Tuesday, December 13, 2011

The Portland, Oregon Area Classical Scene- good reading!

As you may recall, I was out in the Portland, Oregon/Vancouver, WA area (plus over east to the Tri-Cities, WA area as well) in September for the premiere by Howard Meharg's Chor Anno of my modernized version of William Billings' "When Jesus Wept" (conducted by Reg Unterseher). I met so many great people and had a blast exploring downtown Portland and other areas. This trip also led to a premiere last week of a new piece "Winter Moon ", directed by April Duvic with the Clark College Women's Choir in Vancouver, and this past Sunday plus this coming Friday, Saturday, and Sunday Ethan Sperry's Oregon Repertory Singers are preforming my Hanukkah piece "Unending Flame" (great text by Sherri Lasko) on their holiday concerts. By the way, Ethan told me that he now can't say that he hates all Hanukkah pieces, now that he has discovered "Unending Flame"!

Here are the articles- hope you enjoy reading them:

From the Wall Street Journal Online Dec., 13, 2011

by Brett Campbell

'We love classical music. We love playing classical music. We love listening to classical music. We are tired of the elitist and inaccessible nature of the classical world. We believe that there are many that would enjoy classical music if they could access it in a setting that is comfortable for them. We believe classical musicians should be allowed to perform in a setting that is more casual—where the audience is allowed to have a drink, eat a scone, laugh a little, and clap a lot. We believe everyone can enjoy the music that we love." So began a 2006 posting on Portland's Craigslist that became the manifesto for Classical Revolution PDX, which today draws on a roster of more than 200 classical musicians for its chamber jams and other performances, including a concert called "Sympathy for the Devil" featuring music associated with you-know-who.

That show was a co-production with Portland's Electric Opera Company, which plays classical music on electric guitars and other rock instruments. More than a dozen such alt-classical ensembles have emerged here in the past few years, enlivening a city better known nationally for bikes, brews, baristas, beards, the television show "Portlandia," and a thriving indie-rock scene that boasts such bands as the Decemberists. The city teems with organizations presenting new music, old music in clubs, or both.

The Portland Cello Project's all-cello performances of original arrangements of everything from Beethoven to Britney Spears regularly sell out some of the city's biggest clubs and attract guest vocalists from the city's indie-rock scene. The group has been touring nationally for the past three years and is recording its fourth CD. Its holiday concerts this Friday and Saturday will feature music by composers ranging from Bach, Khachaturian and Lili Boulanger to Lil' Wayne.

Opera Theater Oregon stages cheeky, low-budget productions of classic operas (including Wagner's "Das Rheingold" reimagined as a "Baywatch" episode). Several vocal ensembles, drawn from the city's strong choral-music scene, devote considerable programming to contemporary, often homegrown music. The young Cascadia Composers organization will stage at least eight concerts of music by Oregon composers this year. Improvising musicians have a jazz composers orchestra and an avant-garde presenting series. Two more new-music groups launched this year, and this fall three different organizations presented programs dominated by new music by women composers—electronic, choral and contemporary classical—most from the Pacific Northwest.

This fall also saw CD releases and national tours by both Vagabond Opera, a "Balkan Arabic Klezmer-based, original absurdist cabaret ensemble," led by Eric Stern, a former opera tenor, and the March Fourth Marching Band, which plays original and cover tunes of funk, rock and dance music on its brass instruments.

What's fueling Portland's alt-classical surge? "There's a growing sense with the current generation of performers that those jobs they trained for aren't there, so you have to make your own opportunities," says Katie Taylor, former producing artistic director of Opera Theater Oregon, "and while you're at it, build a new audience."

The West Coast's most affordable cultural center, Portland offers numerous attractions to exploratory classical musicians. "The city itself is a desirable place to live, particularly to those interested in the arts and being around other artists," explains composer Galen Huckins, who runs Filmusik, which sets old films to original live music by various local composers at historic theaters. "Having so many top-tier players around, many of whom have full-time jobs outside of music, means that there's a wealth of players excited to be part of new groups and experiment with emerging organizations."

Many of the alt-classical adventurers share a collaborative spirit. "Relative to other places where I've lived and worked, Portland has an incredibly vibrant and dynamic alternative classical-music scene," says Katherine FitzGibbon, who moved to Portland from Boston in 2008 to direct choral programming at Lewis & Clark College.

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