The academy and the arts don’t always mix well. Entombing arts in the ivory tower can lead to insularity, esotericism and disregard of popular appeal. But at its best, the academy can enrich the arts with its depth of knowledge, benefiting audiences with previously undiscovered repertoire and styles of interpretation.
Case in point: the University of Oregon’s annual Musicking Conference, which runs May 23-27.
Not only does this conference reach scholars all over the world, but its performances also entertain hundreds of Eugeneans with free concerts informed by ever-increasing research into how centuries-old music was actually performed when it was written. The performances benefit from that authenticity.
Highlights include a historically informed performance Wednesday, May 24, of one of the great early Baroque masterpieces, Claudio Monteverdi’s Selva morale et spirituale, at Central Lutheran Church, 1857 Potter Street. On Saturday, May 27, the church hosts a much rarer Italian Baroque gem: Giovanni Bononcini’s oratorio La Maddalena a’ piedi di Cristo on period instruments. Performances of a more intimate nature happen over the lunch hour May 24 (Renaissance Wind Band), May 25 (Renaissance lute) and May 26 (early Italian keyboard music) at the university’s Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art.
Then there’s an afternoon medieval poetry and music event featuring Portland Baroque Orchestra cellist Joanna Blendulf and Portland early music singer Aaron Cain May 26 at the UO’s Collier House, which also hosts a concert the previous evening featuring William Dongois, one of the world’s most-respected cornetto (a Baroque woodwind instrument) players. It’s a chance to do some musical time-traveling with the best possible tour guides.
As a kind of Musicking appetizer, check out later Baroque music with Grand Cru Baroque playing music by J. S. Bach, C. P. E. Bach (a superb composer in his own right, unfortunately overshadowed by his immortal dad’s legacy), French Baroque master Jean-Marie Leclair and more May 21 at First United Methodist Church, 1376 Olive Street. The band features the always-engaging Blendulf along with leader and flute and recorder master Kim Pineda, plus Eugene’s own keyboard whiz Julia Brown and Seattle Baroque guitar/lute specialist August Denhard.
And if that’s not enough to sate your craving for the beauties of Baroque music, don’t worry: The Oregon Bach Festival — another fruitful combination of education and entertainment, academics and the arts — is just around the corner.
For musical time-traveling to more-recent eras, there’s the Eugene Symphonic Band’s Pops Concert May 21 at First Baptist Church, 3550 Fox Meadow Road, which sports tunes by Benny Goodman, Gershwin, Sousa and more.
Hear even more American classics in the Emerald City Jazz Kings’ May 18 and 21 shows at The Shedd, featuring music by Nacio Herb Brown and Arthur Freed. Who dat? Merely the composers of Singin’ in the Rain’s bountiful score, excerpts from which these concerts will feature along with the team’s other Hollywood Broadway hits of the 1930s and ’40s.
And speaking of Broadway, Soromundi Lesbian Chorus sings hits from several decades of Broadway music, from “The Pajama Game” to “Fun Home,” this Saturday, May 20, at the Hult’s Soreng Theater. — Brett Campbell