Weekend MusicWatch: Productive Pairings and Circusy Christmases

Get thee behind us, ye grinches! Holiday happenings are in full swing this weekend in Oregon music, including several creative combinations and a couple shows that turn the weekend into a circus. For music lovers, remember that The Nutcracker, Messiah, and Beethoven’s last symphony (coming next weekend) really are some of the most beautiful of human creations; the challenge of the holidays is to try, although they’re overplayed almost to death and sometimes scoffed at for their very popularity, to hear these wondrous classics afresh.

Mark O'Connor and Friends perform in Portland. Photo: Deanna Rose.

Mark O’Connor and Friends perform in Portland. Photo: Deanna Rose.

Northwest Baroque Masterworks Orchestra, Les Voix Baroques, Thursday, Trinity Episcopal Cathedral, Portland.

A couple years ago, Portland Baroque Orchestra brought its fellow historically informed performers Pacific MusicWorks down the highway from their Seattle home to perform Monterverdi’s glorious Vespers of the Blessed Virgin at Trinity — one of the most stirring choral orchestral performances I’ve experienced in Portland. This most welcome collaboration, which also includes Early Music Vancouver, continues with a performance of three of the six cantatas that comprise J.S. Bach’s magnificent Christmas Oratorio (keep reading if you want to hear two of the others the next night), along with other German Baroque masterpieces. The concert is sold out but you can call 503–222–6000 to see if returned tickets are available.

Choral Arts Ensemble of Portland & Portland Chamber Orchestra, Wednesday, St. Henry Catholic Church, Gresham; Friday, St. Matthew Catholic Church, Hillsboro; Saturday, St Andrew Catholic Church, Portland; and Sunday afternoon, Agnes Flanagan Chapel, Lewis and Clark College, Portland.

Another productive pairing, this one featuring two of Portland’s most appealing classical music institutions, also pairs two great oratorios by another Baroque giant, Handel, that concern two religions, Judaism and Christianity: Judas Maccabeus, based on the story of Hanukkah, and the Christmas portions of Messiah. It’s a smart way to give audiences who’ve seen the seasonal perennial another good reason to hear it again.


Bach Cantata Choir, Friday, Rose City Park Presbyterian Church, Portland.

Adding value is also the approach chosen by the 60-voice choir’s artistic director Ralph Nelson, who pairs two more movements of Bach’s Christmas Oratorio (not the same ones performed the preceding evening by Northwest Baroque Works, so it’s possible to see almost the whole shebang over two nights) with a French Baroque beauty, Charpentier’s Midnight Mass.


In Mulieribus, Friday, St. Philip Neri Church, Portland, and Sunday, Proto-Cathedral of St. James the Greater, Vancouver, WA.

Read my Willamette Week preview of this highly recommended concert by one of the state’s finest vocal ensembles.


Lonnie Cline leads Unistus Chamber Choir Friday in downtown Portland.

Lonnie Cline leads Unistus Chamber Choir Friday in downtown Portland.

Unistus Chamber Choir, Friday, First Christian Church, Portland.

This candlelight concert featuring both new and traditional seasonal tunes (some sung a cappella, others accompanied by organ, piano, violin, guitar and flute), offers a welcome opportunity to catch this excellent chorus in a downtown location instead of its usual Milwaukie haunts, or in Tallinn, Estonia, where it sang this summer in the world’s largest choral gathering.

Mark O’Connor & Friends, Monday, Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall, Portland.

Read my Willamette Week preview of the return of the great fiddler, a Northwest native, with his band in their American-music focused holiday show.

Unsilent Night, Tuesday, Portland Art Museum entrance.

Read my Willamette Week preview of the most unusual and delightful holiday ambulation, and Maria Choban’s ArtsWatch review of last year’s Portland happening.

Unsilent Night is Tuesday in Portland.

Unsilent Night is Tuesday in Portland.

Oregon Mozart Players, Friday and Saturday, First Christian Church, Eugene.

In anothr candlelit concert, the chamber orchestra plays another Baroque program featuring one of J.S Bach’s mighty Orchestral Suites and one of his ever-enchanting Brandenburg Concerti, a dazzling double cello concerto by Vivaldi, and a stirring symphony by one of J.S.’s composer sons, the underrated Carl Philip Emmanuel Bach.


A Circus Carol, Friday-Sunday, Alberta Rose Theatre, Portland.

Another fruitful collaboration: Wanderlust Circus and Portland musical tricksters 3 Leg Torso return in this family friendly version of Charles Dickens’ classic Christmas story, featuring Vagabond Opera singer/accordionist Eric Stern and other Portland musicians and theater artists.

Oregon Symphony, Cirque Musica, Friday and Saturday, Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall, Portland.

Still another circus-meets-classic Christmas combo, this one features music from The Nutcracker and other seasonal sounds, plus renowned aerial acrobats.


Christmas Revels, Thursday-Tuesday, St. Mary’s Academy, Portland.

Now celebrating its 20th anniversary in Portland, the annual theatrical celebration involves far more than music, of course, but fans of 17th century English music will also want to hear performances of “the beautiful traditional and composed carols and songs … drawn from the golden age of choral music in England and Europe,” says music director Robert Lockwood. “Audiences will hear melodies they already know, but also some exquisite pieces by Byrd and others that were popular in the Elizabethan and Caroline age.”


Babes in Arms, Friday and Sunday, The Shedd, Eugene.

Closing weekend for this new production of Rodgers & Hart’s great 1937 musical comedy, which brought us “The Lady is a Tramp,” “My Funny Valentine,” and other classics.


Oregon Symphony, Sunday, Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall, Portland.

Soprano Nadine Sierra joins the orchestra for a family friendly matinee show including classical and pop arrangements of holiday favorites and an audience singalong.


Scott Kritzer, Friday, Community Music Center, Portland.

Scott Kritzer performs Friday at Portland's Community Music Center.

Scott Kritzer performs Friday at Portland’s Community Music Center.

The great Portland-based guitarist celebrates a half century of phenomenal fretboardery with a benefit for Portland Guitar Society’s Advani Fund, named of one of Kritzer’s late students, which helps “serious students of the guitar who have financial need to pursue their studies.” Kritzer will play Baroque works, music by Albeniz and Villa-Lobos, his arrangements of vocal baubles from Puccini and Schubert, some Christmas carols, and a set from Manuel de Falla’s wondrous ballet score The Three-Cornered Hat.


Andrew Brownell, Thursday, Portland Piano Company.

The award-winning pianist, who grew up in Portland, comes home for the holidays from his current base in London to play a Beethoven sonata, a Schumann fantasy, a Busoni Bach transcription, and best of all, a pair of 20th century Christmas classics by the mystical French composer Olivier Messiaen and the great contemporary American composer George Crumb.

Muse:Forward, Sunday, The Waypost, Portland.

Read my Willamette Week preview of Oregon’s 50th anniversary celebration of Terry Riley’s proto-minimalist anthem, In C.


Michael Stirling/Matt Carlson/Doug Theriault, Sunday, Alberta Abbey, Portland.

The ongoing performance series M.A.S.S. X features three of Portland’s most visionary musicians, finding common ground between live improvised electronic music and Indian classical vocal music.


Oregon Mandolin Orchestra, Sneakin’ Out, Friday, Walters Cultural Arts Center, Hillsboro.

The mandolin masters perform Arcangelo Corelli’s Baroque classic Christmas Concerto, music from Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker, and other seasonal offerings.

Portland Symphonic Girlchoir sings Saturday.

Portland Symphonic Girlchoir sings Saturday.

Portland Symphonic Girlchoir, Saturday, Zion Lutheran Church, Portland.

The award winning chorus sings Latin (in both senses) holiday themed tunes and other seasonal favorites.


Portland Youth Philharmonic, Sunday, Michelle’s Piano, Portland.

This fundraising party for the nation’s oldest youth orchestra features PYP performers on violin and piano, accompanied by treats, wine and other beverages.

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