Weekend MusicWatch: Vocal virtuosity

Meredith Monk sings at Reed College Monday.

Meredith Monk sings at Reed College Monday.

Oregon welcomes the latest return to his homeground of the most performed living choral composer. Morten Lauridsen grew up in the Portland/Beaverton area, spends summers on an island in the San Juans, and considers himself a Northwesterner in exile (Southern California, where he’s been on the USC music faculty for decades). You can get a taste of his music Thursday at Lewis & Clark College’s Agnes Flanagan Chapel, where the school’s Women’s Chorus and Cappella Nova will sing a few works and the voluble Lauridsen will answer questions, or watch a live stream. The big concert Saturday at northwest Portland’s Trinity Episcopal Cathedral features the college’s Community Chorale and choirs from Marylhurst College and Lake Grove Presbyterian Church, and Lauridsen will be there, too, for performances of his classics inspired by Portland and the Northwest and more, including Lux Aeterna, O Magnum Mysterium, and Mid-Winter Songs.


Morten Lauridsen

You can read my 2003 Wall Street Journal profile of Lauridsen, or catch the award winning film biography, “Sure on This Shining Night” that played here last year during his most recent visit, or buy the DVD of the film and the first copies of the new book, Morten Lauridsen’s Waldron Island Reflections featuring photography and quotations from the film, which will be available just in time for this weekend’s performances.
In a very different vocal concert featuring a bracingly austere alternative to Lauridsen’s lush harmonies, Cappella Romana brings the virtuoso Greek Orthodox cantor and scholar Achilleas Chaldaiakis from Athens to lead some of the Northwest’s finest singers in rare Byzantine chant at northwest Portland’s St. Mary’s Cathedral. This isn’t medieval stuff but rather 17th century music written by Constantinople Patriarch and composer Athanasios.

Yet another distinguished vocal visitor is singing at Reed College’s Kaul Auditorium Monday night. One of America’s most important living composer/musicians, Meredith Monk, is joined by a long time member of her acclaimed vocal ensemble, Katie Geissinger, in a free concert that showcases some of the most inventive sounds ever composed for the human voice. Her 70th birthday year, which is just about to end, is well worth celebrating.

And of course, speaking of vocals, Portland Opera’s production of Richard Strauss’s “Salome” concludes its run this weekend at Keller Auditorium. Here’s ArtsWatch’s preview, and another take.


On Saturday at downtown Portland’s Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall, Portland Youth Philharmonic continues to bring young musicians and audiences to the music of our time with the world premiere of the full orchestra version of  “Supermaximum!” the powerfully bluesy piece by another native Portland composer,  Kenji Bunch, that PYP’s string orchestra played in a reduced version last spring, when (as OAW and Willamette Week were the first to tell the world) the Portland native composer returned to his hometown after a couple of decades making quite a name for himself and his music in New York City. The concert also features PYP Piano Competition winner Hannah Moon at the keyboard in Grieg’s famous Piano Concerto, and music by American composer Howard Hanson and Antonin Dvorak. You can read my interview with Bunch from last spring and read his description of  “Supermaximum!”

On Sunday at Oregon City United Methodist Church, the Willamette Falls Symphony joins in the year-long Wagner and Verdi bicentenary celebrations with music from both composers, including Verdi arias sung by the riveting soprano Flora Sussely, who’s provided some of Classical Revolution PDX’s most impressive musical moments.

The Academy of St. Martin in the Fields visits Eugene and Portland this weekend.

The Academy of St. Martin in the Fields Chamber Ensemble visits Eugene and Portland this weekend.


You can’t listen to classical radio very long without hearing the words “Academy of St. Martin in the Fields” roll off the announcer’s tongue. The venerable English chamber orchestra’s small group plays Dvorak, Mendelssohn and Raff Friday in Portland at Reed College’s Kaul Auditorium, courtesy of Friends of Chamber Music, and two thirds of the same program (substituting Enescu for Mendelssohn’s ever-astonishing, often performed Octet) Sunday afternoon at the University of Oregon’s Beall Concert Hall in the Oregon Bach Festival’s Chamber Music@Beall series.
On Sunday afternoon at north Portland’s Polish Hall, Portland’s DTQ string quartet and MTDuo celebrate the centennial of the great Polish composer Withold Lutoslawski by playing arrangements of several of his works for various chamber configurations, and the concert also includes music by other Polish masters, Henryk Wieniawski and Karol Szymanowski. The Polish music at Polish Hall series has been a valuable addition to Oregon’s music scene, bringing the state some fine music too little heard around here.

If your tastes run more to Czech music, head for Ashland, where the city’s fine chamber music series brings the Zemlinsky Quartet to play music by Czech masters Suk, Smetana and Janacek on Saturday, and Haydn, Beethoven and the group’s Austrian namesake on Friday.

Heading eastward, there’s Russian music and food on the menu Friday night at Portland’s Old Church, where the Portland-Khabarovsk Sister City organization is holding a fundraiser for its Russian Immersion Exchange featuring the energetic Portland Eastern European dance band Chervona and Russian classical music singers and instrumentalists.

Guitar fans have a happy weekend: Classical guitarist Ryan Walsh playing original tunes and music by Bach, Satie and Spanish, Venezuelan and other composers at downtown Portland’s Old Church and California based Latin/Arabic/flamenco guitarists and world music stars Strunz and Farah Friday at Hillsboro’s Walters Cultural Arts Center.


And speaking of guitar greats, one of American music’s most listener friendly visionaries, Seattle-based guitarist and composer Bill Frisell, returns to Eugene Friday at The Shedd and Portland Saturday at Aladdin Theater, with one of his most beautiful creations yet, the easygoing, evocative, 19-song Big Sur suite he created on commission during a residency at a ranch at that coastal paradise last year. It’ll be performed by a quintet drawn from both his jazz trio and his string quartet.

Los Angeles’s Kneebody, one of the most impressive of the wave of jazz-meets-avant-rock bands that emerged in the first decade of the 21st century, cite Frisell, along with Miles Davis, Elliott Smith and many other diverse jazz, rock, and avant garde influences. They’re playing a terrific double bill  and Blue Cranes Friday at Alberta Street Pub with Portland’s own progressive jazzers, Blue Cranes.

Another rising young jazzer who crosses genre boundaries, pianist Tigran Hamsayan, has worked with Kneebody members in New York, and tonight, November 7, the 2006 Thelonious Monk competition winner brings his own quintet to southeast Portland’s Analog Cafe, in a concert that should appeal to indie pop and world music (thanks to the Armenian influences he channels from his heritage) fans as well as jazzheads.


Speaking of global sounds, you can hear Asian music by female musicians by heading west — but not all the way to Asia — from Portland this weekend. On Friday at the Indian music presenting organization Rasika’s school in Hillsboro, the rising young violinist/vocalist duo the Akkarai Sisters perform Carnatic music accompanied by a pair of South Indian percussionists.

On Saturday, Seattle based singer Srivani Jade, one of the best Pacific Northwest-based Hindustani vocalists, joins Vivek Datar on harmonium and tablawallah Ravi Albright, who runs a tabla school in Seattle, to perform Hindustani vocal music at Portland Community College’s Rock Creek auditorium.

A few hours before her husband, Eyvind Kang, plays viola with Bill Frisell in Portland, another Seattle world music diva, composer/singer [Jessika Kenney, joins Lewis & Clark College’s Venerable Showers of Beauty gamelan ensemble in her gamelan arrangement of a Persian classical music setting of Rumi poetry, as well as traditional Javanese music, in the Music in Small Spaces series at Beaverton’s Central Library Saturday afternoon.

And on Sunday, that most uncategorizably Portlandish of bands, 3 Leg Torso, plays its world chamber jazz, or whatever they call it now, at Andina restaurant in Portland’s Pearl District. Forget categories, just go hear them!

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