There’s a running joke in Portland that, instead of six degrees of separation, our art scene has a mere one and a half. Bands collaborate with dance companies whose video installations are made by visual artists who design album art for other bands—until the city resembles some creative primordial soup in which inspiration is swapped like snippets of DNA. It’s little surprise then that many of this fall’s arts events involve dynamic partnerships. Here are six notable collaborative pairs, along with our top picks for the season, to guide you in your fall arts adventures.

 

PAUL WATSON | THE WAR JOURNALIST

DAN O'BRIEN | The PLAYWRIGHT

The Body of an American
Portland Center Stage
Oct 2–Nov 11
Gerding Theater 
pcs.org

 

Image: Dan Gay
Dann O'Brien: The Playwright

In the electric heat of violence, photographing a decisive millisecond demands journalistic courage. But to circle back for another try because the first shots didn’t work requires a particularly thick rebar in the spine. Canadian photojournalist Paul Watson mustered such will in 1993 when he realized the pictures he had just taken of a dead US soldier being dragged through the streets of Mogadishu showed the man’s genitals—something no American newspaper would publish. 

His second shot won a Pulitzer Prize, unleashed a public backlash that pushed the Clinton administration to pull out of Somalia, and sent Watson into post-traumatic stress, addiction, breakdown, and, finally, redemption with the book Where War Lives.

Playwright Dan O’Brien heard Watson speak on NPR and was so moved by the conversation that he e-mailed the photographer. For the next two years the men corresponded earnestly, finally meeting face-to-face at Watson’s new journalistic post: the Arctic. Now the story of their transcontinental dialogue, in the form of a play, will have its world premiere at Portland Center Stage under the direction of Bill Rauch, artistic director of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. The play has already won the prestigious Weissberger Award from the Williamstown Theatre Festival. 

Image: Dan Gay
Paul Watson: The War Journalist

More than just a portrait of a troubled war correspondent, O’Brien explains, his play is “about two people who feel pretty haunted, making a connection.” 

For Watson, the dialogue became another release. “I truly believe,” he writes from his home near Vancouver, BC, “that poets and playwrights can get at the crucial truths that obsess me with much more visceral clarity than I can as a journalist.”

The two-act play weaves together the men’s lives, with the second act turning to the first 10 days they spent together in the Arctic—the bleak, incongruous landscape of which, O’Brien says, proved to be the perfect setting for a play.  

“Paul’s book is the book of a reporter: very externally focused on events,” O’Brien says. “I’m almost too internal.” 

“We are all waging our own internal wars,” Watson adds, “and much of the noise of organized religion, the news, entertainment, social networks, and other things that consume most people’s time in the 21st century are efforts to avoid confronting what frightens us most: ourselves.” —Randy Gragg

 

Shows to Know: THEATER

 

Courtesy Joan Marcus The Broadway cast of Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson

 

And so it goes

Sept 4–Oct 7 With this world premiere adapted from Kurt Vonnegut’s Welcome to the Monkey House, Aaron Posner is again serving as both playwright and director à la his recent adaptation of Sometimes a Great Notion at PCS. This time he leads a local star-studded cast through three intertwining stories embedded in a mythological 1962 small-town New England, channeling Vonnegut’s quirky style into a lyrical case study of raw human love. —John Murray $25–50. Artists Repertory Theatre, 1515 SW Morrison St. 503-241-1278. artistsrep.org

Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street

Sept 18–Oct 21 It seems sacrilegious that PCS got through a quarter century without a single Sondheim play. To make amends, the theater is kicking off its 25th season with the musical maestro’s murderous masterpiece. This story of an olde English barber’s quest for revenge—aided by his neighbor’s grisly pie business—reached a whole new generation thanks to Tim Burton’s adaptation starring Johnny Depp, but that version lacked a certain pizzazz. We hope PCS can restore it. Have a little priest? —AS $39–70. Gerding Theater at the Armory, 128 NW 11th Ave. 503-445-3700. pcs.org

Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson

Oct 11–Nov 11 Portland Playhouse’s first musical is an emo rock coming-of-age tale for both the first populist president and his nation. If you always thought that colonial America needed fewer pantaloons and more skinny jeans, then be prepared to see your wildest eyeliner dreams brought to the stage in what the New York Times called “... the most entertaining and most perceptive political theater of the season.” —JM $12–35. Portland Playhouse, 602 NE Prescott St. 503-488-5822. portlandplayhouse.org

Othello

Oct 12–Nov 4 Northwest Classical Theatre Company may have pulled the theater coup of the season by coaxing Bill Alexander to our little theater hamlet. Perhaps best known for directing the iconic 1984 Antony Sher “bottled spider” version of Richard III, Alexander brings a titanic Shakespearean résumé, including an Olivier Award, 10 years as associate director of the Royal Shakespeare Company, and another 10 as artistic director of famed Birmingham Rep. But his lengthy credits include only three jobs in the States—all at major theaters—making this trip not only a historic one for NWCTC, but for the entire Pacific Northwest. —JM $18–20. Shoebox Theater, 2110 SE 10th Ave. 971-244-3740. nwctc.org 

CHRISTOPHER STOWELL | The CHOREOGRAPHER

JOHN GRADE | THE Sculptor

••••••••••••••••••••••••

Body Beautiful
Oregon Ballet Theatre
Oct 13–20
Keller Auditorium
obt.org

 

 

Image: Dan Gay
Christopher Stowell: The Choreographer

 When Christopher Stowell, the director of Oregon Ballet Theatre, heard that Greek and Roman statues would fill the Portland Art Museum under the title The Body Beautiful,  he instantly saw synergy. OBT already had two pieces based on Greek myths in the repertoire: Apollo

by George Balanchine and Orpheus by Stowell’s father, Kent. A dance by the popular contemporary choreographer William Forsythe, whose highly athletic pieces call for superhuman feats by the dancers, seemed an easy third. But Stowell wanted more: a centerpiece collaboration with a visual artist. PAM’s chief curator, Bruce Guenther, gave him a list of names, but he didn’t have to look beyond the first one: sculptor John Grade.  

“It was the simplicity of it,” says Stowell of his first glimpse of the Seattle artist’s massive, organic installation sculptures, which won Grade PAM’s Arlene Schnitzer Prize last year. “He takes one good idea and develops it, and that’s something I try to embody myself.”  

Image: Dan Gay
John Grade: The Sculptor

 Coincidentally, Grade had just finished designing a pair of sculptures that an Atlanta choreographer then created a dance around. Collaborating from the ground up was the natural next step. “It’s not as though I’m designing something for Christopher, or he’s designing something for me,” says Grade. “The most significant part of it is that Christopher and I are beginning this thing together.”

The two settled on the myth of Echo and Narcissus to explore the themes of reflection and transformation. Grade designed an floating forest of giant paper-lantern-like tree trunks that will hang from the ceiling, rising and falling with the dance. He is making the components out of Tyvek in Seattle and will bring them to Portland in September to be assembled by several hundred volunteers. Meanwhile, Stowell is busy choreographing how the dancers’ interaction with the sculptures—between them, inside them, and manipulating them like bendy straws—and giving Grade feedback on design.

“I like to take a material I’m very familiar with and another I don’t have experience with,” Grade says. “In this case, I’m working with Tyvek, but the other material is the body, and that’s completely unknown to me. Christopher is the conduit.”

   —Aaron Scott

 

 SHOWS TO KNOW: Dance

LA Dance Project

Sept 26 Building off worldwide acclaim as the choreographer of the Oscar-winning film Black Swan, former New York City Ballet principal dancer Benjamin Millepied founded LA Dance Project. Thanks to White Bird’s pull, Portland will be the company’s first stop after its world premiere at the Walt Disney Concert Hall. The program includes Merce Cunningham’s controversial “Winterbranch,” William Forsythe’s “Quintett,” and a premiere by Millepied himself, set to a new score by the wunderkind composer Nico Muhly. 

Laura Lundberg $26–64. Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall, 1037 SW Broadway. 503-245-1600. whitebird.org 

New Now Wow!

Oct 4–6 Northwest Dance Project kicks off its season with world premieres from three award-winning contemporary choreographers. Patrons will remember Ihsan Rustem from his 2010 NWDP premiere, State of Matter, which won the 2011 Sadler’s Wells Global Dance Contest and was performed by NWDP at London’s Cultural Olympiad. Alex Soares, who moonlights as a musician and filmmaker, won NWDP’s 2012 Pretty Creatives Residency Award. And Gregory Dolbashian has won numerous choreographic competitions, including Ballet Austin’s New American Talent/Dance Competition. —JM $25–39. Lincoln Performance Hall, 1620 SW Park Ave. 503-828-8285. nwdanceproject.org

 

Conduit Dance’s Tere Mathern

 Gather: A Dance about Convergence

Oct 25–Nov 3 Conduit Dance is on a collaboration roll. First there was its Dance+ performance series in July, where dancers paired with musicians, visual artists, and writers. Now Conduit backbone Tere Mathern is teaming up with local jack-of-all-sounds Tim DuRoche and the far-out jazz of Battle Hymns & Gardens to bring together six dancers and five musicians in a project inspired by ideas of convergence, interdependence, and synchronicity. —AS $14–17. 918 SW Yamhill St, Ste 401. 503-221-5857. conduit-pdx.org

Sunshine

Nov 9–11 Innovative local choreographer Tahni Holt’s press materials for Sunshine begin: “Cardboard boxes: architecture, little cities, modern abstract sculpture...homeless camps, forts.” And the list goes on. If her work-in-progress performance at On the Boards in June was any indication, the stage will be a landscape of cardboard that is danced with, lived in, destroyed, and otherwise manipulated by dancers Lucy Yim and Robert Tyree in this postmodern pop exploration. —AS $12–16. Bodyvox Dance Center, 1201 NW 17th Ave. tahniholt.com

JORDAN SCHNITZER | THE COLLECTOR

STEPHANIE SNYDER | THE CURATOR

••••••••••••••••••••••••

Kara Walker
Sept 4–Nov 18
Cooley Gallery
reed.edu/gallery

 

Image: Dan Gay
Stephanie Snyder: The Curator

 When Stephanie Snyder hung Kara Walker’s paper cutout The Humane Acquisition of Chitlins at the Cooley Gallery in 2008, she recalls getting “an earful” about the artist’s send-ups of antebellum black-white relations, not from students, faculty, or the public, but from one of the other artists in the show: Faith Ringgold. 

One of the grandmothers of black feminist art, Ringgold is hardly the only African American artist of her generation to find Walker’s work, which has hung in solo exhibitions at major museums around the world, discomfiting. Artist Betye Saar bluntly called it “revolting” in the hundreds of letters she sent to institutions nationwide in an attempt to stop the showing of Walker’s art. 

Undeterred, Snyder is now presenting an entire show of Walker’s prints, maquettes, and a new film, Fall Frum Grace, Miss Pipi’s Blue Tale. But no less surprising than Ringgold’s ire last time is the enthusiasm for the art in this show from the local collector lending most of it: Jordan Schnitzer. 

 

Image: Dan Gay
Jordan Schnitzer: The Collector

 “[Walker] takes this elementary form,” Schnitzer says, recalling the similar cutouts he made as a child, “and puts the most intense images in our face. There’s nowhere to go from her work: she makes us deal with this history.”

Snyder plans to steer clear of the most notorious of Walker’s images, in which she brutally and exuberantly sexualizes (and often recasts) the power dynamics between slave and master. Instead, the show will focus, Snyder says, on “the more intimate dialogue her work has with history”—the prints riffing on Harper’s Pictorial History of the Civil War and the film on 19th-century dioramas and vaudeville. She knew nothing of Schnitzer’s interest until Walker’s New York gallery told her about the “Portland collector who owns not only editions of all of Walker’s prints, but the only two series of steel cutouts she has made”—precisely the work Snyder wanted to accompany the film. “I’ve never heard Jordan speak so richly about an artist’s work before,” she recalls of her first meeting with him about the show. 

Walker will lecture on October 2, and Snyder is working with Reed’s new VP for institutional diversity, the poet Crystal Williams, to develop programming for both a campus and a city that have had uneasy race relations. 

“We want to be careful and circumspect about the show’s contents,” Snyder says. “We also hope to have serious conversation.” —RG

  

  

A still from Kara Walker’s film Fall Frum Grace, Miss Pipi’s Blue Tale

 

SHOWS TO KNOWVISUAL ART

Happy Birthday: A Celebration of Chance and Listening

Sept 6–Nov 17 In prominent conceptual artist Paul Kos’s installation The Sound of Ice Melting, microphones surround two giant ice blocks to capture the elusive, entropic tones of ice turning to water. It’s but one of the pieces that sets the tone for this cross-media, 100th birthday tribute to John Cage, a giant of post-war art and music. Other highlights include a striking piece from Alison Knowles, whose award-winning work in the Fluxus movement drew on the radical techniques she picked up as an early student of Cage, and Portland-based artist Stephanie Simek’s solar- and plant-powered musical window-box experiment. —Kit Mauldin Free. Feldman Gallery + Project Space, PNCA, 1241 NW Johnson St. pnca.edu

 

The Body Beautiful

Oct 6–Jan 6 Landing on American soil for the first time here in Portland, The Body Beautiful explores the human form through priceless Greek and Roman works drawn from the British Museum’s collection, including the iconic discus-throwing Discobolus. To mark the occasion, PAM will partner with Nike and OHSU for a series of talks and programs looking at the body—classical, contemporary, and futuristic.
—JM $20. Portland Art Museum, 1219 SW Park Ave. 503-226-2811. portlandartmuseum.org

 

MK Guth

Oct 7–Dec 9 When nothing else subsists, smell and taste remain is both a backward glance and a forward look for this homegrown art star. A book published by the Art Gym caps Guth’s interactive projects. Then the show itself initiates a new direction exploring the act of gathering to share food. It will include serving objects and recipe books that provide guidance and utensils for a series of dinners inspired by art, places, relationships, and milestones, such as Dinner for John Cage (based on the composer’s Mushrooms et Variationes) and Dinner for the Woods. There will also be weekly discussions about food, including one about German drinking songs, because Dinner for Crying involves crying in your beer. —AS Free. The Art Gym, Marylhurst University, 17600 Pacific Hwy, Marylhurst. 503-636-8141. marylhurst.edu

 

ANGELA MATTOX | THE CURATOR

KEITH HENNESSY | THE ARTIST
••••••••••••••••••••••••
Turbulence (a dance about the economy)
Sept 11–14
Imago Theatre
pica.org

 

 

Image: Dan Gay
Angela Mattox: The Curator

  It may be a cliché to call a performance art “dangerous” and “uncomfortable,” but Portland Institute for Contemporary Art’s new artistic director, Angela Mattox, has long embraced those very traits in her collaboration with Bay Area dancer Keith Hennessy.

Seated in PICA’s office, Mattox ticks off Hennessy’s stomach-curdling acts under her tenure at San Francisco’s Yerba Buena Center for the Arts: directing a group of at-risk youth as they nailed one of their own into a plywood box; climbing into the rafters for unplanned aerial stunts; digressing into a candid, onstage discussion about how much the center was paying him. But the pinnacle of queasiness took place during a show called Auf den Tisch! Out of nowhere, Hennessy produced a two-by-four that he used as a balance beam between a table onstage and the shoulders of several audience members, including an elderly woman. “There’s no shutting down the show,” Mattox says. “He can make me uncomfortable, but that’s honestly what I look for as a curator. Otherwise, I’m not supporting art that’s potent or questioning enough.”

Image: Dan Gay
Keith Hennessy: The Artist

 Traditionally, the curator/artist relationship is a one-dimensional one: the curator has the power. But when Mattox first moved to San Francisco in 2003 to head Yerba Buena, she reached out to Hennessy, not as an artist, but as a guest curator. “His viewpoint was incredible in terms of understanding the community and culture,” she says. “He really pushed us to access an experimental group of artists.” 

After six years of beaming visiting curators in from afar, PICA hired Mattox last year as its first resident artistic director since founder Kristy Edmunds departed in 2005. Mattox’s charge was to expand year-round programming and interactive artist residencies. Hennessy was at the top of her list. She brought him to town for a weeklong symposium in June to develop his interactive ensemble premiere for the Time-Based Art Festival. Called Turbulence (a dance about the economy), it explores the financial collapse and economic injustice with Hennessy’s activist flair (picture a human pyramid of dancers wearing gold-sequined hoods—the Federal Reserve meets Abu Ghraib). 

“My base is hyper-local and politically engaged,” Hennessy writes from an artist’s retreat in France. “With Turbulence, Angela dares me to take my work more seriously, to consider its influence on local, national, and international art ecologies.” —AS

SHOWS TO KNOWTBA | TIME-BASED ART FESTIVAL

 

Big Art Group’s The People—Polverigi in Italy

Big Art Group 

Sept 6–8 This New York performance collective has made an international name for itself as masters of multimedia, using acting and live video feeds to creatively warp space and perspective. For The People—Portland, they spent a week in May interviewing a range of locals about justice, community, war, and democracy. Using the interviews as a “chorus” of sorts, they’ll loosely retell the Greek tragedy The Oresteia by projecting the interviews onto the walls of Washington High School. —AS $15–20. Washington High School, 531 SE 14th Ave

Sam Green & Yo La Tengo

Sept 12 What do you get when you cross an Oscar-nominated filmmaker, a critically acclaimed indie band, and one of the most innovative thinkers of the 20th century? A mind-bending “live documentary” titled The Love Song of R. Buckminster Fuller. Drawing on footage of Fuller, documentary filmmaker Sam Green (The Weather Underground) will narrate the film live while the mercurial but prolific band Yo La Tengo provides the soundtrack. It’ll be like a TEDtalk with a beat that, knowing Fuller’s vast imagination, will completely blow your view of the world. —AS $20–25. Washington High School, 531 SE 14th Ave 

African choreographer Faustin Linyekula

 Faustin Linyekula

Sept 13–15 Standing out in this year’s unprecedented global range of artists, Linyekula is a leading choreographer from the Democratic Republic of Congo whose “work in Africa constitutes a crucial link to the rest of the world,” according to director Peter Sellars. In the US premiere of his first solo work, Le Cargo, Linyekula translates memories of the brutal history of his war-torn homeland into hypnotic, fluid movements, mapping decades of pain and terror onto his own body. —AS $20–25. Winningstad Theatre, 1111 SW Broadway

Laurie Anderson

Sept 16 Closing out the 10th anniversary fest is the artistic polyglot Laurie Anderson—a fitting finale not only because she’s one of the mothers of contemporary performance art, but because her show, Dirtday!, is the third in a trilogy of solo works that she’s performed over the past decade in Portland. While Happiness, in 2002, tackled the search for contentment, and The End of the Moon, in 2006, explored space and her inaugural artistic residency at NASA, Dirtday! turns to the fear still present a decade after 9/11, and the Occupy movement’s response. —AS $15–75. Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall, 1037 SW Broadway

For info regarding all shows, call 503-224-7422 or visit pica.org.

 

DANNY SEIM | the Multi-instrumentalist 

JUSTIN HARRIS | the Multi-instrumentalist
••••••••••••••••••••••••
Menomena
MusicFestNW
Sept 7
Pioneer Courthouse Square
menomena.com

 

Image: Dan Gay
Danny Seim: The Multi-Instrumentalist

 On a hot July afternoon, the two remaining members of Menomena, Justin Harris and Danny Seim, are setting up for their first rehearsal since last September inside the former pipe organ house that serves as both the band’s rehearsal space and Harris’s home. Seim assembles a drum set that looks child-size beside his six-foot-seven frame, and Harris plays a riff on his baritone saxophone before handing it to their newest touring bandmate, singer-songwriter Holcombe Waller. 

“Doesn’t it start on a G?” Waller asks.

“Could be,” Harris answers, “it’s been so long since I’ve played it.” Which isn’t that unusual; Menomena has historically taken long breaks to record new albums, and this September marks the release of their fifth, Moms. The band’s last two critically lauded efforts established it as Portland’s homegrown answer to Radiohead. But that only sets the stakes higher for Moms: it marks the first record Menomena has crafted as a duo after the departure of the third founding member, Brent Knopf, in a breakup that was watched like a soap opera by local and national press.

 

Image: Dan Gay
Justin Harris: The Multi-Instrumentalist

Much has been made of the band’s unusually democratic, sometimes dysfunctional creative process, in which each member separately pens an equal number of songs. Journalists initially gave a software program Knopf created almost super-musical powers, describing an Oz-like matrix that would cut up rhythms and reassemble them into perfectly polished songs. (It was mainly just a recording tool they no longer use.) Then, during the troubled creation of their last album, Mines, the press reported that the band’s songwriting was done purely via e-mail. Neither process quite hits the mark, particularly now.

“It seems like no matter how hard we try to sit in a room together and write like traditional bands do, we can’t do it well,” Harris admits. Instead, he and Seim come together for some initial jamming; then they take those recordings home and refine them before passing them on to the other person for further embellishment—each handoff layering on lush complexities and musical turns more akin to plays with scenes than traditional verse/chorus construction. 

“We’re adding stuff that the other person wouldn’t normally think of on his own,” Harris says, pointing to the first track, “Plumage,” which he initially envisioned with only hand claps—until Seim added driving drumbeats. In the past, this process resulted in a lot of strained compromise among three members pushing separate agendas. Now, with only the two, who’ve been playing together since high school, the process flows surprisingly smoothly.

“It’s less important these days to get our way, and more important to feel good about what we’re doing,” says Seim, shortly before breaking into the hand claps that begin “Plumage.” “In that regard, I’m more excited about this record than I’ve been in a while.” —AS

 

SHOWS TO KNOWPOP MUSIC

 

MusicFest NW

Sept 5–9 For one magical long weekend, over 165 bands fan out across 17 venues, lighting up the entire city like a sonic firecracker. Highlights this year include big-name indie darlings Passion Pit and Beirut, mash-up god Girl Talk, local groups with much-anticipated new albums like Helio Sequence, alt-rock throwbacks like Dinosaur Jr. and Portland’s long-defunct Hazel, and the launch of a tech conference component (to follow further in SXSW’s footsteps) called Portland Digital eXperience (PDX). —AS For ticket info, showtimes, and venue info, visit musicfestnw.com.

 

Crosby, Stills, & Nash

Sept 12 It’s been over 40 years since CSN invited us into their house. These three cats might’ve aged, but they’re still very, very fine in their vocal harmonies and overlapping guitars. They’ve even managed to survive long enough to see pop music rediscover the style they made famous (we’re talking about you, Fleet Foxes). —AS $48.50–90.50. Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall, 1037 SW Broadway. pcpa.com

 

Budding New Zealand pop icon Kimbra

 Kimbra

Sept 27 This New Zealander stole our collective hearts while stealing the show as Gotye’s cameo lover on last year’s ubiquitous “Sombody That I Used to Know.” Did it come as any surprise then that the virtuosic vocalist would go on to bigger and better things? With an ear for both experimentation and melody, profusely live-looping and layering both vox and beats, Kimbra's on a fast track to becoming our new favorite pop icon. —KM $17.50–20. Wonder Ballroom, 128 NE Russell St. 503-284-8686. wonderballroom.com

David Byrne/St. Vincent

Oct 18 Inspired by a benefit concert by Björk and the Dirty Projectors, the dreamteam of Byrne and St. Vincent embarked on an intense collaborative songwriting process. So far their partnership has resulted in the album Love This Giant—12 songs blending the best traits of both artists and backed almost exclusively with bespoke brass arrangements. —KM $43–53.50. Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall, 1037 SW Broadway. pcpa.com

 

catherine van der salm | THE SOLOIST

MONICA HUGGETT | The CONDUCTOR

••••••••••••••••••••••••

Choral Glory
Portland Baroque Orchestra with Cappella Romana
Oct 12–14
First Baptist Church & Kaul Auditorium
pbo.org

 

 

Image: Dan Gay
Catherine Van Der Salm: The Soloist

  There was a moment during soprano Catherine van der Salm’s early 2011 performance of Bach’s The St. John Passion that was so beautiful, she started to choke up. The performance was a two-pronged collaborative experiment between Portland Baroque Orchestra and Cappella Romana, the internationally renowned vocal ensemble with which van der Salm sings. First, the two groups wanted to learn if there was an audience for vocal/orchestral efforts beyond the holiday tradition of Handel’s Messiah. (There was.) Second, they wanted to record a complete major work that would garner international attention. (It did: the prestigious French magazine Diapason called it “a major reinterpretation of the work.”)

 But for van der Salm, the tear-jerking moment was triggered by the expressive dance of bow on string
during the penultimate movement, “Ruht wohl,” by PBO artistic director and world-renowned violinist Monica Huggett. “She’s so impassioned,” van der Salm says, “and in that movement, I was so full of emotion that it almost overwhelmed me.” 

Van der Salm will have the opportunity to work even more closely with Huggett this fall when she performs as a soloist in the next collaboration, a concert of choral masterworks from the three giants of Baroque music: Bach, Handel, and Vivaldi (including Vivaldi’s blockbuster, Gloria). 

Image: Dan Gay
Monica Huggett: The Conductor

 Baroque music might not seem the richest soil for collaboration. The composers are long dead, the conductors call the shots, and the performers simply play their parts, right? Not when Portland’s most skilled period ensembles come together.

“I’m not the big maestro who sweeps in,” says Huggett of her rehearsals with the choir. At 16 players each, the two groups are small, and given the almost question-and-answer style of many Baroque compositions—where melodies echo between groups with improvised ornamentations—each performer
affects the whole. 

“Every choice that Monica makes, for example,” says van der Salm, “from the way she plays a given melody to the notes she emphasizes, informs the way I sing a vocal line. We’re creating a greater whole together.” —AS 

 

SHOWS TO KNOWCLASSICAL MUSIC

 

Views from cascadia

Sept  27 Leading contemporary composer and Alaskan resident John Luther Adams named this concert-length composition with a line from an Inuit poem: Earth and the Great Weather. In this performance, Third Angle Ensemble will bring together its skilled base of musicians, four singers, and spoken recordings from native Alaskans and translators to take us on what Luther describes as “a journey through the physical, cultural, and spiritual landscapes of the Arctic, in music, language, and sound.” —LL $5–35. Agnes Flanagan Chapel, Lewis & Clark College, 615 SW Palatine Hill Rd. 503-331-0301. thirdangle.org

 

Gerhardt Plays Tchaikovsky

Oct 27 & 29 German cellist Alban Gerhardt has performed with orchestras worldwide to spectacular reviews, but he’s also known for playing in unusual venues. During a tour of Germany during which people called into radio stations to propose sites for free concerts, he performed in a train station, a commune, strangers’ living rooms, and a maternity ward. As the Oregon Symphony’s first artist-in-residence, he’ll bring the big, emotive fullness of his playing to Tchaikovsky at the Schnitz, but he’ll also take suggestions for other venues. So think twice before passing a guy with a cello at the streetcar stop. —Riley Stevenson $26–95. Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall, 1037 SW Broadway. 503-228-1353. orsymphony.org

  

Bass baritone Daniel Okulitch as Don Giovanni serenades Keri Alkema as Donna Elvira at the New York City Opera.

 

Don Giovanni

Nov 2–10 How do you go about casting the world’s most famous rakish lover in one of the world’s greatest operas? You can start with the voice, but to really sell his anti-hero charm, it doesn’t hurt to also think of the body. Operachic.com called Canadian bass baritone Daniel Okulitch “a swaggering rock star” after his New York City Opera debut as Don Giovanni, but he’s likely best known for his full monty showing in Howard Shore’s opera The Fly, directed by David Cronenberg at the Los Angeles Opera. —AS $20 & up. Keller Auditorium, 222 SW Clay St. 503-241-1802. portlandopera.org

 

Shanghai Quartet 

Dec 3 & 4 One of the world’s foremost chamber ensembles, the Shanghai Quartet is famous for its mix of Eastern and Western music, classical and contemporary. The New York Times is especially taken with the fab four, declaring: “If there is a string quartet currently in circulation that produces a more beautiful sound than the Shanghai Quartet, the name doesn’t immediately come to mind.” For its Portland performances, the quartet will perform material by composers ranging from Beethoven to Dvo?ák to the quartet’s own Yi-Wen Jiang.—JM $27 & up. Lincoln Performance Hall, 1620 SW Park Ave. 503-224-9842. focm.org