CMNW Summer Festival SB FIXED #1, TP, Top

Suspended puzzlement: The Fourth is with Cascadia Composers

Fourthful concert showed the eclectic breadth of the local composer organization.

|

Cascadia Composers President Kevin Lay at CC's "May the Fourth Be With You" concert in 2024. Photo by Alan Niven.
Cascadia Composers President Kevin Lay at CC’s “May the Fourth Be With You” concert in 2024. Photo by Alan Niven.

When composer Kevin Lay walked out on the stage wielding a lightsaber with his Star Wars costume, that struck just the right note for Cascadia Composers’ “May the Fourth be with You” concert. The event actually did take place on May the 4th in Lincoln Recital Hall (aka Room 75) on the campus of Portland State University, and the intrepid composers’ organization, which sponsors and promotes the writing of new music put the audience in a good mood with the little tongue-in-cheek intro.

Many of the pieces on the program featured the Chameleon Winds, a Portland-based quintet formed in 2011. The ensemble consists of Abby Mages, flute, Alan Juza oboe, Sean Kelleher, clarinet, Dan Partridge horn, and Samuel Rhoton, bassoon (in place of Nicole Buetti for this concert). All perform in various professional ensembles throughout Oregon.

Chameleon Winds (L to R: Abby Mages, Alan Juza, Samuel Rhoton, Dan Partridge, Sean Kelleher)at the Cascadia Composers "May the Fourth Be With You" concert in 2024. Photo by Alan Niven.
Chameleon Winds (L to R: Abby Mages, Alan Juza, Samuel Rhoton, Dan Partridge, Sean Kelleher)at the Cascadia Composers “May the Fourth Be With You” concert in 2024. Photo by Alan Niven.

The concert selections were quite eclectic, starting with Wind Quintet #1 “Medieval” by Lay, who is also the current President of Cascadia Composers. Channeling ancient history, Lay sought to convey a peaceful time after the Goths took over Rome. The piece offered extreme, angular pitches but maintained a light touch. The third movement, “The Old Guard and the Princess,” had a prominent part for the bassoon, and phrases for horn in which the player had to run out of breath. The last movement, “merriment,” skipped along and brought the piece to a delightful close.

Martin J. Van Klompenberg’s Modern Dinosaur (for flute, clarinet, and bassoon) expressed the idea and perhaps also the soul of “living fossils,” which refers to creatures that had related species a long, long time ago, but not today.  So, the music depicted the African lungfish with a mixture of dissonant and awkward-sounding sequences. The aardvark received more contemplative passages, which were interrupted now and then by gurgles – perhaps to convey eating. In any event, the bassoon got the last gulp.

Chameleon Winds bassoonist Samuel Rhoton at the Cascadia Composers "May the Fourth Be With You" concert in 2024. Photo by Alan Niven.
Chameleon Winds bassoonist Samuel Rhoton at the Cascadia Composers “May the Fourth Be With You” concert in 2024. Photo by Alan Niven.

Next came Mark Vigil’s Wind Quintet No. 2, which seemed to have melodic highways and byways going all over the place. It was as if we were taken on a journey with multiple roads and lots of detours. It sort of left me in a state of suspended puzzlement.

Pianist Luna Thompson-Aue joined Juza and Kelleher for Three Peccadilloes by William Toutant. This piece began with the sounds coming from the extreme ends of the keyboard. Interruptions and outbursts from the winds were followed by an exchange of phrases – all of which gave the movement a humorous tinge. The horn created some shimmery moments and Thompson-Aue unleashed a terrific cadenza. The third movement had a squirrely nature, adding to the fun and quirky nature of the piece.

L to R: oboist Alan Juza, pianist Luna Thompson-Aue, and clarinetist Sean Kelleher at the Cascadia Composers "May the Fourth Be With You" concert in 2024. Photo by Alan Niven.
L to R: oboist Alan Juza, pianist Luna Thompson-Aue, and clarinetist Sean Kelleher at the Cascadia Composers “May the Fourth Be With You” concert in 2024. Photo by Alan Niven.

The Chameleon Winds performed a selection from Greg A. Steinke’s Wind River Country, inspired by scenes in Wyoming. Juza shouted “One, two, three, four” followed by rhythmic foot-stomping and clapping and a fanfare of sounds that reminded me of chickens. Later, a melodic folk song led into a march and at one point Juza played his oboe without his reed mouthpiece. Really close tones from the oboe and clarinet gave way to melodies for the horn and a solo for the flute. It all wrapped up with a quiet ending.

Sponsor

WESTAF Shoebox Arts

Alex Shapria’s The Inner Sea for clarinet, bass clarinet, and piano (Susan McDaniel) opened with a tempestuous and restless quality, suggesting waves of inner turmoil. Splashes of chords and slow sustained notes from the clarinet ushered in a more contemplative section, and a forlorn sound from the bass clarinet lingered at the close.

Pianist Susan McDaniel and clarinetist Sean Kelleher at the Cascadia Composers "May the Fourth Be With You" concert in 2024. Photo by Alan Niven.
Pianist Susan McDaniel and clarinetist Sean Kelleher at the Cascadia Composers “May the Fourth Be With You” concert in 2024. Photo by Alan Niven.

The quintet played the Second Suite from Razumov, a chamber opera by Greg Bartholomew. This work evoked a Russian flair that was not heavy handed. The final section presented an excellent melody that sounded half Israeli and half Slavic. 

Shapira’s Enmeshed Development was inspired by the psychological term used to describe a relationship that is so overly connected that one can lose touch with one’s own needs and feelings. Played expertly by pianist Ben Gimm, this piece had a lot of overlapping lines, creating a delicious, sonic spaghetti.  

Gimm and the Chameleon Winds performed Sy Brandon’s Three Desert Pictures, which elicited three events that Brandon experienced in Arizona. Solid blocks of chords embodied the “Haboob,” a severe dust storm. Scattered notes captured “Virga,” a weak rainfall that evaporates before it reaches the ground. The “Monsoon” revved things up with sounds of wind, thunder, and lightning. 

Pianist Ben Gimm with Chameleon Winds at the Cascadia Composers "May the Fourth Be With You" concert in 2024. Photo by Alan Niven.
Pianist Ben Gimm with Chameleon Winds at the Cascadia Composers “May the Fourth Be With You” concert in 2024. Photo by Alan Niven.

So there you have it, an evening of eclectic music-making that featured a lot of local composers and excellent local talent. The Fourth was definitely with them!

Be part of our
growing success

Join our Stronger Together Campaign and help ensure a thriving creative community. Your support powers our mission to enhance accessibility, expand content, and unify arts groups across the region.

Together we can make a difference. Give today, knowing a donation that supports our work also benefits countless other organizations. When we are stronger, our entire cultural community is stronger.

Donate Today

Photo Joe Cantrell

James Bash enjoys writing for The Oregonian, The Columbian, Classical Voice North America, Opera, and many other publications. He has also written articles for the Oregon Arts Commission and the Grove Dictionary of American Music, 2nd edition. He received a fellowship to the 2008 NEA Journalism Institute for Classical Music and Opera, and is a member of the Music Critics Association of North America.
SHARE:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

CMNW Summer Festival SB FIXED #1, TP, Top
Salem World Beat SB FIXED #2
Lake Oswego Festival of Arts
NW Dance Project
OCCA Monthly
MYS Oregon to Iberia
Maryhill Museum of Art
PAM 12 Month
PSU College of the Arts
Oregon Cultural Trust
Oregon ArtsWatch holder
We do this work for you.

Give to our GROW FUND.