Friday, June 24, 2016

Today's Birthdays

Harry Partch (1901-1974)
Pierre Fournier (1906-1986)
Milton Katims (1909-2006)
Denis Dowling (1910-1984)
Terry Riley (1935)

and

Ambrose Bierce (1842-1914)
John Ciardi (1916 - 1986)
Anita Desai (1937)
Stephen Dunn (1939)

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Six Northwest composers chosen for November festival in Cuba

From the press release:

The Cascadia chapter of the National Association of Composers/USA (NACUSA) is thrilled to announce a first-of-its-kind exchange between six Northwest-based composers and a select number of their Cuban composer colleagues. Currently there are 76 Cascadia Composer members, making it the largest NACUSA chapter. Six composers from this chapter were recently selected to attend the 29th Annual Festival de La Habana, de Música Contemporánea in Cuba this November. At the invitation of festival director Guido López-Gavilán, this year’s festival will include a special concert on the fifth night of the Festival featuring the Cascadia Composer members' works.
 
The delegation will enjoy a six-day tour of Cuba; the highlight comes on November 17, 2016 when the NW composers take centerstage and their pieces are performed by some of Cuba’s most respected musicians inside the converted Basilica Menor de San Francisco de Asis (built in 1591). It has been almost six decades since American and Cuban composers and musicians have been able to participate in an exchange like this. This international arts exchange is organized with assistance from the LA-based organization Project Por Amor.
 
The six Northwest-based composers and a description of their selected compositions are listed below:
 
David Bernstein of Portland, OR, presents Late Autumn Moods and Images at the 2016 Cuban Festival. This piano trio reflects the variations seen during this season of transition. Exuberant, introspective, intense and even pleasantly relaxed, this piece contains moments of pure happiness and profound sadness. 
 
Daniel Brugh teaches piano and music composition in Beaverton OR. He has two pieces being presented in the Cuban festival: Fantasia is for the clarinet and tape, Reticulum is for a tenor voice and string Quartet.
 
Ted Clifford of Portland, OR presents his piece Child’s Play for two pianos in Cuba. Inspired by the idea of musical games engaged by dueling pianos, this involves a series of semi-programmatic pieces. There are three movements and accompanying texts about various children’s games which are turned into melodies. The playful nature is further emphasized by the use of bean bags on the piano strings and a toy melodica.

Art Resnick of Portland, OR received the 2015 composer of the year award for the Oregon Music Teachers Association and is a jazz pianist/composer by profession. He also composes modern classical pieces and recently completed Images of a Trip that will be presented to Cuban audiences at the festival. Images of a Trip is presented in five movements as a piano trio that includes the violin and cello. Each movement musically describes a scene from the trip: the departure is called, The Storm followed by Hiking the TrailWaltz (dancing around the evening fire), the peaceful Lake and finally, The Return.

Paul Safar of Eugene, OR composed A Trio of Dances for the piano, violin and cello. It was written during a humorous and humbling period in Paul’s life. An impromptu birthday basketball game, in flip-flops, left the composer with a broken foot and an infectious riff that later became the first movement.  His second piece, Cat on a Wire is for a solo cello and hand drum (a dumbek). It was originally performed with an aerial artist at the Oregon County Fair’s “Cat and Bird” show.
Jennifer Wright of Portland OR has two pieces being presented and they both fall into the wild and adventurous classical category. Looper is composed for one piano, eight hands! Four pianists sit cheek to jowl on two benches at one piano. Looper requires crossed hands keyboard acrobatics and careful timing to avoid getting in each other’s way or knocking each other off the bench. X Chromosome is generally played on five toy pianos but other instruments may be used for the Cuban performance. With X Chromosome Jennifer plays up her role as the only female composer in the delegation. She was intrigued by the “X” and its suggestions of intersection and the synchronicity of chance meetings.
 
In addition to the pieces presented in Cuba on November 17, 2016 as part of the Festival de La Habana, Cascadia Composers will also produce three Portland, OR area concerts. Early in 2017, Cascadia Composers will announce the names of the Cuban composers participating in the NW leg of the exchange. These Cuban composers will attend the two May concerts (details below). An October 2016 concert is also planned in Portland so American audiences not travelling to Cuba can get a sneak peek at the pieces being performed at the Festival de La Habana, de Música Contemporánea the following month.
 
To Cuba With Love, Por Amor: Sat. Oct. 15, 2016; 7:30 Portland State Univ., Lincoln Hall 75 This concert previews the Cascadia composers’ works performed by the Cuban musicians at the Festival de La Habana in November, 2016. General Admission Tickets are $20 and will be available for purchase in August through brownpapertickets.com or at www.cascadiacomposers.org
 
Viva Cuba and the US!:  Fri.  May 19, 2017; 7:30 Portland, OR location TBD
The contemporary ensemble “Fear No Music” performs pieces by the eight visiting Cuban composers. They will attend that performance and a reception will follow. General Admission Tickets are $20 and will be available in 2017 at www.cascadiacomposers.org

From Cascadia With Love, Por Amor: Sat. May 20, 2017; 7:30 Portland OR location TBD
This concert is for the Cuban composer delegation and showcases compositions by Cascadia members, other than those previously heard at the festival in November of 2016. General Admission Tickets are $20 and will be available in 2017 at www.cascadiacomposers.org
 
In addition to the six Cascadia composers attending the November festival in Cuba; there is space for approximately 20 arts patrons and Cascadia composer supporters on the journey. Travel dates for this Patron Tour are Sunday, November 13 through Saturday November 19, 2016. Details and costs are available at www.cascadiacomposers.org/the-cuba-initiative or by contacting Sage Lewis at Project Por Amor in Los Angeles, sagelewis@gmail.com.
 
Interviews with the Northwest-based composers and photos are available upon request. Contact Jennifer Rice at the email and phone listed above.
 
About Cascadia Composers
Cascadia Composers is a non-profit membership chapter of NACUSA (National Association of Composers USA) based in Portland, Oregon and dedicated to the promotion and support of regional composers. Since its founding in 2008, Cascadia Composers has grown to be NACUSA’s largest chapter with over 70 members.  It has produced over 50 concerts, bringing to the stage more than 400 works of musical art by local and West Coast members. The group presents five to seven public concerts each year in collaboration with local musicians; included also are educational events and many community outreach programs. Cascadia members work in virtually every musical genre: chamber music, jazz, choral music, musical theater, electronic and electro-acoustic, world and orchestral music. Members include independent professionals, composer/educators and students. Together they foster a rich collaboration with local musicians, members share the benefit of being part of a regional community of composers who share common goals and aspirations.
 
About Festival de La Habana, de Música Contemporánea
Each November the National Union of Writers and Artists of Cuba (UNEAC) and the Cuban Institute of Music present the Festival de La Habana, de Música Contemporánea. Founded in 1984 and under the current direction of maestro Guido López-Gavilán, the festival is dedicated to various formats of contemporary music including chamber, vocal and instrumental. Unique concert settings inside the Historic Center of Havana include: the Minor Basilica of Saint Francis of Assisi, the Ernesto Lecuona salon inside the National Lyric Theater of Cuba, the San Felipe Neri Oratorio, the Ignacio Cervantes room and the theater inside the National Museum of Fine Arts.
 
About Project Por Amor
Project Por Amor (PPA) is an organization which harnesses the power of arts and culture to bring Cubans and Americans together. Through travel dialogue and artistic exchange PPA is committed to building a better future between our two close but distant societies. PPA’s network throughout the island puts them in the unique position to be able to arrange special travel exchanges for US arts organizations and individuals to understand Cuban culture and build meaningful relationships with the people. PPA designs custom delegations for US professionals to visit Cuba and pioneer new partnerships with its leading players. PPA is fully licensed by the US Treasury Office of Foreign Assets Control to legally bring Americans to Cuba on People-to-People exchanges.

Today's Birthdays

Carl Reinecke (1824-1910)
Mieczyslaw Horszowski (1892-1993)
George Russell (1923)
Adam Faith (1940-2003)
James Levine (1943)
Nigel Osborne (1948)
Nicholas Cleobury (1950)
Sylvia McNair (1956)

and

Anna Akhmatova (1889-1966)
Michael Shaara (1928-1988)
David Leavitt (1961)

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Today's Birthdays

Francesco Manfredini (1684-1762)
Étienne Nicolas Méhul (1763-1817)
Frank Heino Damrosch (1859-1937)
Jennie Tourel (1900-1973)
Walter Leigh (1905-1942)
Sir Peter Pears (1910-1986)
Hans-Hubert Schönzeler (1925-1997)
Pierre Thibaud (1929-2004)
Libor Pešek (1933)
Pierre Amoyal (1949)
Christopher Norton (1953)

and



Harriett Mulford Stone Lothrop (1844-1924)
Erich Maria Remarque (1898-1970)
Joseph Papp (1921-1991)

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Metropolitan Youth Symphony to give free Bon Voyage concert this Thursday at Director Park

From the press release:

Metropolitan Youth Symphony (MYS) kicks off its summer tour to China with a free noon concert at Director Park on June 23.  Portland City Commissioner Nick Fish opens the hour-long performance by the MYS Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Interim Music Director William White.  Repertoire will showcase music to be performed in China, and includes White’s Mulligan Overture, Weber’s Turandot Overture and Georges Bizet’s L’Arlésienne.  A highlight of the afternoon will be a performance of the first movement of Tchaikovsky’s infamous Violin Concerto by MYS Concerto Competition Winner, Cammie Lee.  

The Symphony Orchestra will spend 11 days in China, visiting Beijing, Tianjin and Qinhuangdao-Beidaihe.  As part of the American Celebration of Music in China, they will perform at the Central Music Conservatory Concert Hall in Beijing, Tianjin Concert Hall, Beidaihe People’s Cultural Theatre and at Juyong Pass on the Great Wall!  MYS students will participate in master classes led by professors at the Central Music Conservatory and in a collaborative concert and cultural exchange with two Beijing high schools. The days will be filled with music-making and experiencing the rich culture and history of China.  Performance abroad is a long-standing tradition at MYS that gives young people the unique opportunity to be global ambassadors through their music. Trips of the past have included tours to Central Europe, Russia, Japan, China, Scandinavia, and Italy.

Today's Birthdays

Johann Christoph Friedrich Bach (1732-1795)
Harry Newstone (1921-2006)
Lalo Schifrin (1932)
Diego Masson (1935)
Philippe Hersant (1948)
Judith Bingham (1952)
Jennifer Larmore (1958)

and

Alexander Pope (1688-1744)
Reinhold Niebuhr (1892-1972)
Donald Peattie (1898-1964)
Jean-Paul Sartre (1905-1980)
Mary McCarthy (1912-1989)
Ian McEwan (1942)

Monday, June 20, 2016

Palo Alto Chamber Orchestra to perform free concert on Wednesday at PSU

From the press release:

The award-winning youth ensemble Palo Alto Chamber Orchestra performs a program of music for string orchestra on Wednesday evening, June 22, 2016 at 7:30 pm at Portland State University’s Lincoln Recital Hall. Admission is free.

PACO’s Great Northwest Tour, celebrating the 50th anniversary of its founding, features our talented 35-member strings-only chamber orchestra in a wide-ranging program of classical music by Antonio Vivaldi, Franz Schubert, Astor Piazzolla, Peter Heidrich and the world premiere of Anniversary Overture by PACO alum Camden Boyle.

Led by their music director Ben Simon, noted violin soloist and PACO alumna Robin Sharp, the orchestra will will perform the “Spring” movements from Vivaldi’s Four Seasons and Astor Piazzolla’s tango-inflected “Four Seasons of Buenos Aires”. The first movement of Schubert’s dramatic string quartet in D minor (“Death and the Maiden”) will be paired with a set of humorous and virtuosic variations on “Happy Birthday” by Peter Heidrich.

PACO’s 50th Anniversary tour will bring the orchestra to venues from Redding, CA to Vancouver, BC, including the ensemble’s annual appearance on the Oregon Shakespeare Festival’s Elizabethan Stage, co-sponsored by the OSF. This appearance in Portland is the orchestra’s first!

Today's Birthdays

Jacques Offenbach (1819-1880)
Wilfred Pelletier (1896-1982)
Chet Atkins (1924-2001)
Ingrid Haebler (1926)
Eric Dolphy (1928-1964)
Arne Nordheim (1931-2010)
Mickie Most (1938-2003)
Brian Wilson (1942)
Anne Murray (1945)
André Watts (1946)
Lionel Richie (1949)

and

Kurt Schwitters (1887-1948)
Lillian Hellman (1905-1984)
Vikram Seth (1952)

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Today's Birthdays

François Rebel (1701-1775)
Johann Wenzel Stamitz (1717-1757)
Carl Zeller (1842-1898)
Alfredo Catalani (1854-1893)
Sergei Taneyev (1856-1915)
Guy Lombardo (1902-1977)
Edwin Gerschefski (1909-1988)
Anneliese Rothenberger (1926-2010)
Elmar Oliveira (1950)
Philippe Manoury 1952)

and

Blaise Pascal (1623-1662)
Pauline Kael (1919-2001)
Tobias Wolff (1945)
Salman Rushdie (1947)

Saturday, June 18, 2016

OperaBend's world premiere of Via Lactea shows what a small-city opera can do

Emily Pulley
Last weekend OperaBend's truly audacious undertaking Via Lactea came to fruition. A world premiere by Bend author and librettist Ellen Waterston with music by Rebecca Oswald, it told the tale of a middle-aged woman's inward and outward journey as she seeks to reinvigorate her life by walking the ancient Camino de Santiago, (known in English as St. James' Way), a pilgrimage that has existed since the middle ages.

The vocal talent lined up was top notch; soprano Emily Pulley sang the role of the main character Peregrina. Pulley (who, like the librettist actually completed a pilgrimage on the Camino) infused Peregrina with an absolutely convincing and multi-faceted depth. Her singing was marvelous--clear, powerful, always emotionally and musically insightful and with pure diction. In a production with ups and downs in some key facets, Pulley's performance was the one sure thing throughout.

Also spectacular was mezzo Hannah Penn as Omniscient, a strange, phantasmic character who reveals insights and serves as a sort of guide to Peregrina. Penn's singing was as fine as I've ever heard it, which is saying something. Soprano Jocelyn Claire Thomas as Peggy was also noteworthy; she has a fine, bright soprano and lent the right verve and spunkiness to a character that could have been annoying and trite in the wrong hands.

Oswald's score was ambitious and by-and-large very engaging; unpretentious and true to the task. Oswald has some real skill as a composer. The first act was largely through-sung, featuring small, repetitive phrases that were sometimes slightly reminiscent of Phillip Glass.  In the hands of the fine principals the score came alive and revealed its imaginative nature. The text underlay was part of the fascination: not always predictable, and featuring humorous and original syncopations.  The choruses were the weakest part of the musical writing. Mostly present in the second half, they were often (though not always) block chord recitations that lost the lyrical charm of the writing for single voices.  The problem with the choruses lay not entirely with the composer, but more on that later.

The libretto and story were definitely a mixed bag. I found myself engrossed in Peregrina's story immediately. She was a very sympathetic character: a woman at a crossroads in her life, searching for something to give it meaning again. We find out much later that her husband has died, though it is clear from her soul searching that this is not the reason, nor maybe even the larger part of the reason that she is on a quest to rediscover herself in some fashion.

The libretto had some fine moments: "I have phoenixed before, and now again," says Peregrina as she prepares for her journey.  "How far must I go to come home?" she asks herself at another point. When she leaves on the journey and encounters her fellow pilgrims, there is a fascinating chorus where the pilgrims pace the stage in complex patterns, each revealing why they have come on the journey. Lest it take itself too seriously, the scene wherein the pilgrims bed down for the evening contains a moment where the lusty German tourist pre-apologizes to his compatriots because he tends to "snore and fart" when he sleeps. One of the finest moments of the production was Penn as the Stork, a symbol of good fortune along the Camino. She managed to be precise, avian, singing about hunting green frogs. Her modal singing was powerful and pure right down into a striking contralto range, and the presence of three dancers added to the pastoral yet somehow spooky scene.

Camino Woman, another fantastic character, who represents women inasmuch as they have been ignored, mistreated and otherwise abused by male-dominated religions over the millennia, was sung by Jeanne Wentworth. She and Peregrina provided a much-needed tongue-in-cheek moment when, upon first meeting and Peregrina begins waxing poetic about Camino Woman being the 'sacred feminine, ' the pure representation of the virgin Mary, etc, Camino Woman says 'let's not go too far' and they share a laugh.

And it was unfortunate that the story didn't take its own advice, because in the second half the story itself--Peregrina's voyage--largely became lost in a series of confusing choruses that were often symbolic or metaphoric moments that lay without the actual happenings of the journey along the Camino, intermixed with events such as Peregrina fighting off wild dogs, sharing a kiss with a fellow wanderer, and confronting the corrupt (though hilarious) priest at the Santiago de Compostela cathedral.

The choruses featured groups of singers in various guises quite often standing stock-still in groups declaiming at the audience, like too much voice-over narrative in a movie. There were a few (maybe a few too many) dancing numbers, which the orchestra sometimes struggled with and no one on stage really seemed to believe in. Many of the choruses felt as musically uninspiring as the narrative technique, though one chorus, 'Cold Mountain,' did stand out as a particularly fine one. It felt as though Peregrina's story got lost, degenerating into so much quasi-metaphysical argle-bargle--stock ideas like 'life always gives you what you need,' and 'you are what you hoped to be all along,' and other similar nonsense. Philosophical considerations aside, the second half was confusing and over-long--all the points had been made a half-hour before the music ended, and it felt like the second half was largely about making these spiritual points and less about a woman's journey, which is what fascinated me at the beginning.

So kudos to OperaBend! It was a daring venture and despite some warts, a deserving enterprise and an enjoyable evening. It takes a lot of chutzpah and incredible amounts of talent and hard work to premier an opera anywhere, and in a smaller community like Bend even more so. Having been a part of the Bend art music scene many years ago (including a role as a singing waiter in Juniper Opera's La Vie Parisienne), it was with a certain sense of home-town pride that I watched Via Lactea unfold. It's great to see how far opera in Central Oregon has come in the intervening years, and no doubt OperaBend will take it to exciting places in the future.

Today's Birthdays

Antonio Maria Bononcini (1677-1726)
Ignaz Pleyel (1757-1831)
Sir George Thalben-Ball (1896-1987)
Edward Steuermann (1892-1964)
Manuel Rosenthal (1904-2003)
Paul McCartney (1942)
Hans Vonk (1942-2004)
Anthony Halstead (1945)
Diana Ambache (1948)
Eva Marton (1948)
Peter Donohoe (1953)

and

Geoffrey Hill (1932)
Jean McGarry (1948)
Chris Van Allsburg (1949)
Amy Bloom (1953)
Richard Powers (1957)