Nellie McKay

Revivals and Arrivals

June brings us Jerome Kern, new music and Nellie McKay

Frat boys and jocks were popular subjects for Jazz Age musicals. Jerome Kern’s 1933 Roberta wasn’t as important or as lucrative as Kern’s earlier Showboat, but it scored several hit ballads, including the magnificent “Smoke Gets In Your Eyes” and “Yesterdays,” which later became a jazz standard.

As usual, The Shedd’s thoughtful revival of Roberta, opening Friday, June 8, includes a couple of big Kern songs (“Lovely To Look At,” “I Won’t Dance”) added to the Fred Astaire-Ginger Rogers film two years later.

Lyricist/book writer Otto Harbach’s zany excuse for a plot involves a vengeful socialite (also popular as Depression relief), a fratty American college footballer who winds up owning a Parisian dress shop, a clandestine Russian princess and more.

The original Broadway production featured soon-to-be stars Bob Hope and Fred MacMurray, and frequent revivals for stage and screens included many other 20th-century celebs. Directed by Peg Major, The Shedd’s revival, which runs June 8-17, stars Dylan Stasack and Caitlin Christopher (who also choreographs) as the central couple.

Another frequent Shedd visitor sings American Songbook standards from her intimate new album, Sister Orchid, in a Eugene appearance June 7.

But this time, Nellie McKay actually takes the WOW Hall stage. Just 36, the multitalented singer/actor/songwriter/activist has appeared on and off Broadway (the latter in an original musical); created musical tributes to Rachel Carson, Doris Day, Joan Rivers and gender-bending jazz pioneer Billy Tipton; performed in and written music for films; appeared on shows from Mountain Stage to Piano Jazz to Letterman; written for The Onion and The New York Times; and won awards from PETA and others for her animal rights activism. (She also advocates for human rights, universal health and child care, living wages and other civilized notions.)

Like everything the inventive McKay touches, her nocturnal new album is more than just a retro reverence, nor archly ironic either. Playing all the instruments (piano, ukulele, harmonica, cello and more), she slips her own gently whimsical stamp on standards (“Lazybones,” “Where or When,” “Willow Weep for Me,” et al.) and a few obscurities — what McKay calls “music to be played at the bar at the end of the world.”

More standards — from jazz giants like Monk, Ellington, Silver and Metheny — decorate the program on pianist George Colligan’s trio date at the intimate Broadway House bungalow on Friday, June 1. This time the nationally acclaimed (including a Downbeat award) Portland State prof and frequent New York sideman, who’s just released his 28th album as a leader, brings fellow Portlanders Micah Hummel on drums and bassist Eric Gruber. Email Paul Bodin to reserve seats at

That same night, just a few blocks away, Eugene composer/pianist Paul Safar and singer Nancy Wood’s Love Truffle plays jazzy pop from Ellington, Hendrix and more.

Wait, you want new music, you say? Best bet is the free performance Sunday afternoon, June 3, by Emblems Quintet at the UO’s new Tykeson Rehearsal Hall, 961 E 18th Avenue. The ensemble members hail from the U.S, South Africa, Canada and beyond, and two — Portland clarinetist Clarissa Osborn and Michigan bassoonist/composer Brandon Scott Rumsey are UO alumni.

Along with Rumsey’s lively, tuneful 2016 Emblems, which gave the ensemble its name, the show features a world premiere by emerging composer Nathan Thatcher, a mid-20th-century classic by the pioneering American composer Ruth Crawford Seeger and a playful recent piece by Icelandic composer Finnur Karlsson.

You can hear current UO student musicians strut their stuff at the school’s annual Spring Concert at the Hult Center Saturday. The award winning Chamber Choir sings music by the late, great Estonian composer Veljo Tormis and other tunes from the Philippines, Haiti, Scotland and even the good ol’ USA.

The UO Wind Ensemble, Brass Quintet and Orchestra also play music by Aaron Copland (the rarely heard Orchestral Variations), contemporary composers and, on his centennial, the great Leonard Bernstein’s glorious Chichester Psalms (with the University Choir) and a suite from his Mass.

That’s only one of the UO’s many end-of-year concerts happening on and around campus, from the ever-popular gospel concert to flute, percussion, orchestra, jazz and more.

There’s more UO end of the year concerts over the next couple weeks, including Captain, a chamber opera by UO graduate student Susanna Payne-Passmore on June 9 in Aasen-Hull Hall. Check the UO music school calendar,, for info.