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Festival Frenzy

The end of summer packs a punch from the Oregon Festival of American Music to Beloved
Noura Mint Seymali plays Tidewater’s Beloved Festival Aug. 8.
Noura Mint Seymali plays Tidewater’s Beloved Festival Aug. 8.

A major attraction of the Oregon Festival of American Music’s two-year exploration of the so-called American songbook in Hollywood is rediscovering the original incarnations of stories most of us remember only from the later movies they inspired. The 1949 Jule Styne-Leo Robin musical, based on Anita Loos’ theatrical adaptation of her Jazz-Age comic novel Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (running Aug. 1-10), is perhaps best known from the 1953 film, which helped make stars out of pneumatic gal-pal leads Marilyn Monroe and Jane Russell. Before that, the original stage show’s big hit, “Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend,” vaulted young Carol Channing on her way to the eventual stardom she’d achieve with Hello, Dolly! Like other Shedd revivals of shows by the Gershwins and Cole Porter, the satirical story takes us back to the hijinks of high society types before the great crash of 1929. Gold digging, zippers and tiaras ensue. Shannon Coltrane and Angie Fisher fill the gowns this time at the Hult Center’s Silva Hall and join other Shedd Theatrical regulars Matt Musgrove, Trevor Eichhorn, Conor O’Brien and Mark Huisenga in a new production directed by Ron Daum and conducted by Robert Ashens.

The festival continues the Hollywood theme with concerts and films, including the Tuesday, Aug. 5, opening gala “Flying Home” starring clarinet legend Ken Peplowski, singers Bill Hulings, Bob Cross and Shirley Andress and the Emerald City Jazz Kings in 1940s swing classics from the big bands of Duke Ellington, Count Basie and more. The Aug. 6 afternoon matinee concert pays tribute to maybe America’s greatest songwriter, Harold Arlen, who merely co-wrote everything from “Stormy Weather” to “Over the Rainbow” to “Blues in the Night.” 

On Thursday afternoon, Aug. 7, Hulings, Andress, Siri Vik and Michael Stone honor the quintessential musical-film star Judy Garland in a concert featuring “The Man That Got Away,” “Get Happy” and many more, including, of course, “Over the Rainbow.” That night, Peplowski leads a small-group concert of 1940s to ’50s film music standards at Jaqua Concert Hall. The Aug. 8 Jaqua matinee concert features comedy-film hits of the era including “Baby It’s Cold Outside,” “That’s Amore” and more, while the Aug. 9 matinee show covers the great American songwriter Hoagy Carmichael’s lesser known Hollywood years as well as his earlier immortal songs like “Stardust” and “Georgia on My Mind.” Aug. 9’s final concert with Hulings, Stone and Clairdee at The Shedd celebrates in song the so-called Rat Pack: Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis and associated celebrity inebriates.

Although the Oregon Bach Festival and Country Fair have receded into past tense, summer music festivals still abound. Besides OFAM, the first Mohawk Valley Music Festival, Aug. 8-10, at Bob’s Ranch in Marcola features a diverse lineup presenting headliners Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe, Phutureprimitive, Chibuku with the great guitarist Paul Prince, Medium Troy and the Bohemian Dub Orchestra, the Shook Twins and a dozen others.

That’s the same weekend as the annual Beloved Festival out in Tidewater, Oregon, which boasts a scintillating roster of world music stars from Mauritania’s Noura Mint Seymali and her electric guitar and funk bass-driven update to Moorish griot blues to Mali’s Vieux Farka Touré, Portland’s Okropong and Jujuba, Senegalese kora harp master Youssoupha Sidibe, Zimbabwian mbira (thumb piano) virtuoso Cosmas Magaya, Pakistani qawwali music, Indian raga singing (by Portland guru Michael Stirling) and kirtan chant (Shambala) and raga (sarod star Alam Ali Khan) and many other global sacred sound makers. 

Not all the recommended music happens at festivals, though. On Aug. 4, Tiny’s in the Whit hosts the world-classical-music-influenced New York band Jaggery, featuring viola, African-inspired drumming, acoustic bass and frontwoman Mali’s Kate Bush/Joanna Newsom vocal stylings. And on Aug. 9, Baroque-aholics can hear early 17th-century Italian songs by Cima, Merula and more 2 pm at the Atrium, while that night, jazz fans take note: The enjoyably intimate Broadway House series hosts erstwhile Eugene trumpeter Josh Deutsch, who has assembled a quintet of some of Oregon’s top jazzers (saxman Joe Manis, drummer Jason Palmer) for his latest trip back from his current New York home.