Weekend MusicWatch: Restoring the connection between classic and contemporary

One of the worst things to happen to music was severing old music from new, classical from popular. We wound up with a patchwork of musical ghettos that would have seemed strange to composers like Beethoven: a “classical” new music ghetto populated by relatively few devotees over here, a sprawling contemporary pop music suburb over there, and up on the hill, an antiquities museum catering mostly to listeners uninterested in or afraid of anything unfamiliar or forward looking. Fortunately, this weekend’s Oregon music offerings (and others this month, including last weekend’s Cappella Romana concert and next week’s Third Angle show) include several groups that are trying to break down those artificial barriers that have obscured the connections between these false categories that are really a continuum — “classical” music’s emergence from vernacular origins, new music’s debt to its ancient sources. Unfortunately, two of these ensembles are performing on the same night, but maybe it’s a promising sign that more and more performers are understanding that segregating our musical past from our musical present and future does no one any good.

For a look farther ahead past this weekend, see also Jana Hanchett’s ArtsWatch preview of Portland’s Chamber Blast! festival, Gary Ferrington’s ArtsWatch preview of the University of Oregon’s Music Today Festival and Bob Priest’s monthly Ear Trumpet new music bulletin.

ARCO-PDX debuted at Portland's Mississippi Studios.

ARCO-PDX performs at REFUGE PDX Saturday.

ĄRCO-PDX, Saturday, Refuge PDX, 116 SE Yamhill, Portland.

Read my Willamette Week preview of this highly recommended concert of music by Portland composer Kenji Bunch and Vivaldi, performed from memory by the Amplified Repertory Chamber Orchestra of Portland.

Carpe Diem String Quartet, Saturday, Winningstad Theatre, Portland.

Read my Willamette Week preview of one of the forward looking young chamber ensembles that’s trying to win new audiences for classical music by loosening up the usual stage stiffness and mixing contemporary works with the classics.

Oregon Guitar Quartet, Saturday, Lincoln Hall, Portland State University.

OGQ’s Bryan Johanson looked to one of his favorite writers, Jane Austen, whose novels teem with musical references, and imagined what music might have been played at a house party happening in her time (she’s a Beethoven contemporary) and place. The party mixtape (which Johanson arranged for four guitars) spans classical and pop music of the period, including traditional American and English dance tunes like “Black is the Color of My True Love’s Hair” as well as a couple more Vivaldi compositions, one a concerto featuring Oregon Symphony guest violinist Erin Furbee.


Beaverton Symphony Orchestra, Friday, Village Baptist Church, Beaverton.

With the Brit PM visiting the US, the orchestra turns Anglophilic with an all 20th century program including Gustav Holst’s A Somerset Rhapsody, Ralph Vaughan Williams Symphony No. 5, and Benjamin Britten’s soaring Serenade for Horn, Tenor, and Strings, starring hornist Jennifer Harrison and singer Les Green.

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

In this pops concert, clarinet master Dave Bennett and his sextet play swing era classics by Artie Shaw, Jimmy Dorsey, Woody Herman, Pete Fountain and Benny Goodman.


Oregon Bach Collegium, Sunday, United Lutheran Church, Eugene.

Early music specialists violinists Jannie Wei and Wyatt True, cellist Marc Vanscheeuwijck, and harpsichordist Margret Gries play virtuosic repertoire from 17th-century Italy, including works by Uccellini, Buonamente, Caldara, Castello, Fontana, Legrenzi, Gabrielli and Corelli.


Yuval Ron Trio, Sunday, Euphoria Studios, Portland.

Read my Willamette Week preview of this Middle Eastern music concert devoted to the ideal that Muslim, Jewish and Christian cultures can happily coexist in musical harmony.


Takács Quartet, Monday and Tuesday, Lincoln Hall, Portland State University.

Read my Willamette Week preview of the latest Oregon appearance by the nonpareil classical string quartet. If you’re a chamber music fan, experiencing a live performance by this is extraordinary group should be on your bucket list.


The Snowstorm,” January 16 through February 7, Thursday through Saturday at 7:30 pm and Sundays at 2:00pm, Coho Theatre, Portland.

One of the more intriguing entries in this year’s Fertile Ground Festival (which actually starts next Thursday, though this particular show opens this weekend), Many Hats Collaboration‘s full length, original movement theater work weaves together spoken text with movement segments into an evening of theater, set to piano solos by Sergei Rachmaninoff played live by Eric Nordin.


Want to read more about Oregon classical music, old and new? Support Oregon ArtsWatch! 

Want to learn more about contemporary Oregon classical music? Check out Oregon ComposersWatch.

One Response.

  1. Jack Gabel says:

    Thanks, Brett, for reminding us “… those artificial barriers that have obscured the connections between these false categories…” in the words of The Duke, “There’s only two kinds of music: Good and Bad!”

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