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Category: Chamber music


Recital for rare pedal harpsichord at Christ Episcopal, Tacoma

Mark Brombaugh's pedal harpsichord. Photo courtesy Mark Brombaugh.
Mark Brombaugh’s pedal harpsichord. Photo courtesy Mark Brombaugh.

Harpsichord recitals are rare enough in Tacoma, but this Friday Mark Brombaugh offers early music enthusiasts an even rarer opportunity: a recital on a harpsichord with pedals. Playing music by Bach, Vivaldi, Couperin and Buxtehude in the resonant acoustics of Christ Episcopal, where he is the organist, Brombaugh will perform on a pedal harpsichord that he commissioned from Hill and Tyre of Grand Rapids, Michigan.

The instrument actually consists of two large harpsichords played by one musician at the same time: a standard double-manual harpsichord at normal height played with the hands, and a second one underneath it at ground level connected to organ-style pedals and played with the feet like an organ.

Says Brombaugh: “While no examples of pedal harpsichords survive from the baroque era, it is believed that organists owned them for practice purposes, since churches were unheated and extra help was needed to work the organ bellows.”

Anyone who’s ever tried to play music in an unheated church in winter – as well as anyone who’s ever pumped bellows by hand for hours –will appreciate this. Read more »


Blues/tango singer María Volonté returns to Madera Furniture Company in Tacoma next Thursday

Back by popular demand to Madera Furniture Company is Argentine singer and guitarist María Volonté, who’ll bring her unique fusion of blues and tango next Thursday night along with Californian harmonica player Kevin Carrel Footer.

“Everyone was blown away by Maria’s performance last year,” said Madera owner Carlos Taylor-Swanson in a press release. “She has such grace and charm as a performer and her music is simply delicious.”

Volonté’s tango work has won her the prestigious Gardel Prize, a Latin Grammy nomination and entry into the Tango Hall of Fame. Now, on the Blue Tango Tour, she and Footer

Read more »


Science and music meet in Susan Botti’s “Cosmosis” at Pacific Lutheran University


Composer and soprano Susan Botti. Courtesy photo.
Composer and soprano Susan Botti. Courtesy photo.

Combining arts and sciences is getting trendy around Puget Sound these days – witness the Art+Science salons held by the University of Puget Sound at Tacoma Art Museum, the upcoming opera staged at the Pacific Science Center, combined art/science teacher trainings at the Foss Waterway Seaport, and the ‘science of art’ school programs at the Museum of Glass.

This weekend, Pacific Lutheran University adds their contribution with “Cosmosis,” a concert by the university’s wind ensemble and University Singers combining science, images, poetry and a science-based composition by Susan Botti.

“Music is built from scientific components – physics, acoustics… they dialogue naturally,” says Botti. “As a composer, I direct my attention to certain aspects of the world and add imagination and emotion, reflecting back some of what I perceive in the human experience.”

Botti’s a musician whose list of commissions as a composer (Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, the New York Philharmonic, the Cleveland Orchestra) is as impressive as her resume as a soprano (the Los Angeles Philharmonic, collaborations with conductor Tan Dun, premières with the BBC Scottish Symphony). The Cleveland native is currently on the composition faculty at the Manhattan School of Music and also teaches at Vassar.

She also performs many of her own compositions, and she’ll do just that on Saturday night. “Cosmosis” sets texts by American poet May Swenson on gravity and the Skylab experiment on Arabella, the first spider to spin a web in space. Read more »


Critic’s picks: Tacoma Art Museum free festival, Vashon Island art studio tour, medieval music at Revels and Brass Unlimited’s Pops at Tacoma Community College

TAM free festival and paper installation

Celebrate Tacoma Art Museum’s 10th birthday in its new Pacific Avenue building with a free community festival tomorrow. Activities include a community paper art installation and more. 10 a.m.-4 p.m. May 4. Free. Tacoma Art Museum, 1701 Pacific Ave., Tacoma. 253-272-4258, tacomaartmuseum.org

Vashon Art Studio Tour

Vashon Island’s many artists open up their doors this and next weekend in the annual spring studio tour. The self-guided driving tour is free and features 23 studios in media including blown glass, jewelry, woodwork, candles, pottery, tile and mosaic, sculpture, prints and painting. 10 a.m.-5 p.m. May 4-5, 11-12. Free. For maps see vashonislandartstudiotour.com or most island businesses. For ferry schedules see wsdot.wa.gov/ferries.

Medieval music at the Revels Salon Read more »


Critic’s Picks: Tacoma Performing Dance Company, Haimovitz/O’Riley at the Rialto, Gaelic at Museum of Glass and Salish Sea Early Music fest at Trinity Lutheran, Tacoma


The Tacoma Performing Dance Company in "Carmen Variations." Courtesy photo.
The Tacoma Performing Dance Company in “Carmen Variations.” Courtesy photo.

Tacoma Performing Dance Company offers new choreography at Stadium

The spring show for the Tacoma Performing Dance Company goes from brand-new choreography by director Jo Emery set to both country-and-western and Adèle, to ballroom-inspired work, to a “Chicago” number, to the ballet works “Carmen Variations” and “Tinkerbelles Fairies.” 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. April 27. $22 adults/$18 youth. Stadium High School performing arts center, 111 N. E St., Tacoma. 253-759-5714, tacomaperformingdance.org

Haimovitz and O’Riley fuse classical and rock at Rialto

Bending genres in a unique collaboration this Saturday are pianist Chritsopher O’Riley, host of NPR’s “From The Top” and acclaimed recording artist, and cellist Matt Haimovitz, in a program blending Radiohead, Arcade Fire and Blonde Redhead seamlessly with Stravinsky, Piazzolla and Bach. 7:30 p.m. April 27. $19-$54. Rialto Theater, 310 S. 9th St., Tacoma. 253-591-5894, broadwaycenter.org

Gaelic songs at Museum of Glass Read more »


Husband-and-wife team offer unusual combination of violin and percussion for the next Second City Chamber Series concert

How often do you get to see a husband-and-wife performing classical music together? Well, if they play percussion and violin respectively, not that often – which is why this weekend’s Second City Chamber Series concert is not to be missed. Violinist Denise Dillenbeck joins her husband, percussionist and composer Mark Goodenberger, to play an eclectic evening of music at First Lutheran Church as DuoDG in “These Two Things Do Not Go Together.”

If you’re wondering who on earth has written music for this unlikely combination of instruments, the answer is simple: Contemporary composers who have a good appreciation of the unique sonorities you get when you combine the rich melodic voice of the violin and the vast array of timbres and rhythms available to percussionists. One of those composers is Goodenberger himself. Director of percussion at Central Washington University and a specialist of contemporary and baroque percussion, he’s also a prolific writer of music, joining music of different styles from theater, dance and vaudeville.

Dillenbeck, known as the former associate concertmaster of the Tacoma Symphony, has just taken a position at CWU as well as second violin in the college’s resident Kairos Quartet. Read more »


Continuo conference and concerts bring the best in early music to Pacific Lutheran University next week.

Harpsichordist Byron Schenkman. Courtesy image.
Harpsichordist Byron Schenkman. Courtesy image.

Early music lovers, rejoice. Pacific Lutheran University is teaming up with the Westfield Center for Historical Keyboard Studies (based at Cornell University in New York) to hold its annual spring conference right here in Tacoma/Parkland, with workshops, presentations and no less than five concerts featuring the best in regional and national musicians, all open to the public.

The focus of this year’s conference is the art of continuo – the accompaniment line that underscores all baroque solos, constructed often from just a single bass line with “figures” (numbers indicating chords) to tell the musician which harmonies to play, and leaving the rest up to improvisation, collaboration and musical know-how. It’s tricky to learn, even trickier to do in performance, changing each time (rather like jazz, but 200 years older).

Among the presenters and clinicians are Edward Parmentier (University of Michigan), Charlotte Mattax Moersch (University of Illinois at Champaign Urbana), Gregory Crowell (editor, “Clavichord International”) and Seattle’s Stephen Stubbs (artistic director of Pacific Musicworks). Local students and professionals alike will benefit from the masterclasses, lectures and demonstrations offered next Friday and Saturday in PLU’s music buildings (see westfield.org to register).

But it’s the public concerts that are the real treat for the general public, offering a banquet of early music over five days (beginning next Thursday) from Haydn choral masses to recitals to Handel’s opera “Apollo and Daphne.” Here’s the line-up: Read more »


Charlie Chaplin takes the Northwest Sinfonietta to “The Gold Rush” in Seattle, Tacoma and Puyallup this weekend

Charlie Chaplin eating boots in "The Gold Rush." Courtesy image.
Charlie Chaplin eating boots in “The Gold Rush.” Courtesy image.

The Northwest Sinfonietta, whose usual domain is the classical chamber orchestra repertoire, had a brief flirtation with Charlie Chaplin four years ago, playing the score live to his silent films “A Dog’s Life” and “Shoulder Arms.” The affair was a success on all sides, and this weekend the ensemble is giving the silent movie maestro another chance to lead them into silliness and mayhem, playing live to a screening of Chaplin’s famous “The Gold Rush” in Seattle, Tacoma and Puyallup.

But they’re choosing different venues to do it. For Seattle they’ll stick with Benaroya Hall, but to give the film (and the audience) full capacity they’ll be playing in two historic theaters: Tacoma’s Temple and Puyallup’s Liberty, each built in exactly the same era as the Chaplin film.

By 1925, just one year before the Temple was built, Chaplin had seen great success with “Shoulder Arms” and “The Kid,” as well as dozens of short films. By then, too, the Klondike gold rush was turning from recent memory to romantic history. Chaplin was inspired by books, as well as a stereoscope card collection belonging to Douglas Fairbanks. Moving from elaborate on-location shooting at the Chilkoot Pass, with some 600 extras, to just-as-elaborate studio sets made of wood, burlap, chicken wire, plaster, salt and flour, Chaplin created his story of a Lone Prospector (Chaplin’s famous tramp character) who washes up in the Yukon and has every adventure from dance hall brawls to having to eat boots for sustenance, plus the famous scene of a fight in a cabin teetering on a precipice. Read more »