Straight Outta Cambridge (A Christmas Double Feature, Part I)

So PretentiousPDX has been on an unintentional hiatus for the past few weeks as we attempted to cope with the unmitigated number of Awesome Things we’ve been doing, as of late. But in honor of the Christmas holiday, we’ve cooked up a little Christmas “Double Feature” for you to give you a glimpse of the Madness That Is Life at PretentiousPDX Headquarters. Here’s Part I:


Put on your cufflinks and let's get weird, Portland!

Put on your cufflinks and let’s get crazy, Portland!

(Yes. I went there. I’ve been wanting to make that joke for weeks. That might actually be the main reason I wrote this post.)

IMG_0646So, while the rest of Portland was donning their Santa suits and getting weird at Santacon this month, I was wearing a regular suit and getting, uh, choral with Choirs of Jesus College Cambridge. As I mentioned in “In Bleak Mid-Winter, Part I,” one of my volunteer gigs involves working with local choir Cantores in Eccelsia and the William Byrd Festival (on an administrative level – my singing voice is best suited to humming along with Fitz and the Tantrums in the shower – and even that’s something that would not be enjoyed by anyone who wasn’t suffering from moderate to profound hearing loss). In that capacity, I got to spend a suitably epic weekend with the choristers of Jesus College Cambridge.
IMG_0647The Combined Choirs of Jesus College Cambridge, who were on a West Coast tour in support of their new CD, “Journey Into Light,” arrived in Portland on 14 December and absolutely rocked our faces off with a superb choral concert at The Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in downtown Portland. Since I’m not a choral music critic (I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t be using phrases like “rocked our faces off” if I was), I will refrain from making comment on the technical merits of the concert (if that’s what you’re after, you can read The Oregonian’s full review of the concert here), but I will say that in the wake of that week’s tragic events in Connecticut and at Portland’s own Clackamas Town Center, director Mark Williams’ program provided a beautiful and consoling counterpoint to the all upheaval.
IMG_0651Following the concert, the ensuing 54 hours were a whirlwind of rehearsals & services and luncheons & receptions. The visiting students were all exceptionally polite and charming, and many of them were visiting the States for the first time. One thing that I found rather fascinating about the singers is that while they were fairly knowledgeable about American movie stars, movies, and music, they were almost wholly ignorant of American pop culture and memes. One of our volunteers was shocked to learn that none of them had heard of the mighty Honey Badger, and by the same token, the students were equally puzzled when one of our homestay hosts made them watch the television show Storage Wars. The coup de grace, however, was when a couple of us, knowing that the choir’s next port-of-call was Oakland, California, tried to give them a brief primer on the local culture, including an explanation of “gettin’ hyphy” and “ghost-riding the whip.” Our guests were horrified.
If you weren’t able to see Jesus College while they were here in Portland, you missed out – especially since Amazon is currently sold out of their CD recording. You can, however, purchase an MP3 copy of the album here. And in honor of the Christmas season, PretentiousPDX is also hooking you up with this bootleg of the choir’s encore performance of “I Wish You Christmas” from their concert. Happy Boxing Day, kids!

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