One of the best things about marrying a musician is you get to hear a lot of good music. I’m kind of a music moron, myself. I appreciate it, no doubt, but I don’t have the sensitive ear of the musician like Jon does (and two of my kids inherited). I am kind of awed, actually, by the subtleties of sound my husband can identify and appreciate.
And last night after Seminary (our traditional date night), my husband took me to see the Oregon Chamber Players at All Saints’ Episcopal in SE Portland.
We certainly weren’t the only appreciators! The age range of attendees was heartening, actually, it was good to see so many twenty somethings. The most enthusiastic person by far, however, was a bent elderly woman who must have been in her early nineties. She parked in front of us (parking was dear, go early), and promptly hopped out of her car to drag a large tree branch onto the sidewalk from where it poked into the road. Jon and I got a head start toward the church, but she chased us down, cane and all, and beat us soundly through the doors and inside where she proceeded to have a hearty conversation with the ticket sellers.
The church itself is a red brick building which looked modest but welcoming,
but the best part of the church exterior was the grounds with its trees in blossom and spring colors. Definitely a good place to take a deep breath and relax a little.
Inside the church, the sanctuary has a cozy feeling which lent some intimacy to the evening while still being roomy enough to easily accommodate everyone. There’s also a gorgeous blue and white pipe organ, which does not show up well at all in the photograph so you’ll have to take my word for it that it was eye-catching.
But the best part about the sanctuary was the wonderful acoustics. Apparently it sounds a bit muddy for the players, as there was a large carpet underneath them. But from where we sat (seventh pew, center) the room sounded perfectly.
We were treated to selections from Bach, Dvorak, Couperin and Haydn. Things started a little stiffly with the Brandenburg Concerto #4, but warmed up quickly so that the second piece was probably the best of the evening. The players took up Four Bagatelles from Dvorak and simply knocked it out of the park. It was smooth and melodic, and Tatiana Kolchanova on the violin really made it sing.
Intermission was notable for the bathrooms.
[Note to churches: What is it with church bathrooms? Not to pick on All Saints’, because the problem isn’t unique to them, but in churches in general… While the bathrooms are usually clean enough in any church, they are also usually a minefield of rust stains, water puddles, peeling or thick-and-warbly paint, and coagulated soap pump boxes, which in this case sat atop a stained, grade-school cafeteria style, red plastic food tray which itself was perched to create a kind of makeshift bridge between the sinks. Though I have to say I would MUCH rather churches had food banks than fancy bathrooms, the fact is that we would have a looong way to go in this particular bathroom before we are going to be anywhere near the dangerous territory of fancy. ]
Back to the concert, and for even more fun, I had a nice surprise for tucked inside my program was a flyer indicating I was a winner.
What did I win? A brand new Bach CD which included the concerto played at the concert. Yes!
As for what Jon thought about it all, he tells me he especially liked the lyricism of the first and third movements of the Dvorak piece. He thought the first chair cellist was a standout, and he called Victoria Racz on the Oboe “just flawless.” As for Chris Mudd on the French Horn, Jon noted that it is very difficult for a horn player not to overshadow a small ensemble, yet he played very well breaking through only a little towards the end of the Dvorak piece (I loved the horn, it was awesome).
Jon also says he really appreciated the opportunity to hear the music played with a real harpsichord. He complains that too often an electronic harpsichord is played, which has a harsher tone. By comparison the real instrument is delicate and Ron Hylton (the apparent master at the bench) played it evenly, and with a “fine, fine touch.”
Jon and I also both agree that violinist Timoteus Racz, who is the artistic director for the players, rocked the Haydn.
A reception followed and included macadamia nut and white chocolate cookies (my husband’s favorite. Which makes me suspicious that he attended simply for the cookies) and I had to photograph one of the pamphlets from the fellowship hall, lol! This is not a problem we Methodists generally have to deal with:
So, fabulous evening, a lot of fun. I would absolutely recommend it as a date night. Or even, bring your budding musician middle-schooler or teen. This group does a lot with young people, including lessons and such, and are clearly encouraging and supportive of young players.