ArtsWatch Weekly: barking mad

Biting into September's shows, Brett Campbell's music picks, Miss Ethnic Non-Specific, West African drumming & dance, more

Here we are in the Dog Days of Summer, and we pretty much know what the phrase means: that hot and often muggy stretch of August that seems to last forever, when the sun saps energy and the whole world seems to lag. But where did the saying come from?

Maybe from the rising of the dog star, Sirius – a period, as Wikipedia describes it, that “Greek and Roman astrology connected with heat, drought, sudden thunderstorms, lethargy, fever, mad dogs, and bad luck.” Not to mention this week’s Dog Days interloper, the lunar blotting-out of the sun. The story ambles down from Zeus to Achilles, Hector, Seneca, and Pliny, on into the medical lore of the early modern age and even the Age of Reason: The Clavis Calendria of 1813 declares that in the Dog Days “the Sea boiled, the Wine turned sour, Dogs grew mad, Quinto raged with anger, and all other creatures became languid; causing to man, among other diseases, burning fevers, hysterics, and phrensies.”

It’s their time: “Pierrepont Edward Lacy and His Dog, Gun,” attributed to Milton W. Hopkins, 1835-36, oil on canvas, Memorial Art Gallery of the University of Rochester, Rochester, New York

All of which, frankly, has us looking forward to September, which in the cultural world (maybe as a carryover from the traditional school calendar) is the true time of fresh beginnings. Theater seasons begin to kick in. The dance calendar gets busy. The Oregon Symphony gets ready to swing into action again. TBA, the Portland Institute for Contemporary Art’s annual Time-Based Art festival, overtakes the city Sept. 7-17.

Time to sharpen your calendar pencil and start scratching in a few entries: Just a few of September’s many possibilities:

  • Spinning Into Butter. Rebecca Gilman’s play about race relations and the culture wars on college campuses opens Bag&Baggage’s season in its new home, The Vault, in downtown Hillsboro. Sept. 7-24.
  • Hand to God. Robert Askins’ multiple Tony-nominated dark comedy about the Christian Puppet Ministry and a renegade puppet named Tyrone opens Triangle Productions’ season. Sept. 7-30.
  • George Takei with the Oregon Symphony. The Star Trek veteran, internet sensation, Broadway storyteller, and civil rights activist joins the symphony for the season’s official opening concert as emcee and narrator of Aaron Copland’s Lincoln Portrait. Sept. 16.
  • An Octoroon. Branden Jacobs-Jenkins’ 2014 Obie winner, a caustic comedy about race and theater, kicks off the new Artists Rep season. Sept. 3-Oct. 1.
  • Fun Home. The best-musical Tony winner from 2015, based on Allison Bechdel’s autobiographical graphic novel about a lesbian girl growing up in a funeral parlor, opens Portland Center Stage’s season. Sept. 16-Oct. 22.
  • Renee Fleming with the Eugene Symphony. The great diva joins the Eugene orchestra for an evening of songs ranging from Saint-Saëns and Fauré to Boito and Dvorák, including Samuel Barber’s Knoxville Summer of 1915. Sept. 19.
  • Portland Columbia Symphony’s Citizen Soldier. Music in remembrance of Word Wars 1 and 2, by Copland, Holst, Beethoven, Vaughan Williams, and John Williams. Sept. 22, 24.






Miss Ethnic Non-Specific. Kristina Haddad takes over the Shaking the Tree space for the next step in her seriocomic show about “an actress trying to fit in,” following “her search for belonging, not only in Hollywood but also the world.” The show developed a following at this year’s Fertile Ground festival of new works. Friday through Sept. 3.

Tradition Days: West African Drumming and Dance. Portland Revels collaborates with Kukatanon instructors and others in an afternoon and evening of drumming, dancing, harmonizing, dining, and drinking. Sunday, Aug. 27, Lake Oswego.




Idina Menzel

The Tony winning singer, the voice of Elsa in Frozen, has crossed over from stage to screen to pop chart success. She’s touring with a best-selling new album in tow. Wednesday, Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall.


Lost Bayou Ramblers 

The Lafayette-born band started off as a traditional Cajun outfit in 1999, but has expanded its sonic palette to include Creole, zydeco, even electronic and other contemporary influences. Since its appearance in Beasts of the Southern Wild, the Grammy-nominated band has even worked with symphony orchestras and toured with Arcade Fire, with whom the band shares a producer. Friday, Mississippi Studios.


Los Tigres del Norte

Masters of norteño music, the multiple Grammy winners have sold more than 37 million albums over their four-decade career, and still put on a ferocious live show. Their new songs, too, stay current, including protests against gun violence, tolerance for people of all sexual and gender orientations, and more. Friday, Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall.


Cantores in Ecclesia will perform at the William Byrd Festival.

William Byrd Festival 20th Anniversary Concert

The 20th annual Renaissance music festival closes with the excellent Cantores in Ecclesia, directed by English conductor Mark Williams, singing some of the greatest English sacred music, written by the festival’s namesake. Cantores also performs Byrd’s Mass for Five Voices at a Saturday Mass at Holy Rosary Church, and see the festival website for info on public lectures Saturday and Sunday. Sunday, St. Philp Neri Church.


Photo: Obo Addy Legacy Project

The Legacy of Obo Addy and His Impact in the Pacific Northwest

Through his four decades of performances, teaching at Lewis & Clark College, and Homowo cultural arts organization (now called the Obo Addy Legacy Project), the Ghanaian drum master, composer and bandleader, who died in 2012, left a lasting global music legacy throughout the Northwest, introducing an estimated one million people to the joys and intricate rhythmic interweaving of West African percussion music. He’s a worthy subject of the Oregon Historical Society’s free History Pub series, which also features a performance by one of Addy’s bands, Okropong,  now led by his son and successor as teacher and musician, Alex. Monday, McMenamins Kennedy School, 5736 NE 33rd Ave.




ArtsWatch links


Chamber Music Northwest: Defying limits. The welcome multiplicity of women composers in this year’s concerts, Matthew Andrews writes, busted the tokenism of the Smurfette Principle: “None of the composers … had to be The Woman Composer.”

Chamber Music Northwest: Back to Bach. The festival’s finale, Andrews writes, fittingly and flavorfully celebrated the “good and perfect gift” of the Brandenburg Concertos – all six of them.

Unlearning with De-Canon. Hannah Krafcik interviews Neil Aitken and Dao Strom about their De-Canon project, an attempt to reconstruct and expand ideas about what our core literary works should be.

Montavilla Jazz Festival: Turning crisis into community. Trumpeter and composer Douglas Detrick, executive director of the Portland Jazz Composers Ensemble, looks at the ways this lively annual festival interweaves with its neighborhood, the larger jazz scene, and issues of affordability.

Music notes. Brett Campbell gathers a summer’s worth of news and observations about Oregon’s music scene, from the PSU Choir’s international triumphs to a turnover at All Classical Radio and more.



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