Grieg

The Adventures of Fred and Aurore

Stuck at home with nowhere to go? A musical tale with mules, trolls, a bumblebee, a dog, a cat, a composer, a writer, and a little imagination.

People who love the arts all have felt the impact of the global pandemic on their favorite genres and arts experiences. We may forget that our children are moved by the arts as well, and have experienced similar losses of opportunities, whether children’s theater, museums oriented to young people, movies in a theater, or live music.

This brings us to the story of Fred and Aurore. Fred played and composed music for the piano. Aurore was a writer. Fred was one of the most famous pianists and Aurore one of the most well-known writers in the time they lived. She used the name George when she wrote books, plays, and magazine articles, because people did not want to publish the writing of women at the time she lived.

Aurore had a little dog named Marquis, who liked to dance in circles chasing his tail. Aurore suggested to Fred that he create music inspired by Marquis, so he composed a waltz, sometimes called the Waltz of the Little Dog, but today most people call it the Minute Waltz. Can you imagine Marquis chasing his tail when you listen to Chopin’s Minute Waltz? 

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Northern Lights, shining bright

Chamber Music Northwest takes a joyous trip to Scandinavia with a pair of Nielsens and Grieg's "Peer Gynt"

On Thursday Portland had a few hours of ideal summer, and the Reed College campus was lush with green trees, thick grass, and the lovely scourge of ivy. A few black tents dotted the landscape, shelters for people serving coffee and tea. Ladies in dresses and men in button-down shirts came and went. The relative ease of the atmosphere at sunset recalled an English lawn party. It was a prototypical evening at Chamber Music Northwest, and the spirited crowd had gathered to hear the concert Northern Lights: Scandinavian Gems. The music of the title’s two “lights” – the lesser-known Carl Nielsen and the more popular Edvard Grieg, with a new arrangement of his Peer Gynt – summoned less an imagining of the aurora borealis and more the mysterious spirits of nature on the move.

Violinist Theodore Arm (left) discusses David Schiff's new arrangement of "Peer Gynt" during rehearsal. Photo: Kimmie Fadern/Chamber Music Northwest

Violinist Theodore Arm (left) discusses David Schiff’s new arrangement of “Peer Gynt” during rehearsal. Photo: Kimmie Fadern/Chamber Music Northwest

Kaul Auditorium, Reed’s 750-seat concert hall, must be a musician’s dream. It’s made for acoustics, not just the audience’s leg room or vantage point, and outside and in seemed to blend. The welcoming smell of fresh timber filled the air. The greens gave off a vibrant hue through the windows as the stage lights glowed off the fresh polished neutral woods. The five chamber musicians took the stage in white coats and black shirt and tie, with the exception of cellist Mihai Marica, who wore an aubergine-colored gown. Not a stern soul was to be found: they entered the stage with bright eyes and glee in their cheeks.

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