Concerts deliver dynamic mix of voices, instruments, styles
For anyone who likes the idea of ushering in the holiday season with a wide range of glorious sounds, the Mt. Hood Community College Music Department has some treats in store.
The Gresham college's Fall Term Concerts series presents five concerts between Monday, Dec. 2, and Monday, Dec. 9, including the Symphonic and Jazz Band, Chamber Ensemble, Jazz Combo and two performances by the Symphonic and Chamber Choir. The four campus shows are free, while the Symphonic and Chamber Choir Concert on Friday, Dec. 6, at The Grotto Festival of Lights in Northeast Portland requires a general admission fee. Visit thegrotto.org/christmas-festival-of-lights/ for ticket information.
Dan Davey, MHCC's director of jazz studies; his wife, Danielle, the college's director of bands and music instructor; and Ken Selden, Portland State University orchestra director and new MHCC faculty member, took a break from rehearsals to discuss the upcoming series.
The Outlook: Who conceived the four-concert holiday showcase?
Dan Davey: We have concerts that feature our separate ensembles. The Symphonic and Jazz Bands share several students, so for the fall and spring terms, we share concerts. In the winter, we are moving towards separate concerts. The jazz program will share with the Sam Barlow High School Jazz Band and the Symphonic Band will share a concert with the Mt. Hood Pops.
OL: Which concert you are directing and what makes this year's show special?
DAN DAVEY: My Big Band is performing on Dec. 4 with guest artist Allen Vizzutti. Allen is one of the top trumpet players in the world and will be featured with my band as well as the college's Symphonic Band.
OL: What music will be performed and many students are taking part?
Dan Davey: We have one Big Band with 20 students and five jazz combos, each with four to six musicians. We'll be playing music by Allen Vizzutti, Bob Florence, Dizzy Gillespie and Maria Schneider. Our music is chosen as part of a curriculum, designed to teach the students necessary skills and techniques needed to advance and be successful.
OL: Ken, what is the relationship between your PSU orchestra affiliation and the MHCC concerts?
KEN SELDEN: The orchestra has been independent for a number of years, but this year, we are excited to rejoin MHCC as a partner, and to include music students in our performances.
SELDEN: I am directing the orchestra concert on Saturday, Dec. 7. First of all, it is our first program to include a number of outstanding MHCC students (representing strings, brass and percussion). Also, we have a fantastic soloist, Elizabeth Savenok, who will be singing a Tchaikovsky song. She is a recent graduate of the PSU opera program … We have been performing music of Tchaikovsky at our Christmas concerts for 10 years, but this is the first time we have a Russian singer!
OL: What music will be performed?
SELDEN: The programming for all of our concerts feature a variety of styles, including classical, Broadway, jazz and film music. In addition to traditional Christmas music and a sing-a-long with the audience, we have several pieces that you might not expect at a Christmas concert: "Finlandia" by Jean Sibelius, and John Williams's music for "Phantom Menace." "Finlandia" is actually a favorite piece for winter concerts ... I think it balances and contrasts well with other more cheerful selections ... A friend of mine mentioned that "Phantom Menace" was actually a version of the Nativity story: an immaculate conception of the "chosen one." I realized that the music for this film is actually too dramatic for a traditional Christmas concert, but we kept it because it's such great music, and it's fun to play.
OL: Danielle, what makes your show special this year?
DANIELLE DAVEY: We will share our concert with the MHCC jazz band. I am especially excited for this concert because we have a world-renowned guest trumpet soloist Allen Vizzutti joining both the symphonic band and jazz band on Dec. 4. Allen is a Yamaha Performing Artist and we feel fortunate to be able to bring him to campus.
DANIELLE DAVEY: The symphonic band will perform a wide variety of music, including newer and older wind band literature. Composers of these pieces include Gustav Holst, John Mackey and Eric Whitacre. Two of our pieces feature our guest artist Allen Vizzutti (who wrote) "The Rising Sun," a three movement piece depicting his time spent in Japan. On this piece he uses piccolo trumpet, Bb trumpet, and the flugelhorn. There are approximately 35 students in the symphonic band.
I strive to find music that is energetic, fun, and will captivate the audience.
OL: What are the challenges in presenting the performance?
DANIELLE DAVEY: Performing a concert of this magnitude requires a huge team effort between multiple departments. There are a lot of moving parts in order for a concert to be successful, and there also must be cooperative collaboration between our department, the college and all of the students. We are excited to perform a great show for our family, friends, and community members.
If You Go
What: Mt. Hood Community College Fall Term Concerts
When: Monday, Dec. 2 through Monday, Dec. 9
Where: MHCC College Theatre, 26000 S.E. Stark St., Gresham (unless noted otherwise)
- Symphonic and Chamber Choir: 7:30 p.m. Monday, Dec. 2
- Symphonic and Jazz Band Concert: 7:30 p.m., Wednesday, Dec. 4
- Chamber Ensemble: noon, Friday, Dec. 6, MHCC Student Union, Room AC 1051
- Symphonic and Chamber Choir at Grotto Festival of Lights: 8 p.m., 8840 N.E. Skidmore St., Portland
- Jazz Combo Showcase: 6-8 p.m., Monday, Dec. 9, Spinella's, 436 N. Main Ave., Gresham.
Admission: Free, except Festival of Lights show
Visit: mhcc.edu/PerformingArtsEvents for more information.
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