Voices of Spring

Vocal ensembles sing music of the world

Siri Vik and Shirley Andress. Photo by Dmitri von Klein | monovita.com
Siri Vik and Shirley Andress. Photo by Dmitri von Klein | monovita.com

If music is the universal language, the voice is the universal instrument.

At 7:30 pm Friday, April 10, Eugene Vocal Arts showcases some of the planet’s many singing styles in its Eastern Voices concert at the UO’s Beall Concert Hall. It’s a treat to see the choir venturing beyond the standard Western classical chorale rep in music from Korea, China, Mongolia, Russia (including Rachmaninoff’s famous “Vocalise”), Moravia (Dvořák’s Songs of Nature), Japan (an arrangement by the great 20th-century Japanese composer Toru Takemitsu) and the exuberant arrangement of A.R. Rahman’s Bollywood hit “Jai Ho” arranged by Portland State University professor and Oregon Repertory Singers music director Ethan Sperry.

At 3 pm Sunday, April 12, one of America’s greatest vocal ensembles, the Minnesota-based men’s choir Cantus, returns to Beall with a diverse program ranging from African-American work songs to the Hebrew Kaddish, as well as classics by Holst, Janáček and Tallis, traditional tunes from around the world, plus music by North American composers Richard Rodgers and Stephen Hatfield and (commendably) newly commissioned music.

Cantus says the program “explores the traditions and customs of singing throughout the world with specific emphasis on when and why people sing together.” It should be one of the finest concerts of the season.

Next Sunday, April 19, at 4 pm, still another vocal ensemble, Eugene’s own national award-winning a cappella group Rezonate, joins local high school vocal groups to perform pop, jazz, rock, soul and more at First United Methodist Church (1376 Olive St.).

That same weekend at 7:30 pm Friday and Saturday, April 17-18, and 1:30 pm Sunday, April 19, at The Shedd, two veterans of the venue’s many musical theater productions, singers Shirley Andress and Siri Vik, team up for “How Lovely To Be A Woman.” The theatrical cabaret show features a cycle of songs focusing on the female — identity, image and other issues — all drawn from songwriters as diverse as Neil Young, Stephen Sondheim, Nina Simone and Rufus Wainwright. More than just a recital, the singers play characters (the show is directed and choreographed by Richard Jessup) and features a band that includes saxist Jesse Cloninger, pianist Vicki Brabham and more Shedd vets.

Still more youthful singers convene for the Metropolitan Choral Festival at 7 pm Tuesday, April 21, at the Hult’s Silva Hall.

On a non-vocal note, the Israeli-American composer Avner Dorman is a prominent and engaging newer voice on the contemporary music scene. The Eugene Symphony is bringing the young composer to town for a residency that includes a master class 6:30 pm Tuesday, April 14, at the UO, as well as an afternoon recital of his music and that of UO composers 4:30 pm Thursday, April 16, at Beall Hall.

At 7 pm that night at the Hult, the symphony features Dorman’s exhilarating 2006 double-percussion concerto Spices, Perfumes, Toxins! and 2012’s Astrolatry, along with Beethoven’s ever-popular pastoral Symphony No. 6. It’s a treat to see the symphony ramping up its contemporary music offerings.

No voices are required in a trio of attractive concerts next weekend. The Jazz Station features the Joe Manis Trio — which includes the terrific Eugene saxophonist-bandleader, the nationally acclaimed Portland-based B3 organist George Colligan and drummer Charlie Doggett — at 8 pm Saturday, April 18.

Acclaimed Irish Uilleann piper Leonard Barry and Irish-Oregonian accordionist Johnny Connoly perform a River Road house concert 7 pm Sunday, April 19 (reservations at mmeyer@efn.org requested). That same afternoon at 3 pm at United Lutheran Church (2230 Washington St.), the flute comes to the fore in the Oregon Bach Collegium’s historically informed concert of French Baroque music, plus a pair of the German composer Georg Telemann’s delightful “Paris” quartets, all played on period instruments including traverso (Kim Pineda and Sarah Pyle), Baroque violin (Michael Sand), cello (UO prof Marc Vanscheeuwijck), viola da gamba (Ann Shaffer) and harpsichord (Margret Gries).