been greatly influenced by the music of Russian composer Georgy Sviridov, student of Dmitri Shostakovich. Trushov provided this clip of his Magnificat, set in Russian, as a sample of his work:

Vancouver Master Chorale’s Youth Vocal Scholarship recipient this year is 17-year-old Morgan Greco, a senior at Washougal high school. “She sang Doretta’s Aria from La Rondine with passion and has some of the most beautiful high c’s I’ve heard” said Hart in recent email to OAW. You can meet Greco and hear her sing Puccini on this concert.

Certainly for this kind of celebration the director gets to program her favorite choral work. How wonderful; it’s the Poulenc Gloria! But the choir is going to close out their 75th year with tremendous joy – “Ode to Joy” that is, the final movement of the Beethoven Ninth Symphony. To add to the spectacular VMC has invited a few friends to help out. Schmushing (that’s Hart’s word) with the VMC singers will be Skyview High School choirs, directed by Philip Denton, and the Portland Gay Men’s Chorus, directed by Braeden Ayers300 musicians honoring the music, honoring each other and honoring 75 years of excellent choral music.

Vancouver Master Chorale’s “75th Anniversary Spectacular” is Saturday, May 18, 7:00 pm and Sunday, May 19, 3:00 pm at Skyview High School. Tickets can be purchased here.

Does choral music ever take a break in the Pacific Northwest? It does not! The June PDX choral calendar is filled with choral concerts and many choirs are already preparing for summer – community sings, youth choir programs, workshops and festivals. We sing on.

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Photo Joe Cantrell

Daryl Browne is a music educator, alto, flutist and writer who lives in Beaverton, Oregon.

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