MusicWatch Weekly: updating traditions

Holiday happenings and more music on Oregon stages this week

It’s December, and time for the annual Battle of the Messiahs. This year, Portland Baroque Orchestra’s historically informed performances on period instruments seem to have vanquished all Portland pretenders, but fans of anachronistically modern instruments and oversized venues can still find their seasonal bliss in Eugene.

Other holiday choral concerts this year offer refreshingly diverse and modern music for the season, including Choral Arts Ensemble’s mostly 21st century show, Oregon Repertory Singers’ 20th century program, and Portland Chamber Orchestra’s multicultural menu. There’s actually some non-holiday oriented music too, and if you’d like to recommend other Oregon musical events to our readers, please avail yourself of the comments section, infra.

“(Music) for a Time and Space”
Portland-based interdisciplinary artist and composer Ben Glas’s exhibition, which opens Thursday, “explores intently ideas of spatial compositions, alternative modes of hearing and subjective sonic experiences as guided by tonal interactions in space.”
Thursday, Variform Gallery, Everett Station Lofts, Portland.

Korgy & Bass
Drummer/composer Barra Brown (Shook Twins, Ages and Ages, Barra Brown Quintet) and bassist/beatmaker Alex Meltzer’s (Coco Columbia, Two Planets) sample-based beat music definitely draws on jazz, but also takes into the 21st century by incorporating influences from house and other electronica and dance music.
Thursday, Bombs Away, Corvallis; Friday, Hi-Fi Lounge, Eugene; Saturday, Wonder Ballroom, Portland.

Even performed on anachronistic modern instruments by Eugene Symphony and Chorus, Handel’s glorious oratorio is a stirring experience, no matter how many times you’ve heard its famous tunes, including — hallelujah! — That One. There will be a harpsichord, though, manned by music director Francesco Lecce-Chong, who’ll direct the performance.
Thursday, Hult Center, Eugene.

Each holiday season, various Portland groups stage Handel’s stirring Baroque masterpiece, and as always, Portland Baroque Orchestra’s historically informed version, played on authentic instruments and in tunings the composer would recognize, is the truest. Paul Agnew sings tenor and conducts PBO, a quartet of Juilliard-trained vocal soloists, and Portland’s own great choir, Cappella Romana. The first three performances are the full meal deal, and there’s a Monday performance of highlights only.
Friday through Monday, First Baptist Church, Portland.

Cappella Romana joins Portland Baroque Orchestra in Handel’s “Messiah.”

Choral Arts Ensemble
The choir goes beyond the usual recycling of tired holiday perennials to offer a broader, more modern musical appreciation of winter and the myth of the mother of God by by some of the finest late 20th/early 21st century choral composers: John Tavener, Ola Gjeilo, Arvo Pärt, Eric Whitacre, and Stephen Chatman. The splendidly diverse program also includes Mexican and Spanish seasonal carols (including some devoted to the major Latin American holiday, the feast day of Our Lady of Guadalupe) and classic compositions by Baroque boss Antonio Vivaldi and Renaissance master Francisco Guerrero.
Friday-Saturday, St. Andrew Catholic Church, 806 NE Alberta St. Portland.

Portland Chamber Orchestra
Abetted by the excellent Portland Persian/Middle Eastern ensemble Shabava, PCO’s multicultural holiday show includes Kurdish, Spanish-Sephardic, French-Moroccan, Swedish and other music, which they’ve quilted into a single multifarious musical tapestry inspired by the structure of Handel’s Messiah. 
Friday, New Song Church, Portland, and Saturday, St. Anne’s Chapel Marylhurst University.

Northwest Community Gospel Choir sings with the Oregon Symphony.

Gospel Christmas
Oregon Symphony and Northwest Community Gospel Choir’s ever-popular annual show featuring holiday favorites usually sells out, so get your tickets pronto!
Friday-Sunday, Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall, Portland.

Oregon Repertory Singers
For four decades, the big choir’s annual Glory of Christmas concert has offered enough traditional tunes and singalongs to satisfy the purists while also including less frequently heard but no less enjoyable and intriguing modern music. Along with new and old carol arrangements, this year’s edition includes new music by America’s most esteemed living choral composer, Beaverton native Morten Lauridsen and several 20th century masterpieces, by Benjamin Britten’s (the English composer’s beautiful A Ceremony of Carols), Franz Biebl’s perennial Ave Maria, portions of American composer Randall Thompson’s Frostiana: Seven Country Songs, and winter-themed songs by revered Estonian choral composer Veljo Tormis, who died earlier this year.
Friday and Sunday, First United Methodist Church, 1838 SW Jefferson St. Portland.

“Singin’ in the Rain”
Peg Major directs, Robert Ashens conducts and Caitlin Christopher choreographed The Shedd’s original production of Betty Comden and Adolph Green 1985 stage adaptation of their classic film comedy about 1920s silent film stars making the turbulent transition to talkies.
Friday-Dec. 17, The Shedd, Eugene.

Portland State’s acclaimed opera program presents a piano trio operetta version of the classic fairy tale, framed by vintage German and French songs by female composers. Read Angela Allen’s ArtsWatch review. Friday-Dec. 17, PSU Studio Theater, Lincoln Hall, Portland State University.

XXDigitus Duo performs at Season of Lights concert in Portland.

Seasons of Light Holiday Benefit Concert
Guitarist Peter Zisa and guests’ 11th annual show includes jazz singer Shirley Nanette, XX Digitus Duo, Japanese music trio Thousand Waves, Espacio Flamenco, Jewish singer songwriter Ilene Safyan, Thai dancers from Thai Society of Oregon, and more.
Saturday, First Congregational Church, 1126 SW Park Ave. Portland.

Portland Symphonic Choir
Everyone except you Scrooges out there loves the familiar Christmas classics, but it’s also a treat to see Portland choirs refreshing the holiday repertoire with 21st century sounds. The venerable chorus’s annual Wintersong concert this time features a new piece, commissioned by Pacific University and chosen via a nationwide composition competition. The winner, a new arrangement of Maoz Tsur by PSC singer and Israeli-American composer Shlomo Farber, is on the program along with John Rutter’s popular Gloria, folk musician Malcolm Dalglish’s A Star in the East (with hammered dulcimer), and traditional carols.
Saturday & Sunday, Rose City Park United Methodist Church, Portland.

Vancouver Symphony Orchestra
The annual Holiday Pops Concert includes music from Frozen and The Polar Express, as well as Tchaikovsky’s  Nutcracker, Leroy Anderson’s A Christmas Festival, and Sleigh Ride, Viennese waltzes and polkas and traditional tunes.
Saturday and Sunday, Skyview Concert Hall, Vancouver, WA.

“Make We Merry”
Eugene Concert Choir, Eugene Vocal Arts, a cappella pop group Rezonate, Calvin Orlando Smith, South Eugene High School Dorians, Eugene Gleemen, and Women’s Choral Society perform Renaissance music, traditional carols, singalongs, and much more.
Sunday, Silva Concert Hall, Hult Center, Eugene.

Eugene Vocal Arts members don Renaissance garb at Eugene Concert Choir’s “Make We Merry.”

Chamber Music Amici
Guests including UO flute phenom Molly Barth, organist Julia Brown and more join the veteran ensemble in one of JS Bach’s delectable trio sonatas and a violin sonata, plus charming chamber music by three of his most musically accomplished offspring: CPE, Johann Christian and Wilhelm Friedemann Bach.
Monday, Wildish Theater, Springfield.

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