Cascadia Composers May the Fourth

Summer in (and out of) the city

Photographer Joe Cantrell roams the plazas and parks and barns of town and country, discovering a feast of music and dance.


Light the lights, hit the heights: Concerts in the Barn in rural Beaverton.


HAVE CAMERA, WILL TRAVEL. Preferably, outdoors.

Photographer Joe Cantrell has been out roaming the parks and sidewalks and plazas of greater Portland, and even the indoor/outdoor spaces of a large and gracefully restored old barn, cameras in hand. Here at ArtsWatch we couldn’t be more pleased: He keeps bringing back delicious visual evidence of life well-led in Oregon, often in musical and dancing form.

This spring and summer he’s covered events as varied and fascinating as the Waterfront Blues Festival (all four days and nights); the wonderfully mobile tradition of Ten Tiny Dances; the kickoff of this summer’s Concerts in the Barn; and a day-long gathering of the River People on the occasion of the 65th anniversary of the flooding of Celilo Falls. He also found time to create a concert-length visual show for the world-premiere performances of Portland composer and cellist Nancy Ives’ new piece based on the cultural and physical loss of the Columbia River’s famous falls.


Cascadia Composers May the Fourth

Cantrell hasn’t stopped. Since then he’s been, among other places, to a very special concert led by maestro Lajos Balogh in Washington Park; the summer’s second and final Beaverton Night Market (he also photographed the first); and two more Concerts in the Barn at Hoffman Farms in rural Beaverton – one featuring pianist Ben Kim, one featuring cellist Ives and friends.

And at each event, he had his cameras with him. Below, a visual sampling of his photographic fruits:

A classical gift in the park

Lajos Balogh speaks to the audience as the musicians wait their turn.

On a bright and pleasant Sunday evening in late August, the conductor Lajos Balogh did something he’s been doing most every summer since 1981 – leading a free classical concert high above downtown Portland, amid the trees in Washington Park. For most of those years Balogh, who came to the United States from Hungary in 1967, did the concerts with the Portland Symphony Orchestra, where he graduated to emeritus status in 2016.

This year, he led the self-named Lajos Balogh Symphony Orchestra in a program of Beethoven, Sibelius, Dvorák and Copland – and, as it turned out, some toy-recorder sounds from kids in the audience, who joined in on Haydn’s “Toy Symphony.” As always, the concert was free. “This is his way of giving back to the great country that adopted him, celebrating the European tradition of bringing outdoor symphony concerts to the people,” said his son and fellow musician, 3 Leg Torso’s Béla R. Balogh, who also took a hand in putting together the evening’s music-making.

Cantrell and his camera, of course, were on hand, too.

Joining the action. Music starts young, and lasts a lifetime.
Toy whistle a happy tune: A kids’ orchestra joins in on Haydn’s “Toy Symphony.”
… and to top off a splendid evening, the mountain was gloriously out.

Samba at the Night Market

Pauline Serrano of the samba group Bloco Alegria gets into the swing of things.

On the late afternoon and evening of Saturday, August 13, Cantrell trekked to The Round, near City Hall and the new Patricia Reser Center for the Arts, for this summer’s second and final Beaverton Night Market. Crowds and vendors and foods of many cultures and dancers and musicians and a lot more were there, making a celebration of it. On this evening what most caught Cantrell’s eyes and ears was Bloco Alegria, the Rio-style Portland samba band, which played and danced the night away – and got more than a few people in the audience swaying to the music, too.

When you’re in the crowd and not too tall, a lift to the shoulders offers an excellent overview.
As the sun begins to set, a little dancing, a little music, and … oh, why not? A crown of flowers, too.

Making music in the barn

Nancy Ives, entering the wide doors to the barn for an evening of music-making as the sun begins to set.

Cantrell liked the summer’s opening Concert in the Barn at Hoffman Farms so well that he returned with his camera to the following two, which featured Nancy Ives, principal cellist of the Oregon Symphony, composer, chamber music stalwart, and friends, on August 10; and Ben Kim, the young pianist and Portland native who’s built an international career, on August 24. The summer series was created by the Oregon Symphony’s former principal percussionist Niel DePonte, who hosts each concert.


Cascadia Composers May the Fourth

Portland native pianist Ben Kim gets down to the nitty gritty of the keyboard.
Cellist Nancy Ives and pianist Susan DeWitt Smith, up close to the audience in the barn.

Cantrell arrived early for Ben Kim’s concert and from a distance heard a plunk-plunk-plunking sound. “It was the Barn’s grand piano being tuned by a gentleman in black with a headlamp,” he reports. “Plenty of time before the concert, see what all those early arrival people are up to. There was a line at the wine shack, fine. The open side of the barn was lined with people and appropriate refreshments, nice breeze blowing the thermometer reading into irrelevance, the setting sun looked very promising.”

Steve Wenig, vice president and general manager of the Oregon Symphony, gets directions at the wine shack.

“The Concert evenings have become A Happening, as they used to say. People come prepared for the surprising ambience, given that it really is a barn, albeit a very well transformed one, an event-space in a working farm. The crows I’d seen last time weren’t there playing in the sprinklers but the old truck was. Things were good and the tuner added a constancy: Plung, plung, ping, plung, pingpingping. Niel was putting on another memorable event, the mark of a gracious, generous human professional.”

Proof, outside the barn, that the concerts are in the country.

“Ben Kim eventually began the performance although the piano continued being a guess on some keys and pedals. Maestro Kim, it was immediately obvious, is a subtle master; I heard wondrous things. My Goodness, has all that always been there? Wow. But a pedal fell off or something. Niel jumped right in, visited with Ben Kim for the benefit of everyone. And Ben, good-humored and considerate of all while the poor piano tuner strung things together, so to speak.”

Niel DePonte and Ben Kim, chatting with the audience.
Violinist Ines Voglar Belgique (left), Ives (center) and Smith: chamber music in a most relaxed and rustic chamber.

“Ben Kim in his genius and professionalism delivered a recital to change everyone’s DNA for the better,” Cantrell continues. “Niel bolstering it all. “Just perfect. Nobody left before the end.”

Ben Kim, chatting with fans after his performance.

This summer’s final Concerts in the Barn will actually be on the lawn outside Hoffman Farms’ Butler Barn – a double concert beginning at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 31. The pair of concerts will feature the Arcturus Wind Quintet, followed by vocalist Susannah Mars headlining an evening show of song and jazz.

As daylight began to disappear over the barn , the sun burst into a last brilliant kiss of benevolence over the festivities.

What else to look for

Did we mention that Cantrell’s been a very busy fellow? Like our other regularly contributing photographer/writers, among them Friderike Heuer and K.B. Dixon, he has his own particular interests and his own way of looking at, and recording, the world around him. In case you’ve missed them, here are a few highlights of his work for ArtsWatch this summer and spring – only the latest in our long and rewarding relationship with him. Happy looking:

  • The Waterfront Blues Festival. Four days of sights and sounds and celebrations from Portland’s big July 4 weekend blues extravaganza – one photo essay for each day, hereherehere, and here.
  • Ten Tiny Dances. On July 9 Cantrell took in the action at Beaverton City Park when a host of dancemakers took up the challenge of creating pieces to perform on and around a four-foot-by-four foot platform: Tiny stage, big ideas. His photo essay is here.
  • In Beaverton, a Little Night Music. The relatively recent addition of an annual mini-series of Beaverton Night Markets has rapidly become a celebratory highlight of the city’s summer calendar, evoking the night markets in so many countries from which Washington County’s many immigrant communities have come. Cantrell’s photo essay on this summer’s first market, on July 23, is here.
  • Rattling Rafters in the Barn. Cantrell was on hand when Oregon Symphony flutist Zach Galatis and friends kicked off the summer’s first Concert at the Barn at Hoffman Farms. See his photos here.
  • “Celilo Falls: We Were There.” A long-term project in which Cantrell was deeply involved, creating a visual slide show to accompany the world premiere by Portland Chamber Orchestra of Nancy Ives’s composition on the flooding of Celilo Falls. Read Angela Allen’s review here.
  • After the Flood: Remembering Celilo. Leading up to the “Celilo Falls” music premiere, in March Cantrell went to Blue Lake Regional Park for a gathering of the River People nations on the 65th anniversary of the falls’ flooding. See the story and photos here.

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Photo Joe Cantrell

I spent my first 21 years in Tahlequah, Cherokee County, Oklahoma, assuming that except for a few unfortunate spots, ‘everybody’ was part Cherokee, and son of the soil. Volunteered for Vietnam because that’s what we did. After two stints, hoping to gain insight, perhaps do something constructive, I spent the next 16 years as a photojournalist in Asia, living much like the lower income urban peasants and learning a lot. Moved back to the USA in 1986, tried photojournalism and found that the most important subjects were football and basketball, never mind humankind. In 1992, age 46, I became single dad of my 3-year-old daughter and spent the next two decades working regular jobs, at which I was not very good, to keep a roof over our heads, but we made it. She’s retail sales supervisor for Sony, Los Angeles. Wowee! The VA finally acknowledged that the war had affected me badly and gave me a disability pension. I regard that as a stipend for continuing to serve humanity as I can, to use my abilities to facilitate insight and awareness, so I shoot a lot of volunteer stuff for worthy institutions and do artistic/scientific work from our Cherokee perspective well into many nights. Come along!

CMNW Council
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Seattle Opera Barber of Seville
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Corrib Hole in Ground
Kalakendra May 3
Portland Opera Puccini
PCS Coriolanus
Cascadia Composers May the Fourth
Portland Columbia Symphony Adelante
OCCA Monthly
NW Dance Project
Oregon Repertory Singers Finding Light
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Imago Mission Gibbons
Maryhill Museum of Art
PSU College of the Arts
Bonnie Bronson Fellow Wendy Red Star
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Pacific Maritime HC Prosperity
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Oregon Cultural Trust
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