Weekend MusicWatch: Choral convergence & contemporary classical

Composer Gabriela Lena Frank joins pianist Susan Smith and the rest of Third Angle New Music this weekend.

Composer Gabriela Lena Frank joins pianist Susan Smith and the rest of Third Angle New Music this weekend. Photo: Tom Emerson

Several recommended choral concerts and opportunities to hear contemporary music, including new sounds by Oregon composers, highlight this weekend’s Oregon music scene.


Oregon Repertory Singers collaborate with Vancouver Symphony Orchestra and the superb Portland based opera baritone Richard Zeller in one of the essential choral-orchestral works of the 19th century, Mendelssohn’s oratorio “Elijah,” Friday and Sunday at southwest Portland’s First United Methodist Church.

Choral Arts Ensemble of Portland also sings a tune from “Elijah,” as part of an admirably wide-ranging Saturday/Sunday program at southwest Portland’s St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church that includes music by Mozart and Haydn, Renaissance composers Weelkes and Gesualdo, popular young contemporary composer Ola Gjeilo, spirituals, even a Beethoven sonata performed by the choir’s accompanist, Jennifer Creek Hughes.

The Ensemble, the formidable small choir drawn from Portland’s finest choruses, sings one of the greatest creations of the Renaissance, Tomas Luis de Victoria’s requiem for the queen of Spain, “Officium Defunctorum.” This Sunday afternoon concert is the top choice if you can catch only one choral performance this weekend — but why not try all three?

Or catch the Portland Gay Men’s Chorus‘s naughty, annual cabaret concert, featuring “slightly altered” tunes from Broadway musicals like “Wicked,” Saturday at Reed College, or the vocal ensembles Kaliave, Lumiatra and the Supercuts singing moon songs at downtown Portland’s Old Church Saturday afternoon.


The Oregon Symphony also spotlights American songs in its Sunday afternoon pops concert with jazz singer/ pianist Tony DeSare. But the big OSO news is a different kind of crossover concert, when the orchestra, which has attracted national attention for backing up critically respected pop singers (not the usual retreads and has beens) like Rufus Wainwright, Pink Martini, and Antony, looks homeward to Portland’s vibrant indie rock scene. Saturday night’s concert at downtown Portland’s Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall finds the orchestra collaborating with folk-pop singers Mirah, Holcombe Waller and the excellent bluegrass-tinged Decemberists spinoff, Black Prairie, with arrangements contributed by the hot Seattle singer/composer Jherek Bischoff.

The Eugene Symphony also spotlights American music Thursday night in an excellent program featuring John Adams’s rollicking 1995 “Lollapalooza” and George Gershwin’s jazzy 1925 Piano Concerto, with Vancouver-born soloist Ian Parker, along with Rachmaninoff’s electrifying “Symphonic Dances.”


Third Angle New Music offers the weekend’s top classical choice Thursday and Friday nights at Portland State University’s Lincoln Hall, with a concert of music by one of the West Coast’s rising younger composers, Berkeley-born and based Gabriela Lena Frank, who embraces music from many global traditions in her potent original works. Read a fascinating interview and feature about her.

Cascadia Composers join the Oregon Brass Quintet Friday night at southeast Portland’s Colonial Heights Presbyterian Church for a concert of music by Oregon composers I’lana Cotton, Liz Nedela, David Leetch, Daniel Brugh, Rick Crittenden, Greg Steinke, Art Resnick , Charles Copeland, Mark Vigil, Cynthia Gerdes and Michael Johanson. Along with the brassy instruments, the concert, which offers an attractive opportunity to hear what local classical music creators are up to, includes piano, clarinet and tape.

Stephen Price, Janet Coleman, and Joel Bluestone, all veterans of Portland’s music scene with the Oregon Symphony, FearNoMusic and other institutions, team up Saturday night in the latest in veteran OSO violist Price’s long-running series of free concerts at Portland’s Old Church. They’ll play an excellent program featuring a pair of contemporary works by current and former Oregon composers Jon Newton (the premiere of “Rhapsody in Beige,” the 27th commission by Price — what a commendable contribution to Oregon music!) and former Third Angle percussionist and composer Mark Goodenberger (“Phantom Train”), plus Cesar Franck’s famous sonata and the ever popular Meditation from Massenet’s opera Thais.

Duo Klavitarre (pianist Jolanta Ziemska and guitarist Maciej Ziemski) play the always intriguing Polish Music at Polish Hall series Friday night in Northeast Portland, with music by (naturally) Chopin, Piazzolla, Tansman, Bach, Debussy, Monti, Mozart and and others.

Oregon Chamber Players welcome a familiar Portland name, the ageless clarinetist/conductor Norman Leyden, to their concert at southeast Portland’s All Saints’ Episcopal Church on Saturday night, with music by Gershwin, Ellington, Johann Strauss, Tchaikovsky, Johnny Mercer and Grieg.

Jefferson Baroque Orchestra plays music by the great German Baroque composer Telemann, all inspired by literary classics Gulliver’s Travels and Don Quixote, Saturday and Sunday in Grants Pass and Ashland, respectively.

Filmusik: Turkish Rambo from Filmusik on Vimeo.


Filmusik, that cheeky Portland-based outfit that takes old movies, often with a high cheese factor, and injects them with provocative new scores by Oregon composers, reprises its “Turkish Rambo” this weekend and next at Portland’s classic Hollywood Theater, with an original score by Contemporary Portland Orchestra Project’s Justin Ralls that the rising young composer called (on Portland’s All Classical radio station) “a mix of avant grade, epic and camp.”

Theater organist Donna Parker gets the Halloween season off to an early start Saturday afternoon at southeast Portland’s Tabor Heights Methodist Church with a live accompaniment to Lon Chaney’s famous 1925 silent film vehicle, “Phantom of the Opera” – just like they did soundtracks way back in the day.

The Northwest Film Center’s Hitchcock project, featuring new, original scores to reissued early silent classics by the great director, continues Sunday and Wednesday with live soundtracks composed and performed by Portland Cello Project c0-founder Gideon Freudmann (for 1927’s “Downhill”) and guitarist Bill Marsh’w ensemble (1928’s “Champagne”).

In a pair of highly recommended PDXJazz tribute concerts, Portland pianist Darrell Grant leads an excellent foursome that celebrates the valuable legacy of the great Modern Jazz Quartet concert on Thursday at Portland’s Mission Theater, while the pioneering jazz pianist Randy Weston comes to Portland with his African Rhythms trio to lead a tribute to the late Portland world music legend Obo Addy (whose ensemble Okropong and jazz educator Thara Memory’s American Jazz Project will also play) Saturday night at Lewis & Clark College.

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