pianopushplay!

News & Notes: Happenings in Oregon music

Newsworthy recent developments in Oregon classical and jazz music

Every now and then, when the press of covering live performances briefly abates, we try to catch up on a few recent announcements in the Oregon music world.

Head Honchos

 Portland Youth Philharmonic appointed Noreen Murdock as its executive director. Now the development director at Chamber Music Northwest and former executive director of the Salem Chamber Orchestra, she replaces Kiri Murakami-Lehmann, who’s moving to California.

Sarah Tiedemann

Sarah Tiedemann

Young Musicians & Artists (YMA) has named Portland flutist Sarah Tiedemann as its next executive director. Now entering its 51st year, YMA sponsors summer visual arts and performing arts programs in areas such as photography, dance, composition, and more for about 250 students grades 4-12.A frequent performer with Third Angle New Music, Salem Chamber Orchestra, and other classical music groups, Tiedemann moves from her communications position with Third Angle (and before that, Chamber Music Northwest) to replace Quinlan Porter, who departs after eight years.

Oregon Bach Festival selected Janelle McCoy its new executive director, replacing John Evans, who departed the University of Oregon institution last year. The mezzo soprano formerly directed Chamber Orchestra of Philadelphia and the city’s Mendelssohn Club chorus, which premiered Julia Wolfe’s 2015 Pulitzer Prize winning Anthracite Fields. She’s also worked on the staff of several other arts and music institutions and performed as a singer with the Atlanta Symphony and other orchestras.

• Seattle’s Medieval Women’s Choir chose University of Oregon prof Eric Mentzel as its director. A member of the renowned early music vocal ensemble Sequentia, Mentzel also founded and directs Eugene’s Vox Resonat.

Eric Mentzel

Singer and professor Eric Mentzel.

Radio Waves

• The parade of classical music radio personalities to Oregon continues with the arrival in Eugene of Peter van de Graaff as music director and host of the University of Oregon’s KWAX radio, replacing the retiring Caitriona Bolster. His burnished basso profundo (he’s also a professional singer who’s performed with orchestras and opera companies around the country) has long graced the national late night classical radio program broadcast by Chicago’s WFMT since 1988.

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PianoPushPlay! put a piano in Portland's Pioneer Courthouse Square.

PianoPushPlay! put a piano in Portland’s Pioneer Courthouse Square.

by BRETT CAMPBELL. Photos by Benji Vurong.

“Do you ever let the pianos outside”? Megan McGeorge asked the employee at Sherman Clay/Moe’s Pianos in Portland’s Pearl District. The Portland State University piano student was envious. The previous summer, just one block away on 13th and Burnside, she had seen a cellist playing for passersby and she longed for a more portable instrument so she could do the same. The Sherman Clay staff agreed to mount one of its “starter” pianos on a dolly, and that’s how McGeorge and some friends wound up pushing a piano down 13th avenue last summer, performing several times while walkers, drivers, bicyclers, even office workers in nearby buildings looked on in surprise and delight. Eventually, it put pianos at four locations last summer. PianoPushPlay! was born.

The project blossomed this summer. Beginning last month, McGeorge and friends placed pianos provided by the nonprofit Snowman Foundation at several different pedestrian-popular downtown Portland spots, including Waterfront Park, Pioneer Courthouse Square, at the Rose Festival and Saturday Market, and that original location at 13th and Burnside, for a couple of weeks.  (A tarp is provided to protect them in the unlikely event of rain.) Though Sherman Clay has closed, its employees have opened a new store, Portland Piano Company, which this summer sponsored much of the needed tuning for the installation and provided a repair technician for the project’s sole grand piano.

The project certainly enlivened the popular shopping area, and maybe drew some attention to the piano store. But McGeorge would soon learn that providing Portlanders a passel of public pianos would have far more profound effects. PPP is returning to the Portland Art Museum (where a piano has drawn plenty of players and attention for the past couple weeks) this Friday at 7 pm. But until the instruments leave at summer’s end, anyone can play any of the pianos at any time, and many have, day and night. And if McGeorge has her way, PianoPushPlay! will soon be bringing the gift of music to many more Portlanders who might otherwise never receive it.

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