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A composer based in Woodstock draws attention with his Chamber Music compositions

ELIZABETH USSHER GROFF - The Portland Chamber Music ensemble played a concert of compositions from immigrant composers in early March. Included was a piece by Woodstock resident and composer Tony Freixas (shown at center). Deborah Gitlitz (center right) was biographer/storyteller for the performance.    The Portland Chamber Music ensemble has been offering free neighborhood concerts for three years now. As a nonprofit dedicated to offering entertaining and educational experiences for all ages, the ensemble's programing includes timeless classics, contemporary compositions, and occasionally pieces by local composers.

On Saturday, March 3, a concert entitled "Immigrant Composers: Inspiring Diversity" included a composition by Woodstock resident Antonio Freixas, a Cuban-American composer. The concert was held at the Community Music Center in Southeast Portland.

Freixas' piece, entitled "Cuidad de Sol y Sombras: Memorias Lejanas de La Habana", was performed by flute and piano. As the title says in English, the piece evokes images of sun and shadows in the city of Havana. Its impressionistic style includes distant memories conveyed to Freixas by his parents and their music.

"This piece is very symbolic," remarks Freixas. "The images of sun and shadow are contrasted in the music by shifts from major to harmonic minor and back – a feature common to the Latin music I am familiar with. Havana was built with very narrow streets and high buildings so that people could walk in the shadows to stay cool. The minor keys [in the piece] are shadows and night, the major keys are sunlight and day."

Although he has played the piano – mostly self-taught – for fifty years, Freixas is also a self-taught composer as well. He only began writing classical music in 2015, when already in his early 60's. He does not compose on paper or the piano, but uses computer software (Sibelius scorewriter software, for the "Ciudad" piece) which makes it possible to immediately hear the music, rather than holding the tune in one's head. He has composed eighteen pieces for chamber music performance, and two for orchestra.

Freixas says he writes music that creates an emotional experience. He tries to make it complex and surprising. "To me, this is what separates classical music from other genres. The best music rewards listeners with new insights each time they hear it."

As to how he came to begin composing only now, in his retirement, Freixas explains: "I really got started because of a friend on Facebook, a singer songwriter. She had no written music for her song, so I used the free software MuseScore, and wrote it for her." He started reading books on instrumental orchestrating, and continued with intensive study of instruments, music theory, and different software.

As for his personal history, when he was seven years old, in 1961, Freixas came to this country with his family. They lived in Miami for a year, and then moved to Portland, then California, and finally returned to Portland in 1980.

While in the Golden State, he went to the University of California, at the Davis campus near Sacramento, where he earned a degree in Fine Arts, and a Masters degree in Computer Science. He retired several years ago from jobs as software engineer, graphic designer, and photographer.

The March 3 concert by the Portland Chamber Music Ensemble also included pieces by other first-generation American immigrant composers past and present from Cambodia, Syria, Ecuador, and Russia (Rachmaninoff). It included an enthusiastic and informative professional librarian/storyteller, Deborah Gitlitz, who lives near the border of the Woodstock/Mt. Scott-Arleta neighborhoods. She gave a brief biography of each composer, and told a story concerning one piece. The concert was funded in part by the Regional Arts & Culture Council.

If you missed the March 3 performance – on Saturday May 12, the Portland Chamber Music Ensemble will play a free Woodstock Concert at 7 p.m. at Holy Trinity Lutheran Church, 7220 S.E. Cesar E. Chavez Blvd (formerly S.E. 39th).

For a list of other neighborhood concerts offered by the Portland Chamber Music Ensemble go online – www.pdxchambermusic.org. And, to listen to music by Tony Freixas as well as for more information about his composing, visit – www.composer.freixas.org

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