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Lewis and Clark grad brings Cole Porter classics to life

Concert benefits Portland Chamber Orchestra, OHSU diabetes center
by: Submitted Photo Baritone Rocky Blumhagen’s “Easy to Love” features a mix of fresh takes on 
recognizable Cole Porter songs.

COLLINS VIEW - Supporting diabetes research and the ensemble behind his latest album release, Lewis and Clark alum Rocky Blumhagen will lend his baritone voice to an afternoon fundraiser featuring classic American songs.

On May 1, Blumhagen, along with members of the Portland Chamber Orchestra, will present 'An afternoon with Cole Porter' in the grand ballroom of the Portland Art Museum, performing music from his 'Easy to Love' CD, a compilation of contemporary arrangements of Cole Porter songs.

'Cole Porter's timeless music is as beautiful today as the day it was written,' Blumhagen said. 'As a singer, it's a thrill to interpret and bring to life these songs that have been a lasting part of our musical history for the past century; part of 'The Great American Songbook.' '

The concert's proceeds will benefi t the Portland Chamber Orchestra (PCO) and the Harold Schnitzer Diabetes Health Center at Oregon Health and Sciences University, the only center on the West Coast off ering continuity of care for children and adults diagnosed with the disease.

Blumhagen grew up in Eastern Oregon and earned a bachelor's degree from Lewis and Clark College, where he majored in vocal performance.

He sang professionally for several years before beginning a 15-year career in advertising and then decided to pick up his musical pursuits once again.

He met Maestro Yaacov Bergman, artistic director for PCO, when Bergman invited him to sing his Cole Porter selections with the Soundwaves Chamber Orchestra at the Soundwaves Summer Music Festival in Lincoln City in 2009.

Blumhagen said he needed high quality arrangements to perform at the festival, and so he turned to Ron Abel - an award-winning composer, producer, arranger, orchestrator, conductor and musical director with credits in film, television, Broadway and more - to do the job.

With Abel as arranger and orchestrator and Lucie Arnaz - daughter of Lucille Ball and Desi Arnez - as music director, Blumhagen said the result was a set of arrangements that were lush with an elegant and contemporary flair.

'It just seemed logical to take the orchestra to the studio,' he said.

To lay the album's tracks, Blumhagen and members of PCO used Kung Fu Bakery Studio - Portland's largest recording studio, which is used by artists such as The Shins, The Decemberists and Pink Martini.

'The former brick oven creates marvelous acoustics, especially for string and brass sections,' Blumhagen said. 'It isn't often these days that recordings employ full string sections and no synthesizer (to) replicate the sound of an authentic ensemble of violins and cellos.'

With musicians recording in shifts, the entire album was mixed and assembled in just two weeks' time.

During this recording period last summer, Blumhagen and Abel, who acted as producer of the CD, attended a dinner party at the home of Harold and Arlene Schnitzer along with Bergman.

The Schnitzers had seen Blumhagen perform his Cole Porter concert at the Oregon Coast last June, and Arlene suggested over dinner that, 'Wouldn't it be great to have a benefit for Harold's diabetes center for health at OHSU and for the Portland Chamber Orchestra?'

'So out of that little dinner party last August has emerged a full-blown concert in the grand ballroom of the Portland Art Museum,' Blumhagen said.

'An afternoon with Cole Porter' will be held May 1 from 4 to 7 p.m. at the art museum, 1219 S.W. Park Ave.

The program features Blumhagen's 12 recorded Cole Porter renditions, including standards such as 'I've Got You Under My Skin' and 'I Get a Kick Out of You.'

Individual, tax-deductible tickets for the performance, which Blumhagen expects to be a sell-out, run at $125. They can be purchased by calling 503-552-0698.

For more information and to purchase Blumhagen's album, visit www.thecrooner.net.