Weekend MusicWatch: The Sound of NOW

It’s that scary day, and there’s a frightful amount of spine-tingling new and old music on Oregon stages — and in a tomb — this weekend.

NOW Ensemble, Zac Pennington, Monday, Alberta Rose Theatre, Portland.

New York's NOW Ensemble performs Monday at Portland's Alberta Rose Theatre.

New York’s NOW Ensemble performs Monday at Portland’s Alberta Rose Theatre.

Read my Willamette Week preview of this rare opportunity to hear broadly appealing contemporary classical music by some of America’s hottest next gen composers.

David Ornette Cherry, Saturday and Sunday, Artists Repertory Theater, Portland.

Backed by a crack band of some of Oregon’s top jazzers (bassist Glen Moore, drummer Carlton Jackson, saxophonist Renato Carrento) and dancers, poet, and actors, the composer/keyboard player’s Organic Nation Listening Club integrates storytelling, visual art, and performance to evoke his childhood growing up in Watts amid the burgeoning free jazz movement that included his father, the great jazzman Don Cherry.

Oregon Symphony, Saturday-Monday, Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall, Portland.

Coming off a great performance of Gershwin’s music from Porgy and Bess last month, the orchestra continues its productive partnership with veteran pianist, conductor, and Oregon favorite Jeffrey Kahane in one of the great American masterpieces (and great concertos, period), Gershwin’s 1925 Concerto in F. The rest of the program, OSO music director Carlos Kalmar’s selection of movements from Prokofiev’s gorgeous 1944 Cinderella ballet and Paul Dukas’s seasonally appropriate 1897 The Sorceror’s Apprentice, is one of the season’s best, and Kahane’s audience friendly attitude has long come through in his playing, both with OSO and the Oregon Bach Festival. In an interview with Portland’s all classical radio station KQAC this week, Kahane decried once-democratic American classical music’s 20th century devolution into “an increasingly kind of highbrow, exclusive and stifled art form…. this whole idea of the concert hall as a temple to art and not applauding between movements and so on. Mozart would have been shocked , dismayed and furious to come to the end of piano concerto and have the audience not applaud between movements… yet even today, we still have this ritual….” However, audiences long trained in stifling their emotional responses will have to be encouraged by real artistic leaders to break those silly shackles. Leonard Bernstein and Marin Alsop have done it — will this be the weekend that an Oregon conductor steps up, in a piece where between movement applause is appropriate?

Portland State University Orchestra, Friday, Lincoln Recital Hall, Portland.

More now sounds: New works by Oregon composers (PSU faculty members George Colligan, the terrific jazz keyboard player , and Ken Selden, who conducts the orchestra) highlight an ambitious program includes works by Baroque composers Andrea and Giovanni Gabrieli and Ravel’s ravishing Mother Goose music (which the orchestra is playing with Portland Ballet next month). Selden’s Scandal in the Deep also derives from a ballet scenario, by the French poet Celine, in which the Roman god of the sea, Neptune, is involved in a scandalous love affair with a mermaid. In fact, Celine intended it for Russia’s famous Mariinski Theater, and this version is a sketch for what will ultimately become a full length ballet. Selden wrote much of it on a visit to New York, and Colligan’s Existence evokes the subways of the jazz stalwart’s former New York City home, and affords the musicians room for improvisation.

Yashila, Friday, First Baptist Church, Portland.

Read my Willamette Week preview of this fusion of jazz violin and Indian music.


Vagabond Opera, Chervona, Saturday, Star Theater, Portland.

Costumes are welcome at the colorful alt classical Day of the Dead Transylvanian Voodoo Ball, which includes tarot readings, gothic burlesque belly dance, Russian party music and Bohemian cabaret.

Mood Area 52, Friday, Bijou Theater, Eugene.

The unique band again presents its original score to the original vampire classic, F.W. Murnau’s German expressionist film Nosferatu at the. This year’s bonus: MA52 cellist Amy Danziger’s original string band soundtrack to Buster Keaton’s 1921 short film One Week.

Eric Mentzel conducts Vox Resonat in Corvallis and Eugene.

Eric Mentzel conducts Vox Resonat in Corvallis and Eugene.

Vox Resonat, Saturday, First Presbyterian Church, Corvallis and Sunday afternoon, Hope Abbey Mausoleum, Eugene Masonic Cemetery.

The early music vocal ensemble’s Day of the Dead concert allows brave audiences to hear sing laments on the death of famous decomposing composers, burial music from royal courts, and motets of mourning and remembrance from the 15th and 16th centuries by composers like Ockhegem, Josquin, and more… all in a 1914 Egyptian Revival tomb.

The Mousai, Wednesday, The Old Church, Portland.

In this free noonday brown bag concert, the veteran chamber ensemble that specializes in accessible contemporary sounds performs music of two Oregon composers, Tomas Svoboda and Mike Curtis, plus works by American composer William Grant Still and Camille Saint-Saens.

Eugene Opera, Sunday, Very Little Theatre, Eugene.

Alas, not a full production, but it’s nice to see an Oregon opera company presenting staged readings by EO’s Artist Mentor Program participants of 20th century one act operas by the great American cellist Seymour Barab (A Game of Chance), Gian-Carlo Menotti (The Telephone) and Ralph Vaughan Williams (Riders to the Sea).

Siri Vik, Sunday, Vie de Boheme, Portland.

Winner of the Grand Prize at the International Lotte Lenya Competition for Singers, Vik has presented a series of acclaimed theatrical cabaret performances at The Shedd in Eugene, and now she’s bringing her band (including Cherry Poppin’ Daddy sax man Jesse Cloninger and pianist Nathalie Fortin) and songs from her Kurt Weill/Berthold Brecht and her Jacques Brel/Edith Piaf shows to Portland.

Sunnyside Symphony Orchestra, Sunday, Sunnyside Seventh Day Adventist Church, Portland.

The orchestra plays a remarkably ambitious 20th century program featuring Shostakovich’s fifth symphony and Sibelius’s Violin Concerto, with Anthea Kreston.

Vancouver Symphony Orchestra, Saturday and Sunday, Skyview Concert Hall, Vancouver WA.

Violinist Elmar Oliveira stars in, yep, Sibelius’s Violin Concerto, and the VSO also plays a Shostakovich piece (Festive Overture) and 20th century Russian symphony: Prokofiev’s seventh.

Mark Simon Quintet, Sunday, Classic Pianos, Portland.

The veteran pianist/composer leads a fine band featuring tenor saxophonist Devin Phillips to celebrate the release of his excellent new Inklings album, the latest release from the Portland Jazz Composers Ensemble label.

Battle Trance, Wallsmith/Cunningham/Wyland/Johnedis, Sunday, Habesha Lounge, Portland.

New York avant sax master Travis Laplante’s sax quartet explores the far reachers of improv, and the opening act includes top musicians from fab Portland bands Blue Cranes and AU.

Joe Manis Trio, Saturday, Jazz Station, Eugene.

The stellar Eugene saxman returns with George Colligan (see above) on organ and drummer Jason Palmer.

The Spin Quartet, Tuesday, Portland State University, Wednesday, The Jazz Station. Eugene, Thursday, Willamette University, Salem.

The promising young straightahead jazz combo composed of members from across the continent features trumpeter Chad McCullough.

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