Weekend MusicWatch: The Sound of Oregon

While the rest of the month mostly brings overfamiliar traditional music by long deceased Europeans, this weekend’s Oregon music scene positively glows with at least half a dozen concerts featuring music by today’s Oregon composers, led by Portland’s redoubtable FearNoMusic ensemble, along with performances by the next generations of young Oregon musicians.

Agnieszka Laska Dancers accompany Tomas Svoboda's Etudes Saturday and Sunday. Photo: Chris Leck.

Agnieszka Laska Dancers accompany Tomas Svoboda’s Etudes Saturday and Sunday. Photo: Chris Leck.

FearNoMusic, Friday, The Old Church, Portland.

Read my Willamette Week preview of this highly recommended concert of music featuring Oregon’s finest composers: Tomas Svoboda, David Schiff, Michael Johanson, Bonnie Miksch, and promising newcomer Tylor Neist.

Portland Cello Project's Holiday Spectacular features Northwest composers.

Portland Cello Project’s Holiday Spectacular features Northwest composers.

Portland Cello Project, Friday and Saturday, Aladdin Theater, Portland.

The all-cello ensemble’s annual holiday spectacular this time includes Portland soul man Ural Thomas and the Pain, and winter music from its previous CD, and doubles as a release party for its new CD that cellifies music by Elliott Smith, plus new music inspired the late great Portland songwriter and composed by Oregon Symphony cellist Nancy Ives, Seattle composer Nat Evans (whose music was recently played in Portland by City of Tomorrow, Portland songeriter Peter Broderick (best known for his work with Denmark’s Efterklang, plus the great Oregon bands Norfolk & Western and Horse Feathers, and more.

Agnieszka Laska Dancers, Igor Lipinski, Satuday and Sunday, Saint Anne’s Chapel, Marylhurst University, Lake Oswego.

Read my Willamette Week preview of this musical and dance tribute to the dean of Portland composers, Tomas Svoboda, on his 75th birthday.

THREE ETUDES ON LOVE – choreography: Agnieszka Laska from Agnieszka Laska on Vimeo.

Igor Lipinski, Thursday, Polish Hall, Portland.

Read Jana Hanchett’s ArtsWatch preview of the Polish pianist/magician’s last Oregon concert, back in March. This time, he’s playing an excellent program of music by some of the 20th century’s most visionary composers: Igor Stravinsky, Arvo Part, Asto Piazzolla, and Oregon’s own Tomas Svoboda (the last accompanied by Laska Dancers, who’ll also dance to that music in the Svoboda birthday concerts on Saturday and Sunday), plus several of his themed magic and music programs: Bach’s Fugues, Chopin’s Virtuosity, Rachmaninov’s Smoke & Mirrors, and The Mathematics of Music.

Eugene Symphony, Thursday, Hult Center, Eugene.

Two of of classical music’s greatest hits — Elgar’s 115-year-old Enigma Variations, Mendelssohn’s 170-year old Violin Concerto (with soloist the young English fiddler Chloë Hanslip), and Smetana’s 140-year-old The Moldau, (from his orchestral cycle My Country) — provide cover for a welcome contemporary work, three dances from the powerful 1995 opera Powder Her Face by 43-year-old Thomas Ades, whom many already consider Britain’s greatest living classical composer. Presumably this concert version will omit any staging of its notorious blow job scene.


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

The legendary pianist re-joins the orchestra for a relative rarity, 19th century American composer Edward MacDowell’s European-imitation second piano concerto, and the band also plays the suite from Aaron Copland’s American ballet classic, Appalachian Spring and Sibelius’s stark, broody fourth symphony.


Pacifica Quartet at Lincoln Hall.

Pacifica Quartet performs at
Portland State University Monday and Tuesday.

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

Read my Willamette Week preview of the frequent Oregon visitors and their delectable mostly 20th century menu in this Friends of Chamber Music concert, and read ArtsWatch contributor Alice Hardesty’s enlightening interview with PQ violinist Sibbi Bernhardsson.

Chamber Music Amici, Monday, Wildish Theater, Springfield.

Some of Eugene’s top musicians play a Mozart Piano Quartet and Boccherini’s famous ‘fandango’ guitar quintet, featuring the excellent Portland guitarist Scott Kritzer and those clacky castanets.


Hideki Yamaya, Sunday, Polish Hall, Portland.

The expert lutenist and Musica Maestrale master gives an afternoon solo recital featuring English, Spanish and Italian lute music.




The Ensemble, Saturday, St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, Vancouver, WA, and Sunday, St. James Lutheran Church, Portland.

Baroque music fans craving more than Messiah this season can bask in the equally enticing music of other north German Baroque composers — J.S. Bach, Dietrich Buxtehude and Heinrich Schütz — all performed by some of the starriest of Portland choral stars: Catherine van der Salm, Mel Downie Robinson, Laura Thoreson, Cahen Taylor and Erik Hundtoft.

Oregon Repertory Singers is missing its financial records.

Oregon Repertory Singers perform this Sunday and next weekend.

Oregon Repertory Singers, Sunday, First United Methodist Church, Portland.

Ethan Sperry leads the big choir in what’s always one of the season’s most interesting and enjoyable choral concerts, this time featuring some Christmas comedy, offbeat seasonal pieces, music by 21st century composers (Portland’s Naomi LaViolette, California’s Eric Whitacre, Latvia’s Eriks Esenvalds) and Francis Poulenc’s 20th century classic, Four Motets for Christmas Time.


Eugene Concert Choir, Oregon Mozart Players, and Eugene Vocal Arts Ensemble, Sunday, Hult Center, Eugene.

Local theater lights Bill Hulings and Darline Jackson, the South Eugene H.S. Concert Choir, Oregon Tuba Ensemble, and a cappella stars Evynne and Peter Hollens, Rezonate and Synergy. But the star is Eugene’s most famous musician, Mason “Classical Gas” Williams, who along with that still amazing hit with the film 3,000 Years of Art, will remind us of his Smothers Brothers humor in tunes like “What Tune Is This (Greensleeves),” “Mistletoe Mustache,” a doo-wop version of “White Christmas,” and a new song.


“Babes in Arms’’, Friday-Sunday, The Shedd, Eugene.

This year’s annual winter musical, a Rodgers & Hart’s classic, is actually set in a summer vaudeville theater. Peg Major and Robert Ashens direct the action and music, respectively, in the 1937 comedy that introduced immortal songs like “Where Or When,” ”My Funny Valentine,” and the “The Lady Is A Tramp.”


Portland Gay Men's Chorus performs December 14-16

Portland Gay Men’s Chorus sings its 35th holiday show.

Portland Gay Men’s Chorus, Friday-Sunday, Newmark Theater, Portland.

For its 35th annual holiday show, accompanied by string orchestra and abetted by its a cappella ensemble and dance troupe (The Locomotions), the large choir sings three original holiday compositions by its members, plus songs by Vivaldi, Rachmaninoff, McCartney, Berlin, and Handel.


Susannah Mars, Saturday, Classic Pianos, Portland.

Accompanied by fellow Portland music veteran Bill Wells and Richard Weidlich, the singer performs humorous and other seasonal songs.


Motet Singers, Sunday, Ebbert Memorial United Methodist Church, Springfield.

The a cappella women’s vocal ensemble’s 19th annual Christmas concert fetures music from the Renaissance to the present.


Collegium Musicum, Thursday, Collier House, University of Oregon.

The school’s early music ensemble performss Renaissance English and Italian music sung and played the way they might have been heard nearly half a millennium ago.


Liederkreis Choir, Saturday, The Old Church, Portland.

The Christmas concert features seasonal songs from Germany and Austria.




Music Forward!, Friday, Lincoln Hall, Portland State University.

Students and faculty (including well known figures like Angela Niderloh, Bryan Johanson, Lisa Marsh, FearNoMusic’s Joel Bluestone and more) musicians perform in this benefit for PSU’s award winning music programs, which are soaring to greater heights under leaders like conductor Ken Selden, taiko director Wynn Kiyama, jazz boss Charley Gray, choral director Ethan Sperry and more, all of whose groups will perform.


Andres Lopera leads Metropolitan Youth Symphony Sunday.

Andres Lopera leads Metropolitan Youth Symphony Sunday.

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

The young singers range far beyond the standard holiday rep, including Medieval Gloria, Haida, The Polar Bear, Dancer the Cat,  Ev’ry Time I Feel The Spirit, Christmas In About Three Minutes, A Winter Blast and more.


Metropolitan Youth Symphony Sunday, Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall, Portland.

All-Russian program includes Tchaikovsky’s fourth symphony and Glinka’s stirring Ruslan and Ludmila.


Eugene Springfield Youth Orchestras, Tuesday and Wednesday, South Eugene High School Auditorium.

The Lane County youngsters play music from Holst’s ever-popular 1917 The Planets, Sibelius’s 1902 Symphony #2, and 19th century composer Ferdinand David’s Trombone Concertino.
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