Jazz, musicals and modernists confound the Oregon music calendar this week
… spring? It’s not exactly Christmas in June, more like March in December, as one of Portland’s most valuable music musical explorations, March Music Moderne, moves to December to coincide with the Oregon Symphony’s celebration of one of MMM’s patron saint, the great 20th century French mystic composer Olivier Messiaen, with its name temporarily changed accordingly.
It also looks a little like February in December, as some excellent jazz worthy of that month’s annual PDX Jazz Festival comes to town. And several theatrical shows have music at their hearts. Feel free to supply more musical recommendations in the comments section below.
Hershey Felder as Irving Berlin
November 30-December 30
Portland Center Stage.
Musical biography of the eminent American songwriter. Stay tuned for ArtsWatch’s review.
MODA Center, Portland.
The Chicago avant jazz trio blends acoustic and electronic instrumentation with free jazz and even prog rock influences. Considering the size of the venue, clearly free jazz has hit it big! And — so much for sibling rivalry — how admirable of bass clarinetist Jason Stein to nepotistically give his younger sister, Amy Schumer, a break and ride his coattails as the band’s closing act.
A Liberace and Liza Christmas
CoHo Theater, 2257 NW Raleigh St. Portland.
Longtime Liberace impersonator David Saffert joins Jillian Snow Harris as Liza Minnelli Liberace’s own former music director (and Saffert’s coach) Bo Ayars in this throwback to TV’s holiday variety shows.
The Gothard Sisters
The Old Church Concert Hall, SW Clay Street at 11th Ave. Portland.
The Northwest sibling act sings Celtic-inspired arrangements of Christmas favorites, ancient carols re-imagined, and adds storytelling and step dancing to the show.
Portland Gay Men’s Chorus
Newmark Theatre, Portland.
The big gay chorus’s annual ever popular holiday event returns with seasonal songs from around the world.
Messiaen Mélange de Musique
Community Music Center, Portland.
The former March Music Moderne has moved, for the nonce, to December, to coincide with the Oregon Symphony’s performances of the biggest music of one of its patron saints: Olivier Messiaen’s massive Turangalila symphony. The December 2 concert includes a song cycle setting the composer’s own surrealist poems and more, while December 4’s show features string trios by Messiaen, Debussy, Gorecki and other composers, including MMMpresario and Portland composer Bob Priest.
December 2, St. Peter Catholic Church, 5905 SE 87th Avenue, Portland, and December 3-4, Bethel Congregational United Church of Christ, 5150 SW Watson, Beaverton.
The forward-thinking choir sings music on ecological themes, much of it by contemporary composers, along with seasonal favorites both familiar and not. Admission is free, but as always, all donations go directly to a charitable cause, which this year is the recycling organization ReClaim It.
Annie Get Your Gun
Jaqua Concert Hall, The Shedd Institute, 868 High Street, Eugene.
Ah, the holidays, time for families and friends to get together and celebrate love and friendship and all those other virtues. So what’s the big family friendly musical onstage this season about? Why, guns, of course. Hey, this is America! Actually, when Irving Berlin’s Annie Get Your Gun, loosely based on the real life Wild West Vaudeville show sharpshooters Annie Oakley and Frank Butler, opened 70 years ago, Americans had had plenty of experience with gun violence — that four-year unpleasantness of the history’s worst catastrophe, World War II and its associated horrors. The songs’ military metaphors — “You Can’t Get a Man With a Gun,” “My Defenses Are Down” — reflect the age-old battle of the sexes: the title character’s self-directed brassiness, evident in songs like “Anything You Can Do (I Can Do Better),” must have resonated with the Rosie the Riveters who’d had to take over so much homefront business while the men were fighting abroad. As must have Annie’s ultimate decision to defer to fragile male ego and pretend to be less competent than she really is. Otherwise, next thing you know, we’d have a woman running for President. The ever-popular show, in its original 1946 incarnation minus one irredeemably racist number, sports some of Berlin’s bubbliest songs, like “There’s No Business Like Show Business,” which is what the the story’s really about. Shedd veteran Robert Ashens leads the band, Ron Daum directs, Caitlin Christopher choreographs, and Shirley Andress leads a cast of Shedd regulars.
December 3, Living Savior Lutheran Church, 8740 SW Sagert St. Tualatin, and December 4, Saint Matthew Catholic Church, 447 SE 3rd Ave. Hillsboro.
New artistic director Jason Sabino leads the venerable choir in one of the season’s most fascinating programs, featuring music by contemporary composers Arvo Pärt, Ola Gjeilo, Oregon’s own Morten Lauridsen, and more, plus traditional carols, ancient music by Praetorius, Lassus, and more, and too-seldom heard American seasonal music.
Portland Opera To Go
Portland Opera, December 3
Walters Cultural Arts Center, 527 E. Main Street, Hillsboro.
Opera musicians perform a 50-minute, English language, family-friendly production of Engelbert Humperdinck’s Hansel and Gretel.
December 3 & 4
Lincoln Performance Hall, Portland State University, 1620 SW Park Avenue, Portland.
Portland Piano International brings the award winning Argentine pianist to play Beethoven, Handel, Schumann, Bach, Cnopin, Albeniz, Ravel, and Granados.
Newport Symphony Orchestra, Willamette Master Chorus and Central Coast Chorale
December 3 & 4
Newport Performing Arts Center, 777 W. Olive Street, Newport.
Handel’s Messiah arises at the coast.
Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall, 1037 SW Broadway, Portland.
One of the 20th century’s biggest orchestral statements, Olivier Messiaen’s 1948 extravagant Turangalila symphony, features colorful percussion, the strange electric instrument ondes martenot, and a wild emotional ride. The symphony also plays music by another megalo-musician, Richard Wagner. Stay tuned for a longer feature preview.
Oregon Repertory Singers
December 4, 9, 11
First United Methodist Church, 1838 SW Jefferson St. Portland.
Maybe it’s no surprise that ORS is performing some of the same contemporary composers — Lauridsen, Gjeilo — as the Oregon Chorale, since the latter’s director is a protege of the former’s, Ethan Sperry. Along with other seasonal choral classics from Handel and others, as usual, this spectacular show features various school choirs, veteran organist Jonas Nordwall, audience singalong, pianist/arranger Naomi LaViolette, and copious holiday spirit.
Eugene Concert Choir
Silva Concert Hall, Hult Center, Eugene.
Renaissance-robed singers from Eugene Vocal Arts and a brass ensemble join the big choir in Renaissance carols and motets, a medley of carols from around the globe, and contemporary works like Daniel Pinkham’s popular Christmas Cantata, choral rock star Eric Whiatcre’s Light and Gold, and some merry mayoral musicology.
The Old Church, 1422 SW 11th Avenue, Portland.
PDX Jazz brings yet another of jazz’s rising stars to Oregon. The enchanting Chilean guitarist and singer, whose new album Traces is one of the breeziest I’ve heard all year, is equally adept on electric and acoustic instruments, and manages to find emotional depth beneath her music’s apparent lightness.
Chamber Music Amici
Wildish Community Theater, Springfield.
The ensemble made up of present and former University of Oregon music faculty members perform an excellent and unusual program of baroque music by JS Bach, his youngest son Johann Christian Bach, Handel, Biber, Loeillet and de la Guerre.
Lincoln Performance Hall, Portland State University 1620 SW Park Ave, Portland.
Friends of Chamber Music brings back probably the world’s greatest active string quartet for an all-Beethoven program (Monday) and a terrific Tuesday show featuring a late Haydn quartet, Bartok’s brilliant, ultra-intense second quartet, and Dvorak’s Op. 97 quintet (with bonus violist Erika Eckert). If you love the composer’s ever-popular, irresistibly tuneful “American” Quartet but have maybe heard it too often, try this lively quintet composed immediately in its wake, also written in and influenced by America.
Music from A Civil War Christmas
Artists’ Repertory Theatre, Portland.
Portland actor/singer Susannah Mars hosts music and storytelling from musicians Darrell Grant, Brian Adrian Koch, Holcombe Waller, Andrew Bray, Mark & LaRhonda Steele, Okaidja Afroso, James Beaton and others who contributed new music to ART’s current production of Paula Vogel’s play. As A.L. Adams noted in her ArtsWatch review, “With the approval of playwright Paula Vogel, they’ve made fresh musical arrangements of the various carols, spirituals, battle hymns and folk ballads that accompany the show. Music director Andrew Bray asked eight well-established Portland-based musicians to interpret the show’s 24-odd songs and refrains (originally selected by Daryl Waters) in their own various styles, then set them on instruments and assigned parts to actors, revising as necessary until all music could be generated right onstage.”