ArtsWatch Weekly: Play it, Sam

On the 88th day the pianos will play, all over town. Plus: The Japanese Garden reopens, Brett Campbell's music tips, new theater & dance

Wednesday, in case you haven’t been counting, will be the 88th day of 2017.

A piano, as you probably know, has 88 keys.

And that seems like an excellent excuse to throw a big piano party, which is exactly what Portland Piano International is doing with its minimalistically named Piano Day. Portland’s Piano Day, PPI declares, is the first in the United States. The celebration first struck a chord in Germany two years ago when pianist Nils Frahm proclaimed March 29 as Piano Day, and it’s crescendoed rapidly to Japan, Slovenia, Australia, the Netherlands, Israel, Canada, France, and elsewhere.

Dooley Wilson at the keyboard, playing “As Time Goes By” in the 1942 Warner Bros. movie “Casablanca.”

So what’s happening? Piano playing. Lots of it, by lots of pianists (no, not Francis Scott Key or Alicia Keys), in lots of styles, from noon to 10 p.m. in four locations: Portland City Hall downtown, All Classical Portland radio headquarters in the Portland Opera building at the east end of the Tilikum Crossing bridge, Alberta Abbey in Northeast Portland, and TriMet’s Oregon Zoo MAX Station. Listening’s free, but the pianists are also taking donations for PPI and educational programs, and a little payback is a good thing. Play it, Sam.





Hosokawa Morihiro’s works in clay, opening at the Portland Japanese Garden. Photo: Yashihiro Saito

Opening of the Portland Japanese Garden’s Cultural Village. After 18 months of work the refurbished garden, with new buildings designed by architect Kengo Kuma, new garden spaces, and a new cafe, opens for members on Saturday to taiko drumming, koto music, tea presentations and more. On Sunday it opens to everyone, with the signature exhibition through May 21 Hosokawa Morihiro: The Art of Life, a Rebirth in Clay, featuring ceramics by the onetime Japanese prime minister, and opening-day attractions including, at 3 p.m., a performance by the Sahomi Tachibana Dancers.

Brown Paper Bag: Safe. Triangle Productions’ fascinating Brown Paper Bag series of anti-lynching plays has featured scripts written for the most part by African American women between 1916 and 1936. The final reading is of Safe, Georgia Douglas Johnson’s 1929 short play about a pregnant woman who spirals into a panic after an innocent black child is lynched in her town. Jocelyn Seid directs. 7 p.m. Wednesday, The Sanctuary @ Sandy Plaza.

Duality: Dance Ballet of India. Rasika’s Jayanthi Raman brings a team of international dancers and musicians to perform a dance theater tale of a young woman who moves from South India to Portland and finds herself in the midst of two cultures. 4 p.m. Saturday, Newmark Theatre.

The Gospel of Lovingkindness. PassinArt, the company that produced a slam-bang performance of Langston Hughes’s Black Nativity in December, continues Marcus Gardley’s contemporary play inspired by a high-profile shooting of a 15-year-old in Chicago in 2013. Through April 9, and running in tandem with artist James Pate’s exhibit Kin Killin’ Kin, which closes Sunday. Both at Interstate Firehouse Cultural Center.

Jaffa Gate and Noisemaker. Northwest Theatre Workshop continues its paired billing of two new plays, Wayne Harrel’s Jaffa Gate, a Scheherazade-style tale set in Palestine in 1900, and Ciji Guerin’s Noisemaker, a tale of “bubbles, booze, lounge chairs, lawn signs, weed, cacti, and ghosts” in the desert. Through April 8 at Shaking the Tree.

Tomàs and the Library Lady. Oregon Children’s Theatre’s multimedia and bilingual stage version of Tomàs Rivera’s tale about the budding friendship between a librarian and the young son of migrant workers opens Saturday in the Winningstad Theatre. It’s a sweet and inspiring tale about the exhilaration of imagination. Through April 29.

Marcelino Hernandez and Kate Mura in “Tomàs and the Library Lady.” Photo: Owen Carey





For once, some tickets remain for the nonpareil San Francisco-based choir’s annual Friends of Chamber Music appearance in Portland. This one features love songs from across the centuries by Renaissance masters Palestrina, Clemens non Papa and Francisco Guerrero; American composers Eric Whitacre, Stephen Foster, and Noël Coward; ooo-la-la settings of French love poetry by Phillipe de Monte and Anthoine de Bertrand, a Chanticleer commission, and more. Wednesday, Kaul Auditorium, Reed College. 

Chanticleer performing at St. Mary’s Cathedral in Portland in the Friends of Chamber Music series, December 2015. Photo: John Green


“Classical Crossroads”

A collaboratively curated concert from 45th Parallel, conceived in an ArtsWatch review and the intemperate responses to it, features contemporary music by Oregon composers Tristan Bliss (the writer of the review), Thomas de Nicola, Paul Safar, and Nicholas Yandell, as well as 20th century American music by Chen Yi, Charles Ives, John Zorn, and Guns ’n Roses. Stay tuned for ArtsWatch’s preview. Wednesday, Artists Repertory Theatre.


Gould Piano Trio

The esteemed threesome plays music for clarinet, violin and piano by Bartok, Beethoven and Brahms. Thursday, Grace Memorial Episcopal Church, Portland, and Friday, First Presbyterian Church, Corvallis.


Rajesh and Ronu Mazumdar

This exceptional Kalakendra concert presents an unusual duo of virtuosos: star flutist and mandolin master from India performing classical Indian music, accompanied by percussionists from both South and North Indian traditions, SV Ramani on mridangam and Harshad Kanetkar on tabla. Friday, First Baptist Church.


Into the forest: Pianist and composer Darrell Grant.

Darrell Grant

On Saturday afternoon, the great Portland jazz pianist and composer brings together various artists to perform, celebrate, and advocate for continued public ownership of Oregon’s Elliot State Forest near Coos Bay on the southern Oregon coast and for new solutions to public school funding. Saturday, Elliott State Forest; map and details here.


Llŷr Williams

The acclaimed Welsh pianist plays Schubert and Schumann classics on Saturday, and Beethoven, Chopin and Rachmaninov Sunday. Saturday-Sunday, Lincoln Performance Hall, Portland State University.


Gil Shaham & Oregon Symphony 

You like waltzes? One of the most renowned of today’s classical violinists deploys his heavyweight talents on extremely lightweight Viennese bon bons by a slew of Strausses (including Richard), Suppe, and more, plus Korngold’s Violin Concerto. Sunday, Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall.


Cappella Romana

If you haven’t had enough secular Russian chatter in the news lately, here’s a program of sacred Russian chant and choral music from medieval to modern times by Rimsky-Korsakov, Kastalsky, Chesnokov, Tchaikovsky, Glinka, and more. Sunday, Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Cathedral.


Black Violin

Classically trained violist Wil Baptiste and Florida high school classmate and violinist Kevin “Kev Marcus” Sylvester are busting the barriers between hip hop and classical, old and young, and black and white by blending Bach with beats, and covering pop musicians from Kanye West to Wiz Khalifa, adding drums, DJ, singers, and rappers on their “classical” instruments. The combo has drawn thousands of fans around the country, as well as famous collaborators like Alicia Keys and Aerosmith. Monday, Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall.


Tallis Scholars

Cappella Romana’s value transcends its excellent performances, as the organization has become an important presenter of choral music by touring groups. Along with the Byrd Ensemble and Northwest Boychoir, this spring’s lineup features one of the finest of all choral ensembles, Britain’s Tallis Scholars. The name belies the group’s emotional commitment to its music, which originally focused mainly on Tudor and other Renaissance works. While this performance features some of that (including Palestrina, Sheppard, Orlando Gibbons, and Praetorius), it also brings radiant choral music from across the 20th century, from Stravinsky and Holst to Arvo Pärt and John Tavener. Tuesday, April 4, St. Mary’s Cathedral.


Pavel Haas Quartet

In this Friends of Chamber Music concert, the award-winning quartet plays a Czech program (Smetana, Dvorak, Martinu) on Monday, and quartets by Schubert, Shostakovich and Webern on Tuesday. Monday-Tuesday, April 3-4, Lincoln Performance Hall, Portland State University.



ArtsWatch links


“Playhouse Creatures” at CoHo: drama onstage and off. Photo: Owen Carey

Playhouse Creatures: relevant as ever. CoHo’s gripping production of April DeAngelis’ play about actresses fighting the odds and the men on the Restoration theater stage ripples with contemporary impact, A.L. Adams writes.

Trio con Brio Copenhagen’s deeply felt music. “When Antonin Dvorak began his Op. 65 Trio early in 1883, the memory of his mother’s death six weeks earlier was still fresh and painful,” Terry Ross writes of the high point in this Friends of Chamber Music concert. “He responded with his most emotional music to date,” and the Danish trio was “all over it, raising their six hands in triumph at the rousing finish.”

Men, bottled up and burning. Martha Ullman West reviews skinner/kirk DANCE ENSEMBLE’s Burn It Backwards, danced by an all-male ensemble to live accompaniment from a combo performing songs by Elliott Smith. The program continues through Saturday at BodyVox Dance Center.

Oregon Chorale’s dramatic cohesion. The Chorale’s performance of Gorecki’s Miserere and several other works, Bruce Browne writes, “wove an array of dark and emotional music into one work of art – a patchwork in which a variety of finishes, colors and textures offered came together as a ‘Response to Strife.’”

Lydia: conflicted, and sensational. Octavio Solis’s play about a young woman immobilized by an accident who nevertheless retains a dynamic and even lusty inner life soars in Milagro’s production, A.L. Adams writes.

Lydia (Marian Mendez) soothes Ceci (Maya Malán-González), a brain-injured and movement-impaired character played masterfully at Milagro Theatre. Photo © Russell J Young



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