Weekend MusicWatch: Worthy causes

Choral Arts Ensemble sings songs from the stage.

Choral Arts Ensemble sings songs from stage musicals and operas.

One often overlooked value of Oregon classical music is its frequent appearance in benefits for noble causes, especially for students. The weekend offers several opportunities to hear good music and help good causes.

On Friday and Saturday, Portland Chamber Orchestra plays music from classic films — including arrangements by venerable Portland classical music legend Norman Leyden, who’ll be there Saturday to receive a lifetime achievement award. The Saturday concert is also preceded by a fundraiser for this important Oregon music institution.

The other big symphonic show this weekend is the Oregon Symphony‘s performance of Beethoven’s Symphony #2, Paul Hindemith’s colorful “Symphonic Metamorphosis on Themes of Carl Maria von Weber,” and Franz Liszt’s Romantic Piano Concerto #2, with the solo part graced by the much-lauded virtuoso Stephen Hough.

Another good cause benefits from Moussai Remix‘s Sunday performance of string quartets by Prokofiev and Mendelssohn at Portland’s Ivories Jazz Lounge: proceeds will help pay for a young string quartet to go to summer music camp. And still another worthy beneficiary, Friends of the Columbia Gorge, gains when Greg Lief plays piano music by Debussy, Beethoven and Chopin Saturday at Milwaukie’s Classic Pianos.

While PCO looks to the screen, the Choral Arts Ensemble of Portland draws inspiration from the stage. On Saturday and Sunday at Portland’s St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church, the choir sings music from operas and stage musicals by Bernstein, Copland, Berlin, Verdi and more.

Portland’s fabulous Resonance Ensemble will be singing and three different organists playing music by some of Oregon’s finest living composers Sunday afternoon at Marylhurst University’s St. Anne’s Chapel when Cascadia Composers convene for performances of music by the excellent Oregon composers Tomas Svoboda, Bonnie Miksch (from Portland State), Michael Johanson (from Lewis & Clark College) and more.

Jazz Legends

Classical concerts aren’t the only place to hear radiant singing or cinematic musical inspiration this weekend. The film scores of the great Italian movie composer Nino Rota, who supplied so much sonic support to the films of Fellini and other filmmakers, also inspired the latest album by the cheeky downtown NYC ensemble Sex Mob, who’ll play that music Saturday night in a Portland Jazz Festival concert at downtown Portland’s Winningstad Theater. As they did with the music of James Bond films, Nirvana, ABBA, the Rolling Stones, Duke Ellington and others, the quartet takes Rota’s themes and transforms them into vehicles for wild improvisation. More than just about any contemporary ensemble, they’re putting the fun back in jazz. Sex Mob leader and slide trumpet master Steven Bernstein will talk about Rota, Fellini, jazz and more at the Oregon Jewish Museum Saturday afternoon.

That’s only one of dozens of fine concerts during this year’s festival, which closes this weekend. Many of the big-name concerts have been sold out for awhile — get your tickets early next year folks — but one of the most valuable aspects of PDXJazz is the way it shines a spotlight on such a wide variety of other Oregon jazz acts performing on stages and in clubs throughout the city this week. You can often have just as much fun — and a more intimate, less expensive, sometimes more creative jazz experience with some of Oregon’s own jazzers.  Just about everything left on the PDXJazz schedule is worth checking.

The festival goes a long way to redressing the most obvious instance of a prophet lacking honor (or at least major bookings) in her own (Port)land with its Sunday afternoon tribute to Oregon Jazz Hall of Famer and this year’s festival jazz ambassador, Nancy King. Possibly the finest jazz singer alive, the Springfield-born chanteause is a national, not just Oregon treasure, and at the Winningstad Theater, she’ll sing with two of her longest-running artistic partners: the inventive bassist Glen Moore, with whom she first played during their student days at the University of Oregon around 1960 (before he went on to found the unique jazz/world music ensemble Oregon with another UO alum, Ralph Towner), and pianist Steve Christofferson, who has made supremely responsive duets with her since 1978. You won’t hear more creative singing or a closer musical partnership anywhere.

Chamber Music

Eugene’s early music explosion continues apace this week, with Oregon Bach Collegium Baroque guitarist and lutenist David Rogers and fortepianist Margaret Gries performing music by the ever-doleful English composer John Dowland and music by 19th and 20th century composers at United Lutheran Church on Sunday afternoon.

Violinist Jaap Schröder appears in Eugene.

Violinist Jaap Schröder appears in Eugene.

That’s followed by two performances and a talk by one of the pioneers of the historically informed performance movement, Dutch violinist Jaap Schröder, whose recordings from the 1970s onward helped revolutionize the way early classical and Baroque music was interpreted. On Monday, he and University of Oregon faculty member Marc Vanscheeuwijck will play early Baroque music for cello and violin Monday at the UO’s intimate Collier House, and on Tuesday, they’ll join other Eugene classical music luminaries at St. Mary’s Episcopal Church for performances of Mozart’s luminous Clarinet Quintet and a quartet by Luigi Boccherini.

And speaking of the UO, which is bringing Schroder to Oregon, the Oregon String Quartet continues its cycle of Beethoven’s complete string quartets at Beall Hall on Sunday.

Student Sounds

The Eugene spotlight turns from ancient to modern the rest of the week, with the UO’s biennial Music Today Festival showcasing the work of contemporary composers. UO student works get premieres Monday at the Oregon Composers Forum at Aasen-Hull Hall and Tuesday at Beall Hall in a free concert by Ova Novi, a women’s vocal ensemble that’s one of a half dozen student contemporary music ensembles at the school.

Symphonists in training will join student singers and instrumentalists Friday and Sunday at Portland’s First Methodist Church when the PSU orchestra and choirs perform Mozart’s magnificent Requiem and music by Ralph Vaughan Williams.

There’s more student sounds on Sunday at Beaverton’s Shepherd of the Valley Lutheran Church when the UO Gospel Singers perform back-to-back benefit concerts to pay for their upcoming trip to sing in China.

Even younger students — Portland’s Pacific Youth Choir — hit the stage Sunday at Portland’s Trinity Episcopal Cathedral, after getting instruction by former Chanticleer director Matthew Oltman all weekend. The high school and middle school singers, and Pacific University Chamber Choir will sing a new choral setting based on Lincoln’s first inaugural address by Portland composer David Nelson Miller. They’ll be joined by Ida Rae Cahana, senior cantor at Temple Beth Israel and 3 Leg Torso’s Courtney Von Drehle.

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