brian tierney

Mock’s Crest Productions review: A “Pinafore” for purists

Gilbert and Sullivan's 'HMS Pinafore' profits from strong staging and leading-role performers.

by BRUCE BROWNE

Rodgers and Hammerstein, Lerner and Loewe, and …. Gilbert and Sullivan? Absolutely, yes! Those two set off 135 years ago on the partnership trail that would lead to 14 successful operettas. (Today we might call them musicals, but they’re not!) And some decades later, their American cousins followed suit with their own partnerships. W. S. Gilbert (words) and Arthur Sullivan (music), though, were the first populist duo to mix the vernacular with the operatic and come out with the model of the modern major musical.

Mock’s Crest production of H.M.S. Pinafore was Gilbert and Sullivan at their most traditional, perhaps close to the way one would have seen it in 1878. Costumes, set and actors all hewed closely to the D’Oyly Carte production. Dialogue and lyrics original. No modern references (a la Pirate of Penzance at Portland Opera last year.) Pinafore purists should be proud.

Mock's Crest's HMS Pinafore. Photo: Larry Larsen

Mock’s Crest’s HMS Pinafore. Photo: Larry Larsen

Give three cheers, and one cheer more, for the orchestra, led by Tracey Edson. It was a great band, and stationed in a great place – upstage, behind the actors. Edson kept a swift pace, as the show clocked in at just a little over two hours. Still time for a cool summer ice cream before bed.

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Scott Tuomi led the combined choirs in "The Promise of Living."

The unseasonably balmy weather outside Northeast Portland’s All Saints Catholic Church last Sunday reflected the warm feelings within as several hundred friends and admirers of singer Brian Tierney gathered to support the 29-year-old tenor, who was critically wounded in a still-unexplained shooting March 28. By the time it ended some three hours later, the event had expanded beyond its announced purpose, though it certainly achieved that, to the tune of nearly $20,000 raised to help defray the family’s medical expenses into a celebration of a popular musician and an expression of this city’s musical community.

Most of the participants had played or sung with Tierney, who shines as one of the brightest of the stellar Portland choral circuit, in high demand in performances demanding a strong, precise tenor presence or solo. He’s sung in the Portland State University choirs, Portland Baroque Orchestra, Cappella Romana, Resonance Ensemble, Oregon Repertory Singers (who were unable to participate because of their own simultaneously scheduled concert), Portland Opera chorus, Cantores in Ecclesia, and more. He’s made a lot of music, and a lot of friends.

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Friends of Brian Tierney raise their voices to help the recuperating singer and family. All photos: Erin Riddle and Parallel Photography.

 

The unseasonably balmy weather outside Northeast Portland’s All Saints Catholic Church last Sunday reflected the warm feelings within as several hundred friends and admirers of singer Brian Tierney gathered to support the 29-year-old tenor, who was critically wounded in a still-unexplained shooting March 28. By the time it ended some three hours later, the event had transcended its announced purpose — though it certainly achieved that, to the tune of nearly $20,000 raised to help defray the family’s medical expenses — into a celebration of a popular musician and an expression of this city’s musical community.

Most of the participants had played or sung with Tierney, who shines as one of the brightest of the stellar Portland choral circuit, in high demand in performances demanding a strong, precise tenor presence or solo. He’s sung in the Portland State University choirs, Portland Baroque Orchestra, Cappella Romana, Resonance Ensemble, Oregon Repertory Singers (who were unable to participate because of their own simultaneously scheduled concert), Portland Opera Chorus, Cantores in Ecclesia, and more. He’s made a lot of music, and a lot of friends.

Brian Tierney

Pianist John Stuber and violinist Mary Rowell opened the proceedings with the familiar meditation from Jules Massenet’s opera Thais, followed by the clear voice of tenor Cahen Taylor in the spiritual “Shall We Gather at the River.” Other performers offered reprises of pieces performed in recent months: Cappella Romana, a section of Rachmaninoff’s All-Night Vigil; 45th Parallel, a movement of Dvorak’s “American” string quartet; The Ensemble, “Mystica” from Benjamin Britten’s Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam (which Tierney had been scheduled to sing a few days after the shooting); and the Julians, two selections from their last concert. Cantores in Ecclesia excelled in a movement from William Byrd’s Mass for Four Voices, Portland Vocal Consort sang Portland-born composer Morten Lauridsen’s “Sure on This Shining Night,” and Resonance Ensemble “I Have Had Singing.”

The groups share so many members that sometimes it was hard to tell them apart. I spotted the members of In Mulieribus, too, singing with the other groups though not as a unit. Soprano Angela Niederloh performed Ralph Vaughan Williams’s “Silent Noon” and Robert Schumann’s “Widmung,” both accompanied by pianist Kira Whiting. The Portland Opera Chorus heralded next month’s production of Leonard Bernstein’s Candide with an exceptionally potent version of “Make Our Garden Grow,” and although they’re not a professional choir like the other performers, the St. Michaels and All Angels Choir, which Tierney helps direct, sounded just as eloquent in Herbert Howells’ “Like as the Hart.”

Elizabeth Bacon, Beth Madsen-Bradford, Margie Boule

Their director, Scott Tuomi, one of Tierney’s voice teachers, delivered a brief, pitch- perfect speech about the stricken singer and the event. “You all know why we are here tonight,” he said. “We’re here to transcend the events that brought us together and celebrate the love, joy and God’s grace in the miracle that Brian is recovering, and will be back to sing with us again. And Brian will sing again, with a voice that was described recently in a sermon as ‘a gift from a particularly generous God.'”

Former Oregonian columnist and local TV newswoman Margie Boule, who emceed the affair with her usual graciousness, established a non-doleful mood from the outset — not about mourning, she declared, but a celebration of survival — and kept things moving despite the inevitable occasional hitches in such a complex, hastily arranged affair. She and two of the event organizers, Julians executive director Elizabeth Bacon (who attended PSU with Tierney and performs with him in PVC and Resonance Ensemble) and Beth Madsen-Bradford (who performed with Tierney with Mock’s Crest Theater), updated the audience about the donations and family needs, and they and others told stories about Tierney that showed what a funny, loving and admired figure he is in Portland’s choral music community. (The third main organizer was another PSU friend, Zakk Hoyt.) Tierney’s wife, Katie, drew smiles and tears when she thanked the gathered friends for all their help.

But it was Brian Tierney himself, though still hospitalized and unable to attend, who had the best line of the night, delivered in a note that his wife read to his assembled colleagues.

“I always knew that my dangerous lifestyle of stay at home dad/ church musician and opera singer would catch up with me someday, “ Tierney wrote. Everyone laughed, releasing the tension (and some tears) that had built up over the past few weeks. His next line further lightened the mood. “I am feeling more ‘saint-like,’” you know, ’cause I’m hole-y.” Groans ensued; Katie continued.

When I heard what you all were going to be singing tonight, I was a little jealous that you all get to sing such beautiful music, because under different circumstances, I would be right up there with you! There are no words to thank you for the amount of generosity, prayers, support and love that we have experienced. You are helping us to make it through this tough time, and I want you to know that I am getting stronger everyday and I WILL be singing with you all again soon!
All my love,
Brian Tierney

Although I’ve heard him sing often, I’ve never met Brian Tierney, but after hearing his words and those of his friends, and the music they made for him, I’m pretty sure I’d like him a lot.

Katie Tierney

Tuomi conducted the combined choirs in a stirring “The Promise of Living,” from Aaron Copland’s opera, The Tender Land, just after Tierney’s other main mentor, former PSU choir director Bruce Browne, led them in Josef Rheinberger’s “Abendlied.” Browne captured the spirit of the event in his brief remarks, thanking Tierney “for giving us the chance to show our best selves.” As Browne suggested, what started out as a benefit about a single injured member of the Portland music world had by the end of the evening evolved into a celebration of the powerful spirit of community that knits so much of this unusually collaborative musical community together. It’s a testament not just to Brian Tierney but to those who join him in making music here. As his friend Bacon said, “all you out there, you know that if anything happens to you, we’ve got your back!”

Contributions to the Brian Tierney Fund can be made at www.friendsofbt.com. Update: We’re told that Brian is now home from the hospital, and that as of May 1, contributions to the fund have surpassed $42,000.

Chanticleer performs at Portland's St. Mary's Cathedral

On Friday, Friends of Chamber Music brings  the sublime singers of San Francisco’s Chanticleer to Northwest Portland’s St. Mary’s Cathedral to sing music from the 20th and 21st centuries, including works by one of the greatest living composers, Arvo Part, and the great English choral composer John Tavener. Like their Bay Area colleagues in the Kronos Quartet, the nonpareil men’s chorus also embraces today’s sounds, including in this program music by SF-based composer Mason Bates a/k/a DJ Masonic (who’s become the darling of orchestras pursuing that ever-elusive younger audience), Patricia Van Ness, Sara Hopkins, and Jan Sandstrom, who share the unusual distinction (for a classical music concert) of actually being alive. As FOCM has proved recently with other powerful voices, such as Thomas Hampson and Dawn Upshaw, even classical music audiences are happy to hear all-20th– and 21st-century programs, if the performers are committed and persuasive advocates. They’ll also sing a token Renaissance work or two.

Portland singer Brian Tierney

There’ll be plenty of other great singers onstage Sunday at All Saints Catholic Church to support the family and help defray the medical expenses of Portland singer and choir director Brian Tierney, grievously wounded and now recovering in hospital from a still-mysterious shooting last month. (You can hear examples of his artistry here.) Many of the city’s finest singers, from groups including Cappella Romana, Cantores in Ecclesia, Resonance Ensemble, Portland Opera, plus other first-rate musicians from 45th Parallel and others, will be there to support the excellent tenor, who’s part of the choral Wrecking Crew of all star singers who seem to appear with most the top choirs in town whenever real virtuosity is needed. It’s reassuring to see the music community coming together to take care of one of its own.

Unfortunately, Portland’s most prominent choir, Oregon Repertory Singers, won’t be participating, because they’ll be singing the saucy, ever popular Carmina Burana in a long-scheduled concert at First Methodist Church. There’s a matinee show, so choral fans could actually make it to both events.

And speaking of music and community, Portland drummer, sound artist, writer and thinker-about-town Tim DuRoche is leading one of Oregon Humanities’ valuable Conversation Projects on Sunday at downtown Portland’s Multnomah County Central Library. It’s called The Art of the Possible: Jazz and Community-Building, and like everything the multifaceted musician does, it’s sure to be intriguing and constructive.

At the Eugene Concert Choir’s April 21 show at the Hult Center, hometown singer Jessie Marquez (who specializes in the midcentury pop music of her father’s native Cuba), plus national dance champions will join the chorus in a concert of Latin American dance music, including rumbas, sambas, tangos and more. Dance rhythms will also propel the Mousai Ensemble’s Sunday performance at First Presbyterian Church’s admirable Celebration Works series in downtown Portland. Some of the city’s top independent classical players (flutist Janet Bebb, oboist Ann van Bever, and pianist Maria Choban) have enslisted clarinetist Chris Cox, bassoonist Ann Crandall and hornist Leander Star to help them play a splendid set of dance-driven music by Ravel, Piazzolla, and contemporary composers Paquito d’Rivera (familiar to jazz fans as a fine clarinetist and composer), Paul Harris (whose music Choban played most persuasively at her solo showcase last month), Miguel del Aguila and more.

Eleanor Stallcop-Horrox (as Camille), Douglas Webster(as Rodin) star in Promise. Photo credit: Mike O'Brien Photography

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