Ready for some live music this summer? For more than 50 years Chamber Music Northwest has been orchestrating gratifying audience experiences that bring the very best musicians from around the world to Portland’s concert halls throughout the year, and to Reed College every summer for an annual Summer Festival.
After months of planning and trying to predict the state of gathering for performance, CMNW will present their 51st annual Summer Festival in July presenting a varied repertoire of cherished classics mixed with new music compositions both in-person and at home. Chamber Music Northwest’s new Artistic Directors Gloria Chien and Soovin Kim created four weeks of programming that encourages audiences and musicians alike to reflect on, and rejoice in, the music together.
This year’s Summer Festival involves nearly 70 musicians that hail from all over the country, Europe, as well as a host of Oregon Symphony aficionados from right here in Portland. Interpreting the works of many endeared composers along with five CMNW-commissioned compositions, the 2021 Summer Festival welcomes world-renown master musicians like: Branford Marsalis, Jason Vieaux, Karla Donahew Perez, Devóne Tines, Marc-André Hamelin, Tara Helen O’Connor and Artistic Director Emeritus David Shiffrin. Local chamber music fans will recognize names from past festivals and the Oregon Symphony like Kenji Bunch, Jonathan Greeney, Sarah Kwak, Paul Laraia, Paul Neubauer, Monica Ohuchi, Charles and Doug Reneau, Fred Sherry, James Shields, and Paul Watkins who perform this year.
The festival opens with CMNW’s artistic directors Gloria (piano) and Soovin (violin) playing with the exuberant and conductorless East Coast Chamber Orchestra (ECCO). The first Monday in July, the 15-member orchestra will permeate Portland as “ECCO Around Town” with free pop-up performances citywide. The much-adored Dover Quartet comes to town for the third week of the festival, then CMNW’s 2021-22 Artists-in-Residence, Brentano Quartet, begin their residency performing for the final week.
CMNW has a long history and institutional foundation of presenting new work. The 2021 festival will present four new commissioned works. Audiences will experience David Ludwig’s Les Adieux for clarinet and chamber ensemble commissioned to honor CMNW Artistic Director Emeritus David Shifrin in 2020. In the third week of the festival, Matan Porat premiere and play his lilting Piano Quintet premiere with the Dover Quartet. The festival will include the world premiere of Portland composer Kenji Bunch’s new Vesper Flight, written for internationally acclaimed flutist Tara Helen O’Connor. And, with an unprecedented composition for guitar and saxophone, CMNW will present the premiere of Sweet and Doleful Timbres by Pierre Jalbert that was written for saxophonist Branford Marsalis and guitarist Jason Vieaux.
The 2021 festival also offers the world premiere of Marc Neikrug’s theatrical chamber opera, A Song by Mahler. This new union between theatre and music expresses the emotional journey of a concert singer’s early-onset Alzheimer’s — the struggles and adjustment realities shared with her accompanist husband. This theatrical chamber opera was co-commissioned by CMNW with The Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, and the La Jolla, Lake Champlain and Santa Fe Chamber Music Festivals.
Outdoor music and silent film enthusiasts can enjoy two free events featuring comedic Buster Keaton movies, but with enthusiastic, improvised soundtracks by the internationally-acclaimed, multi-talented pianist Matan Porat. On Monday, July 12 Gresham Arts Plaza hosts The Playhouse and Sherlock, Jr., and The General is on screen Tuesday, July 13 at University of Portland. These free evening events are casual concerts that are intended to be enjoyed by everyone in the community.
Audiences for the 2021 Summer Festival can elect to enjoy concerts with live or streaming festival passes, or single concert passes. The entire festival will be recorded, professionally produced, and available online two weeks after each live concert premiere for a streaming 2021 Summer Festival to be enjoyed at home through August 31.
With hope, appreciation, and seeking the joy only music can bring, July is indeed a time to gather — indoors, outdoors, or online — and let the music soar once again.