Counterstream Radio
Inspect the unexpected
Media on Demand
Browse Music and Interviews

Documenting Three New Works

Audio/video recordings of 3 new works: Bright Sheng: The Silver River, Valerie Coleman: Shotgun Houses and J.P. Redmond: Nonet for Winds.

The Latest Update

Reviews of 3 Chamber Music Northwest commissions

Posted on January 25, 2019 by Chamber Music Northwest


Reviews of the 3 commissions:

REVIEW: J.P. Redmond’s 9 X 9: Nine Pieces for Nonet (see p. 4)




Oregon ArtsWatch


http://www.orartswatch.org/chamber-music-northwest-review-middle-age-crazy/Chamber Music Northwest review: middle-age crazy

Opening summer festival mainstage concerts mix classic and contemporary music



Chamber Music Northwest, in its 48th season this summer, may be solidly middle-aged in people years, but unlike a lot of solidly middle-aged people, and as the Wall Street Journal noted last month, it’s becoming more and more interested in what’s new in its world. This season, for the first time since 2000, CMNW’s opening night concert – an occasion for making statements – featured the work of a living composer: Angel’s Fire (Fuego de ángel) by American composer Roberto Sierra. Comfortably sharing the stage was one of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s finest violin and piano sonatas, and the charged late 19th-century Romanticism of French composer Gabriel Fauré’s op. 45 Piano Quartet.

A week later, this was echoed by a similar lineup: Mozart’s only trio with piano and clarinet, a brand-new work for nine musicians by Protégé Project composer J.P. Redmond, and the exotic Romanticism of the op. 7 Octet by George Enescu, a Romanian prodigy who spent most of his professional life in France. I caught both programs at Portland State University’s Lincoln Performance Hall.

McDermott, Kavafian, Wiley and Tenenbom played Sierra at Chamber Music Northwest. Photo: Tom Emerson.

By the time Mozart wrote his sonata K. 454, in 1784, he had already composed dozens of sonatas for violin and piano, and had become interested in something new – equal partnership between the musicians. Violinist Ani Kavafian and pianist Anne-Marie McDermott showed how it’s done, each in turn playing out for melodic lines, or receding into the background for accompaniment figures without ever giving a feeling of holding back. It sounds simple, but it’s a knack that eludes many for different reasons, from local yokels all the way up to world-famous names. Nor was there anything pedantic about the duo’s lively and lyrical performance.

McDermott maintained this unconstrained balance even in the dense, tumultuous piano part of the Fauré quartet, blending intimately with violinist Ida Kavafian, violist Steven Tenenbom and cellist Peter Wiley. Fauré was a master of those quintessential French musical qualities, clarity and elegance, but this work roars out of the gate like a train leaving the Gare du Nord, and with one blissful exception, barely lets up throughout.

Still, this group was careful to keep mechanical clatter to an absolute minimum, instead emphasizing the work’s overarching passionate lyricism. The exceptional slow movement, which again and again evokes distant bells in a mysterious and curiously artless manner, seemed to hang in midair, utterly still, like an apparition from another world. Elegance receded demurely into the shadows. Only in the relentless finale did the ensemble seem to lose presence. No doubt every note of the onslaught was there, but the phrases seemed to remain earthbound where they should have leapt and danced. It needed fire – the fire of angels, flickering, warming and occasionally raging throughout Sierra’s engaging piano quartet.

In four nearly equal-length movements, he explored a wide variety of sounds, moods and atmospheres. One could pick out the influence of 20th century masters György Ligeti (Sierra’s most notable teacher), Olivier Messiaen, and even Claude Debussy, but they all danced to Sierra’s tune. He made particularly effective use of the extreme high and low ranges of the piano, which was almost always busy but always remained in conversation with the other instruments, never dominating. There were many different voices in this conversation, and often they interrupted each other or spoke at the same time, but they were each so distinctive that the narrative flowed clearly and naturally all the way through.

The same group of musicians who would play the Fauré cleanly and evocatively presented all the Sierra work’s mercurial charms, its sparks and shadows as well as its roaring flames. Fauré and even Mozart, were they to hear it, might scratch their heads over much of the actual pitch content, but they would recognize and approve of the fine blend and lively give and take of all the various instrumental parts.

The story goes that Mozart wrote his 1786 piano, clarinet and viola trio K. 498 while playing the game of Kegelstatt, a precursor to today’s bowling, with his friends the von Jacquin family. The performance by clarinetist and CMNW Artistic Director David Shifrin, violist Paul Neubauer, and pianist Gilles Vonsattel (who flew from Switzerland on short notice to sub for the ailing André Watts), while polished smooth as a bowling ball, seemed to be more about a relaxed time with good friends than anything so lively as a game.

J.P. Redmond at Chamber Music Northwest. Photo: Judy Blankenship.

Commissioned by Chamber Music Northwest, Redmond’s 9×9: Nine Pieces for Nonet snapped us into the 21st century. An aerobic workout for the ears, it seemed to propel us up a mountain through a herd of charging animals, under dense mysterious bird-filled forests, and across wind-swept ridges to a stupefying vista, then back down the same way only to drop us off at our doorstep with barely a “see you next time.” What happened to the time-honored tradition of hitting the brewpub after a climb?

This is all to try to evoke my feelings through this wildly multifarious work, the composer’s first for such a large and varied ensemble – a mashup of the Imani Winds quintet and the (saxophone) Kenari Quartet. Redmond vigorously pursued the wide variety of sounds and combinations available in such an ensemble, from intimate solos to massive blasts from the entire group, and the journey fascinated from beginning to end. One particularly striking passage featured Jeff Scott’s pensive horn solo rising out of strangely yet warmly oozing chords for all the saxophones. I did miss my “beer” though; the nonet just faded out in a reflection of the understated opening. I can’t say for sure that a different ending would have had more impact, but one can miss a chance to create a magical moment by following a structural scheme too closely.

Enescu wrote his Octet for strings in 1900 when he was the same age as Redmond, and like Redmond’s it was his first work for large chamber ensemble. After the sharp and colorful contrasts of 9×9 though, over time, it seemed to develop a certain massive grayness. Oh, it had plenty of drama, some good tunes – even the satisfying ending I missed in the Redmond – and the brilliant Dover Quartet, together with CMNW stalwarts Fred Sherry, Steven Tenenbom and the Kavafian sisters, gave it a spirited and passionate performance.

But most of the instruments were playing most of the time, and with eight of them, each capable of a wide assortment of sound colors – bowed, plucked, sweet, raspy, wailing, muted, not to mention the many subgroups and combinations that can form and dissipate – I expect much more coloristic variety over the course of nearly 40 minutes. Redmond has talked about feeling obligated to produce an important statement for such a large group. Possibly Enescu had the same feeling and tried too hard. Still, this is a minor criticism. After all, his subsequent career went well enough.

Fred Sherry, Imani Winds, Kenari Quartet at Chamber Music Northwest. Photo: Tom Emerson.

Chamber Music NW has wrapped for the summer, and in farewell I have to praise yet one more concert out of many enjoyable ones I heard, the last New@Noon, particularly the works of Julia Adolphe and Pierre Jalbert (rhymes with Queen Victoria’s Prince Albert, not Stephen Colbert). Although the second movement of Adolphe’s Star-Crossed Signals showed the composer struggling to find something compelling to say with ordinary major and minor scales, the first movement, “Delta Xray,” freely danced between sweetly consonant chords and crunchy dissonances in a completely natural and convincing way – a 21st century ability virtually unknown in the aesthetically contentious 20th century. According to the composer, this movement is intended to evoke conflicting attempts at communication, and the Protégé performers, the Verona Quartet, did indeed give a dramatically charged performance, but the listening experience was pure pleasure.

Similarly for Jalbert’s Street Antiphons, given a committed and energetic performance by Shifrin and the justly renowned Montrose Trio. Here the crunchier phrases were given a delightful lilt by unabashedly infectious rhythms, another 21st century development. (Although the technique goes back to Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring, now over a century old!)

Like Sierra’s work on opening night and Redmond’s, these works were composed in just the last few years. Probably none will win over the audience segment that shies away from anything written later than the many fine Antonín Dvořák works that graced this year’s festival, but for anyone with more adventurous musical tastes, Chamber Music NW gets more interesting by the year. And it’s not just the younger audience that seems to think so – in fact, all three of these concerts had many in attendance clearly well past middle age.

Jeff Winslow is a Portland composer and pianist, and serves on the board of Cascadia Composers. He can only wish he was still 48.

Want to read more cultural news in Oregon? Support Oregon ArtsWatch!










REVIEW: Classical Voice North America

Journal of the Music Critics Association of North America


July 30, 2018

July 30, 2018HOM



Silver River Finally Makes Its Debut At Northwest Festival

Pipa player Wu Man (second from left) and flutist Ransom Wilson (far right) joined composer Bright Sheng to stage
‘The Silver River.’  Chamber Music Northwest co-commissioned the 1997 opera. (Opera photos: Jonathan Lange.)

By James Bash

PORTLAND, Ore. – During the fourth week of its summer festival, Chamber Music Northwest presented several concerts that explored contemporary Chinese music. Among the diverse offerings was an evocative production of The Silver River by Shanghai-born composer Bright Sheng with libretto by David Henry Hwang.

Goddess-Weaver (dancer Katherine Disenhof) loves a Cowherd (baritone Theo Hoffman).

Using oriental and occidental styles, the one-act opera retold retells an ancient Chinese story about a lovely, celestial Goddess-Weaver, who can spin stars and play music on her loom, and an impoverished, mortal cowherd, who creates beautiful music with his lute.

Although The Silver River received its premiere at the Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival in 1997 and has been produced elsewhere, it was co-commissioned by CMNW, but the festival was unable to do it until this year. The performance on July 22 in Lincoln Performance Hall was the second of two given at the festival.

“I don’t do Earth!” gripes the Emperor’s Buffalo envoy (Dana Green).

According to the legend, the Silver River (the Milky Way) connects the earth to the heavens, where the Jade Emperor rules. After he sends the Buffalo as an emissary to Earth to report on its inhabitants, the Buffalo becomes attracted to a poor Cowherd and forgets to return.

The Emperor admonishes the Buffalo to return or else. The Buffalo obeys but tells the Cowherd about one of the Emperor’s daughters, the Goddess-Weaver, who bathes in the Silver River. The Goddess-Weaver and the Cowherd fall in love. The Buffalo is ordered by the Emperor to retrieve the Goddess-Weaver. Sadness fills the world until the Emperor relents and allows the lovers to reunite one day each year when magpies form a bridge across the Silver River.

The Emperor allows the lovers to reunite once a year as magpies form a celestial bridge.

Set in seven vignettes that flowed seamlessly, The Silver River offered a unique combination of spoken and sung text with dance. Actor Dana Green spoke the role of the Buffalo. Tenor YuCheng Ren, a veteran of the Chinese Traditional Opera Academy, sang the text of the Emperor in Mandarin. Baritone Theo Hoffman, as the Cowherd, sang in English. Katherine Disenhof danced the role of the Goddess-Weaver.

Decked out in high heels and a gold cape and crowned with a pair of black horns, Green created a charismatic Buffalo, who narrated the story with witty asides and a cavalier attitude. For example, after being commanded by the Emperor to travel and mix with mortals, her character replied, “But your majesty, I don’t do Earth!”

Tenor YuCheng Ren sang the Emperor’s lines in Mandarin.

Wearing a riot of face-paint and robes, Ren portrayed the Emperor with an assured style that emphasized the power of his character. When the Emperor’s demands peaked, he would point the fingers of his right hand and make them quaver in sync with his voice.

Hoffman’s voice had a supple and warm tone that was always soothing. His suede-garbed Cowherd was strikingly polite and heartfelt, as when he asked of the Buffalo, “May I look upon you?” While a couple of his arias had a bit of patter-song style, most were lyrical, such as the one that began with the words “Once I had a dream.”

Disenhof as the Goddess-Weaver eloquently shaped her movement with athletic grace, often leaping over an expanse of blue fabric that represented the river. In a touching scene, she wrapped the fabric around herself and the Cowherd.

Sheng conducted a remarkable sextet of musicians with two onstage and four in the pit. Wu Man, wearing the colorful robes of the gods, delivered a kaleidoscope of twangy passages from her pipa. Ransom Wilson, outfitted in suede to match the Cowherd, provided a continuous stream of notes from his flute. In the pit were cellist Sophie Shao, clarinetist Romie de Guise-Langlois, violinist Theodore Arm, and percussionist Pius Cheung. Arm also doubled on percussion, accenting the Emperor’s comings and goings with crisp and forceful whams and slams.

Shanghai-born Sheng conducted his own work. (brightsheng.com)

Directed by Robert Longbottom, the performance was easy to follow despite the lack of supertitles for the Mandarin text. One of the most intriguing moments of the piece came when the Cowherd closely observed Wu Man’s playing, and the Goddess-Weaver looked over the shoulder of flutist Wilson while he played. Neither seemed to make sense of the other culture’s music. That was in keeping with the storyline, but with the added layer of East meets West, the outcome took on more weight.

The production benefited from Ian Anderson-Priddy’s projections, which enhanced the music. From a starry firmament, the Silver River appeared like a ribbon that flowed from the top to the floor of the stage, where it became a large section of blue fabric. Also visually arresting was the outline of a large red door that marked each entrance of the Emperor.

The blend of Eastern and Western music at the end of the opera was at once satisfying and oddly disorienting. It is encouraging to hear the music of Sheng and other composers who have an understanding of vastly different cultures. Their music will continue to stretch listeners in new directions.

James Bash is a freelance writer based in Portland, Ore. He reviews Portland Opera productions for Opera Magazine and writes for a number of publications, including his blog,Northwest Reverb.



























Review of 2018 Summer Festival, with references to Valerie Coleman’s Shot Gun Houses and bright sheng’s The Siver River. (J.P. Redmond is shown as a performing artist):



Oregon ArtsWatch


Chamber Music Northwest: risk-taking redeemed

This summer’s festival, like last year’s, shows a classical music organization refreshing itself with new performers and new music


One day about four years ago, recently installed Chamber Music Northwest executive director Peter Bilotta was chatting with a major donor to Portland’s annual summer classical music festival. The funder “called us ‘musty,’” Bilotta recalls. “I decided this art form is alive, not musty — and we’ll prove it to you.”

This year’s five-week edition, which ended July 29, revealed a festival that has shaken off the mustiness. Bristling with listener-friendly new music, fresh young performers and diverse older ones, CMNW has managed to pull off this stealth reinvention while also holding on to most of its aging core audience, its renowned longtime performers, and a healthy dose of core classics.

Bright Sheng’s ‘The Silver River’ finally debuted at Chamber Music Northwest this summer. Photo: Tom Emerson.

For most of the years since its founding in 1970 as relatively cozy event at Reed College, CMNW has operated as West Coast summer outpost for musicians from the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, which long time CMNW artistic director David Shifrin long ran. It added a second venue at tony Catlin Gabel school and mostly focused on core classics and a commissioned work or two each year, often from de facto house composer David Schiff, a Reed prof.

But new music and new performers have lately played a much greater role. “I felt one thing holding us back was being too cautious about the canon,” Shifrin recalls. When the affable visionary Bilotta arrived in 2013, he found an eager partner. They introduced innovations that have reinvigorated the festival: Protege ProjectCasual Wednesdays, a new music commissioning fund (which Shifrin actually created earlier but gained traction only after the recession), more outreach programs, a weekly noon new music series, year-round programming, and more. Together, Bilotta says, “we decided it’s time to start shaking things up, taking more risks. We decided we were comfortable with being uncomfortable.”

As Shifrin acknowledges, not all the innovations entirely succeeded. While its expansion to include year round programming, like Imani Winds’ weeklong residency this spring and other one-off concerts at Portland5 Centers for the Arts have been generally positive, a shorter added winter festival proved much less successful at drawing audiences out into Portland’s damp January chill; it’s now down to a single weekend. Before settling on Alberta Rose Theatre, an acoustically outstanding hall that usually presents rock bands, CMNW’s other alternative venue shows proved acoustically or logistically problematic. And while its commendably open-minded older audiences have adventurously followed the festival to its pop-oriented venues, those shows have so far failed to attract hoped-for numbers of younger listeners who generally frequent them.

Peter Bilotta

But CMNW continues to work assiduously to broaden its audience, including adding performances and outreach in suburbs to the city’s east and west like Hillsboro and Gresham and an annual free show downtown. Visiting ensembles offer outreach programs at schools and community colleges. And though they’re not publicized as widely as they should be, Bilotta notes that substantial ticket price breaks are available for audience members in their 20s and 30s, as well as Arts for All.

An Institution Reinvigorated

The first-week shows featuring the dynamic young Kenari Quartet demonstrated how CMNW’s Protege Project is bringing fresh blood into the festival. The oldest piece on that Friday’s noon concert, by living Polish master Krzysztof Penderecki, was eclipsed by three recent compositions written in the past two years by young Americans, including Kenari’s own Corey Dundee, whose eruptive the… of my… are an… musically reflected his struggles with depression.

Chamber Music Northwest Artistic Director David Shifrin

CMNW’s veteran performers, most associated with New York’s Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, teach at the nation’s most venerable academies such as the Juilliard School, which gives them access to the finest young performers. These Proteges — whose roster has included the Dover and Jasper String Quartets, violinists Bella Hristova and Benjamin Beilman, and composers Andy Akiho, Gabriella Smith and Chris Rogerson — appear alongside their teachers in regular CMNW programming, which also seems to have sharpened their mentors’ performances, which in the past had sometimes apparently attempted to substitute long familiarity with each other and the standard repertoire for adequate rehearsal.

The weekly noon series, which includes talks with most of the composers, grew out of Shifrin’s desire to create more spaces for new music. Not only did Portland State University’s intimate, recently refurbished Lincoln Recital Hall offer superior acoustics, its downtown location also attracted a wider range of listeners than festival’s longtime leafy suburban venues. According to Bilotta, Noon@Noon attendance has more than doubled since the series began, sometimes selling out the 200-seat venue.


Kenari Quartet performed at Alberta Rose Theatre. Photo: Tom Emerson Photography.

Kenari also performed in the recently created Casual Wednesday series aimed at younger listeners. The quartet’s polished, intense June 27 show there featured still another recent CMNW innovation: concerts with a theatrical element related to music. Unfortunately, its music (drawn from Kenari’s other CMNW repertoire) proved more successful than the contrived dramatic presentation featuring an actor portraying saxophone inventor Adolphe Sax.

But the final Wednesday concert featuring Akiho’s music was a rousing success — particularly the second half, comprising his five-movement LIgNEouS Suite with the Dover Quartet and starring marimbist Ian Rosenbaum, who delivered as spectacular a solo performance as I’ve ever seen at CMNW. (Their recording will be released soon.)

The Dover Quartet and Ian David Rosenbaum performed the world premiere of Andy Akiho’s ‘LIgNEouS Suite’ at Chamber Music Northwest. Photo: Just Dandy Photography + Social Media; Kimmie Fadem.

Young performers and new music also infused most main stage concerts, which this year mixed Mozart, Dvorak and other classics with contemporary American works by John Luther Adams, Roberto Sierra, and more. Most of the new music comes from a commissioning fund established a few years ago and supported by donors and co-commissioning partners.

“We want to honor the canon and expand the repertoire,” Shifrin explains. “You need these angels to be able to take chances. We’ve done that in the form of box office support for ambitious projects that we know won’t necessarily sell out but are important to our mission of furthering the chamber music repertoire.”

J.P. Redmond, Monica Ellis, Mark Dover, and Julietta Curenton perform Valerie Coleman-Page’s ‘A Right to Be’ at Chamber Music Northwest. Photo: Tom Emerson Photography.

The festival’s relationship with Imani Winds, which succeeded the venerable Emerson Quartet as artists-in-residence last year, has also brought greater diversity and vitality to CMNW stages while increasing performance quality. Music by the ensemble’s two excellent composers, founding flutist Valerie Coleman and horn player Jeff Scott, provided some of the summer’s brightest moments. A Right to Be, Coleman’s stirring “immigrants’ anthem,” highlighted the July 6 New@Noon concert that also featured compelling music by 19-year-old wunderkind J.P. Redmond and violist/composer Nokuthula Ngwenyama.

At the next day’s concert, photos of Coleman’s childhood West Louisville, Ky., neighborhood and Muhammad Ali, who also grew up nearby, were projected above the Lincoln Hall stage where Imani and the sterling Harlem Quartet played movements from her CMNW commission Shot Gun Houses,which sizzled with the energy of its main subject, the former Cassius Clay. Violinist Melissa White noted from the stage that her mother also grew up in the neighborhood and, like Coleman’s father, knew Clay/Ali.

Commissioned by a pair of CMNW patrons to commemorate their 50th wedding anniversary, the program’s other new composition, Scott’s Fantasy on 1967 amounted to a medley of pop hits from that year (“Brown Eyed Girl, “Light My Fire,” et al), capably if not compellingly arranged for wind quintet — except for a brilliant, closing “Somebody to Love” that even Grace Slick might have dug.

Imani Winds, Harlem Quartet, pianist Alex Brown, bassist Zach Brown, and drummer Neal Smith, and poet A.B. Spellman performed Jeff Scott’s “Passion for Bach and Coltrane” at Chamber Music Northwest. Photo: Tom Emerson Photography.

The Harlem Quartet and Imani, plus a jazz trio, joined forces on July 5 at Reed for Scott’s ambitious, evening-length Passion for Bach and Coltrane narrated by poet and jazz writer A. B. Spellman — who also happens to be the father of Imani oboist Toyin Spellman-Diaz, and whose poems supplied its libretto. Opening with a quote from the Goldberg Variations, it drew on material from that J.S. Bach classic and John Coltrane’s masterpiece A Love Supreme while mostly avoiding mere pastiche, sometimes finding fertile common ground among three worlds — Bach’s, Coltrane’s, and Scott’s. Only a movement inspired by a Spellman poem about the great Cuban jazz pianist Gonzalo Rubalcaba felt extraneous.

Beyond the Cultural Revolution

More contemporary music arrived at the festival’s Beyond the Cultural Revolution concerts, which, like last year’s festival featuring dozens of works by women composers, amounted to a new music mini-festival with the festival. Along with music by esteemed composers Zhou Long, Chen Yi, and Tan Dun, the concerts featured new works by younger composer Vivan Fung, Oregon’s own Pius Cheung, and Kai-Young Chan, played by pipa virtuosa Wu Man, renowned violinist Cho-Liang Lin, the Dover Quartet and more.

That Friday’s New@Noon concert was one of the best I’ve ever seen in that series. Tango pianist Alex Brown propelled Zhou Long’s explosive Taiping Drum with sharply accented, widely spaced piano chords imitating drumming. Renowned violinist Lin, one of the world’s most prominent violinists a couple decades ago, proved he hadn’t lost a bit, matching Brown’s intensity. The audience erupted in applause.

Cho-Liang Lin, David Shifrin, and Bright Sheng performing Sheng’s ‘Tibetan Dance’ at New@Noon: Beyond the Cultural Revolution. Photo: Judy Blankenship.

Bright Sheng, originally scheduled to play piano in Zhou’s piece too, led an all star trio with Shifrin and Lin in his own Tibetan Dance, whose intimacy, nicely contrasting with the pounding opener, reflected the long relationship of the couple who commissioned it in 2001. Sheng accurately compared its placid opening movement to the feeling of being in a Japanese garden; ArtsWatch writer Daniel Heila heard echoes of Gurrelieder. The simple, serene second movement exploited Shifrin’s alluring lower range. Lin and Sheng also contributed percussion to the playful, pulsating closing movement, tapping the violin body and smacking the piano frame. It was a total crowd pleaser that really should have closed the show.

Pius Cheung performing his ‘Nian3’ at Chamber Music Northwest. Photo: Judy Blankenship.

The world’s best-known pipa virtuosa, Wu Man, had earlier shredded on her lute, electrifying the audience with a traditional work that imitated the rhythms of a galloping horse. If she was Jimmy Page this afternoon, then University of Oregon prof Pius Cheung was John Bonham. The wiry percussion master, clad all in black topped by a big rust-colored scarf, approached the single bass drum on stage, wielding what looked like taiko mallets. (He said later he’d custom fashioned it from wood bought at Home Depot.) The high drama in his 2016 solo Nian3 owed an obvious debt to that Japanese percussion music, and he later also credited influences from Chinese drumming traditions and The Rite of Spring. (As Heila mentioned, if you listen closely enough to most contemporary music, you can hear Stravinsky in everything.) Another hearty ovation ensued.

A 2013 piece by another Hong Kong born composer, the youngest on the bill, under-30 Kai-Young Chan, closed the program. Ignis fatuus reflected its subject, which his program notes described as “a pale, ghostly green light commonly seen in marshes and around graveyards with a reputation as an ill omen or a dark creature in east Asian folklores.” The Daedalus Quartet’s tense, muted swoops and tremolos sometimes imitated the Chinese traditional fiddle erhu, haunting a baleful, slow violin tune. Like everything else on this terrific program, it was a strong success, but should have swapped places with Sheng’s piece.

Wu Man performed at Lan Su Chinese Garden.
Photo: Tom Emerson Photography.

“It felt like my hometown,” Wu Man told the audience about how she felt when first entering Portland’s Lan Su Chinese Garden, site of that evening’s concert. She explained that she grew up in Hangzhou, not far from Suzhou — which happens to be Portland’s sister city and whose gardens provided the model for Lan Su Garden, as well as some of the craftsmen who built it. Her opening traditional piece for solo pipa started the show at a much more relaxed than her earlier intensity at PSU. As her fingers executed rapid runs, the breeze picked up, rippling the pond’s surface to match the music, while koi glided imperturbably beneath.

You’d think a concert of Chinese music would feel just as home at Lan Su as Wu Man did. It’s one of my favorite Portland places — I’ve heard jazz and classical music often and even performed there several times, unamplified. Unfortunately, while the surrounding traffic and airplane noise probably makes it unavoidable, its close-miked amplification system flattens and harshes the sound of acoustic instruments.  Despite the beauty of the blooming lotus blossoms, waterlilies, gardenias and the rest, the setting ultimately undermined the music for me.

Still, the open air and gathering dusk rather than a concert hall lent an appropriately lonely, folky feel to Lin’s performance of Sheng’s 1990 solo The Stream Flows. Peppered with percussive plucks, his nuanced performance evoked the vocal quality of a female traditional southern Chinese folk singer, other times reminding me of many afternoons spent listening to the erhu in the garden teahouse, reaching a high intensity climax before fading away.

Frenetic Memories, a CMNW commission from Sheng’s former student Vivian Fung, reflects the composer’s travels through southwest China, hearing music by minority ethnic groups. “I did the Bartok thing,” she said from the stage. Current and former CMNW Proteges the Daedalus Quartet and Romie de Guise-Langlois (whose clarinet evoked indigenous bamboo instruments) excelled in the most sonically adventurous work of the day, with little string shivers softening, then building to wild eruptions and flurries. Clarinet and cello alternated keeping the beat and then came the promised surprise (spoiler ahead): the recorded voice of the very folk singer whose voice she’d imitated in the piece emerged from the instrumental swirl.

Violinist Cho-Liang Lin performed Bright Sheng’s ‘The Stream Flows’ at Lan Su Chinese Garden. Photo: Tom Emerson Photography.

Again, this one should have ended the concert on a high note, instead of Chen Yi’s harrowing Ning. Intense and violent almost from the outset, the trio hauntingly evoked the Japanese military’s horrific, six-week 1937 mass rape and massacre of Nanjing. The music’s contrast with the placid setting made it even more terrifying, imagining how such savagery could come to a such a serene place. 

Wu Man’s pipa fired fusillades while Lin’s violin and Sophie Shao’s cello, using plucking and bowing techniques from both Asian and Western traditions, sounded now like an air raid siren, now like hysterical wailing. More placid passages were interrupted by intense interjections, with the pipa picking up steam, strings accompanying at first then playing their own implacable dark duet while Wu Man’s angular banjo (to use Steely Dan’s term) shivered in the background. Finally it morphed into a requiem, with a Puccini quote, creepy creaking sounds and high, held string notes creating a quiet lament that Lin likened to “waking up from a nightmare in a cold sweat.” When it ended, we all uncertainly shuffled out of Eden.

The Silver River

The highlight of the weekend and the festival for me was Chinese-American composer Bright Sheng’s chamber opera The Silver River, co-commissioned by the festival two decades ago but unperformed here until now because of daunting technical requirements, since surmounted by a combination of advancing technology (including lovely digital projections that obviated the need for expensive physical backdrops), organizational and financial commitment, and a scaled-down production. (Read my ArtsWatch preview for plot details and more.) I was surprised that CMNW didn’t partner with Portland Opera — right in the midst of its own summer season — to co-produce, but then the show might have ended up in the inferior acoustics of PO’s usual chamber opera venue, Newmark Theatre.

Dana Green as Buffalo in Bright Sheng’s ‘The Silver River.’ Photo: Tom Emerson Photography.

It worked a treat at Lincoln Hall, thanks not just to Bright Sheng’s evocative score but also to librettist David Henry Hwang’s witty, contemporary inflected libretto, whose cheeky humor was slyly executed by Dana Green as Buffalo, strong and funny throughout. When the Jade Emperor orders her to leave heaven and find a shepherd, “Forgive me, Your Majesty,” she replies, “but I don’t do earth,” she replies, her eye roll audible from the back row. “I mean, it’s dirty, and there’re bugs, and the cuisine is wretched.”

The rest of the production was equally adept. Robert Longbottom’s deft direction on a bare stage kept the action compelling and the meaning clear, even when the Emperor spoke Chinese almost throughout. (Their movements and Buffalo’s responses in English told non-Mandarin speakers what we needed to know.) Anita Yavich’s sumptuous celestial colored costumes contrasted with the earth-toned terrestrial denizens. Ian Anderson-Priddy’s projections (including a commanding waterfall and starry silver river) ranged from fantastic to just realistic enough to be believable when the characters interacted with them.

YuCheng Ren as The Jade Emperor in ‘The Silver River.’ Photo: Tom Emerson Photography.

It’s hard to believe Sheng’s luminous, ear-friendly music, which smoothly integrated recognizable Chinese and Western sonic gestures, hasn’t been recorded yet, though that may be remedied soon. (Its seven parts total a CD-friendly 68 minutes.) Its only dramatic drawback was an occasional lack of stylistic variety that lent a certain sameness to the music over the course of the show. A couple of moments, as when the cowherd ascends to a heavenly plane, and again when the lovers’ grief at their forced parting triggers storms to erupt, cried out for greater contrast and intensity. But overall, just as the story (based on a famous ancient Chinese myth) bridged heaven and earth, gods and humans, Sheng’s music beautifully bridged East and West.

So did the six musicians. At stage right, colorfully garbed Wu Man played her Chinese pipa, while renowned flutist Ransom Wilson, in earthy suede, purveyed pastoral Earth sounds from stage left. Similarly, young baritone Theo Hoffman sang the role of the Cowherd (clearly and resoundingly) in Western operatic manner in English while YuCheng Ren used Chinese opera vocal and movement style and language. From the floor, Cheung provided prominent percussion, including the opening notes, while Shao, violinist Teddy Arm and de Guise Langlois. Sheng conducted with brisk assurance. And co-choreographer Katherine Disenhof, ably abetted by Portland natives Claire and Ellie van Bever, snagged the biggest applause as the lead dancer Goddess Weaver.

Katherine Disenhof, the Goddess-Weaver, and Theo Hoffman, the Cowherd, with Claire van Bever and Ellie van Bever in ‘The Silver River.’ Photo: Tom Emerson Photography.

Vision Validated

That opening night applause was immediate, exuberant, not the perfunctory obligatory standing O too often seen on Portland stages, but genuine shouts and cheers, to which ArtsWatch’s Jeff Winslow and I might have contributed. The Silver River is one of the best things I’ve ever seen at Chamber Music Northwest, and this performance validated Shifrin’s original — and renewed — impulse to bring new music, non-Western music and theater to what had been mostly a relatively staid European Masters chamber music festival. Finally staging its Portland debut had long been on Shifrin’s “bucket list” to accomplish before he retires, after 40 years as artistic director, in 2020 — the festival’s 50th year.

He will leave behind a reinvigorated festival whose audience numbers have stabilized — a triumph in the beleaguered classical music world — and whose demographic is gradually growing a bit more diverse, Bilotta says, thanks to its innovations. “When we program music everyone knows, we sell more tickets,” Shifrin explains. “What we’re trying to do is change the equation so that music everyone knows becomes a larger pool.”

David Shifrin, center, performing with Miro Quartet at 2018 Chamber Music Northwest. Photo: Tom Emerson.

Shifrin’s successor will be announced at the end of next summer’s festival. A search is already underway, but they could save a lot of time by offering the job to Imani Winds. The group already runs its own festival, and it’s hard to think of a better combo of broad audience-friendliness, contemporary music smarts, and forward looking sensibility. Although I saw ensemble curation work well when I covered the Ojai Festival that eighth blackbird programmed a few years back, if a single director is needed, how about Valerie Coleman? At one of the talkbacks, the Imani founder and flutist said she hasn’t decided what to do after her sabbatical from the group ends, though she did reveal that she was weighing a job offer on a faculty position in Miami. If she takes it, she’ll be ready for a summer break from the heat, humidity, global warming-fueled floods, marauding alligators, rotting fish carcasses, stolen elections, and the other follies comically chronicled by Miami’s own Dave Barry. Coleman or Scott or the whole band seem like ideal candidates to continue the decidedly non-musty festival’s continuing reinvention in its second half century.

Chamber Music Northwest’s 2018-19 season begins October 5 with a concert featuring CMNW’s 2018-19 artists in residence, the Dover Quartet, playing music by Bartok, Britten and Dvorak at Portland State University’s Lincoln Hall. A shorter version of this story appears in The Wall Street Journal. Stay tuned for more 2018 Chamber Music Northwest coverage next week.


Classical Voice North America

Journal of the Music Critics Association of North America

July 13, 2018


" target="_blank">https://classicalvoiceamerica.org/">



Flowing With Ali: Chamber Riffs On The Sixties Scene

The Imani Winds are in residence at Chamber Music Northwest’s Summer Festival. (Photos by Tom Emerson)

By James Bash

PORTLAND, Ore. – Now in its 48th season, Chamber Music Northwest’s Summer Festivalcould easily fall into a middle-age slumber, but it continues to reinvigorate its concert format with new artists and fresh programming, including commissioned works. Among the young and diverse musicians invited to the festival were the Imani Winds and the Harlem Quartet. Their “Sounds from 20th Century America” concert at Lincoln Performance Hall on July 8 provided a breath of fresh air with two world premieres augmented by multimedia and several jazz-inflected pieces that sent the audience home with a smile.

The Harlem Quartet performed with clarinetist David Shifrin.

The Imani Winds, resident artists at this year’s festival, consists of five musicians, including two acclaimed composers: Valerie Coleman, flute, and Jeff Scott, French horn. Earlier in the week, Coleman’s anthem to immigration, A Right to Be, and Scott’s Passion for Bach and Coltranewith poet A. B. Spellmanwere performed, and over the weekend each had a CMNW-commissioned piece performed.

Coleman’s Shot Gun Houses was inspired by the neighborhood in Louisville, Ky., where the she grew up. It was also the birthplace of Muhammad Ali, and the piece, played by the Harlem Quartet and clarinetist David Shifrin (the longtime artistic director of CMNW), was imbued with Ali’s witty and boastful style with the clarinet strutting its stuff and jousting at times with the strings. The third movement, “Grand Avenue,” was prefaced with remarks by violinist Melissa White, whose mother was a close friend of Ali’s family. The music flowed gently to the final movement when Ali (then known as Cassius Clay) won a gold medal at the 1960 Olympics. A propulsive dance suggested Ali’s footwork in the ring, and a combined sound from the violin and clarinet was meant to evoke the bell between rounds. The ensemble didn’t pull any punches and scored a technical knockout with incisive playing.

Scott’s Fantasy on 1967 was commissioned to honor the 50th wedding anniversary of two of the festival’s board members. Played by the Imani Winds, the music was a medley of famous rock and roll pieces that hit the top of the charts in 1967, which was also the year Scott was born. A brief documentary-style film introduced the piece with a visual blast from the past with snippets from Vietnam War news reels and from the 1967 Monterey Pop Festival, including a clip that showed Jimi Hendrix lighting his guitar on fire and smashing it on the stage floor.

The Harlem Quartet played jazz standards and Cuban music.

Scott’s fusion of rock tunes kicked off with “I’m a Believer” (The Monkees), which featured a trippy rhythm section with bass clarinet (Mark Dover) and bassoon (Monica Ellis). Scott showed plenty of swagger carrying the melody of “Light My Fire (The Doors), and Dover, who has a lot of jazz experience, created tremendous riffs that put the bass clarinet into the stratosphere. Playful lines for oboe (Toyin Spellman-Diaz) and flute led the way in “Brown Eyed Girl” (Van Morrison) and “Lovely Rita Meter Maid.” (The Beatles). The group totally wigged out on “White Rabbit” and “Somebody to Love” (Jefferson Airplane) with Dover adding extraterrestrial licks on the clarinet.

The Imani also performed Lalo Schifrin’s La Nouvelle Orleans, which evoked a funeral procession. It began with a slow walk interrupted by a hesitation step, which gave the music a slightly off-kilter feeling. It all staggered forward and became a chattering shuffle before gradually slipping into a syrupy passage with an odd harmonization between clarinet and French horn. The pace then picked up with a jazzy bounce, punctuated by brief, raspy sounds from the French horn and a soulful cry from the oboe.

The Harlem Quartet gave the audience a taste of Cuban dance music with Guido Gavilán’sCuarteto en Guaguancó. The composer’s son, violinist Ilmar Gavilán, and violist Jaime Amador were especially emotive whenever they led with the melody.

The quartet also played several arrangements of jazz standards that are featured in its debut album, Take the “A” Train. Antônio Carlos Jobim’s “The Girl from Ipanema” bent the melody just a tad and added some unexpected harmonies. Billy Strayhorn’s “Take the ‘A’ Train” offered several individual solos that had an impromptu feel. Dizzy Gillespie’s “A Night in Tunisia” had numerous impromptu-like detours and a head-nodding beat, wrapping things up with a light-hearted nightcap.

James Bash is a freelance writer based in Portland, Ore. He reviews Portland Opera productions for Opera Magazine and writes for a number of publications, including his blog,Northwest Reverb.



More Updates ▼

Audio/video recordings of 3 new works: Bright Sheng: The Silver River, Valerie Coleman: Shotgun Houses and J.P. Redmond: Nonet for Winds.

Posted on January 23, 2019 by Chamber Music Northwest

In summer 2018, Chamber Music Northwest commissioned and presented the world premieres of two new works: Valerie Coleman’s “Shotgun Houses” and “Nonet for Winds” by J.P. Redmond. With the help of New Music USA, these works were recorded and CMNW has preserved these archival recordings for posterity. Performance dates and artists:

Valerie Coleman: Shotgun Houses – CMNW commissioned World Premiere, 2018   15′

  Four movements: Shot Gun Houses, Rome 1960, Grand Avenue, Louisville Lip

July 7 and 8, 2018   at Reed College Kaul Auditorium and Portland State University Lincoln Performance Hall

Artists: David Shifrin, clarinet; Harlem Quartet: Ilmar Gavilan, violin; Melissa White, violin; Jaime Amador, viola; Felix Umansky, cello.

Composer’s statement: “Shot Gun Houses is a tribute to the life of Muhammad Ali, a man who carried the pride of Wet Louisville with him everywhere throughout his career. The first movement, Shot Gun House, is a sketch of the neighborhoods of West Louisville in the 1950’s. Inspiration came from observing photos and tracing the path to get to Ali’s childhood home on grand Ave. from my own childhood home just blocks away. The beginning is a nod to Southern life, the vocal drawl, and the design of shotgun houses all lined up in a row. Soon after, the music becomes punctuated and the clarinetist’s upper register is prominently featured, symbolizing the bold personalities that all west Louisville children learn early on to verbally boast and tease one another as a part of playing in the streets. The music gently ends with a dark reminiscence from the modern day blight of the neighborhood.

“The second movement, Rome 1960, begins with a young Cassius Clay, Jr. training as shown through the rapid repetitive rhythm between cello and viola. The clarinet begins to reflect Ali’s own prose during workout sessions when the news cameras came to visit. The movement is a chronological recounting of the Champ’s preparation, what he must have felt stepping into the ring for the Gold medal round and then the pomp and circumstance following his win.

“Ali’s home on Grand Avenue titles the third movement, is a love ballad to his mother. In my research, every photo of Ali with his mother shows a kiss or embrace. the clarinet is once again mostly within the upper register, but now with a passionate and sweet sound. Ali wanted to give his mother a better life than what grand Avenue could provide.

“By ending with Louisville Lip, the composer betrays the notion that a Scherzo should be placed in the middle of a work. Starting with percussion-like extended techniques from the strings, the memory of “Thriller(-ah) in Manila”begins with bouncing in the practice ring while djembe drums play and spectators yell, “Ali! Bomaye!” Bold interactions that bounce between strings and clarinet recount some of Ali’s verbal jabs at his arch opponent, Joe Frazier. His most popular sayings, like “I am the greatest”, and “Float like a butterfly, sting like  bee!” can be heard through special motifs that step boldly into foreground as both melody and rhythm.

“I dedicate this to my neighborhood, Ali’s neighborhood of West Louisville.May his life remind us all of the greatness we are all capable of achieving.” – Valerie Coleman

J.P. Redmond, 9:9: Nine Pieces for Nonet  2018 CMNW-commissioned world premiere, 15 minutes.

Nine Movements: Apprehensive,  yet bold-Piu mosso, rushed; Carefree, yet uneasy; Stretched, restless;Wild, possessed; Timeless: Revisitation of a wild and possessed state; Strained, unwinding; Nervous, yet composed; Frantic-With restless energy.

July 2 and 3, 2018 Reed College Kaul Auditorium and Portland State University Lincoln Performance Hall

Artists: Imani Winds: Julietta Curenton, flute; Toyin Spellman-Diaz, oboe; Mark Dover, clarinet; Jeff Scott, horn; Monica Ellis, bassoon and Kenari Quartet: Bob Eason, soprano saxophone; Kyle Baldwin, alto saxophone; Corey Dundee, tenor saxophone; Steven banks, baritone saxophone.

Composer’s statement: “Faced with the challenge of writing for the quirky yet exciting combination of wind quintet and saxophone quartet, I decided to structure the piece in the form of nine short movements to mirror the number of instruments in the ensemble. the movements run attacca into one another, and each movement is thematically akin to at least one of the others. The piece is structured in an arch form, with the first four movements culminating in a more expansive fifth, and the last four movements mirroring the first four in reverse order.” – J.P. Remond


The Silver River received its Oregon premiere on July 21 and 22, 2018 at Portland State University’s Lincoln Performance Hall. The Silver River was co-commissioned in 1997 from composer Bright Sheng by Chamber Music Northwest in partnership with Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival, Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, the Kennedy Center, and the Philharmonic Society of Orange County. This was its first performance in the Pacific Northwest. 

Bright Sheng: The Silver River (68′)

Stage Director: Robert Longbottom; Conductor & Composer: Bright Sheng; Libretto: David Henry Hwang

Artists: Buffalo: Dana Green; Jade Emperor, Tenor (Chinese Opera style): YuCheng Ren; Cowherd, Baritone (Western Opera style): Teho Hoffman; Co-Choreographer & Lead Dancer: Katherine Disenhof; Attendant Dancers: Claire van Bever & Ellie van Bever; Ransom Wilson, flute; Romie de Guise-Langlois, clarinet and bass clarinet; Wu Man, pipa; Pius Cheung, percussion; Theodore Arm, violin and percussion; Sophie Shao, cello.

Lighting Designer: Peter West; Projections: Ian Anderson-Priddy; Costumes: Anita Yavich (Costumes provided courtesy of the University of Michigan School of Music, Theatre & Dance); Stage Manager: Peggy Schwartz; Wardrobe Supervisor: Hadley Yoder; Rehearsal Pianist: Kira Whiting.

The Bridge of Magpies – (The Silver River Bridge)

Carried by those filigree clouds,

Across the dark and endless Silver River, The two sorrowful stars, vega and altair, meet once a year on this late summer day, when their love transcends all the couples on earth, and their happiness all the sad and sleepless nights.

These precious minutes and hours are the sweetest of all dreams; when lovers unite like water and air, how unbearable is the shadow of the returning bridge of magpies.

And yes, if our love is pure and true, our bond timeless, Why then, would we have to be together every morning and night:

-Qin Guan (1049-1100)

Composer’s statement: “This Sung Dynasty (960-1279) poem represents one of the many important works on the legend of The Silver River by Chinese artists and literati. As early as four thousand years ago, when the Chinese began studying astronomy, this legend started to appear in Chinese art and literature. In many Asian countries today, this story of unfulfilled eternal love between the earthly and celestial has become among the most beloved of every family’s fairy tales.

“While tragic love stories have always had a place in Asian culture, the popularity and longevity of this particular folk myth is especially significant. It reflects the traditional vision of a happy life between a male farmer and female weaver as well as a repressed longing for self-chosen love amidst the arranged marriages of old Chinese society. The story also expresses the fantasy of a perfect “heavenly love”, which can only be fulfilled one day a year. On this day, the separated lovers are allowed to cross the Silver River (the Milky Way) on a bridge made by the overlapping wings of all the magpies in the world–a Chinese Valentine’s Day.

“In our day, the struggle to live with and love one another continues to proe a formidable challenge. When the Buffalo declares, “We can all live in harmony, if only we have love to bridge the distance,” are these words of vision or naivete? Perhaps the story of the cowherd and Goddess-Weaver represents a bit of both, for like most great romantic myths, it celebrates the dream of a perfect love struggling to survive in our imperfect world.”

A grant from New Music USA made possible the documenting of these three works for archival purposes: audio recording of the Coleman and Redmond works, and a video recording of The Silver River. We do not have the artists’ permission to post those works on this site. Inquiries about the recordings may be directed to Robert Whipple, Artistic Operations Director, at Chamber Music Northwest.


CMNW commissions 4-6 new works each season but rarely has the means to preserve these works. Documenting new works is a primary goal of the Festival. Our project is to produce high-quality video and audio recordings of Bright Sheng’s opera, “The Silver River and audio recordings of Valerie Coleman’s “Shotgun Houses” and J.P. Redmond’s (as yet untitled) nonet for wind quintet and saxophone quartet. The works will be performed and recorded during the CMNW Summer Festival (July 2018) in Portland.

“The Silver River” is a chamber opera by Bright Sheng and librettist David Henry Hwang that integrates elements of Western and Chinese opera. Co-commissioned with Kennedy Center, Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center and Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival, CMNW has secured funding for the opera’s Oregon premiere in 2018. The work will be performed by tenor Steven Ren; baritone Michael Kelly; Ransom Wilson, flute; Romie de Guise-Langlois, clarinet; Wu Man, pipa; Pius Cheung, percussion; Theodore Arm, violin; and Sophie Shao, cello; directed by Bright Sheng; stage director May Adrales. Performances will be on July 21-22, 2018. The opera represents the largest project ever undertaken by CMNW—it is the centerpiece of our 4-day celebration of “Music Beyond the Cultural Revolution,” showcasing works by contemporary Chinese composers. The only existing video of Silver River is an archival recording by Lincoln Center Festival at the John Jay College theatre. Our goal is to produce a professional quality master video.

Composer/flutist Valerie Coleman is founder of Imani Winds, CMNW’s 2017-18 Artists-in-Residence. She is writing “Shotgun Houses” as a tribute to Muhammad Ali, who grew up in her hometown of Louisville, Kentucky. The performance will include photographs of Ali’s career, and artwork by Ali’s father. Movements represent significant moments in Ali’s life: PROSPERITY of local businesses, Ali’s gold medal from the ROME 1960 Olympics, LOUISVILLE LP scherzo, and finally, his courage to live UNBOUND by racial constraints. David Shifrin, clarinet, and Harlem String Quartet will perform (concerts July 7-8).

J.P. Redmond, CMNW’s Protégé composer for 2018, will compose a nonet for wind quintet and saxophone quartet. The commission will be performed on July 2-3. Redmond, age 19, a student at Juilliard, has already won numerous honors, including three ASCAP Foundation Morton Gould Young Composer Awards. He is inspired by the opportunity to write for this unusual combination of wind instruments, bringing together the young Protégé Kenari Saxophone quartet with the seasoned master artists, Imani Winds.

CMNW Artistic Director David Shifrin’s highest priority over the next three years is to document as many of the CMNW commissioned works as possible, in order to leave an archive of new repertoire that might become part of the chamber music canon of the future. Each of the works will be recorded by Rod Evenson during two live performances and two additional recording sessions (as needed). After local editing, Matt LeFevre at Yale University will produce master recordings by spring 2019. The resulting master tapes will be available then for compilation into commercial CD’s.

Project Media

Bright Sheng: Dream of the Red Chamber
Like this? Login or register to make a playlist of your favorites pieces.
Features: Bright Sheng

Bright Sheng’s main project over the past 5 years is the opera, Dream of the Red Chamber (recorded Feb. 5, 2016, Commissioned by the San Francisco Opera). Our project, Silver River, is by the same composer and librettist. The music is more western style, but gives context for a large-scale intercultural project and the dynamic range of emotion. This clip includes composer Bright Sheng and librettist David Henry Hwang talking about the project, an excerpt of the aria from Act II, Scene I (1:05-2:45) and the aria in Act II, Scene IV (2:48-end).

Valerie Coleman: Wisdom, Black Hair Flag, Afro Abe
Like this? Login or register to make a playlist of your favorites pieces.
Features: Valerie Coleman

Recorded April 3, 2017 by the AarK Duo (Tabatha Easley, flute & Justin Alexander, percussion). Composer Valerie Coleman suggested that Wisdom (track 9), Black Hair Flag (track 11) and Afro Abe (track 14) relate to her proposed composition, Shotgun Houses, in terms of audacity and soulfulness. It also has a visual element: Black Hair Flag corresponds with this art: http://sonyaclark.com/wordpress/wp-content/themes/sonyaclark/php/timthumb.php?src=http://sonyaclark.com/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2011/07/black-hair-flag.jpeg&h=585&w=900&zc=1Rec

J.P. Redmond: Silhouette
Like this? Login or register to make a playlist of your favorites pieces.
Features: J.P. Redmond

Recorded in July 2017 at SUNY Purchase with James Ross conducting the National Youth Orchestra of the USA. This is the most recent example of Redmond’s instrumental writing; he felt it best corresponded with the wind nonet he is composing for Chamber Music Northwest. Although “Silhouette” is written for full orchestra, its tumult and expressive blasts in the winds will be recognizable in the new chamber work for a smaller but more eclectic group of wind instruments.

Start and End Dates



Portland, Oregon

2 updates
Last update on January 25, 2019

Project Created By

Portland, Oregon
Now in its 49th season, Chamber Music Northwest serves thousands of people in Oregon and SW Washington with exceptional chamber music through over 100 events annually, including Summer and Winter festivals, concerts in alternative venues, outreach activities, educational programs, broadcasts, and innovative collaborations with other arts groups. CMNW is the only chamber music festival of…

In Collaboration With

New York, New York
Indianapolis, Indiana


Leave a Reply