Mini festivals and enticing concerts on and off-campus
by Brett Campbell
For a place so tiny, the Indonesian island of Bali exerts a disproportionately powerful pull. Home to one of the world’s friendliest and most artistically vital cultures, Bali has enticed Westerners with its natural and artistic beauties. Its flashy gamelan music, performed with terrific rhythmic and melodic élan by beautiful bronze percussion orchestras, has long inspired Western composers and world music lovers, and the accompanying dances entice the eyes commensurately.
On March 11, the UO’s Gerlinger Lounge begins a mini festival of Balinese art and culture featuring a free lecture-demonstration of Balinese dance and painting by San Francisco’s I Made Moja, followed by an open rehearsal of the next evening’s big event: a full performance of Balinese music led by San Francisco teacher/composer/musician/scholar Wayne Vitale, the one-time Portlander who’s directed America’s most accomplished gamelan, Sekar Jaya, for nearly two decades and is one of the world’s foremost authorities on the magical island’s glorious music. Moja and dancers from the UO and LCC, led by the fine LCC choreographer Bonnie Simoa, who’s studied dance in Bali, will also perform.
That’s one of several UO world music treats. On March 5, the university’s World Music Series brings the hot young trad Irish ensemble Teada to play jigs, reels and more at Beall Concert Hall. And on March 14, you can see those wild Balkan folkdancers and even join in (lessons provided) hoofing it to spicy sounds provided by the UO East European Folk Music Ensemble. The March 3 President’s Concert at the Hult Center offers a splendid overview of the UO’s manifold musical offering: contemporary choral music, African dance, Joseph Schwantner’s heartfelt MLK tribute “New Morning for the World” and a major choral-orchestral cantata by Ralph Vaughan Williams, “In Windsor Forest.” On March 10, the university’s new choral ensemble Sospiro, with some instrumental accompaniment, sings new works by UO grad composers on the theme of winter. The school’s percussion ensemble plays music of Haydn and contemporary composers (including the UO’s Charles Dowd) on March 13, and on March 4, the university Symphonic Band plays the world premiere of a new piece by renowned American composer Libby Larsen and music of Grainger, Verdi and more. And you can hear jazz by Halie Loren and the Matt Treder Quartet at the UO’s Schnitzer Art Museum on March 4.
The UO’s musical benefits extend beyond its borders. Most of the young members of the Eugene Jazz Composer’s Orchestra, who perform with the Glenn Griffith Octet at Cozmic Pizza on March 5, are UO grads, and they’ll play music by Douglas Detrick, Justin Morell, David Swigart, Andrew Rowan and other excellent young Oregon composers.
There are plenty of other compelling sounds off campus. On the classical side, the Oregon Mozart Players’ March 6-7 concerts at First Christian Church feature one of their namesake’s best known vocal showcases, “Exsultate Jubilate,” plus an organ concerto by Joseph Haydn and Schubert’s great Symphony #5. On March 5, the West Winds Flute choir plays a free First Friday concert at the downtown library. And on March 8 at Springfield High School, the Eugene Symphonic Band joins the school’s percussion ensemble in a free concert of 20th century music by Shostakovich, Robert Russell Bennett, Vaughn Williams and more.
On March 4, the WOW Hall brings Zimbabwean Afropop superstar Chris Berry’s new trio, CB-3, featuring San Francisco guitar whiz Steve Kimock and the rhythm section of the Brazilian Girls in a cross-cultural collaboration that touches on world music, electronica, hip hop and improv. On March 11, the WOW brings EOTO (String Cheese Incident’s Jason Hann and Michael Travis), who swirl jam band and electronica elements, along with guitar, bass, keyboards and percussion, into the improv mix.
Over at the Shedd on March 11, the incomparable Broadway dancer/actor/singer Ben Vereen’s one man show offers tributes to one of his legendary triple threat predecessors, Sammy Davis Jr., plus Broadway and Sinatra songs. And on March 16, the astonishing young Hawaiian ukulele virtuoso Jake Shimabukuro brings his fresh-scrubbed, engaging personality and amazing licks to the hall. No doubt he’ll play his renowned version of “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” and other music from jazz, rock, bluegrass, Hawaiian, classical and other fields, but he’s also recording a new album so we’re likely to hear a lot of new material — maybe even his take on “Bohemian Rhapsody.”