oregon festival of american music

ArtsWatch Weekly: Defying disaster

Anonymous Theatre beats the odds, Brett Campbell picks the top music of the week, pick of the weekend fests, Ashland shakes it up, more

It was theater. It was comedy. It was song and dance. And from the reaction of the audience at Monday night’s performance of Urinetown by Anonymous Theatre Company, it was sports all the way. The sold-out crowd in the mainstage auditorium at The Armory clapped and roared and hollered, cheering loudly every time an actor rose from among the audience, shouted out a line of dialogue, and hustled up to the stage to play ball with the rest of the cast. It was edge-of-the-seat stuff, a little like watching game seven of the NBA championships with the outcome still on the line.

Chrisse Roccaro as Penny collars Amelia Morgan-Rothschild as Hope in Anonymous’s “Urinetown.” Photo: Sydney Kennedy

If you were there Monday night – and more than 500 people were – you know what I’m talking about. If you weren’t … well, you just sat out the season. This one’s done and gone. Anonymous is called Anonymous for good reason. In this annual highlight of the theater calendar, none of the actors knows who any of the other actors are until they meet onstage; everyone rehearses in isolation; the culminating performance is a one-and-done: one dangerous shoot-the-moon evening, and that’s all she wrote. In Who’s on first? Anonymously yours, ArtsWatch wrote about the preparations for this year’s show.


ArtsWatch Weekly: ice, ice, baby

Your guide to staying culturally cool while the heat wave shimmers

As Cole Porter put it in his musical comedy Kiss Me, Kate, it’s Too Darn Hot. Maybe not quite, in the words of another musical-theater chestnut, 110 in the Shade. But, well, shading perilously close to it. How hot is it? So hot that the Northwest Film Center’s breezy Top Down: Rooftop Cinema series, which usually screens al fresco atop the parking garage of the Hotel DeLuxe, is moving indoors this week to the cool and comfy Whitsell Auditorium of the Portland Art Museum. Cary Grant and Irene Dunne will be heating up the screen, but not the air temp, on Thursday evening in the 1937 screwball comedy classic The Awful Truth. Museums, as you know, are carefully temperature-controlled to protect the artwork from the elements. Just chill.

As a public service on this hottest week of the year, ArtsWatch Weekly brings you this cooling image by the German Romantic painter Caspar David Friedrich, “The Sea of Ice” or “The Polar Sea.” We will not mention the painting’s third alternate title, “The Wreck of Hope,” which refers to the ship crashed among the floes, not the rising temperature. 1823/24. oil on canvas, 50 x 38.1 inches, Kunsthalle Hamburg, Germany.




First Thursday. Portland’s monthly gallery walk is this week, with most openings on Thursday and a few scattered on other days. Among the many exhibitions opening, we have an eye on veteran historical illusionist Sherrie Wolf’s new show Postcards from Paris, which includes paintings of postcards of paintings in still life settings, at Russo Lee; Sara Siestreem’s new show of paintings equidistant, at Augen; Butters Gallery’s 29th anniversary group exhibit; and Blackfish Gallery’s We the People, a “participatory installation” by thirty Blackfish artists and others.


Cantores in Ecclesia performs
at the William Byrd Festival.

This weekend’s relatively sparse classical music action mostly happens in Portland churches. The annual William Byrd Festival continues Saturday and Sunday at Holy Rosary Church with liturgical services and two masses by its great English Renaissance namesake performed by the fine Portland choir Cantores in Ecclesia.

Friday offers a rare summer glimpse of instrumental Baroque music at north Portland’s St. Stanislaus Polish Catholic Church, where the early music ensemble Musica Maestrale (comprising some of the Northwest’s historically informed specialists including Portland lutenist Hideki Yamaya and Seattle viola da gamba player Polly Gibson) performs Polish music by Renaissance and Baroque composers you’ve probably never heard or even heard of — Milwid, Dlugoraj, Cato — except possibly Silvius Leopold Weiss.

On Saturday at southeast Portland’s All Saints’ Episcopal Church, Baroque oboe specialist Robert Morgan (who also plays with Chicago modern instrument orchestras and commissions new works for the instrument) headlines the annual Northwest oboe seminar and closing concert, which also features other masters of the instrument, such as Oregon Bach Festival and Chamber Music Northwest veteran Alan Vogel.

Also on Friday, the Salem Chamber Orchestra introduces its new principal conductor, Nikolas Caoile, who’ll play piano in a chamber music concert at Villa Bacca Collina featuring two 20th century masterpieces: Aaron Copland’s Duo for Flute and Piano (with Sarah Tiedemann) and Debussy’s Violin Sonata (with Daniel Rouslin).


Blake Applegate leads Cantores in Ecclesia at the William Byrd Festival

Oregon boasts a scintillating lineup of classical and other music festivals — the Oregon Bach Festival, Chamber Music Northwest, Pickathon, the Northwest String Summit, Cathedral Park Jazz, Portland International Piano Festival, etc etc. As impressive as they are, however, they’re far from unique. Other American cities enjoy summer chamber music festivals, even Bach festivals, and everyone knows about Newport’s legendary jazz fest and the profusion of summer outdoor rock fests. Even our fascinating Time Based Arts festival is part of a circuit of similar fringe fests around the world.

But Oregonians can count on a pair of singular late-summer celebrations that are hard to find elsewhere. Nowhere else but in Portland will you find a festival so devoted to the works of a particular English Renaissance composer. And you’d be hard-pressed to encounter as thoughtful and diverse an exploration of American music as happens every summer in Eugene.


Portland Taiko’s Michelle Fujii

For fans of European classical music, this weekend brings the closest approximation of the doldrums we’ll see this year. Oh, there’s a few scattered events in parks and elsewhere, but really, this is the weekend to stretch your music boundaries.

This weekend and next, Portland Taiko artistic director Michelle Fujii brings her new one woman dance/theater/installation, “Choking”, to the Interstate Firehouse. Her regular group performs in Portland’s Waterfront Park and at a festival.

At Portland’s Hollywood Theater, the prolific Filmusik organization offers a new live soundtrack (performed by Retake Productions), of an Italian Mad Max rip-off called Warriors of the Wasteland.

At Oregon’s quintessential jazz club, two of the state’s finest young jazz outfits — pianist Andrew Oliver’s Kora Band, which beautifully fuses the West African lute with appealing, trumpet-fueled modern jazz, and another great jazz pianist’s ensemble, the Ben Darwish Trio.

The twentieth annual Zimbabwean Music Festival returns to Corvallis this weekend, offering opportunities to hear and learn to play some of the planet’s bubbliest music on mbira, marimba, and more. There’s more learning and listening opportunities over in Oakridge, where you can catch the wave of the  ukulele revival. And the thirteenth annual Pickathon brings an attractive array of rootsy sounds from national and regional acts to Pendarvis Farm southeast of Portland.

Eugeneans have the annual Oregon Festival of American Music to reacquaint themselves with some of the most engaging sounds of the 20th century — the great songwriters Harold Arlen, Johnny Mercer and more, including a fully staged version of the Gershwins’ sublimely silly 1930 musical Girl Crazy, which spawned more hits than almost any other musical of its era.

And if you happen to be down in the state’s southwest corner for, say, a theater orgy, and the annual Oregon Country Fair didn’t quite fill your cravings, check out the trippy world music options at a big new festival that’s rounded up some well-known performers.

We’ll resume our regularly scheduled Euro-centric classical coverage soon.

Oregon ArtsWatch Archives