there was joy in mudville that night

Even as darkness fell, our fans remained! Photo: Stephanie Kramer
Even as darkness fell, our fans remained! Photo: Stephanie Kramer

Last night, the Oregon Symphony played its annual Waterfront Concert at Tom McCall Waterfront Park in downtown Portland. It is the first year that rain has struck the event with any degree of severity. We’ve had some stray sprinkles here and there, but not the out and out deluge that descended upon us Thursday evening.

The Waterfront Concert is always such a fun way to start the season. It’s free to everyone, so we get big crowds – up to 20,000 or so. This year the dire forecast did cut down the attendance somewhat, but we still had thousands brave the elements, and those who did not come down in person were able to listen to the live broadcast of the concert on AllClassical Portland 89.9 on the radio and via web stream.

Much of the day was overcast and blustery, with the rain starting to move in during the afternoon’s set of performances by local arts ensembles. My concert with the Third Angle Quartet at 2:00 was dry, but FearNoMusic didn’t fare as well during their performance at 3:00, when the mist moved in to make everything damp, in spite of the canopy over the side stage area. There was no steady rain in the afternoon, but the portent was set for the rest of the day.

The main event started dry enough, with enough wind present to make my job as page turner more involved than usual. About the time we started the Mozart symphony, the rain really started, and then began to absolutely pour. A few of our less prepared audience members made a run for it at that point, but they were small in number. Most everyone else remained, opened their umbrellas and put on their ponchos, and stayed for the duration.

Can I just say at this point how impressed the orchestra was by our fabulous Oregonian fans? We think that you were all rock stars! It warmed our hearts to see all of you braving the rain and damp and mud to listen to us perform. You have our enduring admiration and respect!

We got to the Bizet, selections from the L’Arlésienne Suite, which featured principal players of the Metropolitan Youth Symphony playing alongside the OSO principals, and there was a brief pow-wow at the changeover in which it was decided to cut several numbers and proceed to the 1812 Overture finale. Norman Huynh made his excellent debut as our new Assistant conductor in music from John Williams’ score to E.T., and then the Portland Youth Philharmonic principals joined us for their side-by-side for the Tchaikovsky 1812 Overture. The rain began to taper during the performance, leaving it safe for us to get our instruments to the backstage tents without incident as the fireworks display commenced. We were sorry to miss our collaboration with the dancers of Oregon Ballet Theatre (Tchaikovsky Serenade), but it would not have been safe for them to dance on a wet stage. We’ll look forward to playing with them again next August!

All in all, it was a dramatic and different Waterfront Concert, but still very rewarding and fun for all!

 

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my fall preview

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It’s right at the end of August, Portland has had temps at or above 100°F several times, the homegrown tomatoes are ripening, and the usual early bird maple trees are already starting to get some color on their leaves. That means that the fall arts season must be right around the corner.

Third Angle

Over at Third Angle New Music, we’re already hard at work on Steve Reich’s Triple Quartet (1999), which we’ll be playing at the Oregon Symphony’s day of local music performances at the site of the annual Waterfront Concert on Sept 1st. That will be a preview for our concert on Sept. 30/Oct. 1 at the Oregon Rail Heritage Center. Also on the program, two other quartets by Reich, his masterpiece Different Trains (1988), and his reaction to the events of September 11, WTC 9/11 (2010). It will be an amazing concert for all of us.

Oregon Symphony

The evening of Sept 1, the Oregon Symphony takes to the outdoor stage at Tom McCall Waterfront Park to play our traditional Waterfront Concert. We’ll be playing a variety of light and serious classical works, partnered with Oregon Ballet Theatre, Portland Opera, Metropolitan Youth Symphony, Portland Youth Philharmonic, and Alpha Battery 218th Field Artillery of the Oregon National Guard. It will also be simulcast live on AllClassical Portland (89.9FM), hosted by Suzanne Nance and Robert McBride.

The season pretty much starts with a bang (literally, fireworks and canons), and keeps going like crazy for the first few months. Here are some of the highlights that I’m particularly looking forward to:

  • Renée Fleming sings Strauss’ Four Last Songs on our season opener, Sept. 10.
  • Bartók’s Bluebeard’s Castle with sets by glass artist Dale Chihuly, Sept. 24-26.
  • Music of David Bowie, Sept. 29.
  • Sibelius Symphony No. 3 and Rachmaninoff 3rd Piano Concerto, Oct. 8-10.
  • Ein Heldenleben and percussionist Colin Currie plays Andrew Norman, Oct. 22-24.
  • Raiders of the Lost Ark, Nov. 10.

Find out about these and all of the Oregon Symphony’s other concerts at www.orsymphony.org.

Arnica Quartet

My quartet, the Arnica Quartet, is playing a midday concert at the University of Portland on Wednesday, November 2 at 12:30pm. We’ll be performing Webern’s early and Romantic Langsamer satz, and Beethoven’s Op. 131 quartet in C-sharp minor.

Definitely a lot going on this fall, I hope you can join me for at least some of what I’m doing!

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things to look forward to

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I’m in the midst of my summer festival season, and as time goes by, I’m gradually starting to turn my attention to the upcoming concert season, looking for both the obvious and the hidden gems it contains.

I wear quite a few hats during the year – quartet violist, new music violist, orchestral violist, teaching violist. There are a few things from each that I’m especially looking forward to.

Quartet Violist

  • The Arnica Quartet is only playing a couple of concerts this year, but the two big works of the year are also two of the greatest string quartets ever written: Dvorak’s Op. 104 in A-flat major, and Beethoven’s Op. 131 in C-sharp minor. There is plenty to sink one’s teeth into as a violist, and some incredible music.

New Music Violist

  • The 2016-2017 Third Angle season starts off with all three of Steve Reich’s string quartets, including a masterpiece of the 20th century, Different Trains. I am beyond stoked to get a chance to play that piece, as well as his Triple Quartet, and WTC 9/11.
  • Later in the season, Third Angle returns to the OMSI planetarium to perform Georg Friedrich Haas’ String Quartet No. 3 “In iij. Noct.” Audiences raved about this piece at the 2013 T:B:A Festival, and it was definitely an out-of-body type performance experience, too!

Orchestral Violist

  • Bartók’s one act opera Bluebeard’s Castle has long been on my bucket list. The fact that the Oregon Symphony’s production uses the huge glass sculptures of Dale Chihuly as part of the concert setting pushes it over the top into amazing.
  • The Oregon Symphony’s woodwind and brass sections have long been world-class, but this season we get to hear them take the solo stage in Frank Martin’s Concerto for Seven Wind Instruments.
  • Respighi’s Pines of Rome. Just thinking of the Via Appia movement gives me chills.
  • A Kenji Bunch world premiere (commissioned by the Oregon Symphony). Finally, a local commission by my orchestra. And it couldn’t have been by a nicer guy, violist and composer Kenji Bunch. No idea what he’s cooking up, but it will be fun, difficult, and beautiful!

So, that’s what has me excited so far. There are always surprises, things that I don’t expect to be great that are, things that I expect to be great that aren’t. And new things appear from out of nowhere. We’ll see…