The Oregon Symphony 2016-17 season is underway, and that means that the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall will be ringing to the rafters with music of all styles for months to come. It also means that it’s time for the Classical Up Close committee to start planning the next festival of free chamber music concerts!
We had our first meeting last week (pictured above) between Symphony rehearsals. The first task is always to nail down the dates. The Oregon Symphony schedule generally makes it pretty clear when the musicians of the orchestra will be able to find the time to perform their favorite chamber music all over the Metro area for Classical Up Close, and this year was no exception. We won’t announce dates until we have the venues confirmed, but expect a Springtime festival again. The number of concerts and blitzes will be about the same as last Spring, and the popular concerts for children will continue.
The next order of business is discussing which venues we want to approach. We aim for a mix of old and new as well as geographic distribution. Returning to a previous location helps build on neighborhood awareness created by the previous visit, and new places offer new opportunities. This approach fits with our twin goals of thanking old friends and making new ones for classical music. Speaking of new places, we would love your help with suggestions for venues in NE Portland, both for a full-length concert and for a blitz to create neighborhood buzz for it. Let us know via comments or email if you have any ideas, and thanks!
One agenda item was especially delightful. A wonderful couple, Jim and Linda Hamilton, approached us with a generous offer wrapped around a great idea: their offer to sponsor a concert in their neighborhood! In their own words:
“Enclosed is our check for $2,500 to support the wonderful work of Classical Up Close. We sincerely appreciate your efforts to provide exposure to classical music for people in Portland who would not otherwise have this opportunity.
The presence of a symphony orchestra and classical music station in Portland was a major factor in our decision to move here four years ago. Music is important to both of us and we support your efforts to make it available to a wider audience.”
Music to our ears! Thank you, Jim and Linda! The vote of confidence in our mission from people like the Hamiltons who understand the value of classical music to the community is a real inspiration to us. With this financial support from them and from many others, we are working to make Classical Up Close sustainable into the future.
Classical Up Close 2016 had its finale on Friday, May 6 at Maranatha Church. The evening began early with a prelude performance by some young string players from Bravo Youth Orchestra playing alongside Oregon Symphony musicians. There were viola duos, bassoon duos, and the delightful combination of oboe, horn and piano. A string quartet showed considerable stylistic range by playing Beethoven and Piazzola back to back. The entire bassoon section of the Oregon Symphony was on hand, because in addition to Principal Bassoon Carin Miller and Bassoon Adam Trussel playing duos by Mignone, Assistant Principal Bassoon and Contrabassoon Evan Kuhlmann was on hand to stage manage. (Evan may well have the longest title in the orchestra!) The bassoons really evoked some interesting questions from the audience!
This year's festival was thrilling for all of us who played, organized and volunteered. 47 Oregon Symphony musicians participated and 9 special friends joined us, along with behind the scenes help from 10 volunteers. Attendance was fantastic, with many of the venues being filled to capacity. There were approximately 1300 in attendance at the concerts and about 460 at the Blitzes. As in the past, we had a cadre of repeat audience members who followed us around the metro area with smiles on their faces. Our mission to thank the loyal supporters of the Oregon Symphony certainly was met, and our other dearly held goal to make new friends had some delightful successes. One young woman told us after a Blitz that she used to think the Symphony was something "fancy people" did, but now she realizes that" it's people sharing something they're excited about." So true!
One thing we particularly loved this year was how readily audience members took us up on our offer to sit on stage. At Maranatha, a young boy sitting on stage was clearly paying close attention and asked the bassoonists about how they used their air to make the sound. Others told us that they love the opportunity to see us as individuals in such close proximity, in contrast to their relatively distant seats in the Schnitz. (We're glad they took advantage of the opportunity. It's part of why we're doing this!) The questions continued to be really fun, spanning a wide range from quirky requests to a wish to know the basics all the way to some detailed queries that revealed deep knowledge on the part of the questioner.
If you came to a concert and didn't have a chance to fill out the questionnaire on the back of the program, we would be grateful of you took the time to do it here! We are looking forward to reading all the surveys and learning more about our audience and hearing what worked and what we can do better next time.
Here is a sample of the fun we had in pictures. For more, check out our Facebook page!
"This has been a GREAT night! Loved the casual, Q & A, 'learn more about us' tone of the evening I can't imagine anyone NOT loving classical music (and the Symphony musicians!) after experiencing this concert. THANK YOU!!"
"I felt connected with the music and musicians."
"It makes classical music more personal."
"I love learning about the instruments!"
"I thought that classical music was slow and repetitive, but this concert proved me wrong."
By now, with Classical Up Close 2016 less than two weeks away, you may have seen brochures popping up all over town. (At least, we hope so!) Perhaps you've checked out the events page with links to every program. Either way, you may be wondering about some of the pieces -- what they're like, where they come from, and why Oregon Symphony musicians chose them for Classical Up Close. We are always fascinated ourselves at the interesting programs that emerge from our process. There are so many factors we can't really control, and yet, somehow the combinations are unfailingly cool!
The first full-length concert, at Trinity Episcopal Church on April 26, has some especially unusual combinations of instruments. First up, you will get to hear the rare combination of trumpet, cello and piano. Principal Trumpet Jeff Work, Principal Cello Nancy Ives, and Cary Lewis will present Semordnilap Number 2 by Charles Knox. This work was commissioned by Cary and his cellist wife, Dorothy, so they would have a piece to play with different friends. (What a perfect fit for Classical Up Close!) This is the second version, rewritten for trumpet to join the piano and cello.
Jeff Work explains the unusual, dare I say, unique, title: "If you know what Semordnilap might mean, then you know what this piece is about! (Try spelling it backwards...) Knox filled the piece with musical palindromes, small and large. Effectively, he only composed half a work because in the middle of the second movement the piece turns around and returns, not for note, back to the beginning! It's a musical puzzle of sorts that you'll enjoy listening to, forwards or backwards."
The first half concludes with special guest China Forbes of Pink Martini, joined by seven Oregon Symphony musicians accompanying her arias with arrangements by Assistant Principal Bassoon Evan Kuhlman. Talk about multi-talented! Not only did he create these arrangements -- he is a very fine composer as well as arranger -- he is playing piano!
The second half will begin with the lushly romantic trio by Klughardt for oboe, viola and piano. Principal Oboe Marty Hebert, Asst. Principal Viola Charles Noble and Pianist and CLUC Friend Extraordinaire Cary Lewis are sure to do it justice! Here's a sample on YouTube.
The final selection of the evening will be the beautiful Mendelssohn Quintet, featuring Concertmaster Sarah Kwak. This ensemble includes two violas, which is only slightly out of the ordinary, but be assured: the music is extraordinary!
Welcome to the new online home of Classical Up Close! This is the place to go for information about our 4th festival of 6 concerts and 9 Blitzes which start on April 23 and end on May 6 and take place in neighborhoods all around the Metro area.
Since doing our first festival of free concerts in 2013, we’ve had three years of enthusiastic and unflagging support for our mission by Oregon Symphony musicians, community and business leaders, and especially YOU, our audiences. Now that we are a 501-3(c) charitable organization, we’re able to receive support from foundations as well, and we’ve been fortunate to secure grants from the Cultural Coalition of Washington County in partnership with the Oregon Cultural Trust, the Rose E. Tucker Charitable Trust and the Oregon Community Foundation. This support and that of the individuals who have made donations will help make Classical Up Close sustainable! We are also pleased to announce that our crucial partnership with All Classical Portland is continuing. Exciting details about that will be coming soon.
This year, as in the past, we have a mix of old and new locations, all made possible by generous community partners. We’re returning with our signature interactive concerts to St. Mark’s Lutheran Church in SE Portland, Lake Grove Presbyterian Church in Lake Oswego and Maranatha Church in NE Portland, and presenting Blitzes again at Powell’s City of Books, the Oregon Symphony Ticket Office, Portland’s City Hall, Beaverton City Library, and American Legions Post #134. For the first time, we’ll be at Trinity Episcopal Church in NW Portland, First Congregational United Church of Christ in Vancouver, and Nordia House in SW Portland. New Blitz locations include Symposium Coffee in Tigard and Salt & Straw on SE Division St. Some of these venues approached us with their interest in hosting an event. Others were brought to our attention as places which have the attributes we need to create a nice experience for the audience and which help us get to different parts of town. (In the coming weeks, we’ll share some of the stories behind the concerts.)
In addition to having locations, dates and times settled, we now have the musical selections programmed. The orchestra has had a few weeks to sign up, and it’s been fun to see clusters of Oregon Symphony musicians gathered around the bulletin board backstage during rehearsal breaks, looking at the sign-up sheets — charts, really — and discussing what they’d like to play. Some groups play together outside the orchestra on a regular basis, and others are friends and colleagues who use the opportunity to play chamber music with someone they’ve only played with within the orchestra — sometimes sharing a piece they know well from the past, and sometimes deciding together to learn something new. Sarah Kwak, Jen Arnold and Nancy Ives got together with the filled-out charts and used post-it notes to put together programs using what the musicians have offered. It’s always amazing how well everything adds up, and how there are interesting selections from all sections of the orchestra that give us just the amount of music we need to make each event musically eventful!
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We are so excited to announce that the dates and venues for the 2016 series of free full-length concerts has been confirmed. We will return to a few places and try out some new ones. Please check out our Events page to see the list.
It started with a fundraising event at a supper club, got officially underway with a "Blitz" at the Beaverton Library on April 24 and ended with a grand finale at Bethany Presbyterian Church on May 3:
This is why we do it! It's a way for us to give back to the community that supports us and a chance to get to know our audiences up close and personal. The appreciation from attendees is palpable. We hear from long-time Symphony-goers that the opportunity to get to know us as individuals is a treat, and we hear from those who haven't taken in much classical music that this was an inviting way to give it a try.
We go all over town. 2015 brought our free full-length chamber music concerts to SE Portland, NE Portland, NW Portland, Hollywood District, Lake Oswego, and Beaverton. The shorter "blitz" events were in even more surprising places than ever: Beaverton Library, American Legion Post #134, Powell's Books, Concordia University, Meals on Wheels, PDX Playdate, Oregon Symphony ticket office, and our first foray into SW Washington with two special concerts for children at the Vancouver City Library!
Up Close and