Weekend MusicWatch: Seasonal Singing

Soloist Doug Bom and the Locomotions light the menorah during a Hannukah-themed version of "Edge of Glory" during the 2011 Portland Gay Men's Chorus holiday concert. Photo: Bill Barry, BarryFoto©.

Soloist Doug Bom and the Locomotions light the menorah during the 2011 Portland Gay Men’s Chorus holiday concert.
Photo: Bill Barry, BarryFoto©.

‘Tis the season for choirs all around Oregon to crank up the carols and other holiday fare, yet there’s still plenty of non-seasonal music still to enjoy on stages around the state.

Oregon Repertory Singers, Sunday and next weekend, First United Methodist Church, Portland. Traditionally one of the biggest holiday choral concerts, this year’s edition features music by the great contemporary composer Arvo Part, Oregon’s own Morten Lauridsen, Bruckner, and more, followed by a cornucopia of carols.

Portland Gay Men’s Chorus, Friday-Sunday, Newmark Theatre, Portland. For the 33rd season, the 150-voice choir sings seasonal songs (Hanukkah, Christmas, solstice, etc.), and more, including an original “Gloria” setting by PGMC singer Amir Shirazi, abetted by “doppelgangers” of PDX music celebrities like Carlos Kalmar, Thomas Lauderdale, and Storm Large.

Eugene Concert Choir, Oregon Mozart Players, Saturday, Hult Center, Eugene. The Messiah rises again, in the first of several opportunities for Oregonians to hear Handel’s perennial seasonal oratorio.

Conchords Chorale, Tuesday, The Old Church, Portland. Spirituals, carols, and other seasonal songs.

Sing Portland, Friday, The Old Church, Portland. The new, open-to-everyone charitable community choir sings celebratory songs from around the world with all proceeds benefiting one of Oregon’s most valuable music venues: the one that’s hosting this very concert.

Oregon Chorale, Sunday, Hillsboro High School. Carols and other seasonal fare.


Eugene Symphony, Thursday, Hult Center, Eugene. An all-Tchaikovsky program features the cello-centric “Variations on a Rococo Theme,” starring Julie Albers, the silly yet stirring “1812 Overture,” the syrupy “Serenade for Strings” (not recommended by dentists), and, best of all, the summery postcard “Italian Caprice.”

And speaking of the Eugene Symphony, that orchestra’s world premiere performance of the Clarinet Concerto it commissioned from the dean of Oregon composers, Tomas Svoboda, will be aired again on Portland’s all-classical radio station, KQAC‘s invaluable Club Mod program Saturday at 8 pm, and you can hear it online (and, for two weeks, on demand).

Oregon Symphony, Saturday-Monday, Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall, Portland. Full-scale Tchaikovsky this time, in his much-repeated Symphony #4, plus another Russian masterpiece, the delicious suite from Prokofiev’s 1947 opera “The Love for Three Oranges,” and, best of all, music from an actual not-dead composer, Magnus Lindberg, who was part of Esa Pekka Salonen’s new music cabal (along with Kaija Saariaho and others) in their native Finland, before rising along with the others to the top rank of 21st century composers, including a recent three-year stint as composer in residence with the New York Philharmonic. Like so many concertos of the past century, his 2006 Violin Concerto, starring compatriot Elina Vähälä, occasionally lingers on extended virtuoso passages principally designed to show off the chops and/or ego of the soloists who are often responsible for commissioning such vehicles, sometimes at the expense of musical cohesion and audience patience — the classical equivalent of prog rock’s interminable drum solos. Here, though, Lindberg’s solid musical substance is worth the occasional longeurs.

Portland State University Symphony, Friday, Lincoln  Hall, PSU. Still another Russian masterwork, heard last month at the Columbia Symphony, Stravinsky’s colorful 1911 breakthrough ballet score, “The Firebird,” highlights an all-20th century program that includes Pierre Boulez’s brief, fluttering 1984 “Derive 1,” drawn from sketches from earlier works, and one of the 20th century’s most transcendent musical explorations (just ask those happy trippers who enjoyed it in Kubrick’s 1968 film, “2001: A Space Odyssey”), Gyorgy Ligeti’s sweeping 1966 “Lux Aeterna.”

Portland Wind Symphony, Sunday, Lincoln Hall, Portland State University. Seasonal tunes, including a cowboy Christmas, plus Greek love songs and more.

Music Forward! Saturday afternoon and evening, Lincoln Hall, Portland State University. In this annual benefit for music scholarships, some of the city’s top musicians (who happen to be PSU faculty members, including the renowned Florestan Trio) join the school’s award winning Chamber Choir, orchestra, taiko and jazz ensembles in a showcase of the university’s diverse musical offerings.


Adam Hurst, Jason Okamoto, Thursday, The Old Church, Portland. The solo cello virtuoso continues to expand beyond moody Middle Eastern modal improvisation, this time enlisting the flamenco guitarist and incorporating gypsy, Turkish and other dance rhythms in another set of original tunes.

Chamber Music Amici, Saturday MarshAnne Landing Winery, Oakland, and Monday, Wildish Theater, Springfield. The ensemble composed of current and former University of Oregon faculty musicians performs Brahms’s appropriately autumnal Clarinet Quintet, Danish composer Carl Nielsen’s Duet for Violins, and Darius Milhaud’s delightful 1936 Suite for Violin, Clarinet and Piano, that somehow manages to incorporate upbeat jazz, Brazilian and dance influences despite being drawn from the great 20th century French composer’s music for a play about a soldier traumatized by World War I.

Marlise Stroebe, Wednesday, The Old Church, Portland. The veteran pianist reliably programs some of the most interesting music of the season for the venue’s free Wednesday noon brown bag concerts; this one, with music related to the Virgin of Guadalupe, includes works from the Renaissance to the 20th century, including Albeniz, Piazzolla, Granados, and traditional music from Spanish speaking lands.

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