While certain politicians make political hay by advocating divisions among Americans based on race, language and origin, artists and musicians are demonstrating the value of joining diverse American traditions.
On her new album Lola, Carrie Rodriguez, who performs at The Shedd June 7, embraces both sides of her heritage (Anglo and Latino), both sides of the divided Austin she grew up in and both English and Spanish — as a result, delivering a poignant folk-Americana triumph.
Rodriguez was born to music, not just through her father, David Rodriguez, whom I used to hear perform when I lived in Austin, but also her great aunt, Eva Garza from San Antonio, a ranchera singer well known in the Latino community and who inspired Rodriguez’s new album.
Initially gaining renown as a Berklee- and Oberlin-trained fiddler, over the past decade she’s developed into a fine singer and songwriter, often in collaboration with her partner, Luke Jacobs, who’ll be joining her on pedal steel with percussionist Brannen Temple.
This bilingual collection of ballads and ranchera tunes naturally recalls another great bilingual Austin-San Antonio chanteuse and songwriter, Tish Hinojosa, and both singers have songs about the west side of their hometowns, though Rodriguez’s refers to the “white” side of then-ethnically divided (now rapidly gentrifying) Austin where she grew up and encountered other Latino students bused in from Austin’s east side. Like Hinojosa, she’s adept at writing and singing in both languages as well as in Spanglish.
The Shedd hosts a very different soprano singer who also busts barriers (this one between music genres) Thursday, June 2, when Phoebe Gildea, abetted by pianist Nathalie Fortin and tenor Matt Leach, performs show tunes from musicals like Camelot, Aida and The Phantom of the Opera, as well as operas such as Fidelio, The Magic Flute and Don Giovanni.
And on June 8, The Shedd brings another mellifluous multiethnic singer, the award-winning Cyrille Aimée, a rising star in vocal jazz whose music draws from the heritages of both her French father and her Dominican mother and, primarily, on France’s own multi-ethnic gypsy jazz tradition.
There’s likely to be more musical crossover June 4 when ace mandolinists Evan Marshall and Brian Oberlin (founder of Oregon Mandolin Orchestra and member of many other ensembles) play a house concert at 755 River Road that might range from classical and Baroque music to Italian tunes to bluegrass to folk, jazz and beyond. Reservations at firstname.lastname@example.org requested.
Friday may be June 3, but at the WOW Hall it’ll be MarchFourth, as in the exuberant Portland funk-Afro-beat-gypsy-brass-jazz-rock ensemble that typically includes stilt walkers, fire dancers, unicycles, acrobats and neo-Vaudevillians — an epic dance party onstage. Eugene’s own electro-swing band High Step Society opens what should be a dance-tastic show transgressing all those barriers that so offend the ethnic and musical purists among us.
The classical music season is taking its annual break ’twixt the main season and the Oregon Bach Festival, but you can get a transitional dose June 6 at The Shedd when OBF trumpet titan Guy Few and bassoonist Nadina Mackie Jackson join Chamber Music Amici in an enticing program ranging from Baroque masters like Vivaldi and Purcell to contemporary Canadian composers and more.
On June 4 at Beall Hall, University of Oregon choral music ensembles sing everything from Indian raga to Russian tunes to a new work by Kirke Mechem, to Verdi and more. And on June 5, Beall hosts the ever-popular end-of-year UO Gospel Choirs concert that involves another mix of ethnicities coming together to make beautiful music.