Swinging Symphony

Dear Liza,

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Ceiling of The Artbar

One of the many things I love about Portland is that theater and music are everywhere! Last night we took the number 15 to The Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall downtown and enjoyed “Swing is the Thing”.

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The Schnitz

But first, dinner! The Artbar, a pretty restaurant in the same theater complex, fed us not-too-fancy quiches, fries, and nice local wines. As we entered the lobby of the theater, we heard applause coming from the balcony and went to investigate. Two pairs of dancers were jitterbugging to lively swing music, egged on by the well-dressed crowd. We could tell we were in for a good time.

“The Schnitz”, as it is sometimes called, was built in 1928 and has been restored to its historic voluptuousness. Ceiling decoration, lighting, and painted iron railings all let you know you are in a special place. The performance included the entire Oregon Symphony, directed by Jeff Tyzik and, at certain points, the theater took on the feeling of a opulent lecture hall, with Mr. Tyzik explaining the finer points of jazz and swing and how they morphed  into early rock and roll.

Mr. Tyzik and the Symphony were assisted by Julie Jo Hughes, a wonderful vocalist, and Dave Bennett, who plays clarinet and does vocals as well as a wicked Jerry Lee Lewis turn on the piano. Dancers Stephen Sayer, Chandrae Roettig, Hunter Krikac and Karine Hermes came on stage every now and then to stun us with gravity-defying moves and light footwork.

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Dancers put on a show before the show!

The first half of the program was dedicated to swing music, starting with “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy”, “Pennsylvania 6-5000” and “Don’t Get Around Much Anymore”. There was also an original piece called “Harlem Street Scene”, written by director Tyzik. It had a swingy, jazzy dissonance that was easy on the ears but definitely not boring.

The second half was rock and roll, and not nearly as good as the swing portion. If it were not for Dave Bennett’s crazy acrobatics on the piano, the music selections would have felt disappointingly like a mother-daughter dance.

No, I take that back. A song that was not even listed on the program, Julie Jo Hughes singing Peggy Lee’s “Fever”and taking a turn dancing with Mr. Tyzik as he was conducting, was knock down gorgeous.

When the show was over, we crossed the street to catch the bus back home, along with some other music lovers and a violinist. Another lovely night in Portland!

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In the Mooooood at The Schnitz

Love,

Grandma Judy

New Year’s Eve

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Old Courthouse all lit up

Dear Liza,

 

Last night was New Year’s Eve and we celebrated in downtown Portland. The weather was very cold, but delightfully dry…no rain, and just a few clouds, so getting around was easy and everything looked bright and festive.

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Full Moon over Pioneer Square

We walked around downtown for a while, looking at shop windows and people walking by. We visited Powell’s City of Books and the Apple Store. Around 5, we got hungry so we stopped off at Case Study Coffee, at SW 10th and Yamhill  for snacks. They closed at 6, so we wandered some more, finding the lobby of the Hilton a welcoming place with comfy sofas and friendly people.

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Sign at Raven and Rose

By 7 o’clock we were ready for dinner, so we walked over to the Raven and Rose. Located at SE Columbia and Broadway, it is in what used to be the carriage House ( a combination of garage and barn, built in 1883) of William S. Ladd, one of the real movers and shakers of old Portland. The big estate and mansion have been torn down and built over, but this wonderfully restored barn, built in what they call the “Stick” style, has a restaurant downstairs and the Rookery Bar upstairs. It is one hundred and thirty year old, sits in the midst of modern brick and glass towers, and stands out as a jewel from another age.

Our dinner of beet salad, shrimp gnocchi, swede fondant, treacle tart, french fries and ice cream went well with the Pinot Noir and apple cider, and we felt indulged and sated. We chatted about our resolutions for the New Year and our hopes and plans for buying a house in Portland.

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Mr. William S. Ladd

Wandering around some more, we stopped in at the ArtBar of the Antoinette Hatfield Hall and looked at a wonderful Steampunk art show. Steampunk art is a style that uses old industrial things like machinery and combines it in new ways with plants and animals. It is weird and spooky and delightful. After some tea and coffee, we headed across the street to the Arlene Schnitzer Theater at SW Park and Salmon for our main event, a concert by Pink Martini and the Portland Symphony.

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Exterior of The Arlene Schnitzer Theater

“The Schnitz”, as it is called by those who love it, was built as the Paramount vaudeville theater in 1924. It must have been the most elaborate thing in Portland in those days, because it still dazzles the eye. The lobby is enormous and ornate, and every inch of stair banister, ceiling, and wall has been carved, painted, or plastered. We spent 20 minutes just walking around the place!

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Ceiling of the lobby of “The Schnitz”

Once the show started, the fun really began. Pink Martini is a talented four person group that plays a delightful international salad of music. Backed by a hundred member choir and symphony, the vocalists sang dance hall tunes in French, popular American tunes in English, Opera arias in Italian, and frenetic rock songs in Japanese. The audience, which had kids as young as 10 and folks well past their 80s, clapped and sang and, when invited, many women joined the band onstage to sing Helen Reddy’s “I Am Woman”.

At midnight we all stood and sang “Auld Lang Syne”, but the show wasn’t over yet.

Full choir, Symphony, jazz band and four operatic soloists joined forces to perform Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony in German. It was powerful and wonderful. But it was after midnight, and during some of the quieter moments, I think I might have…dozed off. Just for a moment.

Once the show was over and thousands of happy people filed out of the theater, we caught our Lyft ride home and I was asleep in two minutes.

Happy New Year!

Love,

Grandma Judy