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tonight: open music – kenji bunch at the old church

Tonight at 7:30 at The Old Church Concert Hall on SW Clay downtown the Oregon Symphony is presenting its first(ish)* Open Music concert. Open Music is hosted and curated by our Creative Chair Gabriel Kahane and is focused upon composer/performers who bring their musicianship, heritage, and personal experiences to their compositions. The featured composer/performer for this first Open Music of the 21/22 season is Oregon’s own Kenji Bunch. Tickets are a steal at $20, and it will be a fantastic evening of discussion and brilliant music! I hope to see you there!

*The first Open Music actually took place in mid-March of 2020, with Caroline Shaw. There was no live audience due to safety concerns. It was recorded for OPB and will air sometime this year (I think) – the very next day the lockdown started and the OSO suspended the season due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Program & Players

TraditionalWayfaring Stranger
Hawa Kassé Mady DiabatéTegere Tulon
Béla BartókViolin Duos
Morton FeldmanViola in My Life
Kenji BunchViolin Duos
Johannes BrahmsString Quintet No. 2 in G major, Op. 111 (first movement)
Kenji BunchString Circle
inti figgis-vizuetaImago
Program subject to change

Gabriel KahaneHost
Kenji Bunch,
 Composer and Co-host
Ron Blessinger, Violin
Ruby Chen, Violin
Emily Cole, Violin
Shin-young Kwon, Violin
Kayleigh Miller, Viola
Charles Noble, Viola
Maia Hoffman, Viola
Kevin Kunkel, Cello
Trevor Fitzpatrick, Cello

oregon symphony the orchestra world


The Austrian composer Gustav Mahler. Photograph by Moriz, 1907.

I wish I had a photo to go with this post. I was so uptight and nervous leading up to the concert that I completely forgot to take a selfie with Stephanie by the marquee and also forgot to get a shot of the audience from the stage. I have a superstition about having a phone on stage for concerts, and getting on and off stage with the super crowded conditions makes the extra trip a bit too cumbersome, so no photos. I’ll most likely do a followup post Monday night with photos, so stay tuned for that!

tl:dr*: It was a remarkable evening. Seeing people in the streets around the hall was envigorating. Seeing people IN THE HALL was life-affirming. Playing for those people was everything. Watching my friend Kenji Bunch take a bow after we premiered his new piece Time In filled me with joy. Playing Gabriela Lena Frank’s Elegia Andina was also a joy – listening to my colleagues in the flute section absolutely shred the duo cadenza was inspiring – congrats to Alicia Paulsen and Zachariah Galatis, you are rock stars! Having the Meyer Sound Constellation system is also a game-changer for both the audience and the orchestra.

What to say about the Mahler. We played the first movement at the close of the first half, with the rest of the symphony after intermission. Mahler himself asks for a break of at least 10 minutes between the first movement and the rest of the symphony, so this was in keeping with his wishes. The piece is a long haul for orchestra and audience alike, and I really enjoyed breaking up the piece this way. I’d be interested to see what you may have thought about this – please comment, I love hearing from you!

First of all, there was a ton of nervous energy in the orchestra. It was an edgier reading that we had in the dress rehearsal, but I think the performance benefitted from that energy surplus. There was a point where the violas were in an extended period of rests and I was just watching and listening to the violins and cellos and the rest of the orchestra just laying down a gorgeous sound with such passion and I thought to myself ‘I have the absolute best job in the world.’ It’s true. If I’ve learned anything from these 18 months away from the orchestra, it’s that I truly love playing in an orchestra, and in this orchestra in particular. I have the best colleagues in the world, many of whom are my longest and closest friends. To be back together with them in front of an audience that we have all missed so much was the best kind of family reunion.

Just a little bit about working with David Danzmayr. It’s early, and there is a lot that has to happen to cement the relationship between him and the orchestra, but I have to say that it’s off to a really good start. What I am noticing in rehearsals, and now in this first performance, is that David is very actively and intelligently listening to the orchestra. As a player, you can tell this by the fact that he doesn’t get in the way. He knows when to leave us alone and just show us where he wants to go, and he knows when he has to step in to steady things or keep the course. There was an amazing moment last night in one of the extended periods in the last movement where the offstage musicians were playing at the same time as the orchestra on stage. As can happen, the horns got a bit behind with their attacks which is problematic for the woodwinds with their constant triplet figures. David kept the pulse with his right hand and started cueing the offstage instruments slightly earlier with his left hand, and got the two groups together. I can’t even explain how difficult this had to have been to physically accomplish – maintaining the pulse of one group while leading the lagging group back into that pulse. It’s hard enough just to explain never mind to actually do it!

I’m very impressed thus far in the chemistry between David and the orchestra, and I’m looking forward to seeing how things continue to develop!

Ok, I’ve got a matinee today, so I’ve got to cut this short and get my morning going. I hope that you either come to the concerts in person this afternoon or Monday night or check out the archived live stream from last night’s concert at

*too long; didn’t read