halie loren

Big tent, big investment, big dreams

The Lincoln City Cultural Center hopes to ignite excitement for its plaza redevelopment project with a concert series in a music-festival atmosphere

The lineup for the Lincoln City Cultural Center’s monthlong concert series calls for five musical acts featuring musicians from six countries playing in a venue twice the usual size. But while the summer celebration is all about the music, it’s also about the future.  

Hosting the series in a 4,150-square-foot tent is a way to ignite interest in the $2.5 million project to elevate the cultural center’s plaza to a traffic-stopping attraction in its own right.

“That’s why it’s called the Plaza Party Tent,” said Niki Price, executive director of the center. “We’re trying to get our patrons and the public to connect what’s happening in the tent with what is going to happen in the next two years with plaza redevelopment. That broken pavement they are sitting on is going to get improved; the potholes on the way in, the entrances that are awkward — those are the things we are going to improve with the plaza plan, and we invite the public to take part.”

Halie Loren will be the first performer when the Lincoln City Cultural Center begins its Plaza Tent Party concert series July 1.

The center decided to go with the 50-by-83-foot tent six months ago when it remained unclear how many people pandemic protocols would permit in the center’s auditorium. It is the biggest tent the grounds could accommodate and still allow for ample parking. Price had considered the tent last year but backed out when logistics seemed unworkable. This year, they tried a different configuration, placing the tent where the acoustics will be the best with a stage that allows for seating on three sides.

It is a big investment for the nonprofit, made possible by grant moneys and donations, including plants from the local nursery and chairs and stage from the Lincoln County School District.

“The chairs were a big problem, so that’s huge,” Price said. A patron who loves live music asked how he could help make more of it happen, she said. “I told him about the tent series, and he’s providing the base artist fees for all the concerts, which is a big donation.”

The idea is to create the atmosphere of a music festival with great sightlines, colorful flags and backdrops, and plants. The Halie Loren Quartet opens the series on July 1, followed July 8 by Son de Cuba, a quintet of musicians from Chile, Mexico, Cuba, and the U.S.; Songs of Wonder, with the Dmitri Matheny Group featuring Holly Pyle for a celebration of Stevie Wonder on July 15; The Gothard Sisters performing Northwest Celtic music on July 22; and Men of Worth, a folk music duo composed of Ireland’s James Keigher and Scotland’s Donnie Macdonald, on July 29.

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A synergistic triumph of wills

Eugene Symphony closes a half-season of Tchaikovsky, Verdi, and Adams with popular ruckus Symfest

The five Eugene Symphony concerts I attended in the first half of this year (I was unable to attend the all twentieth-century music Valentine’s Day concert) were of such diverse programming that it is hard to ally them all with one unifying concept. Audiences witnessed world-class virtuosic performances of standards of the classical concerto repertoire; giant assemblages of musicians filling the hall with stunning walls of sound; boundary-pushing, comfort-zone-crashing chromatic works from the late nineteenth century; mid-twentieth-century dance works; twenty-first century ensemble works of consonant complexity; ethereal experiments of light and sound; and an evening of international jazz artists, contemporary ballet performance, pop sonorities, and a knock-out performance by a high-school glee club.

Whew! That sounds like a good season from a selection of arts organizations in a city twice the size of Eugene, let alone the half-season output of one orchestra. Can that one orchestra maintain high standards in such a diverse array of programming?

Yes. And here’s how.

Cognitive dissonance

Pianist Natasha Paremski performed with Eugene Symphony Orchestra.
Pianist Natasha Paremski performed with Eugene Symphony Orchestra.

Natasha Paremski’s performance, in January, of Tchaikovsky’s first piano concerto was a synergistic triumph of wills. After the orchestra’s horn-blasting introduction, Paremski muscled her way into the tempo-control seat by pushing the ensemble to meet her slightly faster pace. Maestro Francesco Lecce-Chong and company worked hard to match her, the Maestro single-handedly lifting the orchestra up a notch with powerful gestures that belied his featherweight stature. This man knows how to work hard.

That effort defined the entire performance, with Paremski employing sophisticated nuances of tempo, articulation, and phrasing that stretched time and tension and even the orchestra’s cohesion. The results were a deliciously tense rapport that had everyone on the edge of their seats—musicians, pianist, audience—and a stunningly emotional performance that belonged not just to the virtuoso but to the orchestra and Maestro as well. 

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MusicWatch Monthly: Radioactive glowing disk returns to Oregon!

Summer arrives, with festivals, season closers and sun

Caution: Radioactive glowing disk has returned to Oregon’s skies! Remember your sunscreen! Remember your sunscreen! Message repeats.

Edvard Munch, The Sun, 1911, oil on canvas, 14.9 x 25.5 feet, University of Oslo, Norway. Wikimedia Commons

Five weeks and one day

There’s an old zen saying: you should meditate 20 minutes every day unless you’re too busy, in which case you should meditate for an hour every day.

Two festivals of contemporary classical music hit Portland this month, and if you’re too busy for one you should make time for the other. Chamber Music Northwest starts June 24 and stretches well into July, with local and international musicians performing everything from tons of Mozart to a bunch of stuff by contemporary composers. Meanwhile on June 27 Makrokosmos, now in its fifth year, crams a similar density of breadth and excellence in a one-day festival of Takemitsu, Crumb, and other modernist composers.

“Makrokosmos Project V: Black Angels”
June 27
Vestas Building

Bicoastal pianists DUO Stephanie & Saar present the best value in Portland’s contemporary music scene: Makrokosmos Project, a one-day mini-festival which has evolved into an annual feat of endurance for Portland new music nuts. This year, local pianists join Ho and Ahuvia to present the complete piano music of Japanese composer Toru Takemitsu, spread across two of the evening’s four segments, along with other piano works by John Luther Adams, Gabriela Lena Frank, and Olivier Messiaen. The mini-fest ends with the Pyxis Quartet’s performance of George Crumb’s gorgeously nightmare-inducing Black Angels: “Thirteen Images from the Dark Land” for electric string quartet (you read that right). One ticket gets you a five-hour mini-festival with free cheese and wine. Hard to beat.

Chamber Music Northwest Summer Festival: Week One
June 24 – 30
Kaul Auditorium at Reed College
Lincoln Performance Hall at Portland State University
Alberta Rose Theater

Clarinetist extraordinaire David Shifrin ends his nearly four-decade run as CMNW Artistic Director with an opening week full of clarinets. No fewer than 27 all-star clarinetists perform two centuries of clarinet music ranging from Mozart—the first great composer to write for the instrument—to new works by Libby Larsen and Michele Mangani.

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