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Plus: Profile Theatre, Beta Collide, Marylhurst finalist, Stumptown's 'Aida'

Jordan VanSise, Marylhurst University United States, 2014 "Self-Portrait"

Jordan VanSise, Marylhurst University United States, 2014 “Self-Portrait”

I find it quite easy, not to mention delightful, to glide through the culture and its highest achievement, the arts, without a thought about the public support that helps so much of that achievement possible. (Yes, per the great John Dewey, the arts are the greatest human achievement, so eliminating them from schools is SUCH a good idea, right? I digress!) Support for the arts in Oregon has been low historically, though in recent years we’ve started to realize that ranking 50th or 47th in public funding for the arts isn’t such a good idea, and money dedicated to the care and nourishment of the arts has started to rise.

But this is a democracy, and we should keep an eye on the use of that public money. Yes, it’s appropriate that we spend money on the arts, and yes, it’s important that we figure out what the best use of that money is.

All of that is simply a prelude to our first couple of News & Notes items!

The Regional Arts & Culture Council has issued its 2013 annual report, and it’s well worth a look, if you are interested in how public money is supporting the arts. The raw revenue number itself is interesting: $7,473,927. And that doesn’t include any arts tax money, which will be coming online this fiscal year and next.

The Oregon Cultural Trust has reported that taxpayers donated 4.3%  more money to the trust in 2013 than in 2012, going from $3,960,094 in 2012 to  $4,131,520 in 2013. In the  the 2013-14 grant cycle, the trust awarded $1.6 million in grants, so that could go up a bit next year. By statute the Cultural Trust saves $.58 of each donor dollar in a permanent fund, which has reached $20 million.

And now some news from some arts organizations WE support (one way or another)…

Profile Theatre will substitute a production of True West for the previously scheduled Kicking a Dead Horse at the end of its Sam Shepard season this year. For us in the audience, that means a “classic period” Shepard (which also receives lots of productions) gets the nod over a newer, less frequently produced monologue play that premiered in 2007.

For artistic director Adriana Baer, the switch was necessary if Profile wanted to stage the five key Shepard “family” plays this year (Curse of the Starving Class, Buried Child, Fool for Love, and A Lie of the Mind are the others).

“Having just returned from visiting the Sam Shepard Archives in the Wittliff Collections at Texas State University, I realized that in leading a discussion of the work of Sam Shepard for our community, it was vital we provide Portland audiences an opportunity to see the quintet of family plays in its entirety,” Baer said in the press release. True West opens  November 6, 2014 on the Alder Stage at Artists Repertory Theatre. Tickets are currently on sale at

Marylhurst University sophomore Jordan VanSise is a finalist in the 2014 Sony World Photography Awards Student Focus competition, one of the ten finalists from around the world. His winning entry is above.

“This image was originally for a self-portrait assignment in one of my photography classes, VanSise was quoted in the press release. “I thought of the different “versions” of myself that I wanted to depict. I set my camera on a tripod and framed it how I wanted. Then I changed into different outfits and changed my spot on the couch, as well as making a variety of gestures. Afterwards I chose the shots I liked and put them together to make the final image.”

VanSise and the other finalists will be flown to London with their instructors to attend a gala ceremony in London where the recipient of the 2014 Student Focus Photographer of the Year title and the grand prize of €35,000 worth of Sony photographic equipment for the student’s school will be announced.

In addition, the finalists will see their “Self-portraits” series shown at Somerset House, London, May 1-18  and their work published in the 2014 edition of the annual Sony World Photography Awards book.

Stumptown Stages opens Elton John and Tim Rice’s version of Aida on February 20. The Egyptian love triangle stars Joann Coleman, James Langston Drake and Joy Martin, and will play in Brunish Theatre at Antoinette Hatfield Hall, 1111 SW Broadway, through March 9. Stumptown has given us a little taste in the preview below:

For ArtsWatch readers unable to attend the actual event: The University of Oregon continues its excellent series of live-streaming concerts at 7 pm tonight (February 19) from Beall Hall. Visiting professor and Kronos Quartet cellist Jeffrey Zeigler will work with Beta Collide, a group of UO faculty musicians, as they perform a set of brand new compositions by Oregon Composer Forum students Alex Bean, John Goforth, Noah Jenkins, and Avery Pratt.

Each composer will introduce his work by talking about the compositional method and technical aspectsas well as the aesthetic and personal influences. Each composition will have two readings, and in between, Zeigler and Beta Collide will engage the composer in a discussion of the
composition and perhaps suggest a tweak here or there that may improve the music and may then be implemented in a second performance.

The program includes:

  • Noah Jenkins, Z-Stack (2014) for flute, bassoon, trumpet, cello, and piano: This piece is based on a technique used in photography and microscopy in which several photographs of the same image are taken at different focal distances and compiled into a single image with greater depth of focus than any of the individual images.
  • John Goforth, Trio (2014) for flute, cello, and piano: Inspired by exploring the different ways these three instruments can interact with each other and how energy can be passed, stalled, or even subtracted as it passes from each player to the other, Goforth shaped the piece as one of growth and expansion.
  • Avery Pratt, Bolero (2014) for Flute, Bassoon, Trumpet, and Cello: This work transforms and explores the style of the dance in a more modern context through the use of timbre, orchestration, tonality, and rhythmic
  • The work of Matt Zavortink and Alex Bean will also be performed.

Internet through Live streaming.

Composer Eve Beglarian took a trip down the big river / via Eve Beglarian

 Around the time of the election of Obama and the economic meltdown, I decided what I wanted to do was travel down the Mississippi River really slowly, human powered. I ended up paddling and biking down the river, from the headwaters in Minnesota, all the way down to New Orleans, in the fall of 2009. ... I went with a tape recorder, very little agenda, and absolutely no schedule… [I]t’s the spine of the country and I wanted to know what it was. And it’s richer and more full of things that I knew nothing about than I could possibly have imagined.

Eve Beglarian, from an interview in NewMusicBox.

The diminutive woman in red and the violinist in black stood grinning on stage singing a gentle, playful duet of the simplest of texts: sol, ti, re, fa, do, mi, la and so on, a landscape scene projected behind them. Next, the woman, composer Eve Beglarian, read a short essay (posted on her blog) about her four month journey down the Mississippi River by kayak, bike, car, and foot, collecting images, stories and sounds that she later turned into The River Project. She joined Third Angle New Music Ensemble and Eugene’s Beta Collide  to perform excerpts from it Friday night at Portland’s Alberta Rose Theater — the first time she’d taken the show on the road.


Cantores in Ecclesia performs at Portland's William Byrd Festival

It’s official: no Oregon weekend, even in the canine days of August, is free of fascinating music. Oregon State University’s La Sells Stewart Center in Corvallis hosts the 20th annual Zimbabwean Music Festival, where you can listen to and/or learn to play marimba, drum, mbira (the beautiful gourd-encased metal so-called “thumb piano”) and more music of southern Africa’s Shona people. Down in the Siskiyous, the Beloved Festival continues with various world music offerings. And Eugene’s Oregon Festival of American Music presents its final show of the Gershwins’ Girl Crazy tonight at the Hult Center.

Speaking of Gershwin, Barry has alluded to the controversy over the impending remake/reboot/desecration/ modernization of the 20th century’s greatest work of American music (although West Side Story, Appalachian Spring, Music for 18 Musicians, Einstein on the Beach, Charles Ives’s Symphony #4 and a few others also have a strong claim). This Friday and Sunday, and next weekend, you can see a more traditional version of Porgy and Bess, in a new Seattle Opera production directed by Chris Alexander and conducted by John DeMain (who helped revive Gershwin’s great American opera with the Houston Grand Opera in the 1970s). Portland writer Angela Allen reviewed it quite favorably on ConcertoNet.

Seattle Opera's Porgy & Bess runs this weekend and next. Gordon Hawkins (Porgy) and Lisa Daltirus (Bess). © Elise Bakketun photo

Another great American opera that premiered a year before Porgy, in 1934, gets a new production next weekend in San Francisco, courtesy of SF’s Museum of Modern Art, which, in conjunction with its much praised exhibit of Gertrude Stein’s et families’ art collection, commissioned a new version of Stein and Virgil Thomson’s delicious opera Four Saints in Three Acts — and a brand new response to it by a local, contemporary composer, Berkeley’s Luciano Chessa. (Attention Portland art institutions and classical music institutions: here are two good ideas for you borrow. ) Chessa’s A Heavenly Act takes the Stein texts Thomson cut from a later, truncated version of Four Saints and makes a new story from them, set to his original music. It runs next weekend, Aug. 18-20 only.

Portland’s new music / alt classical scene is about to get a boost from a new organization making its debut this Sunday at the city’s Someday Lounge. Composer Justin Ralls modeled his Contemporary Portland Orchestra Project on the celebrated Boston Modern Orchestra Project, and along with its first performances, the concert stars the great Portland new music ensemble FearNoMusic (embarking on its first season under new director and violinist Paloma Griffin), Eugene’s superb duo Beta Collide (trumpeter Brian McWhorter and flutist Molly Barth, with guests), New York experimental opera composers Jeff Young and Paul Pinto, Oakland percussionist Moe! Staiano, and sound artists Lucio Menegon and Sabrina Siegel. Some of these artists played parts of the same show at Eugene’s Jazz Station Wednesday.

Classical and choral music fans should check out the 14th annual William Byrd Festival, dedicated to showcasing the complete works (over several decades) of England’s greatest Renaissance composer (probably, depending on whether you count John Dowland as part of that period). On Friday, in maybe the top recommendation for this summer’s edition, David Trendell of London’s King’s College will conduct soloists from Portland’s Cantores in Ecclesia in music of Byrd’s last songbook, Psalms, Songs and Sonnets, on its 400th anniversary. Sunday’s Compline service, conducted by Cantores director Blake Applegate features Byrd’s music for the divine office, and Monday’s mass for the feast of the assumption will be accompanied by liturgical music from Byrd’s 1615 collection Gradualia, conducted by Duke University’s Kerry McCarthy.

Portland Taiko director Michelle Fujii’s solo show, Choking, finishes its run at the city’s Interstate Firehouse Cultural Center, 5340 N. Interstate. This multimedia exploration of Asian American identity involves dance, music, video and an art installation.

And if you missed Portland’s hottest jazz ensemble’s scintillating collaboration with Northwest Dance Project last year, you can see Blue Cranes and NDP dancers alfresco at Portland’s Washington Park Friday night. In fact,  you probably want to see them again even if you did catch them last time, especially because this time, it’s free!