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...

1 comment:

Lorin Wilkerson said...

Update on the names of the missing Baroque Bash musicians:

the cellists who played the Vivaldi were Doug Jenkins (founder of the Portland Cello Project) and Skip VonKuske.

The violinists in the Haydn quartet were Jason Fromme and Tylor Neist.

Thanks to Mattie Kaiser for the lowdown.