When composer David Bernstein retired after 28 years on the Cleveland State University music faculty and moved to Portland, he encountered three surprises: His new home boasted two veteran chamber ensembles (Third Angle and Fear No Music) devoted to contemporary music and with dedicated, enthusiastic audiences—rare for a midsized city—and a remarkable number of accomplished contemporary composers, and yet had no organization dedicated to advancing composers' interests. "When I saw that Seattle had two composer groups, [and] San Francisco, Los Angeles, New York had them," Bernstein recalled, "I thought, 'There's a lot of really fine composers here. Why can't Portland do this?'"
Bernstein, whose own music ranged from commercials to musical theater to concert works, had seen how Cleveland's Composers Guild had sponsored concerts, presented lectures, participated in a radio show that played local composers' music, and provided a place where members could discuss their work, socialize and collaborate.
He approached Tomas Svoboda, probably the state's best-known composer, who supplied him with names of colleagues throughout the region, including Jack Gabel, who runs the North Pacific record label. The National Association of Composers USA provided startup assistance to the group, named Cascadia Composers. In the past year, 14 members have signed on from Eugene to southern Washington. At an early meeting, one of the members said, "I've known all these names, but this is the first time I've ever met them."
This Friday, Fear No Music will perform the music of the group's founders. Gabel's "That Old Song and Dance" and Greg Steinke's "Expressions on the Paintings of Edvard Munch" (a world premiere) use string quartet, while Bernstein wrote "Late Autumn Moods and Images" for piano trio. Gary Noland composed "Waltz Fantasy" (a world premiere) for violin and piano, and Jeff Winslow's "Aftermath" is for voice and piano. Sculptor and sound artist Dan Senn's "Cartwheels" uses piccolo and orchestra bells, while Svoboda's "Elusive Echoes" employs violin and xylophone.
Fear No Music plays at the Old Church, 1422 SW 11th Ave.,
. 8 pm Friday, March 13. $5-$20.