THIS SHOULD either delight or terrify you: The Oregon Symphony's upcoming season opener is a performance with an ABBA cover band. Due to the city's budget shortfalls and funding cuts from the Regional Arts and Culture Council, the annual Waterfront Concert—typically scheduled for the end of August or beginning of September to kick off the Oregon Symphony's season—did not happen this year.
Instead, the Oregon Symphony's season begins with a concert performed in collaboration with Waterloo, an ABBA tribute band. Don't get me wrong: I have nothing against ABBA, really. "Knowing Me, Knowing You" is the jam. But "ABBA—The Concert" seems a flagrantly moneymaking way to kick off a symphony program heavily stacked with "pops" concerts to get over financial bumps.
The cancellation of the Waterfront Concert isn't the only difficulty the Oregon Symphony has run into in the past year. Last season, Beethoven's ever-popular Ninth Symphony was hastily added to the program, replacing the less popular (and, let's be frank, dour-sounding) War Requiem by Benjamin Britten. (The Britten piece has been rescheduled for this season, to be performed on November 2 and 3.) A concert with Sonny Rollins was tacked onto the schedule then cancelled when the sax player suffered a respiratory ailment. And in an agonizing decision, a planned return to New York's Carnegie Hall last May was axed for financial reasons. "Our mission is to perform great music here at home for our local and regional audience, and we're best served by focusing on that core mission at this time," said Board Chair Terry Pancoast last October.
Following the ABBA show, pianist Lang Lang performs on Thursday, September 12, and on Saturday, September 14, the Time-Based Art Fest co-presents a show with Pink Martini's Thomas Lauderdale and a singer named Meow Meow performing cutesy-pie cabaret, show tunes, and exotica. (They shall willingly perform renditions of "The Lonely Goatherd" and "Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Bikini.") The classical subscription season proper doesn't begin until Saturday, September 21, with a performance of Rimsky-Korsakov's Scheherazade.
While the pops programming obscures the symphony's Grammy- nominated classical chops, there remain undeniable highlights in the 2013/2014 calendar. But it all comes down to ticket sales—so if you want to support either classical or pops, maybe you want to think about buying a ticket.