Musical ‘3 Leg Torso’ plays Portland’s volcano

Even when dodging raindrops, East Portland “Concerts in the Park” continue to provide pleasant outdoor evenings …

Sponsors for this “Concerts in the Park” program at Mt. Tabor, from Warner Pacific College, Carol Selva, Kevin Bryant and Brynn Otness welcome concertgoers.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
Since many of Portland Parks & Recreation’s locally-sponsored “Concerts in the Parks” series had been called off that day due to unseasonable sprinkles, it took some East Portland folks by surprise that the scheduled concert at Mt. Tabor did take place on July 12.

Perhaps the rain shower at 5:30 p.m. at first deterred folks from heading up the road to Mt. Tabor’s caldera, a natural band shell, where the Concerts in the Park are held.

But, the sky cleared, and at that point people started driving, biking, and walking in to find their place to enjoy the “eclectic synthesis of chamber music, tango, klezmer, latin and world music”, as their music is called by the band performing that night, 3 Leg Torso.

Neighborhood volunteers Bertha Guptill and Mary Plier sell fresh fruit pie slices, baked and donated by Montavilla’s Bipartisan Café, to help raise funds for the music series.

“Music has a power that transcends other forms of communication,” said the concert series’ associate concert producer for Portland Parks & Recreation, Jen Bernard – herself a “multi-instrumentalist” with the local group Stolen Sweets. “The fact that we can offer the public something this good in the summer for free, because it’s sponsored entirely by local businesses in the area, speaks well of the community-mindedness of Portlanders in general.”

The major sponsor for this show was Warner Pacific College. “We’ve been around for 70 years,” pointed out the college’s VP Advancement, Kevin Bryant. “We have had an address that says we’re in the City of Portland. We believe it’s time that we really ‘embrace that address’ by sponsoring this concert.”

Christina Gladwin helps Anna and Jack show off the crafts they’d decorated, at the Portland Parks & Recreation kids’ area.

The college, operated by the Church of God of Anderson, Indiana, offers masters level and below programs to about 500 students in their undergrad program, Bryant said. He added that they also operate an adult degree program with about 1,000 students enrolled in six locations around the Portland area.

“The phrase we use when talking about Warner Pacific is ‘In the City and for the City’,” Bryant commented. “Sponsoring this program, and providing good entertainment to our neighbors, is one way we can demonstrate that we’re engaged with our community.”

Hoping the rain clouds depart, Volunteer organizers Mary McWilliams and Dionne Philipp say they enjoy helping provide evening concerts for their neighbors.

“We have a great committee that puts on these concerts,” observed Mary McWilliams, the person to whom all point as the main organizer. “We have four concerts, so we have four different event coordinators. It takes a whole bunch of people to do a concert; we have nine neighborhood volunteers here tonight.”

McWilliams added, “Plus, there is the Mount Tabor Foot Patrol, which does a wonderful job helping with traffic control and parking. They make sure that handicapped people have a place to park, and to show others where parking is available.”

Asked why she volunteers her time to the project, McWilliams responded, “Although I’m originally an Oregonian, I’ve lived elsewhere, and moved back to Portland in 2004. I thought this was a great way to get to know people who live on Mt. Tabor – and, it is fun!”

Sponsors and food vendors Larz Wassel and Ken Purcella, of Papa Murphy’s Hawthorne Boulevard and 82nd Avenue of Roses stores, offer several varieties of freshly-baked pizza for only $2 a slice.

The evening’s coordinator-in-charge, Dionne Philipp, agreed: “You’re right! This is fun. I started helping four years ago, because I think it’s a good idea. And, volunteers can help pick the bands that play the next year.”

Instead of looking harried, Philipp appeared relaxed. “Everyone on the committee knows what to do. Even though I came here early, I see everything is being done! I go around with my checklist and see that everything is done – and it is, thanks to our great volunteers.”

Emmett Letson, Stephanie Mesenbrink, Kim Malolepsy and Renee Nerenberg enjoy a picnic dinner at the Mt. Tabor Concert in the Park.

Before the show, Courtney Von Drehle, a principal composer and the accordionist with 3 Leg Torso, laughed and talked with folks in the audience.

“Although I don’t have kids,” Von Drehle told us, “I’m a big fan of family events. Kids seem to like music starting from a very early age, and it looks like they enjoy our music. Watching them gives us good energy, and we totally enjoy it.”

One of Three Leg Torso’s principal composers, founding member Bela Balogh, plays violin along with accordionist Courtney Von Drehle and the rest of the quintet.

What makes the evening’s performance unique for the group, Von Drehle added, is the venue. “Here we are, about to play in a volcano caldera – a place we’ve never played before. We’ll be playing some ‘hot tunes’ tonight; I hope the heat and vibrations we generate doesn’t cause it to erupt!” he joked.

As the concert got underway, the storm clouds drifted away. The cerulean blue evening sky became the perfect canopy overhead, as the music of 3 Leg Torso mesmerized the audience.

Many more Concert in the Park programs are yet to come. Be sure to check our Community Calendar to learn where and when: CLICK HERE to see this page.

As the rain clouds scatter, the evening proves perfect for a concert on Mt. Tabor.

© 2011 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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