Befitting the weather, there’s some frosty family fun on the Oregon Symphony schedule in early March, with the Portland Youth Choir adding to the “frostivities.” It’s always incredibly gratifying to gaze upon a sea of happy young faces in the Concert Hall. And knowing that they are seeing other young people up on stage, our next generation of choral musicians, singing with the orchestra = value added.
Singing through the generations
Two area choirs, In Medio and Reprise, will stand with young singers in their upcoming concerts.
In Medio is presenting their second annual high school choir invitational and concert on March 22. Four high schools, whose conductors all sing in In Medio, join the adult singers for “an evening of wildly diverse repertoire and opportunities for growth, inspiration and mentorship.” Events like these bring generations of singers together to further the art form and let young singers know that choral singing can bring joy for a lifetime.
Vancouver choir Reprise is back on stage with three offerings of their annual concert and it appears that “sound” is not the only sensory experience you will have. Your eyes will be filled with the light of the “vast eternal sky.” They are calling it “a galactic experience,” and that must be of particular interest to the young people who are participating in these concerts. Well, okay, let’s be honest, some of you grown up types can recall the joy of swinging that lightsaber around.
Join in on the “enlightened” choral event which includes a premiere of a new work, Washington State composer Daniel Schreiner‘s The Dawn, commissioned by Reprise.
Reprise Choir performs on Thurs., March 16 in LaCenter, WA at LaCenter Middle School, 7:00 and in Vancouver on Sat., March 18, 7:00 and Sun., March 19, 3:00, at Vancouver United Methodist Church. Tickets here.
New Portland Gay Men’s Chorus Artistic Director Braeden Ayers might still be somewhat unknown to Northwest audiences. In a brief September 2022 KGW8 interview, Ayers said PGMC “combines everything that I love which is community and social justice and choral singing.” You will see him on the PGMC podium for concerts on March 25 and 26. And to get to know him a little better, hear him discuss his doctoral research on encouraging young men to participate in choral singing in this ChoralNet podcast.
For the spring concert of their series Magic and Light, Portland Gay Men’s Chorus returns to the Patricia Reser Center for the Arts in Beaverton. They sing “The Body Electric,” a show that “seeks to empower and motivate us as people of change.”
Tickets for the Sat., March 25, 7:30 and Sun., March 26, 3:00 concerts are available through the Reser box office, here.
One without the other
We never get to see Gilbert and Sullivan anymore. “What never? Well, hardly ever.” Mock’s Crest Productions was once our yearly infusion of the topsy-turvy works of the great duo. Miss them? Well, all attention lend! The Oregon Chorale and Light Opera of Portland will fulfill your G&S cravings with their performances on March 10 and 11. You will be treated to the music of G&S’s second stage collaboration, the one-act operetta Trial By Jury. And you’ll learn about another side of composer Sullivan.
Thespis (The Gods Grow Old) was the first G&S operetta; produced in 1871, it made a very good impression on a public who couldn’t get enough Victorian burlesque. Three years passed until Richard D’Oyly Carte suggested Sullivan take a look at another libretto by Gilbert, Trial By Jury: An Operetta. Originally published in Fun Magazine as a comedic sketch, Gilbert had refashioned it for a stage project that fell through. Sullivan loved it and the one-act operetta with no spoken dialog was a great success. Twelve more operettas would follow over 25 more years and G&S would be attached at the proscenium forever.
But were they? Was there a G without S? Most certainly. In 1860, at around age 24, Sir William Schwenck Gilbert started writing witty verse, short stories, stage reviews and eventually ventured into absurdist plays. Throughout the 1870s he wrote 40 plays and libretti and began his collaboration with Sullivan. Gilbert’s unique theatrical style provided inspiration for Oscar Wilde and George Bernard Shaw. Reflecting on his vast theatrical oeuvre he wrote:
Fine writing and high morals are useless on the stage. I have been scribbling waddle for thirty-five years to suit the public taste, and I should know.
Gilbert’s public was all the happier for his artistry. You can find some of his short stories here.
And what of S without G? Well, that is precisely the point of this concert: to offer artistic verisimilitude to Sir Arthur Seymour Sullivan’s standing as much more than a comic operetta composer. Before G, he did have one very successful comic operetta produced, Cox and Box. But at an early age he was quite the musical prodigy: soloist in the Chapel Royal, and awarded (at age 14) a scholarship to study at the Royal Academy of Music. He composed several symphonic overtures and marches, a symphony, a cello concerto, a ballet, many incidentals, gobs of songs and hymns, six more operatic works (beyond those with Gilbert) and one grand opera, Ivanhoe. Golly, that reads like a patter song.
Oh, he also composed 8-10 major choral works, one of which the Oregon Chorale will introduce on this concert.
Festival Te Deum was written in 1872, on the heels of Thespis, to celebrate the recovery of Queen Victoria’s son Albert Edward, Prince of Wales (and later King Edward VII), from typhoid fever. The Queen allowed the work to be dedicated to her, a rare honor and a recognition of Sullivan’s high regard in the realm. The slightly over one-half-hour work was originally written for full choir and orchestra, and was performed at the Crystal Palace. Listen to the “Laudamus” movement here. In this concert the chorus and soloists will be accompanied by guest organist Hannah Brewer.
This concert’s balance of Victorian-era sérieuse and silliness will be more enhanced by the partnership between Oregon Chorale and Light Opera of Portland. The opera’s Artistic Director, Laurence Cox, sings in the Oregon Chorale and he and Oregon Chorale’s AD Jason Sabino have been contemplating this concert for several years. Cox will portray the Judge in this concert performance of Trial, with Ryan DeHaven on the piano. Listen to the “Judge’s Song” here:
This will be the very model of a delightful evening of music.
Would “Pirate King” from Penzance have been a popular song in the late 1800s? Were folks singing “Poor Wandering One” as they shuffled off to their labors? The pseudo-genre we labeled “pop” emerged in the US and England in the 1950s. But it simply means music – from a variety of styles – that is popular at any given time.
So when Choral Arts Ensemble invites you to the 10th Anniversary of their yearly “CAE POPS” concert, March 4 and 5th, you can expect music that invokes a memory, brings a smile, laugh or tear and has you whistling or singing as you leave the hall. Opera, folk songs, jazz, Broadway, Hollywood and a flip through the “Great American Songbook.”
If you are of a certain era, you can recall listening to your favorite “pop” radio station, hoping it would play your favorite song yet again because the 45s had sold out at the Five & Dime. You could call in–please play “See You in September” again–hoping to hear your tinny voice squeak through your RCA transistor radio that was propped on its little kickstand on the back porch as you pulled weeds from–Whoops, little personal time warp there. But that’s what pop music was and is: music of a time.
Let CAE take you back there. They have fun – because choirs are families and families have fun together – and you’ll have fun. Having a good time with music has always been popular.
Choral Arts Ensemble POPs on Sat., March 4, 7:30 and Sun., March 5, 3:00 at Rose City Park United Methodist Church, Portland. Masks are required throughout this season. Tickets can be purchased here.
For more choral fun later in the month join Satori Men’s Chorus for their spring concert. “Music helps us live!” reads their media blast. Satori, where men of all ages and ability sing “peace,” presents “Many Voices – One Song” on Sat., March 25, 7:30 at Unity of Portland Church. Tickets are available at the door.
“There Will Come Soft Rains” is the theme of Southern Oregon Repertory Singers’ concert on March 4 and 5. Works by Heinrich Schütz, Charles Stanford, Lili Boulanger and Jocelyn Hagen are programmed, with piano accompaniment by pianist and SORS composer-in-residence Jodi French.
The centerpiece of the concert is Requiem by Peter Relph. This 2018 a cappella work is written for SSAATTBB choir, with three soloists (SST) and crotales player. Relph was inspired by the unsigned painting “The Magdalen Weeping” and, according to the composer, the piece is a meditation on the four states of grieving employing chant, songs, litanies and silence. It was premiered by Westminster Choir Williamson Voices and you can enjoy that premiere performance here:
SORS is offering a video recording option for this concert at a gracious “per household” rate. Please tell your friends, senior centers and all who cannot venture out – wherever they are – of this opportunity to enjoy fine choral music.
The in-person concerts are Sat., March 4, 7:30 and Sun., March 5, 3:00 at Southern Oregon University Music Recital Hall. Live and video tickets can be purchased here.
The soul of woman
The choral program begins with a composer born in 810. She was Kassiani, she was a composer, she was a woman. Composers Hildegard von Bingen and Beatriz de Diá lived in the 12thcentury; they were women.
Throughout the centuries women have endeavored to have their creativity shine brightly – and some actually did, only to have their brilliance extinguished. Well, not on our watch, right?
Maddalena Casulana (1540-1590) Published her own book of madrigals. A woman.
Anima Mundi Productions invites you to a communal event designed to illuminate and reanimate female composers of choral and vocal music. Their “Heart of Humanity” series continues on March 12 with women’s choral ensemble In Mulieribus. Bring these two Oregon two arts champions together…ah, how fitting: Anima Mulieris, the soul of woman.
Barbara Strozzi (1619-1677). Prolific Baroque composer of secular pieces. A woman.
Anima Mundi Productions brings their three-concert series to Ashland every year. Great artists, wonderful music. But their series is not just abut securing the bookings and setting up chairs. There is a deliberateness of design that supports their mission statement which reads, in part, “create, present and produce new musical works…to stir the soul, foster communication and address urgent social and environmental problems.” The resolve, the intention comes first. OAW contributor Gary Ferrington profiled the beginnings of Anima Mundi’s concert series in 2019.
According to Ashland-based poet, librettist and Anima Mundi co-artistic director Tiziana DellaRovere (a woman), Anima Mundi has set their 2023 intention: “celebrating remarkable women creators and performers.”
Juana Inés de la Cruz (1651-1695). Writer, composer, activist. A woman.
As AM Executive Director Ethan Gans-Morse recently told OAW, “The arts are a vehicle, a greater human experience – a simultaneous, communal connection to performers, audience, community.” Even in “virtual” concert mode Gans-Morse and DellaRovere held to their mission and produced some noteworthy artistic events–including their oratorio Six Feet Apart, chronicled by Andrea Murray on All-Classical.
Pauline Viardot-Garcia (1821-1910) Singer, composer, pianist, , salonniére. A woman.
Amy Beach (1867-1944). American pianist and composer. A woman.
In Mulieribus, accompanied by Ashland’s Jodi French, will perform music of the women honored above, resuscitating several “lost chords” in the choral world (see “Connections” below). But this concert is not about retribution for wounds of past centuries. It is a celebration of what is still to be found and nurtured. The concert concludes with living composers – testimony to possibility:
Note that last name, please because in this concert you will participate in the world premiere of Sister Among Sisters, composed by In Mulieribus Artistic Director and co-founding conductor Anna Song with poetry written by – how wonderful! – Tiziana DellaRovere. It was through the intention of this concert that both poetry and music were created.
Audiences in the Northwest Oregon, be of good cheer. One week later, the women of In Mulieribus, with accompanist John Vergin, present this repertoire in a Portland concert on March 19.
Anima Mundi presents In Mulieribus in Ashland on Sun., March 12, at 3:00 at Southern Oregon University Music Recital Hall. Ashland tickets can be purchased here. Tickets for the Sun., March 19, 4:00 at St. Philip Neri, Portland can be found here.
It’s not just…choral music
Envisioning a “more just and peaceful Portland” is one hope expressed in the repertoire of Resonance Ensemble’s concerts on March 18 and 19. “Portland Protests” have inspired guest conductor Shohei Kobayashi to assemble works with purpose, like those of David Lang and Margaret Bonds, and three world-premiere commissioned works by Portland poets and composers. Hear the words of S. Renee Mitchell, A. Mimi Sei and Vin Shambry paired with the music of Kenji Bunch, Kimberly Osberg and Judy A. Rose.
Portland artist Henk Pander’s oil paintings of the 2020 protests will offer a visual reminder of the months of turmoil. Read more about the paintings in this OAW piece. Resonance’s season partner Fear No Music lends their focus of healing, activism and social justice to the message.
Cappella Romana is once again involved in the bold and the new: they will be singing Byzantine chant.
That actually wasn’t meant to be a joke. It’s another wonderful partnership of 45th Parallel Universe and CR, this time interpreting a work by Philip Glass, 2018’s Annunciation. This piano quintet is based on a Byzantine chant so – ah, ha – now you get it. Fascinating, yes?
But here’s the extra excitement about this concert. Paul Barnes, a virtuoso pianist as well as a composer and Byzantine music chanter who spearheaded and “conspired” with Glass on Annunciation, will be leading this performance (with 45||’s Pyxis Quartet completing the quintet). PBS Newshour featured a story about Barnes and the creation of this piece. Watch it and hear select portions of the work here:
So, what is Cappella Romana’s role with regard to a piano quintet? The Byzantine hymn tune on which Glass based Annunciation isn’t one most of us could pluck readily from memory. And don’t you wish sometimes when one composition is “based on” another that you could hear the original? Consider Rachmaninoff/Paganini, Brahms/Haydn, Presley/Mazzucchi (see “Connections” below).
That’s the point of this concert. CR is on hand to offer the original, and perhaps more: to set the “mode” as only they can. They’ve done this once before with this piece. In 2018, in Lincoln, Nebraska, where Barnes teaches (UNL), for the premiere of the work–with Glass himself right there. Zounds! You can read an account of that special event here.
Charles Noble, violist for Pyxis Quartet, wrote in a recent e-mail to OAW about performing the Annunciation:
The harmonies and rhythms are mesmerizing, which I think leads to a more spiritual mindset. It’s always a challenge to get the ‘groove’ right. Playing Glass is always rewarding to me because it is so special when everything lines up.
Also on the program – violinist Ron Blessinger joins Barnes for Arvo Pärt’s Spiegel im Spiegel, and Barnes will solo on Illuminations on Byzantine Chant by Victoria Bond.
In his 2015 memoir Words Without Music, Glass writes: “The past is reinvented and becomes the future. But the lineage is everything.” Ah. Now we really get it.
45thParallel Universe concert with Cappella Romana is Fri., March 17, 7:30 at The Madeleine Parish, Portland and Sun., March 19, 4:00 in St. Demetrios Greek Orthodox Church, Seattle. Tickets can be purchased here.
Sir Arthur’s nod to the soul of woman
The “Lost Chord” referred to above is, as you probably guessed, the famous song by Sir Arthur Sullivan. Did you know it is the poetry of Adelaide Proctor, a prolific and brilliant Victorian writer whose works were revered in her lifetime but diminished in succeeding eras? Sullivan sets Proctor’s text authentically, highlighting strength over weakness. The song was also one of the first recorded pieces of music (listen here). So raise a glass high to this composer/librettist collaboration.
“It’s Now or Never”
Elvis Presley’s famous song “It’s Now or Never” composed by Wally Aaron is based almost entirely on “O Sole Mio,” the famous Italian tune by Alfredo Mazzucchi (not Eduardo di Capua as incorrectly attributed on the original 45”). Just a bit of pop music trivia to lighten your day. Ack, ear worm.