Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Baroque Bash! Opulent madness strikes the Holocene

Members of PBO perform at the Baroque Bash

Last Wednesday night, members of Classical Revolution Portland, the Portland Baroque Orchestra, and opera-rockers Sophe Lux threw a crazy party at the Holocene in SE Portland. I had the opportunity to open the show on solo harpsichord, floating the somber strains of a Purcell Almand into a still-murmuring crowd unannounced. I made some brief announcements followed by a Haydn sonata, and it took off from there.

It was a miniature who's who of some notables in P-town's classical music scene: Andrea Murray and Edmund Stone from KBPS All Classical were there; Mark Powell, Marketing Director and gracious host for the PBO was present. JustOut columnist and local music blogger Stephen Marc Beaudoin, (a fabulous tenor) performed what was without a doubt the most unique rendition of any Handelian opera aria that I've ever heard. Cellist/watercolorist extraordinaire Lori Presthus, as well as magnificent violinists Adam LaMotte and Greg Ewer, all of the PBO, wowed the crowd with the sterling level of musicianship that we've all come to know and love from that organization. Ralph Nelson, Artistic Director of the Bach Cantata Choir (and owner of the beautiful harpsichord we used for the event) also showed up. Of course, CRPDX founder Mattie Kaiser (aka Foxy Lux) and a regular crew of CRPDXers were there, in addition to Gwynneth Haynes and Sophe Lux, who played after the baroque performances were over. (If I've missed or didn't recognize anyone please forgive.)

A complete set list is available here at the CRPDX blog, and as I mentioned, the show opened with little ol' me. Although I didn't play nearly as well as I'd hoped (nor nearly as poorly as I'd feared) I really had a blast, and I got the very strong impression that all of the other performers and the audience did as well. It was a little unnerving for me playing on the same bill as members of the PBO, the cream of Portland's burgeoning Baroque scene, but I'm proud of my musicianship all the same and was grateful to have the chance to share the stage with such good musicians. Watching Mattie, Erin Winemiller and two CRPDX violinists whose names I don't know play a couple movements of a Haydn string quartet, I felt a certain warmth--I'd performed, gotten bloodied so to speak, and so felt a cameraderie that lent the rest of the evening a pleasant glow.

The finalists gather...

The scene shifted to another room where two cellists whose names I don't know (please feel free to shout out in the comments section) played the concertina from a Vivaldi double cello concerto with funky backbeats and psychedelic lighting. When Stephen Marc Beaudoin took the spotlight to sing two numbers from Handel's Rodelinda (heard in P-town last year thanks to the Portland Opera), it was a study in contrasts, to say the least. The first aria was tender, heart-rending, very introspective and honest. The second ended with Beaudoin hurling various articles of clothing into the audience, standing only in boxers and a t-shirt by the end of this baroque burlesque...honesty of a different sort?

Jan Groh of the Nachtigal Duo and Simon Bielman played a tricky Telemann recorder sonata quite well. They had been practicing in my living room earlier in the week, so it was fun to hear how much this piece had evolved in such a short time. Lori Presthus played a glorious Courante from Bach's 1st Cello Suite, and I was thrilled to hear this since I own her CD of the first 3 cello suites (going to get the second installment soon.) She also improvised, displaying her daring and virtuosity. Ewer and LaMotte showed their skills in a violin duet played at a positively blistering tempo, and the three PBO musicians closed out the Baroque part of the bash with Vivaldi's 'La Folia.'

Next came the costume competition. There were quite a number of lavish costumes...a neo-baroque hipster thing with a pink wig, Marie Antoinette-ish ensembles. Beaudoin led the festivities in a suitably boisterous manner, letting the audience applause judge the winners of various categories (including 'The Most Glam F*!#ing Glam' division). Despite the fact that there were many costumes that I felt left mine in the dust, somehow when it was all said and done I was the last man standing, and won two CDs and a hilarious 'Baroque Obama' t-shirt, courtesy of Classical Millenium. After receiving a stern, crowd-pleasing smack on the ass from the host (I'm sure we'd both had a few rounds by this point), it was intermission. PDX glam faves Sophe Lux took the stage afterwards, and I was glad to hear my favorite tune of theirs, the very apropos 'Marie Antoinette Robot.' I've written about their performances here before.

All in all, it was a ridiculous amount of fun. It had the interesting effect of taking some of the starch out of classical music while simultaneously celebrating that very aspect of it, and of bringing both the audience and performers together in a very unique way. Leave it to CRPDX come up with something like this...I sure hope they do it again.

And the winner is...

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Various and Sundry...Pix soon to follow

Just a brief note here--

Last night I won the costume competition at the Baroque Bash at Holocene. I have no idea how I won...there were a number of sumptuous baroque costumers there but hey, a win is a win, and I got 2 cds and a hilarious 'Baroque Obama' t-shirt with Barack's head photo-shopped onto a famous painting of Bach. Good times. I'll be posting pictures and some notes on my experience later this evening.

Also at NW Reverb I linked to an item about a new Mozart piece that was discovered in a French museum.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Press Release from CRPDX


CONTACT: Mattie Kaiser
Powder your wig and lace up your corset for…
The Baroque Bash - September 17th at Holocene
WHAT: Baroque Bash
WHO: Sophe Lux (; Classical Revolution PDX ( and members of the Portland Baroque Orchestra (
WHEN: September 17th, 9 PM
WHERE: Holocene, 1001 SE Morrison, Portland
COST: $8 at the door; $6 for those in costume.

Baroque music meets baroque pop for a first-of-its-kind show at the Holocene nightclub on September 17th.
The “Baroque Bash” features performances by beloved chamber-rockers Sophe Lux, chamber music collaborative Classical Revolution PDX and special guests from Portland Baroque Orchestra, the Pacific Northwest’s premiere period instrument ensemble. CRPDX and the PBO Chamber Players will perform works by Bach, Haydn, Vivaldi and other 17th and early 18th Century composers. Sophe Lux, known as much for their lavish costumes and mini-operettas as for their musicianship, will play original songs hailed by the Portland Tribune as being “operatic, ambitious...sophisticated, theatrical pop.” The Philadelphia Weekly described them as “fancy-dressed, concept-loving, rock-opera terrorists... This Weimar-infused, accordion-loving experimental cabaret is led by the blond and beautiful Gwynneth Haynes, whose octave-jumping soprano could easily turn from indie rock to Brecht-Weill torch songs.”

Singer Gwynneth Haynes invites the audience to fully participate in the evening by taking on Baroque characteristics. Says Haynes “Don’t just be a spectator, be a part of the spectacle!” Audiences are invited to join in the evenings festivities by donning outfits and wigs for the evening’s costume contest.

Tom Cirillo, Executive Director of Portland Baroque Orchestra, jumped at the invitation from Classical Revolution PDX to bring live performance of 18th century music to a “downtown” club venue like Holocene. He says, “18th century music is all about flash, spectacle and live improvisation. A party-like setting with adult refreshments is certainly in the spirit of the music and I know our virtuoso violinists Greg Ewer and Adam LaMotte will thrive in the energy of this unique event at Holocene.”

Violist Mattie Kaiser, who performs with Classical Revolution PDX and Sophe Lux, says the Baroque Bash will demonstrate the commonality between Baroque music and the literate, musically complex pop songs produced by bands like Sophe Lux. She likens the best music of the Baroque, known for its emphasis on ornament and extravagance, to glam rock: “I really don’t think there’s that much of a difference between the baroque music pageantry that existed back in the day and glam - it’s all about being completely ridiculous with the utmost sincerity.”

Blogger's sidenote: I'd like to add that I think this sounds really fun and I will definitely be there. You might even have the great misfortune of hearing me play some Purcell on the harpsichord... I also thank Ralph Nelson, Artistic Director of the Bach Cantata Choir, for the use of his harpsichord for this event.