Eugene Weekly : Music : 11.21.07

A Real Old Fashioned Christmas
Local and international groups get in the spirit

There’s so much worthy music playing at the UO over the next couple weeks that you might as well just set up a sleeping bag around Beall Concert Hall. The guards will likely mistake you for a finals-cramming student or a student musician waiting for a stairwell to open up for practice space. (The space crunch should be alleviated in a year or so when the building expansion is done.)

Waverly Consort

The major Beall ringing is the Waverly Consort‘s Christmas Story at 3 pm Sunday, Nov. 25. More than concert, the program features some theatrical gestures and other visual elements (music manuscripts and other illuminated miniatures) to dramatize the biblical nativity story from the perspective of the Middle Ages. The celebrated New York-based period instrument quintet, augmented by eight singers, uses costumes, music (much of it unfamiliar) and authentic instruments of the time and place (medieval Italy, Britain, Spain, France) to conjure a musical and visual spectacle appropriate to the occasion. Whether you observe the Christian holiday or not, if you’re tired of endless Christmas cliches (Santa, reindeer, the same half dozen carols), this musical and historical performance should make a wonderful holiday event.

Speaking of sounds medieval, the UO’s Collegium Musicum will sing vocal music from the 13th and 14th centuries in a free show at Central Lutheran Church (18th & Potter) Monday, Nov. 26, including songs by Machaut and Landini and motets from Paris’ cathedral of Notre Dame. The next evening, one of the finest vocal ensembles of our time, Norway’s Trio Medieval (abetted by a percussionist) sings Scandinavian traditional music in Portland at St. Philip Neri Church. Back at Beall, the UO’s holiday choral concert on Thursday, Nov. 29, collects a trio of campus choirs to sing seasonal music from the past four centuries, including spirituals and contemporary works.

As always, the UO has plenty of music of our own time. On Tuesday, Nov. 27, the estimable Eugene Contemporary Chamber Ensemble plays music by Darius Milhaud and other works, including a world premiere by UO graduate composer Jesse Jones. On Friday, Nov. 30, at 4 pm in the Knight Library Browsing Room, other student chamber ensembles will play intimate music by Milhaud’s Paris colleague Francis Poulenc, Ervin Schulhoff, the great 20th century composer Gyorgy Ligeti, who died last year, and others including an oldie but goodie: Schubert’s Trout quintet. On Sunday, Dec. 2, the UO Percussion Ensemble bangs out music by Michael Colgrass, Anthony Cirone and — another oldie — Telemann. And don’t forget the brief Monday Sound-Bytes series from 11:54 am-12:08 pm at the UO’s Collier House, which on Dec. 3 features the debut performance of Beta Collide, a new music group directed by the UO faculty trumpeter Brian McWhorter (nationally known for his work in the New York based Meridian Ensemble) and fab flutist Molly Barth (internationally acclaimed for her work in Eighth Blackbird) in a trio by the much admired contemporary Ukrainian composer Valentin Silvestrov. Admission is free to all of these but the percussion concert.

We opened with a holiday concert, so let’s close with one. The Shedd is making its Christmas show an annual tradition. Singer Shirley Andress and pianist Vicki Brabham, both Shedd veterans, have invited various favorite musicians to accompany them in classic Christmas fare, singalong carols, and more Friday, Nov. 30, Thursday, Dec. 6, and Sunday, Dec. 9 (matinee) at the Shedd.