The Future is Now
A feast of todays best composers
by Brett Campbell
Looking at most orchestra programs, youd be forgiven for imagining that composers stopped writing music around the turn of the century ã the 19th century, that is. Fortunately, the University of Oregon School of Music understands that todays musicians are creating art that speaks to our 21st-century ears. UO music prof Robert Kyr BRING's some of the nations most adventurous musical creators to the schools bi-annual Music Today Festival, opening Monday, Feb. 21, at Beall Hall with a headlining concert by the Ralph Alessi Jazz Quintet. Trumpeter/composer Alessis progressive jazz sounds entice fans of straight-ahead jazz as well as more vanguard types. Tuesdays show features the Pennsylvania-based sax and guitar Duo Montagnard playing music by 20th century postclassical composers. The UO Trombone choir concert at Beall Wednesday, Feb. 22, features two world premieres and, later that evening at Aasen-Hull Hall, two UO student music ensembles ã the new Loaded Dice and Sospiro ã will perform music by the engagingly out there composer Mark Applebaum and more.
The Eugene Contemporary Chamber Ensemble concert Feb. 24 offers music by the great contemporary American composer Frederic Rzewski, plus student compositions. The Aasen-Hull concert Friday, Feb. 25, features the local TaiHei Ensemble with Bay Area-based soprano Rebecca Stahlberg playing contemporary music by composers influenced by the ever-intersecting cultures of the Pacific Rim. That same evening, Portland jazz pianist Randy Porter joins the Oregon Jazz Ensemble, while Saturday afternoons Oregon Percussion Ensemble concert at Beall offers music by one of todays most popular composers, Jennifer Higdon and another highly respected contemporary composer, John Harbison, as well as three ur-classics by the inventors of the percussion ensemble, John Cage and Portland-born Lou Harrison.
The Future Music Oregon performance Feb. 26 at Schnitzer Hall offers electronic and digital music by Oregon Electronic Device Orchestra, and Sunday afternoons University Symphony concert at Beall has 20th century French composer Darius Milhauds jazzy Creation of the World and his Czech contemporary Zoltan Kodalys Hary Janos Suite. That evenings Beall concert boasts another new UO ensemble, Ambrosia, playing works by UO and other contemporary composers.
The festival closes with two top choices: Monday, Feb. 28 at Beall, the Convergence Ensemble sings 20th century music by the UOs own Kyr, Benjamin Britten, John Taverner and more, while Tuesdays Aasen- Hull concert features the UOs own Beta Collide faculty ensemble playing music by Applebaum, Pulitzer Prize-winner David Lang, two world premieres by Korean composers, and more.
Seattle-based traditional Scottish singer/storyteller Rich Hill returns to the UOs Collier House on Feb. 20 with the womens Gaelic a cappella ensemble Kitchen Ceilidh. And on Feb. 17 at the EMU, theres a free concert and art exhibit called Pueblo a Pueblo, featuring Argentine singer and classical guitarist Cecilia Zabala leading a musical tour of South America.
Eugene chanteuse Jessie Marquez unveils Feb. 18 at the Shedd her breezy new CD, All I See is Sky, adding Brazilian grooves to her trademark Cuban-style music. Also at the Shedd on Thursday through Sunday, Feb. 24-27, singer Siri Vik and her trio perform theater songs by Kurt Weill and Bertholt Brecht. Todd Johnson plays haunting didjeridu music Feb. 27 at First United Methodist Church.
The Feb. 17 offering by Eugene Symphony, perhaps the prime pick of its season, features the terrific UO faculty piano duo of Claire Wachter and Dean Kramer in the great piano concerto by Milhauds French colleague Francis Poulenc. Get to the Hult an hour early to enjoy some of ESOs musicians performing Poulencs enchanting sonatas for flute, piano and clarinet. The symphony program includes Nikolai Rimsky Korsakovs masterpiece, Scheherazade, based on the Arabian Nights tales.
On Feb. 26, ESO accompanies the Eugene Concert Choirs performance of Mozarts great Mass in C Minor. At Springfields Wildish Theater on Feb. 28, the excellent Chamber Music Amici performs a delectable program of trios by Dvorak and Beethoven.
On Tuesday, Feb. 22, Cozmic Pizza hosts a double CD debut show with Portland singer/cellist Ashia Grzesik unveiling music from her new Eastern-European influenced EP Bison Rouge, with help from accordionist Todd Bayles and cellist/guitarist Skip von Kuske, wholl also perform in his duo Groovy Wallpaper, featuring percussionist Don Henson from Sneakin Out. The Guinean drumming of Mounafanyi is at Cozmic Feb. 19. Portland-based MarchFourth Marching Band plays Feb. 18 at WOW Hall, with Medium Troy opening. Avant improv musician Daniel Heila unveils his old-timey songwriting project, Daniel Boones Fault, with the rootsy Low Tide Drifters Feb. 26 at Wandering Goat.