At 6:30 on the morning of May 11, Jay Chen awoke in his home outside Corvallis to a phone call from a friend in Chicago. He'd seen reports of a major earthquake in China, its epicenter just 50 miles from Chen's hometown of Chengdu.
All that morning, 45-year-old Chen, who's been principal trumpeter with the Portland Opera orchestra since 1999, tried to reach his family. No one responded to phone calls or emails. As the media reports of the devastation poured in, his fear mounted. Finally, Chen reached one of his sisters, who lives 1,200 miles away. She said that their family was safe, but much of the region was in ruins.
Chen wanted to do something. He was prepared to send money to relief agencies, but in talking to some of his music students at Willamette University, Chen realized that many Americans didn't appreciate the magnitude of the catastrophe. A friend suggested he put his talents to work for the victims, and Chen hit on a plan: a benefit concert to raise both money and awareness.
With help from his friends in the Oregon classical music community and the university, Chen enlisted colleagues—36 and counting—from the opera and the Oregon Symphony, Portland Columbia Symphony and Oregon Ballet Orchestra to join him in a fundraiser benefiting the quake victims via the Red Cross. Opening with Aaron Copland's "Fanfare for the Common Man" for trumpet choir, the music program will also include a horn orchestra playing Maurice Ravel's poignant "Pavane for a Dead Princess."
"Everybody's been helping me so much to make this happen," Chen marvels. "I couldn't believe we could ever get to [a performance] at this level."
Before the music starts, Chen will show slides of the rescue efforts and talk about how the catastrophe has affected people in his homeland.
"I just want the public to be aware of what's happened so they can help out my fellow Sichuanese," he says, "and to share the generosity of the human spirit."
4 pm Sunday, June 1. First United Methodist Church, 1838 SW Jefferson St. 667-7833. Donation. To help, go to redcross.org