A Massive Month of Music

From a UO megarecital to a free MLK concert and Portland’s top singers

Most people think of the University of Oregon’s contribution to our community’s creativity as primarily educational. But many of its faculty members perform, and this Thursday, Jan. 14, at 7:30 pm, a passel of them will be strutting their onstage skills at the school’s Beall Concert Hall for MASSIVE: A UO Megarecital.

The most familiar piece in the admirably offbeat megarecital (few big music institutions have the courage, or the financial cushion, to program an unfamiliar repertoire) is Stravinsky’s wryly devilish A Soldier’s Story, which features not only a septet of top-flight music profs but also dance faculty members Brad Garner and Shannon Mockli choreographing and performing original dance. The Oregon Wind Quintet plays a real rarity, Hungarian composer Endre Szervánszky’s 1953 Wind Quintet No. 1, while another faculty trio performs composer Frank Ticheli’s enchanting “Songs of Tagore,” and a dozen others play German composer Paul Hindemith’s colorful 1930 Concert Music for Piano, Brass and Harp.

UO students also get their chance to shine at Beall as both performers and composers. At 3 pm Monday, Jan. 18 (MLK Day), the UO Gospel Singers celebrate Dr. King with a free show that focuses on Afro-Cuban song, dance and percussion.

At 8 pm Wednesday, Jan. 20, the superb soprano Estelí Gomez returns to sing music by student composers as part of a residency in which she mentors and works with them. And at 7:30 pm Tuesday, Jan. 26, the Oregon Composers Forum premieres still more student chamber music by ten UO composers.

That same night at Oregon Contemporary Theatre, the former UO students who constitute most of the Delgani String Quartet perform with orator Rickie Birran from Man of Words Theatre Company. The highly recommended show mixes literary readings from Paradise Lost, Don Quixote and more with music by Telemann and Webern, and newly commissioned works by the terrific Eugene composer Paul Safar.

Still another UO alum, Douglas Jenkins, founded and, until recently, led Portland Cello Project, which returns to town at Hi-Fi Music Hall 8 pm Saturday, Jan. 23, performing hip hop, classical, pop music and much more in inventive arrangements for cello. Jenkins still plays in and arranges pop and other music for the all-cello band, now directed by Skip vonKuske, which draws enthusiastic crowds at over a hundred dates a year all around the country. Also on Saturday, you can hear contemporary Hawaiian music by two of its great masters, Keola Beamer and Henry Kapono, at 7:30 pm at The Shedd.

Along with all these 21st-century sounds, you can hear older music around town next week. At 8 pm Thursday, Jan. 21, at the Hult Center, Giancarlo Guerrero returns to the Eugene Symphony to lead his old band for the first time since leaving the ESO music director position to take over the Nashville Symphony in 2009. The charismatic Guerrero won widespread acclaim for leading the orchestra in performances and recordings of contemporary music, so it’s disappointing that this show eschews 21st-century music for 20th-century works by Italian composer Ottorino Respighi (Fountains of Rome and Pines of Rome) and Maurice Duruflé’s Requiem, performed with the ESO’s choir.

Even earlier music is on the program 7 pm Saturday, Jan. 23, at Central Lutheran Church when the superb small vocal ensemble called, uh, The Ensemble (composed of the top singers from Portland’s many fine choirs), joins members of the Portland early music group Musica Maestrale in a concert performance of the glorious music from one of the greatest of all English operas, Henry Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas, plus music from an even earlier English Baroque work, John Blow’s Venus and Adonis. It’s the top recommendation of the month.

On the afternoon of Sunday, Jan. 24, the historically informed period-instrument musicians of Oregon Bach Collegium play still more Baroque music (by Telemann and J.S. Bach) at United Lutheran Church.

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