pacifica quartet

Nehalem Winterfest capitalizes on the coast’s off-season

Festival music ranges from crocodile rock to chamber to jazz. In Cannon Beach and Tillamook, theatrical comedies brighten the dark days

This is the quiet time on the Oregon Coast. The holidays are over, spring break still a ways off, and with the exception of a couple of three-day weekends, there’s not a lot of opportunity for extended bouts of R&R here. While that may not be bad news for locals, for businesses, it can make for some lean stretches. Such was the inspiration last year for the first Nehalem Winterfest.

“In the summer, there are competing interests, you go to the beach, you build bonfires, you go hiking. You do all sorts of things like that,” said Mary Moran, head of the North Coast Recreation District’s Performing Arts Center, where Winterfest performances are held. “You don’t necessarily want to sit inside a theater and listen to music. In the winter, you don’t expect to do outside things so much as inside things. We just decided it’s a great time to have music and concerts, and get people to come to the beach and enjoy themselves.”

It went over so well — with visitors coming from all over Oregon, Washington and beyond — they’re doing again.

The 2nd Annual Nehalem Winterfest kicks off Friday, Feb. 8, with Kate & the Crocodiles. Featuring vocalist Kate Morrison, trumpeter Gavin Bondi, pianist Craig Bidondo, and drummer Brent Follis, the band plays rock originals and covers, jazz, classical, “and other surprises from far and wide.”

“Kate and the Crocodiles are always a good seller here,” Moran said. “Great people, great music and lots of fun to listen to.”

Continues…

Oregon Music 2018: looking outward

Socially engaged sounds, multimedia productions, and other trends in 2018 Oregon music

Last year’s music roundup first looked homeward. ArtsWatch’s 2017 music coverage focused, as we have from the outset, on our state’s creative culture: music conceived and composed in Oregon. We touched a lot of other bases, too of course, and homegrown music remained a touchstone our 2018 coverage and this recap.

But as with other Oregon artists this year, Oregon music increasingly gazed outward — and often askance — at our nation’s continuing descent into turmoil, division, lies, and political corruption, starting right at the top and oozing down. Therefore, so did much of our music coverage. So we’ll start with what ArtsWatch’s David Bates called…

“Socially Engaged” sounds

Portland new music ensemble FearNoMusic and choir Resonance Ensemble devoted entire seasons to contemporary classical music that responds to today’s social issues.

Resonance Ensemble preview: questions of faith
Choral organization’s ‘Souls’ concert is part of a season-long musical exploration of timely social concerns
Brett Campbell, February 23

‘Bodies’ review: Pride is a verb
Resonance Ensemble’s Pride Week concert commemorates LGBTQIA community’s struggles and celebrates its creativity.
Matthew Andrews, August 14

Resonance Ensemble

Resonance Ensemble: amplifying ‘Hidden Voices’
Vocal ensemble’s collaborative concert features musical responses to experiences marked by racism and resistance.
Matthew Andrews, November 17

Fear No Music: music of migration and more
New music ensemble demonstrates dedication to diversity and development.
Matthew Andrews, December 10

New music ensemble Fear No Music

Other classical music organizations also presented issue-oriented new music.

Oregon Symphony reviews: immigrant songs
Fall concerts include a world premiere theatrical commission and 20th century works by immigrant American composers
Matthew Andrews, January 9

Lawrence Brownlee preview: a journey
In a Friends of Chamber Music recital, the celebrated tenor sings a Romantic classic and a new, timely composition about America’s most pressing crisis
Damien Geter, April 2

Shredding it at “Pass the Mic” camp.

Portland Meets Portland
The innovative “Pass the Mic” summer music camp pairing music pros and young refugees and immigrants will give a free concert Friday.
Friderike Heuer, July 14

David Ludwig: telling the earth’s story through music
Composer’s Chamber Music Northwest commission inspired by ancient Earth, threat of extinction from human-caused climate change.
Matthew Andrews, July 27

Gabriel Kahane’s new oratorio confronts America’s empathy deficit
Commissioned, performed and recorded this week by the Oregon Symphony, ’emergency shelter intake form’ humanizes homelessness.
Interview by Matthew Andrews, August 28

Multimedia

Besides addressing today’s social issues, another trend among some classical music organizations in 2018 was updating their presentations by augmenting music with other art forms such as theater, literature, visual arts, and more. At ArtsWatch, we try to provide constructive feedback on how these often experimental productions worked, so we can help risk-taking artists move forward into unexplored territories — without leaving the audience behind.

Fin de Cinema’s “Beauty and the Beast”: spirit of discovery
Latest mix of classic film and Portland contemporary music captures Cocteau creation’s mix of beauty and grit.
Douglas Detrick, January 23

Portland Youth Philharmonic’s Cappella PYP, Portland State choirs, and In Mulieribus perform Richard Einhorn’s ‘Voices of Light’ during a screening of Dreyer’s film Friday.

‘Voices of Light’ preview: trial by fire
Camerata PYP, In Mulieribus, Portland State University choirs perform Richard Einhorn’s popular oratorio ‘Voices of Light’ with Carl Dreyer’s 1928 film ‘The Passion of Joan of Arc.’
Brett Campbell, January 25

“Tesla” lab report
Harmonic Laboratory’s ambitious experimental multimedia performance produces mixed results.
Brett Campbell, February 6

Continues…

MusicWatch Weekly: solos and duos

Duo pianists and string players, a doomed love duet, and solo pianist, singer, and percussionist highlight this week's Oregon music

Portland Opera opens its season with Verdi’s Bohemian Parisian perennial La Traviata, which runs this Friday night and Sunday afternoon, and next Thursday and Saturday at Portland’s Keller Auditorium. Romanian soprano Aurelia Florian, tenor Jonathan Boyd and Weston Hurt star in this traditional production sung in Italian with projected English translations.

Jonathan Boyd as Alfredo and Aurelia Florian as Violetta in Portland Opera’s production of Verdi’s ‘La Traviata.’ Photo: Cory Weaver/Portland Opera.

• For opera music of more (sadly, in the wake of the latest right-wing gun- and bigotry-fueled massacre) immediate relevance, you’ll have to head up to Seattle’s Benaroya Hall for the powerful Music of Remembrance series, which remembers the Holocaust through music. Performed by Seattle Symphony members, this 20th anniversary concert, includes highlights from MOR’s varied repertoire of Holocaust-era music and new works its commissioned: excerpts from Tom Cipullo’s award-winning chamber opera After Life, imagining a confrontation between the ghosts of Gertrude Stein and Pablo Picasso; Jake Heggie’s opera Out of Darkness, Lori Laitman’s oratorio Vedem, Paul Schoenfield’s Camp Songs. Northwest Boychoir sings Yiddish songs that Viktor Ullmann arranged in Terezín death camp. Members of Spectrum Dance Theater reprise dances that choreographer Donald Byrd created for The Dybbuk.

Courtney Freed, cutting loose as Freddie Mercury.

• Just in time to piggyback on the new Queen movie (or is that the other way round?), Courtney Freed’s one-woman Freddie Mercury tribute concert Mercury Rising returns Friday to Portland’s Artists Repertory Theatre. Aided by David Saffert on keys, Josh Gilbert on reeds, Bernardo Gomez on bass and Tom Goicochea on drums, she’ll sing Queen songs arranged by Reece Marshburn. “Freed thankfully didn’t try to embody the outsized rock star,” ArtsWatch’s Angela Allen wrote after the show’s brief April run at Coho Theater,” but “Mercury fans, who comprised most of the audience, were all over the songs—doing the Wave, cheering, singing and mouthing the words. She added some vamping and dancing (her singing is much better than either) and interspersed her songs with spicy narration…. The music leaned far more toward jazzy cabaret than ear-killing British rock. And even if you weren’t a diehard Queen fan, you couldn’t resist Mercury’s melodies.”

Orchestral Attractions

• The Oregon Symphony brings another musical/theatrical combo Saturday through Monday at Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall. Petrushka tells the story of a puppet come to life, so it’s only appropriate that creative director Doug Fitch enhances Stravinsky’s sublime 1911 ballet score (in its 1946 revision) with puppets, dance, set design, audience participation and other visual touches designed to evoke the 1830s St. Petersburg fair that inspired the original. One of the season’s best classical programs also boasts Haydn’s stirring penultimate symphony, William Walton’s African music-influenced Johannesburg Festival Overture, and Swiss composer Arthur Honegger’s unseasonably sunny Summer Pastorale.

Doug Fitch’s puppetry enhances Oregon Symphony’s ‘Petrushka’ this weekend.

• On Saturday and Sunday at Newport Performing Arts Center, Newport Symphony plays Schubert’s Overture In the Italian Style, along with Ravel’s gravely beautiful At the Tomb of Couperin, and brings in trumpeter Katherine Evans to lead the way in Hertel’s third trumpet concerto and the late Seattle-based composer Alan Hovhaness’s haunting Prayer of Saint Gregory. The show closes with Mendelssohn’s ebullient “Italian” Symphony #4.

• Speaking of the peripatetic Mendelssohn, Vancouver Symphony Orchestra plays his “Scottish” Symphony No. 3, Berlioz’s Roman Carnival Overture, and Khachaturian’s Piano Concerto, with soloist Dimitri Zhgenti on Saturday and Sunday at Skyview Concert Hall.

Continues…

Austin Hartman: conversing with Beethoven

Pacifica Quartet's new violinist explains why the group is tackling all Beethoven's string quartets this week in Portland, and why chamber music matters

Violinist Austin Hartman joined Pacifica Quartet last year— just in time to embark on performances of Beethoven’s complete string quartets, which the ensemble brings to Portland State University in a series of five concerts presented this week by Friends of Chamber Music. The quartet has impressed Oregon listeners in several previous visits. In the second of our stories about this monumental cycle, ArtsWatch asked Hartman why these quartets and this series are so special, about his journey in classical music, and more. Answers have been edited for clarity and length.

Oregon Arts Watch: I’ve heard it said that there is Beethoven for people who have lived life, and there is Beethoven for people who haven’t. That rings pretty true for me. How do you see that idea in the quartets?

Austin Hartman: Beethoven is a unique composer in that there is something for everyone. People coming to it for the first time can enjoy it in a fresh and new way, and certainly Beethoven gives you plenty to unpack as a new listener. And then, just as it is with other great master composers, these quartets provide lifetimes of exploration into what it even means for us as musicians. What do these experiences mean? How do we go about bringing out the greatest depth from this composer? And then for the listener: how does that relate to my human experience? This man is exploring a range of human emotion and is writing it at different points.

Pacifica Quartet corners the Beethoven quartet market this week at Portland State University. Photo: Lisa-Marie Mazzucco

Each of the early, middle, and late periods speak to a seasoned listener more powerfully at different times, and I think that is the other benefit of the cycle. It’s like sitting down to have a long conversation with someone — the longer you sit there and talk to them, the more you get to know them. And the way you relate to that conversation might be very dependent on how your day has been going.

OAW: Each concert in the festival you’re playing here in Portland is its own microcosm: each one features early, middle, and late quartets. How did you decide to do it that way, and how has that changed how you play them?

Hartman: Someday we would like to try and do it in a linear way and figure out what that experience is like, and just watch a composer age in the progression of the quartets. The size and scope of the works would be interesting. We would have to figure out how to divvy up some of the late quartets—they are certainly much longer than the earlier ones. And there is no less challenge there: all of the quartets are challenging in different kinds of ways for the performer. And for the listener too.

I think one of the benefits of mixing it up the way we are doing it in Portland is the fact that it really gives concert-goers a sample from each period, and it makes the listener really be on their toes. Certainly the late quartets push listeners in a very different way than the early quartets do.

I’m sure part of the thinking in putting it together this way is we are having a balanced evening, balanced in terms of different keys, different characters, so we aren’t putting all the dark and stormy weather ones together. There are rays of sunshine in the middle. It is interesting that a majority of the quartets go out on a major note: it’s almost like Beethoven just couldn’t allow the suffering or the darkness to sit there.

So part of it has to do with the character and keys and how they relate. It’s really through that lens that we put these together this way.

OAW: How do you treat a cycle of quartets as a single work? It’s so much music to have in your head at one time. And your interpretation of the cycle must develop over time, in the same sense that your interpretation of a single quartet develops over time.

Hartman: You’re preparing not only to present concert after concert, but really to get yourself as a performer ready to engage with the entire scope of the project. With Beethoven, you’re dealing with a man who is expressing his entire life in sixteen quartets, starting with his early works and his youthfulness, and ending with some of the challenges he faced in his later years. As a performer, getting ready to take that on, it’s probably like an actor getting ready to step into character, trying to grapple with the range of experiences this composer is expressing. And then our hope is that we as a quartet can give the listener an opportunity to go on that journey with us and get to know the composer better.

It grows us over the course of the project—certainly, doing it you get to know Beethoven very intimately. His repertoire demands the highest level of technical proficiency and musical depth, and I think we grow a lot. This is a process that will take many lifetimes to figure out and understand completely, but it’s our hope that in our time with the audience, we can all work together to catch a glimpse of who Beethoven was and the impact that he had.

Continues…

Pacifica Quartet preview: cycling Beethoven

Renowned chamber ensemble's five-concert series offers a rare opportunity to take a deep dive into some of the greatest music ever written

“I’m sorry, I’m getting choked up now,” says Pacifica Quartet violist Mark Holloway. He’s not talking about a recent family tragedy. He’s talking about a long dead composer: Beethoven. And not about his famous symphonies (“da-da-da da!”), but a more intimate side. Over the next week, Holloway and his colleagues will perform all 16 of Beethoven’s string quartets in five concerts at Portland State University’s Lincoln Performance Hall.

“I feel so humbled by this music,” Holloway continued after composing himself. Even after playing those chamber music standards for decades, “we all have a deep love for it. Today we were rehearsing Op. 135 and the second violin had one of those magical moments only Beethoven can conjure up and I could see the astonishment on his face.”

Pacifica Quartet plays Beethoven this week. Photo: Lisa-Marie Mazzucco

Holloway and his fellow quartet members aren’t the only listeners who continue to be moved. Composed between 1800, when Beethoven was 30, and 1826, the year before he died, the quartets offer astonishing variety, considering they were all written by one composer for the same four stringed instruments. The first six mostly build on the Classical-era forms established by his teacher Haydn and Mozart. The ever-popular middle period quartets document Beethoven’s evolution from Classical elegance to Romantic passion. His final quartets look beyond Romanticism to a more modern, sometimes uncategorizable sound, and still sound thrillingly futuristic even in the 21st century.

With Beethoven’s 250th birth anniversary approaching, Friends of Chamber Music, which is presenting the Pacifica Beethoven cycle, knew that many listeners would want to get to know — or reacquaint themselves with — Beethoven’s music, explains executive director Pat Zagelow. Experiencing the complete cycle (or even a few portions) live provides an unparalleled opportunity to sample or dive deep into what’s universally considered to be some of the greatest music ever written — undistracted by device notifications and news. FOCM also offers an impressive series of free talks, expert lectures, discussions, master classes and open rehearsals to contextualize and enhance the exploration.

And Pacifica Quartet makes an ideal guide. In previous Oregon appearances, the Grammy-winning foursome have demonstrated not just the highest levels of technical chops but also a rare ability to connect emotionally to audiences without resorting to fake flamboyance. Read Alice Hardesty’s ArtsWatch interview for more on the group and its two-decade history.

“They rehearse all the time and work so hard to have such a high level of artistic integrity and cohesiveness,” Zagelow says. “Even audience members who are not as sophisticated musically love them and don’t know why. I love to watch them — it’s so engaging to see them immersed in this. The music is living through their bodies as they play.”

Continues…

MusicWatch Weekly: jazz week

Blue notes flutter like autumn leaves through Oregon concerts this week, along with classical orchestral and chamber music

It used to be that Portlanders had to wait till winter’s PDX Jazz Festival to catch several strong jazz shows in a row. No more! Just check out this week’s improv-oriented offerings.

Jazzmeia Horn sings Wednesday night at Portland’s Old Church.

• Wednesday. One jazz’s rising young stars, Jazzmeia Horn (besides bearing the coolest first name ever) has won the two most prestigious international vocal jazz competitions, performed with top jazz artists, and regularly plays major NYC venues. PDX Jazz brings her to Portland’s Old Church Wednesday night.

• Thursday. Portland Jazz Composers Ensemble has been engaging in some cool collaborations lately, and the next one looks fascinating. Boundary-busting Portland composers Amenta Abioto, Sage Fisher (from Dolphin Midwives), and Floom’s Maxx Katz — whose music ranges from soundscapes to death metal to experimental improv — have scored new music to accompany the classic 1968 zombie film Night of the Living Dead, which they’ll perform Thursday night while the film and heads roll at Portland’s Holocene club. Rock those Halloween costumes!

•The pianist/guitarist team of Bryn Roberts and Lage Lund play their lyrical original music Thursday night at Portland’s Classic Pianos.

• Saturday. You may not instantly recognize the band name Circuit Rider, or even its leader, cornetist Ron Miles, but any jazz fan will recognize and revere the trio’s other two members: chameleonic / prolific Seattle guitarist Bill Frisell, and drummer Brian Blade. But Miles, who shares Denver roots with Frisell and who plays in Art Farmer’s lyrical tradition, really should be better known, and Saturday night’s trio performance at Lewis & Clark College’s Agnes Flanagan Chapel presented by PDX Jazz offers a rare and splendid opportunity.

• Sunday. The next night’s PDX Jazz show, this one back at Portland’s Old Church, is also a low-key winner. Danish guitarist/composer Jakob Bro (whose trio also includes bassist Thomas Morgan and drummer Joey Baron) recently released a pair of terrific albums on the great ECM label and make another highly recommended entry in this fall’s excellent PDX Jazz lineup.

For more jazz this week, check out the lineup at Eugene’s Jazz Station, which ArtsWatch’s Daniel Heila recently spotlighted.

Orchestra

Composer Andrew Norman

• One of the country’s hottest youngish composers, Californian Andrew Norman composed his 2015 “hyperactive fantasy” Split for the great LA pianist Jeffrey Kahane, who’ll perform it with the Oregon Symphony Friday at Salem’s Willamette University and Saturday through Monday at Portland’s Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall, 1037 SW Broadway Ave.

Fronting an orchestra that includes abundant percussion (timpani, kick drums, slapsticks, guiro, temple blocks, opera gongs, triangle, flower pot, washboard, wood blocks, brake drum, bongos, splash cymbal, vibraphone, ratchet, log drum, tin cans, spring coil), Kahane, a frequent Oregon visitor, plays (musically speaking) a prankster who gradually becomes “more the pranked,” Norman writes, “an unwitting protagonist trapped in a Rube Goldbergian labyrinth of causes and effects who tries, with ever greater desperation, to find his way out of the madness and on to some higher plane.” The concert also celebrates Leonard Bernstein’s 100th birth anniversary with three orchestral episodes from his lively 1944 musical On the Town and Tchaikovsky’s fourth symphony.

Continues…