Weekend MusicWatch: Outdoor overtures

Portland SummerFest brings opera and more to Washington Park. Photo: Tasha Miller.

Portland SummerFest brings opera and more to Washington Park. Photo: Tasha Miller.

“But it’s August,” you whine. “I can’t be lured away from Oregon’s outdoor splendors just to sit inside some concert hall to hear classical music!” Good news: you don’t have to! This weekend you can venture outside AND hear great music, classical and otherwise.

Every summer for many years, veteran Portland conductor Lajos Balogh’s Portland Festival Symphony has given free performances in Portland parks. On Friday, they’ll play music by Mozart, Mahler, Fasch, Vivaldi, Dvorak and more at Portland’s Laurelhurst Park, and music by Copland, Weber, Beethoven and Tchaikovsky’s Symphony #4 on Sunday at Portland’s Washington Park.

That Sunday show is part of the park’s annual summer series, where on Friday, you can hear a concert version of most of Verdi’s “Otello,” featuring a dream cast (see Jeff Winslow’s ArtsWatch preview); Portland’s finest jazz big band, the Carlton Jackson/Dave Mills Band on Saturday; the late Obo Addy’s African drumming and dance meets hip hop project, DiaTribe, on Monday; the bluegrassy Decemberists spinoff band Black Prairie on Tuesday, and exuberant Portland alt classical legends Vagabond Opera on Wednesday.

Way down south in Jackonville, the Britt Festival classical series features the return of a conductor familiar to Oregonians, former Portland Youth Philharmonic music director Mei-Ann Chen, who on Friday leads Tchaikovsky’s next symphony, #5, and Rachmaninoff’s “Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini” (with Oregon favorite Jon Kimura Parker at the keyboard). On Saturday, Chen (who directs the Memphis Symphony and is auditioning to become the festival’s permanent music director) conducts the Britt Orchestra in excerpts from Leonard Bernstein’s jazzy “On the Town,” George Gershwin’s “I Got Rhythm Variations,” Witold Lutoslawski’s “Variations on a Theme of Paganini” (featuring another pianistic Parker, Ian) and Beethoven’s magnificent Symphony #7.

If it’s actual jazz you crave, the annual Mt. Hood Jazz Festival returns Saturday, this time to Gresham’s Center for the Arts Plaza, and featuring 12 hours of imaginative improvisation from Portland jazz legends Thara Memory, Dan Balmer, Stan Bock and more.

Of course, there’s plenty of music going on indoors, too. The cure for August music doldrums can often be found in Eugene, where the Oregon Festival of American Music is exploring what happened when America’s musical fountainhead shifted from New York to Los Angeles. This weekend, the organization simultaneously opens its annual summer musical, this year a new production of Meredith Willson’s classic, “The Music Man.” Read my previews.

Speaking of Eugene, one of its most original classically influenced bands, Mood Area 52,  brings music from its striking new Studs Terkel-inspired record, “Company Town,” to Portland’s Secret Society ballroom on Saturday.

On Friday, Portland State University’s Fifth Avenue Cinema features live soundtracks (including an original string quintet by Portland composer Ryan Babichuk) to classic cartoons and more short flicks by Busby Berkeley and more. You can always catch that show, and the other indoor delights mentioned here, after spending the day in the sun.

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