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Musical Mashups

A week of multicultural music, new and traditional, greets Eugene
Esma Redzepova
Esma Redzepova

Multi-culti is all the rage in music, food and the rest of today’s global culture. But mixing Latin American and European ingredients still felt pretty novel back in 1954, when Venezuelan composer Antonio Estévez wrote his colorful Cantata Criolla, which Eugene Concert Choir and Eugene Symphony will perform April 30 at the Hult Center’s Silva Hall.

Estévez’s rhythmically charged half-hour composition for orchestra, chorus and a pair of star vocal soloists flown in from Venezuela sets to music a text by Venezuelan poet Alberto Arvelo Torrealba that revolves around a dramatic Faustian singing contest — sort of a musical boxing match or bullfight — between the hero and the devil. Appropriate to its name (“Creole” means, basically, a mashup of races or languages), the cantata encompasses influences from Latin America’s indigenous cultures as well as the mid-century Atlantic modernism then beginning to dominate trans-Atlantic classical music, ancient sacred music traditions and earlier 20th-century European opera and classical music.

ECC will also sing Argentine composer Ariel Ramírez’s groundbreaking Misa Criolla written a decade after Estévez’s cantata. The folk mass’ diverse instrumentation (Andean instruments like the quena flute and strummed charango you might recall from Simon & Garfunkel’s “El Condor Pasa,” as well as guitar, Argentine percussion including bomba drums and harpsichord) reflects its hybrid influences. An Andean music ensemble performs in the Hult lobby before the show, and at 11 am Eugene-area school kids will join ECC onstage at Silva to sing excerpts from the evening program and more.

There’s more choral artistry up the road in Salem at Willamette University’s Hudson Hall April 30 and May 1, when Oregon Bach Festival founder Helmuth Rilling leads the Willamette Master Chorus in a pair of much earlier cantatas by J.S. Bach, featuring a quartet of top vocal soloists from Portland. And speaking of Bach, on April 24 the Baroque music specialists in Oregon Bach Collegium will play chamber music Bach’s son Carl Philipp Emmanuel and contemporaries Quantz, Abel and more at United Lutheran Church (2230 Washington Street).

Musical mashups are nothing new to the Romani people, who picked up and assimilated so many in their centuries-long journeys across Asia and Europe. On April 29, the University of Oregon’s World Music Series brings the charismatic Macedonian singer and humanitarian activist Esma Redžepova to Beall Hall. If you saw the “Queen of Romani Music” some years back in Eugene as part of the Gypsy Caravan (one of the 8000-plus concerts she’s performed over a half-century), you’ll know why she’s considered one of the great popularizers of Balkan music. 

On May 1, still another great world-music tradition, the gamelan music of Indonesia, is featured in the UO’s Pacific Rim gamelan concert at Aasen-Hull Hall, which includes premieres of new pieces for that bronze percussion orchestra written by UO students. More UO new music is featured in the free Oregon Composers Forum concert April 22 at Beall, and still more contemporary music (by women composers) resounds at Ova Novi Ensemble’s April 25 Beall concert. On April 23, the UO Opera Ensemble parties down with bibulous drinking songs from great operas by Mozart, Strauss and more.

More multicultural musical mixes: On April 22 at Cozmic’s mostly Aloha Friday, Stephen Inglis and Da Ukulele Boyz showcase their mix of native Hawaiian slack-key guitar, rock and original folk music. On April 29, Golden Bough blends Celtic instruments and musical traditions with contemporary folk music. If you missed Paul McCartney’s Portland show last week, you can hear another musical mashup at the Shedd’s April 27 Jazz Heritage Project concert, which features jazzy versions of Beatles hits led by tenor saxophonist and radio host Carl Woideck and his ensemble.

And on May 4 at The Shedd, guitarist Chico Schwall leads a program that illustrates how the most popular musical mashup of all — rock’n’roll — emerged from immigrant traditions including Cajun, gospel, bluegrass, jazz and blues music.