Past, Present, Future

Eugene hosts a selection of music from across time

This month offers opportunities to explore music’s ancient past and promising future — and how the two interact. Folk music especially relies on older musical forms to seed or even evolve into new compositions. The veteran Swedish power-folk trio Väsen, performing this Thursday, April 20, at The Shedd, deploys traditional instruments in music that blends old and new folk traditions into a rich, danceable modern mix that fans of Celtic and bluegrass music will also enjoy.

It’s not dissimilar from what Paul Espinoza and Margie Butler have done since 1980 in their Celtic group Golden Bough, which uses fiddle, guitar, whistle and other traditional acoustic instruments in both new and traditional Irish music. They’re at Tsunami Books this Friday, April 21. The next night, Celtic music fans can dance over to The Shedd to hear the latest of many appearances by the great Scottish fiddler Alasdair Fraser and cellist Natalie Haas, one of the most engaging acts in folk music.

You have a week to recover before the superb trio Celtic Fiddle Festival arrives at Tsunami Saturday, April 29, offering takes on that great tradition from three different perspectives: Kevin Burke (Ireland), Christian Lemaître (Brittany) and André Brunet (Quebec).

On April 28, a guitarist who specializes in older music brings a mix of new and old to Creswell Coffee. David Rogers plays Spanish, Flamenco, Latin, boomer rock, J.S. Bach and originals, including music from his new CD, Winter Sunrise.

Rogers sometimes plays with Oregon Bach Collegium, which concentrates on really old music. Their April 30 show at United Lutheran Church features music by the under-heard Italian composer Benedetto Marcello for men’s choir, harpsichord and cello. There’s more early music April 23 at Central Lutheran Church when Cappella Artemisia, an ensemble of female singers and instrumentalists, performs music from Italian convents in the 16th and 17th centuries.

Another young Eugene classical musician, cellist Eric Alterman, moved here a year ago to join Delgani String Quartet, Eugene Symphony and Oregon Mozart Players. On April 23 at UO’s Beall Hall he’s performing old music (Bach, Beethoven, Schumann, Villa Lobos and Ginastera) with pianist Ednaldo Borba. On April 30 at First Methodist church, another cello and piano team, Jeffrey Allen and Sandy Holder, performs music of Scarlatti, Scriabin, Schumann, Chopin and Beethoven.

A rising Portland jazz star, drummer Chris Brown, leads a band of that city’s jazz aces (saxophonist John Nastos, keyboardist Greg Goebel, bassist Dylan Sundstrom) in a concert titled “Back to the Future” at Broadway House on April 22. During his years on the East Coast before returning to his Portland hometown (he’s the son of renowned Portland drummer/bandleader Mel Brown), Brown has established a reputation as a fine player in his own right. Reservations at pbodin@uoregon.edu.

Another emerging jazz star, prize-winning New York pianist and composer Helen Sung, looks back at the music of the great mid-20th-century jazz composer Thelonious Monk and plays her own originals at The Shedd April 26. And The Shedd features another fine female updater of older music in chanteuse Siri Vik’s April 28-30 run of shows featuring 20th-century-spanning music that shares the common theme of femme fatale. Backed by a seven-member ensemble, she’ll sing a startling range of songs from Alban Berg’s scary opera Lulu to Puccini’s Tosca, Bizet’s Carmen, rock classics by The Velvet Underground, Rolling Stones, Tom Waits and Bob Dylan, dark songbook stands from films noir and even contemporary songwriters Björk, Nick Lowe and Laura Mvula. 

It’s great to explore and update the past, but how about the music of tomorrow? The UO’s biennial Music Today Festival, which begins this week and runs through May 13, has served as both showcase and incubator for new music by young Oregon composers since its 1993 founding by UO music prof Robert Kyr.

With almost all concerts in the university’s Aasen-Hull Hall being free, it’s a great chance to glimpse the future of Oregon classical music. This weekend’s concerts feature works by Oregon Composers Forum students Friday, music inspired by the students’ exploration of the old-growth H.J. Andrews Experimental Forest just east of Eugene this Saturday. Next weekend offers music by contemporary women composers Saturday performed by Ova Novi Ensemble.