Bi-Weekly MusicWatch: Solstice sounds

Traditional classical concerts bring the musical curtain down on 2016 Oregon music

As this miserable year mercifully winds down, so do the number of performances, so we’re listing some highlights for the next two weeks this time, and Weekly MusicWatch will live up to its name again in the new year. The crummy old one can’t end without one more piece of bad news:  the essential Oregon music club Jimmy Mak’s is closing, along with 2016. Its sold out final show is one event you can’t attend unless you already have tickets, but a few other final performances remain at one of the most sympathetic music venues Oregon has ever seen. ArtsWatch wishes ailing owner Jimmy Makarounis well. We’ll continue covering Oregon’s jazz scene in 2017, including February’s PDX Jazz Festival, which has rescheduled most of the Jimmy Mak’s events for other venues.

As usual, there’s no way we can come close to spotlighting all the attractive Oregon music happening as 2016 slouches to a close, so please use the comments section below to let ArtsWatch readers know about other remaining 2016 events worthy of your attention and consideration.

Because of the holiday, ArtsWatch will be posting stories about Oregon music and more over the next couple weeks on a reduced schedule. We’ll leave you with writer Neil Gaiman’s New Year’s Eve message delivered in Boston some years back:

May your coming year be filled with magic and dreams and good madness. I hope you read some fine books and kiss someone who thinks you’re wonderful, and don’t forget to make some art – write or draw or build or sing or live as only you can. May your coming year be a wonderful thing in which you dream both dangerously and outrageously.

I hope you will make something that didn’t exist before you made it, that you will be loved and you will be liked and you will have people to love and to like in return. And most importantly, because I think there should be more kindness and more wisdom in the world right now – I hope that you will, when you need to, be wise and that you will always be kind. And I hope that somewhere in the next year you surprise yourself.

Michael Allen Harrison leads his annual series of Christmas concerts at Portland’s Old Church.

Michael Allen Harrison – Christmas at The Old Church
December 21-26
The Old Church, Portland.
The Portland pianist, composer, and philanthropist presents the 25th anniversary performance of one of the season’s most popular musical events for charitable causes, featuring long time cohort singer Julianne Johnson and other musical guest artists.

Bachxing Day
December 26
Classical Revolution PDX, Opera on Tap, Curious Comedy Theater, 5225 NE MLK Jr. Blvd, Portland.
“What cannabis is today in Portland, coffee was in 1727 Leipzig, when J.S. Bach wrote his Coffee Cantata.” Read the rest of my Willamette Week preview of CRPDX’s annual tribute to JS Bach — this time, extra caffeinated!

David Hattner conducts Portland Youth Philharmonic’s Concert at Christmas at Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall. Photo: Pete Stone.

Portland Youth Philharmonic
December 26
Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall, Portland.
The holiday concert tradition for more than half a century features the award winning youth orchestra’s entire 300-musician roster, including its Philharmonic Orchestra, Portland Youth Wind Ensemble, Portland Youth Conservatory Orchestra, Young String Ensemble, plus an Alumni Orchestra, and featuring music by John Williams, Richard Rodgers, Aram Khachaturian and more.

Hershey Felder as Irving Berlin
December 15-30
Portland Center Stage, 128 NW Eleventh Ave. Portland.
Read Bob Hicks’s ArtsWatch’s review of this musical biography of the prototypical American songwriter, and David Schiff’s essay on his music.

The Oregon Symphony’s Ode to Joy concert. Photo: Joe Cantrell.

 Ode to Joy
December 30-31
Oregon Symphony, Portland Symphonic Choir, Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall, Portland.
Along with the annual Beethoven’s Ninth and balloons, the city’s biggest classical new year’s eve party boasts a much-deserved tribute to its longtime pops conductor, Norman Leyden, who died in 2014 after a lifetime of composing, arranging and leading performances of the pop music of his era for orchestra. The first half of the New Year’s concert features some of his hundreds of big band arrangements for orchestra.

Oregon Renaissance Band
December 30-31
Community Music Center, 3350 SE Francis St., Portland.
You might expect a concert of the music of the Renaissance and before to be a scholarly, solemn museum event. In fact, Phil and Gayle Neuman’s annual holiday show is a relaxed informal celebration of both music whose unusual textures and prominent, danceable melodies can appeal to fans of today’s pop and folk more than more complex classical music that followed it, and of the DIY ethos that produced the homemade replicas of ancient instruments ORB members play so adeptly.

DJ Anjali keeps the beats cooking New Year’s Eve. Photo: Kenton Waltz.

DJ Anjali & The Incredible Kid 16th Anniversary New Year’s Eve Dance Party Extravaganza
December 31
Melody Ballroom, 615 SE Alder St, Portland.
Portland’s premier dance party (on New Year’s or any other eve) not only features the veteran DJs’ standard Bollywood ’n Bhangra mix, but also a quartet of guest DJs, live percussionist (dhol boy), a 10-piece live cumbia band (Orquestra Pacifico Tropical), and a wide variety of danceable global rhythms ranging from South Asia to South America and points in between.

Florestan Trio 
December 31
The Old Church, 1422 SW 11th Ave. Portland.
Portland’s smaller scale classical New Year’s Eve celebration includes an optional pre concert dinner, the city’s most esteemed chamber music ensemble (pianist Janet Guggenheim, violinist Carol Sindell, and cellist Hamilton Cheifetz) playing music by Mendelssohn, Ravel, Massenet and more, Baritone Kevin Walsh and pianist John Strege performing American songbook standards, and a champagne and dessert reception.

Mahmoud Ahmed
December 31
Yale Union, 800 SE 10th Ave. Portland.
The legendary Ethiopian Afro-pop singer returns returns to the big laundry turned gallery and performance space. It’s one of the global music events of the season; I just hope the amplification is a little mellower than last time.

Hershey Felder as Irving Berlin, Portland Center Stage. Photo: Eighty Eight Entertainment

The Great American Songbook Singalong
December 31
Portland Center Stage, 128 NW Eleventh Ave. Portland.
Hershey Felder, currently starring in his one-man show about Irving Berlin at PCS, leads a singalong of classics by Berlin, Jerome Kern, George and Ira Gershwin, Rodgers and Hammerstein, Lerner and Loewe, Sondheim and other masters of the American musical.

Eugene Opera
December 31
Silva Hall, Hult Center, Eugene.
Opera companies are often rightly accused of programming only Opera’s Greatest Hits. Well, Eugene Opera’s New Year’s bash crams three into a single evening. The show opens with Act I of Verdi’s Aida, this time sans elephants but with full orchestra, chorus, and Metropolitan Opera artists Deborah Meyer and Emily Pulley and Eugene native David Gustavson. It closes with Act II of Richard Strauss’s The Bat (Die Fledermaus), providing needed alcoholic comic relief to follow the middle segment, the doleful Act III of Poulenc’s 20th century opera Dialogues of the Carmelites, which concludes with serial beheadings for those who oppose the corrupt state — perhaps a figurative foreshadowing of the next four years in America, followed by a separately ticketed party, at which you can eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow….

Eugene Opera’s New Year’s show is a three-act affair that concludes with a batty champagne ball.

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