MYS Oregon to Iberia

Their edgier sides: New@Night with Catalyst Quartet, Stewart Goodyear, and Anthony McGill

The second of Chamber Music Northwest’s new-music themed concerts presented multi-composer miniatures for string quartet alongside music by Goodyear, James Lee III, and Adolphus Hailstork.

|

The Catalyst Quartet at The Armory for the second New@Night of CMNW 2023. Photo by Shawnte Sims.
The Catalyst Quartet at The Armory for the second New@Night of CMNW 2023. Photo by Shawnte Sims.

Chamber Music Northwest’s New@Night concerts at the Pearl District’s Armory allow musicians to show us their edgier sides and their edgier works. Forget black tie, just settle in and relax – though you will be challenged by the music at these very informal events.

No exception was the refreshing July 12 performance with exuberant pianist Stewart Goodyear, gonzo clarinetist Anthony McGill, and CMNW’s hard-working artist-in-residence group, Catalyst Quartet.

Stewart Goodyear performed his "Piano Sonata" at the second New@Night of CMNW 2023. Photo by Shawnte Sims.
Stewart Goodyear performed his “Piano Sonata” at the second New@Night of CMNW 2023. Photo by Shawnte Sims.
Anthony McGill performed music by James Lee III and Adolphus Hailstork for the second New@Night of CMNW 2023. Photo by Shawnte Sims.
Anthony McGill performed music by James Lee III and Adolphus Hailstork for the second New@Night of CMNW 2023. Photo by Shawnte Sims.

The happy-hour concert ended with the Catalyst Quartet’s phenomenal collection of 1- to 2-minute miniature string quartets, written by nine contemporary composers (11, if you count the competition winners). They included the eminent Joan Tower’s urgent bumblebee-like “A Short Flight” and ended with a work by young Los Angeles composer and percussionist Paul Mekailian, whose piece, “A Future in Process,” was a co-winner in the CQ competition. Mekailian represents the next generation of composers as a fulltime music student at UCLA and aspiring film-score writer.

These “CQ Minute” pieces were designed to match the short attention spans of digital listeners and to respond to our visual senses (a video album is in the future). Some of us heard several of them in a CMNW spring Catalyst concert at the Old Church (see my review). The miniatures never get old – or shorter. 

The Catalyst Quartet at The Armory for the second New@Night of CMNW 2023. Photo by Shawnte Sims.
The Catalyst Quartet at The Armory for the second New@Night of CMNW 2023. Photo by Shawnte Sims.

Aside from Tower and Mekailian, composers included violinist, composer, and onetime Catalyst member Jessie Montgomery, whose “Build” reflected its title with a strong ever-moving movement. Montgomery, by the way, was the Chicago Symphony’s composer-in-residence this past season–the last of Riccardo Muti’s tenure–and has worked with Oregon-based Willamette Valley Chamber Music Festival for a couple of summers as its visiting composer, as has Tower (read my profile of Montgomery for WVCMF here).

Portland composer and percussion magician Andy Akiho’s “Presidio,” written with whimsical pizzicato phrases, and Caroline Shaw’s rising and falling “Bittersweet Synonym” were other highlights. Composer Kevin Puts’ “Emerge” proved the most heartrending with its melancholic beauty. Each piece contrasted with the others, giving each standalone status. “It’s amazing how one-and-one-half minutes can feel so different in different people’s voices,” said Catalyst violinist Karla Donehew-Perez, taking turns with her fellow musicians in explaining the music.

The Catalyst Quartet at The Armory for the second New@Night of CMNW 2023. Photo by Shawnte Sims.
The Catalyst Quartet at The Armory for the second New@Night of CMNW 2023. Photo by Shawnte Sims.

The first part of the evening was introduced by high-spirited and hard-driving pianist Stewart Goodyear. A composer and a concert pianist, he played his Piano Sonata, created at the age of 18 for his Curtis Institute of Music graduation recital. It included strains of techno music, Canadian folk songs and Latin fusion – not to overlook a ballad-like second movement that captured pop music reconstructed from slow-dancing with his date. “My youthful exuberance wanted to pull out all the stops and create the most difficult piano work ever composed,” he said in the program notes.

Sponsor

WESTAF Shoebox Arts

Well, it was difficult, and at times he pounded away. Certainly our hearts pounded along with his performance. Later, he showed his sensitive, ultra-attuned side in a July 16 concert at Lincoln Performance Hall, where he flawlessly played Florence Price’s 28-minute 1936 Piano Quintet in A Minor with Catalyst Quartet, interacting with his fellow musicians at every crucial turn. 

Stewart Goodyear performed his "Piano Sonata" at the second New@Night of CMNW 2023. Photo by Shawnte Sims.
Stewart Goodyear performed his “Piano Sonata” at the second New@Night of CMNW 2023. Photo by Shawnte Sims.

Sandwiched between Goodyear and Catalyst was the New York Philharmonic’s principal clarinetist Anthony McGill, joined by pianist and CMNW co-artistic director Gloria Chien, who can accompany just about anybody with grace. They played two pieces – the first, a James Lee III composition called “Ad Anah?” In Hebrew, the words mean “How Long,” as in how long are we going through these troubled times, McGill explained. Though resonant in a dark way, the more exciting piece was its follower, “The Blue Bag,” composed by Black composer Adolphus Hailstork, one of the first African American composers to have his symphonic music showcased by American orchestras. He composed the jazzy piece, personally, for McGill.

Hailstork mentioned in the program notes that as he was composing he “carried the images and music-making of four classy sassy ladies of song: Nancy Wilson, Lena Horne, Ella Fitgerald and Aretha Franklin.” The six-minute piece for clarinet and piano was a gift to those late jazz giantesses and to McGill himself.

Gloria Chien and Anthony McGill performed at The Armory for the second New@Night of CMNW 2023. Photo by Shawnte Sims.
Gloria Chien and Anthony McGill performed at The Armory for the second New@Night of CMNW 2023. Photo by Shawnte Sims.

Be part of our
growing success

Join our Stronger Together Campaign and help ensure a thriving creative community. Your support powers our mission to enhance accessibility, expand content, and unify arts groups across the region.

Together we can make a difference. Give today, knowing a donation that supports our work also benefits countless other organizations. When we are stronger, our entire cultural community is stronger.

Donate Today

Photo Joe Cantrell

Angela Allen writes about the arts, especially opera, jazz, chamber music, and photography. Since 1984, she has contributed regularly to online and print publications, including Oregon ArtsWatch, The Columbian, The San Diego Union-Tribune, Willamette Week, The Oregonian, among others. She teaches photography and creative writing to Oregon students, and in 2009, served as Fishtrap’s Eastern Oregon Writer-in-Residence. A published poet and photographer, she was elected to the Music Critics Association of North America’s executive board and is a recipient of an NEA-Columbia Journalism grant. She earned an M.A. in journalism from University of Oregon in 1984, and 30 years later received her MFA in Creative Writing/Poetry from Pacific Lutheran University. She lives in Portland with her scientist husband and often unwieldy garden. Contact Angela Allen through her website.

SHARE:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Triangle Productions FLO
PCS Clyde’s
MYS Oregon to Iberia
Profile Theatre Orange Sky
OCCA Monthly
NW Dance Project
Maryhill Museum of Art
PAM 12 Month
Pacific Maritime HC Prosperity
PSU College of the Arts
Oregon Cultural Trust
We do this work for you.

Give to our GROW FUND.