psu laptop ensemble

MusicWatch Weekly: Virtual Classical

Deprived of live shows, Oregon musicians take their talents to the interwebs

Oregon musical performances may be suspended, but Oregon music plays on. Oregon classical musicians aren’t letting a little thing like a deadly pandemic and total cancellation of live performances stop them from bringing the sounds. Tonight, Friday May 8, at 10 pm, for example, the latest worthy project from 45th Parallel Universe, Portland Social Distance Ensemble, debuts with a performance of that seminal (or, as one of my fellow feminist friends used to say, “ovular”) work of contemporary classical music, Terry Riley’s In C. Tune in at their Facebook livestream or YouTube livestream.

45th Parallel musicians perform live on the internet Friday

The eight musicians will be playing live, in real time, from six different houses, all in sync through the magic of what must be a really fast internet connection to overcome the latency problem that plagues so many attempts at simultaneous playing from scattered locations. “We’ve built a live digital platform that allows us to collaborate remotely online,” enthuses 45th Parallel’s Ron Blessinger. “No one else is doing anything even close to this. This is as close to a live performance as anyone is able to do with players playing in their own homes. Next, we’ll try it with players in Poland and Holland too.”

Riley’s proto-minimalist masterpiece is a canny choice for this test run, as it allows the individual musicians a degree of latitude that makes absolute precision not quite as important to the musical outcome. 45th Parallel plans to repeat it, with a different program each Friday from 6-6:30 pm, at the same websites above. Next week’s program by the organization’s Pyxis string quartet includes music by two of America’s greatest living composers, Philip Glass and George Crumb, and more.

PSDE is a commendably bold and fascinating experiment, so do have a little patience with this debut performance, and join us in admiration for their willingness to take a risk. Tough times demand bold responses. 

Like so many other Oregon classical performers, 45th Parallel had to cancel its spring shows, so it’s nice to see them bouncing back undaunted. They’re not the only musicians livestreaming events this month.

• Legendary Portland club team DJ Anjali and The Incredible Kid celebrate the seven-year anniversary of their Tropitaal Desi Latino Soundclash party over livestream  next Saturday, May 16.

• On May 22, Portland State University’s Sonic Arts and Music Production’s Laptop Ensemble will livestream several new quarantine-appropriate pieces, including Social Distance, a live music performance with 20 networked laptops, and Inside Voices, a pre-recorded piece written in series by the ensemble. This one, sponsored by the vital Portland club Holocene, requires a ticket purchase.

• Portland’s Creative Music Guild has moved its fascinating Outset Series online, starting a series of live streamed shows this month via its YouTube channel. Next up: Jamondria Harris this Tuesday, May 12. It’s an excellent way to get familiar with a vital but hard-to-describe segment of Portland’s less conventional music scene.

We’ll do our best to keep you apprised of others — please let us know about other Oregon livestream music at music@orartswatch.org. Meanwhile, here are some other — what shall we call online presentations of chats and archived performances, as opposed to the livestream concerts listed above? “Deadstreams” sounds a little harsh….

• On May 8, 9 and 10, Lincoln City Cultural Center’s Center’s Creative Quarantine Studio program present a Siletz Bay Music Mini Festival smorgasbord featuring jazz, classical, chamber and family offerings with some of the festival’s favorite artists,  including jazz clarinet master Ken Peplowski, pianist Rosanno Sportiello, artistic director Yaacov Bergman, cellist Nancy Ives, pianist Mei Ting Sun, violist Miriam Ward English and her family, and more.

• Also this weekend, KWAX (FM 91.1) re-broadcasts the Eugene Symphony’s January 23 concert featuring music by Missy Mazzoli, Brahms and Sibelius. You can also see a video of the Eugene Symphony’s photo-enhanced Four Seasons of the McKenzie River concert from February on YouTube. 

• ESO music director Francesco Lecce-Chong has been offering weekly online Watch Parties in which he talks about classical music masterpieces and instruments. You can catch up on past episodes on his YouTube channel, and the series resumes at month’s end, when he returns with new episodes from his childhood home in Boulder, where he and his fiancé are sheltering.

• On May 11, Oregon Symphony music director Carlos Kalmar is starting his own series of weekly chats, Mondays with the Maestro, accessible on Artslandia website or Facebook.

Metropolitan Youth Symphony Music Director Raúl Gomez hosts a daily YouTube show “MYS Virtual Hangouts” from Tuesday-Friday at 4pm on the MYS YouTube Channel. He and guests (so far including Oregon Symphony Artist-in-Residence Johannes Moser and principal cellist Nancy Ives, composers Gabriela Lena Frank and Kenji Bunch, and more) chat about life stories, musical advice and even include world premiere collaborations with local artists.

• For audio-only streams, check Portland’s essential classical music resource, All Classical FM, whose Andrea Murray devoted the current episode of her valuable Club Mod program — streaming for the next two weeks — to Portland composers), while Christa Wessel’s excellent Thursdays @ 3 program is bringing live performances from Oregon musicians’ home studios. Cellist Diane Chaplin, singer Arwen Myers and Oregon Symphony flutist Martha Long’s performances are currently available, as are recordings of earlier live performances on the station’s Played in Oregon program by Portland Columbia Symphony Orchestra and Chamber Music Northwest. 

• The Creative Music Guild‘s Extradition Series has started a Social Distancing Project, with videos of performances recorded during the current period of isolation by some of Portland’s most accomplished improvising musicians.

• You can also find pre-pandemic performances of Oregon music streaming at Cascadia Composers YouTube channel. Portland Baroque Orchestra and Cappella Romana offer online recordings of their recent concerts on YouTube, the University of Oregon is releasing archived concerts from Beall Concert Hall, and many other Oregon music institutions are streaming videos of earlier performances or even home-grown (more literally than ever) current music making, like Artslandia’s happy hours

This is far from a comprehensive list. Check your own favorite organization or band’s website often to see what online offerings, from playlists to archived concerts and more, might appear in this fast-changing environment. Since most is free to stream, think of this troubled moment as an opportunity to virtually test-drive Oregon music makers you’ve missed or never gotten a chance to hear live. That way, when the live music resumes, you might have a lot more items to add to your musical agenda. And feel free to share more streaming links to Oregon music in the comments section below. 

News & Notes

Meanwhile, the cascade of classical cancellations continues. The latest series to fall victim to the virus: Chamber Music Northwest, which yesterday announced cancellation of its upcoming spring concerts and all Summer Festival concerts and events — a bitter pill for what would have been the 50th anniversary season of one of Oregon’s most valuable classical music events.

But CMNW won’t leave listeners entirely bereft. Beginning May 21 and running through June 21, All Classical Portland 89.9 FM will air a new five-part series of music and interviews from recent Chamber Music Northwest Summer Festivals on Thursdays at 7 pm, repeated on Sundays at 4 pm. The series will feature the Verona Quartet, Imani Winds, Opus 1 Piano Quartet, Harlem Quartet, and more.

Chamber Music Northwest also hosts a free Virtual Summer Festival June 22 – July 26 featuring highlights from recent seasons and special live concerts, including performances by CMNW regulars including the Emerson, Miró, and Dover Quartets, Ida and Ani Kavafian, Andre Watts, Edgar Meyer, Peter Schickele, and David Shifrin, who this summer would have celebrated 40th and final festival as artistic director. The organization earlier decided to send this summer’s scheduled musicians 50 percent of their pay for the festival immediately, to help out with pressing needs since so many have lost so many gigs, and specified that the money was theirs to keep “regardless of what happens this summer.”

• Along with CMNW and the Oregon Bach Festival, Bend’s Sunriver Music Festival canceled this August’s edition, which would have been the tenth and final season for artistic director and conductor George Hanson.

• And Jacksonville’s Britt Festival canceled its August classical music season, vowing to return in 2021 with the same lineup, including the festival orchestra’s premiere of acclaimed American composer Caroline Shaw’s new experiential, site-specific Hiking the Woodlands inspired by the Jacksonville Woodland Trails. Even though this summer’s live attractions are fading fast, at least we have plenty to look forward to next year.

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MusicWatch Weekly: A song and a dance

Irish songs, Latinx bienestar, Balkan Brass, Viking musicians, and the return of Federale

As the great Pacific singer, dancer, composer, percussionist, instrument builder, and calligraphist Lou Harrison loved reminding us, “music is basically a song and a dance.” This week’s selections might be all over the genre map–cumbia psicodélica; twisty Balkan brass; rowdy cinematic rock and other local uncategorizables; clarinets and percussion and laptops; songs from Ireland and World War I; a siege catapult’s worth of jazz–but all of it hews to this basic formula. Sing. Dance. Repeat.

You’re probably going to get snowed in with the cats and the chessboard next week, so now’s your chance to clear your throat, lace up your red shoes, and get into some music.

Tonight, tonight, tonight

We already talked about Blue Cranes and the Portland Jazz Composers Ensemble in November’s monthly column, so hopefully you’ve already bought tickets and hired a babysitter. In case you haven’t, this is your reminder that their Siege of Cranes concert, featuring the tight-knit BC quintet and PJCE’s eight-piece horn section, is happening tonight at Holocene. Get on it, Portland.

You could go up to T.C. O’Leary’s on Northeast Alberta to hear Irish folk songs–and even sing along if the mood strikes you–every month. But the special guests on tonight’s Oíche na namhrán (“night of song”) deserve a mention: Uilleann piper Preston Howard Wilde and harpist Elizabeth Nicholson will join regular host Michael Steen-Orr for tonight’s shindig. No doubt the harp in question is the lovely diatonic variety used by Taliesen and Dolphin Midwives, and that’ll be sweet–but it’s those pipes we’re curious about. You’re probably picturing the noisy bagpipes of countless cheap jokes, but these are different; sweeter, gentler, more Irish. Have a listen to Wilde right now and tell me you don’t want to go order up a Jameson’s and sing along.

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