richard zeller

Getting a drop on the New Year

Forget Times Square: For New Year's Eve, the Oregon Symphony downloads a concert hall of balloons at the climax of Beethoven's "Ode to Joy"

Photographs by JOE CANTRELL

First came the audience, filling downtown Portland’s Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall. Then the musicians, and the tuning, and the program, which was fitting for a celebration: some selections from Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn’s sprightly and creative Nutcracker Suite; leading to a pair of pieces by the great stride pianist and composer James P. Johnson, Drums: A Symphonic Poem and Victory Stride; the full windup for Beethoven’s glorious Ninth Symphony and its Ode to Joy. Don’t forget the full-throated applause.

And then the balloons: a full concert hall’s worth, cascading from the rafters and into the crowd, bright and bubbly promises for the year to come. Eat your heart out, Times Square: This is the way to celebrate the arrival of the New Year.

Photographer Joe Cantrell was on hand for Sunday night’s big blowout of a performance by the Oregon Symphony, and captured the vitality and celebratory spirit of the scene. There was plenty of both, with vocal soloists Jenny Schuler, Sienna Licht Miller, Andrew Haji and Richard Zeller, and with a sterling chorus made up of singers from Portland State University, the Oregon Repertory Singers, and the Pacific Youth Choir. “Music, both ‘big band’ and LvB 9, was superb, fresh and bright, and Ethan Sperry’s combined choruses with the soloists embraced the Ninth for the monument to all that’s good,” Cantrell reported, adding that this year, the hall’s first few rows were left empty for the balloons to bounce freely.

What better way to celebrate New Year’s Eve? The concert repeats tonight, Monday the 31st, at 7:30 p.m. Ticket information here.

The map to the music: tracking the score.

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Suddenly, a major music festival

The new Aquilon Music Festival, a three-week feast of "delightfully affordable" opera, recitals, lectures and more, sets sail in McMinnville

McMINNVILLE – When I agreed this spring to come aboard as the Yamhill County correspondent for Oregon ArtsWatch, the first thing I did was to create a calendar. I’m a wordsmith by trade, but I like my information visualized so I can literally see the big picture. I wrote down every arts event I knew about, and then looked up ones I didn’t know about. Having lived out here in wine country since the mid-1990s, I have a good sense of the year’s cultural rhythms, so it came together quickly.

Then I got a note from Bob Hicks, one of ArtsWatch’s editors, referring me to possible “fodder” for my column, something called the Aquilon Music Festival.

He didn’t know anything about it; I’d never heard of it. I didn’t even look it up for a few days. How big a deal could it be?

Aquilon Music Festival logo, detail from Sandro Botticelli’s late 15th century painting “The Birth of Venus,” in the Uffizi Gallery, Florence. Aquilon in myth is the God of Northern Wind.

Pretty freaking huge, it turns out. And I can be forgiven (this time) for not having heard about it, because it’s new. This summer’s Aquilon Music Festival is the brainchild of Linfield College music professor Dr. Anton Belov, and he’s swinging for the fences with an artistic project that, if successful, could join the ranks of Oregon’s finest cultural events.

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To Ursula, with love

Hopelessly stuck in traffic with a literary legend – my wild ride of a day with Ursula K. Le Guin

A tribute to Portland literary great Ursula K. Le Guin has been set for Wednesday, June 13, at 7:30 p.m., at Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall.

Fittingly, Literary Arts, with whom Ursula had a long association, has the honor of hosting, and you can sign up to receive a notice when free tickets will be released on May 1.

As Literary Arts bills it: “We will hear from some of the people who were with her professionally or privately throughout the course of her life: writers influenced by her work, artists who collaborated with her, readers who were changed by her stories, and some of her closest friends.”

Seemingly, everyone has an Ursula story. Mine? She was the centerpiece of one of the best and one of the worst days of my life.

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