I felt nostalgia for something I never had.
That’s how 45th Parallel Artistic Director Greg Ewer explains his transition from inner city Houston where he grew up with basketball and fist fights to Portland where walking, historic preservation and early music called to his values.
It’s not that there wasn’t music in Houston. Ewer was steeped in it. The son of a father who had studied with the great Russian violinist Nathan “Tossy” Spivakovsky, he mined his Dad’s LP collection deep in recordings by Nathan Millstein, Jascha Heifettz and Stefan Grappelli.
That early listening shaped Ewer’s musical adventurism. He understood the high artistry of the classical tradition while digging the deep creativity of improvisation. When still an undergrad at the University of Houston, he launched Classical Grass, a classical-bluegrass hybrid and began subbing with Houston’s major orchestras.
Oregon was there, too, in the presence of Sergiu Luca, renowned violinist, early music pioneer, founder of Chamber Music Northwest and Cascade Head Music Festival, and Ewer’s grad- school teacher. Ewer quickly became Luca’s teaching assistant and, in the summer of 1998, stage managed Cascade Head.
While hitting the high notes in a superbly rounded musical education, Ewer continued to experiment. He mastered a very unconventional, romantic-tradition approach to bowing that visibly raised eyebrows at auditions for Portland Baroque Orchestra and the Oregon Symphony.
That didn’t stop him from winning those auditions or becoming an active freelancer around town when r he moved here in the late 90s. In 2009, his restless spirit led him to form 45th Parallel. An eclectic collection of musicians that reconfigures with every performance and often includes colleagues from the Symphony, 45th Parallel plays venues like the Alberta Rose and collaborates with other like-minded musicians like Three Leg Torso.
Gypsy, tango, baroque, bluegrass: it’s all in Ewer’s playbook. A regular with Alex Krebs’ Tango Barretín, Ewer genially reminds you that baroque is dance music, too.