Out & About: Scrap Arts Music and Romantic music

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Portland Ovations and the Portland Symphony Orchestra have scheduled some interesting and romantic music over the next couple of weeks.

The most intriguing offering is Scrap Arts Music, a Vancouver-based percussion ensemble that’s rooted in the traditions of street performance, jazz and world music. Catch this aural-visual extravaganza Feb. 9.

Neil Berg’s “100 Years of Broadway” is another intriguing show that features an all-star cast performing songs from some of the most memorable musicals of the past century.

Valentine’s Day is on the calendar and romance is in the air as the Portland Symphony Orchestra plans a pair of February concerts. First up is the Feb. 16 classical concert that features an exemplar of the Russian Romantic musical idiom.

On the Pops side, the PSO has slated a program titled “Isn’t It Romantic?” Guest conductor Matthew Troy will mount the podium Feb. 20-21.

And on a personal note, I’ll be humming the 1965 hit tune by The Mamas & The Papas, “California Dreamin’,” for the next couple of weeks as I schuss through the Sierra Nevada snowfields. “Out & About” resumes the week of Feb. 22.

Scrap Arts Music

While the world’s top skiers and other winter athletes prepare to descend on Vancouver, Canada, in a couple of weeks, a Vancouver-based musical troupe will visit Portland Feb. 9 for a most unusual concert.

The ensemble is Scrap Arts Music, a fivesome who began performing together a decade ago on the streets of Vancouver. Today they tour the world with an aural-visual spectacle that defies the usual rules of music.

For starters, consider their instruments: they’re welded together from pieces of junk such as discarded cars and cast-off kitchen utensils. And there are several hundred of these instruments. The biggest are mounted on wheels so the performers can maneuver them around the stage in choreographed routines.

An article in an Australian publication said “Using an anything goes approach as sound-source, this quintet have the total package: a near-faultless command of their instruments, a unanimity of ensemble that even from a distance impresses as extraordinary, and athletic choreography that obviously requires just as much conditioning as any physically draining sport. Even for the percussively jaded, this group is a knock-out.”

Portland Ovations presents Scrap Arts Music at 7 p.m. Feb. 9 at Merrill Auditorium at Portland City Hall. Call PortTix at 842-0800.

Neil Berg’s ‘100 Years of Broadway’

Broadway theater, and particularly musicals, have been part of American culture since the 1860s, and Portland Ovations will present a major retrospective on Feb. 13. Neil Berg’s “100 Years of Broadway” is a sort of all-star cast of performers who will recreate scenes and moments from the storied past of the Great White Way.

Berg is a composer and producer with a long resume of Broadway credentials and contacts. In most cases, songs and scenes are performed by the same actors who performed them on Broadway.

Shows represented in “100 Years” include “The Phantom of the Opera,” “Les Miserables,” “Evita,” “South Pacific,” “Jesus Christ Superstar” and “Fiddler on the Roof.”

The show plays Feb. 13 at 8 p.m. at Merrill Auditorium at Portland City Hall. Call PortTix at 842-0800.

‘Rach and Romance’

Two of the most “romantic” pieces ever composed will be featured Feb. 16 when the Portland Symphony Orchestra resumes its Tuesday Classical series under the baton of maestro Robert Moody.

Both are comparatively modern pieces, dating from the first third of the 20th century. The first will be Howard Hanson’s Symphony No. 2, subtitled “Romantic.” Hanson was a native Nebraskan who spent most of his life directing the Eastman School of Music. He composed this work in 1930 on commission for the Boston Symphony Orchestra as part of its 50th season celebrations.

The PSO’s Mark Rohr notes that Hanson was consciously and deliberately out of step with many modern contemporary composers – who were embracing 12-tone music and targeting their works toward academic audiences – and he made no apologies for his outwardly popular style.

“The Symphony represents for me my escape from the rather bitter type of modern musical realism which occupies so large a place in contemporary thought,” Hanson wrote. “Much contemporary music seems to me to be showing a tendency to become entirely too cerebral. I do not believe that music is primarily a matter of the intellect, but rather a manifestation of the emotions. I have, therefore, aimed in this symphony to create a work that is young in spirit, lyrical and romantic in temperament, and simple and direct in its expression.”

The most celebrated piece on the program is Sergei Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 2, celebrated as a landmark in the Russian Romantic movement.

Performing the solo honors will be Yuja Wang, a young Chinese-born piano virtuoso who graduated from the Curtis Institute of Music two years ago and seems bound on an exceptional professional career.

Maestro Moody’s program will open with excerpts from John Adams’ late 20th-century’s opera, “Nixon in China.”

(And ever so slightly off-topic, I was extremely pleased to learn the recent announcement that Moody’s contract to lead the PSO has been extended by five years. He’s a terrific musician and conductor with a far-reaching vision – and he can articulate that vision within the PSO’s budget constraints. He’s now signed on to helm the orchestra through the 2015-2016 season, and I hope he’ll continue for many more years.)

Catch this concert at 7:30 p.m. Feb. 16 at Merrill Auditorium at Portland City Hall. Call PortTix at 842-0800.

‘Isn’t It Romantic?’

The word “romantic” is used in its more familiar context of “love” for the Portland Symphony Orchestra’s next Pops program. The title is “Isn’t It Romantic?” and the concert features soprano Jenn Raithel Newman and tenor Joe Cassidy under the baton of guest conductor Matthew Troy. Two performances are slated Feb. 20-21.

The bill of fare includes familiar love songs and romantic duets from Broadway shows throughout the ages, including one of my personal favorites, “People Will Say We’re In Love” from the mischievously ingenious love duet from “Oklahoma!”

Others include “Can’t Help Lovin’ dat Man” from “Show Boat,” “JoAnna” from “Sweeney Todd” and “Memory” from “Cats.” Music from “West Side Story,” “Phantom of the Opera,” “Guys and Dolls” and more will round out this delightful program.

Catch the PSO’s romantic side Feb. 20 at 7:30 p.m. and Feb. 21 at 2:30 p.m. at Merrill Auditorium at Portland City Hall. Call PortTix at 842-0800.

Sidebar Elements

Yuja Wang will be the guest soloist Feb. 16 when the Portland Symphony Orchestra performs Sergei Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 2, an exemplar of the Russian Romantic musical idiom.