From the Director – Encore: The Music of Ola Gjeilo

So last October, CAE performed two concerts of composer Ola Gjeilo’s music, with Mr. Gjeilo himself accompanying us at the piano. Local trumpeter Thomas Barber also performed with us. It was an astounding experience for both performers and audiences alike as wave after wave of Gjeilo’s “symphonic” choral music enveloped the interior of St. Philip Neri from all sides. The plans for a return engagement were started that very weekend. And now here we are, less than a week away from Gjeilo’s return to Portland for CAE’s opening concert of the 2015-2016 season, “Encore: The Music of Ola Gjeilo.”

The composer will once again be at the piano, Barber will be back on trumpet and flugelhorn, six other instrumentalists will join us, and we are very excited to also have the Pacific Youth Chamber Choir, under the direction of Mia Hall Miller, join us as well! The music will be completely different from last year’s concerts, and if you thought Gjeilo’s music was powerful with 35 singers, wait until you here it with 70! I encourage you to read the wonderful program notes for the concert written by CAE’s own Susan Wladaver-Morgan and posted here in a previous blog.

Like most performing ensembles, we often perform music by composers who are no longer with us. As such, we research, consult, and make very educated guesses as to how the composer wanted the music performed. But what an amazing experience to have the composer right here – to give us that critical insight into each piece of music, how he intended it to be performed, what he wants us to emphasize, what emotion we should be conveying to the audience. And what a privilege to bring new music to our Portland audience, not only in terms of West Coast premieres (there will be three on this concert), but also in terms of performing his established pieces differently than ever before. For example, who knew that adding a trumpet to the melody at the end of “Luminous Night of the Soul” could make it even more powerful than it already is? That’s something no other choir had done, and was only possible because Gjeilo (who did know) was right here with us, to say, “Hey, let’s try this.”

And this is what Gjeilo does so well – he plays with sound. He mixes sonic colors on an aural canvas. He uses the choir not only to deliver text, but also as another instrumental color with which to paint. The result is very visual, immediately accessible, and incredibly powerful and emotional. As I wrote at this time last year, and in the composer’s own words, it’s “concert music – but in a cinematic style.”

It’s going to be an extraordinary evening of music. We hope to see you there.

David De Lyser, Artistic Director