Herein lies Tone Roads, a new column by Robert Ham, a regular contributor to the Mercury, highlighting the most interesting classical events happening in the Portland area each month.
This month brings the 19th installment of the William Byrd Festival in honor of the renowned Renaissance-era composer. Organized by Mark Williams, local vocal ensemble Cantores In Ecclesia and that group's founder Dean Applegate, the two-week celebration includes lectures and liturgical services that feature some of Byrd's sacred music. While you can't go wrong with any of the events on their calendar, here are a few to consider adding to your personal schedule:
Opening Concert: The Mistrels Follow After, August 5 @ St. Patrick's Church
To kick off this year's festival, a gaggle of instrumentalists from the city and a group of singers known as the Byrd Festival Consort will trace the lineage of vocal music in England, starting with the work of Byrd and carrying on to 17th century composers Orlando Gibbons and Henry Purcell.
Solemn Pontifical Mass for the Vigil of the Twentieth Sunday of the Year, August 13 @ Holy Rosary Church
The highlight of this service will be a performance, by Cantores in Ecclesia, of Byrd's Mass For Five Voices, a glorious showcase for the composer's use of polyphony that builds to a soul-searing conclusion that will take away the breath of even the most pagan listener.
Organ Recital, August 14 @ The Episcopal Parish of St. John the Baptist
Visiting artist Mark Williams is a celebrated figure in the UK classical scene, performing with or conducting the likes of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, London Mozart Players, and the London Philharmonic. He's been a regular participant in the Byrd Festival and has been the event's artistic director since 2014. His mastery of the music will be readily apparent when he takes control of the fantastic tones of the pipe organ at St. John the Baptist church in SW Portland.
Portland Summer Opera Workshop, August 5-7 @ St. Michael and All Angels
For the past six years, this workshop has been inviting fledging opera singers from around the US to descend on the city to take part in an intense exploration of a particular work. This gives lucky fans the opportunity to get up close to the music when these vocalists perform an entire opera in a modest venue. This time around, PSOW is tackling Cosi fan tutte, a bawdy and fun work written by Mozart in the late 18th century that tells the story of two officers who attempt to test their own fidelity and that of their fiancées through a ridiculous wager. It shouldn't be a spoiler to say that you should expect a happy ending and to expect some vocal fireworks, particularly during the roller coaster of an aria, "Come Scoglio."
Beethoven's five piano concertos represent one of the composer's artistic peaks. Written in the early 19th century, these works are dazzling to the senses, with the symphony playing off of and supporting fluid melodies that splay and dance out of the keyboard with devilish energy and sweeping grandeur. They've been the professional obsession of concert pianist Leif Ove Andsnes, who spent four years digging through the score and performing them around the world in an attempt to almost embody the music in a way no other performer this side of Glenn Gould has done. Following him every step of the way was filmmaker Phil Grabsky, who used Andsnes's journey as the basis for his 2015 film Concerto: A Beethoven Journey. A hit once before during the Film Center's Reel Music series, the movie returns to town for a pair of screenings this month.