The huge “Portland” sign that dominates Southwest Broadway in downtown Portland belongs to the city’s most important theater space, the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall. The concert hall is home base for the Oregon Symphony and several other large performing arts groups. Close to downtown parks and restaurants and part of the city’s Cultural District, the Schnitz (as locals call it) resounds with large-scale music, dance and lecture events.
History of the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall
Designed for vaudeville shows and silent movies and opened in 1928, the 2,776- seat space switched gears in 1930 and became a “talkie” movie palace. Then called the Paramount, it also hosted occasional performances by big stars (Frank Sinatra, Louis Armstrong and Bob Dylan, among many others). As the movie business declined, the Paramount shifted gears in the ‘70s, becoming a central rock ’n’ roll tour stop. The era’s rock royalty, from Stevie Wonder and Queen to Frank Zappa and Talking Heads, held court in this hall.
In 1983, the city purchased the Paramount, began a major renovation, and restored the theater to something close to its original splendor, the last of the old vaudeville and movie houses that once dominated Southwest Broadway. It was named for the leading private donor for the renovation, Arlene Schnitzer, a leading local arts philanthropist.
Resident Companies at the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall
Oregon Symphony Orchestra
The Oregon Symphony, the oldest symphony west of the Mississippi River and the sixth oldest in the country, is a prime tenant of the concert hall. Under the baton of music director Carlos Kalmar, the Oregon Symphony offers a busy schedule of classical concerts, an innovative pops program, and multimedia concerts designed for families.
Portland Youth Philharmonic & Metropolitan Youth Symphony
Two youth orchestras also call the concert hall home. The Portland Youth Philharmonic is the oldest orchestra of its kind in the country, established in 1924, and is known for its adventurous programming, which began with legendary conductor Jacob Avshalomov, whose 43-year tenure (1954-1995) was marked by collaborations with many composers, including Leonard Bernstein. The orchestra regularly graduates its student musicians into major music academies and adult orchestras. So does the Metropolitan Youth Symphony, now in its 44th year, which also includes jazz ensembles among its many musician groupings.
The city’s biggest dance presenter, White Bird, began in 1997 with a concert of dances by the late Paul Taylor. The company now brings both large-scale modern dance and big showcases of dance from around the world to the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall. (White Bird also presents at the Newmark Theatre, across the street from the Schnitz, and Lincoln Hall, five blocks away).
The central producer of lectures by visiting authors is Literary Arts. A key sign of the importance of literary matters to the city is how often it fills the concert hall to overflowing with its readings and lectures. Literary Arts also stages the Portland Book Festival each November, bringing marquee authors to the stage at the Schnitz.
Touring Performances at the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall
Although resident companies occupy much of the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall’s calendar, the venue also hosts many other events and touring shows. Lectures (Dan Rather, Madeleine Albright, and Anderson Cooper, for example), concerts (Tony Bennett, Andrew Bird, Thom Yorke), regular showcase events from the Portland Jazz Festival, and many others, pop up through the year.
Concertmaster Sarah Kwak takes center stage in opera composer Gian Carlo Menotti’s sensuous and expressive Violin Concerto. Dmitri Shostakovich’s cinematic Eleventh Symphony depicts the struggle and drama of the Russian Revolution of 1905 in vivid detail. “These concerts feature a pair of mid-century compositions: an American violin concerto and a Russian symphony. Oregon Symphony concertmaster…
Relive the 1920s in all its decadence. The Oregon Symphony will take you through the dark cabarets and speakeasies of New York, Paris, Berlin, London and Atlantic City, featuring the top hits of the decade, from Rudy Vallée to Josephine Baker and from Kurt Weill to King Oliver. This concert will feature vintage imagery and…
Long before he became the breakout star of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, Tituss Burgess was wowing music lovers with his larger-than-life performances on Broadway and beyond. Now the Emmy-nominated star brings his incomparable flair and joyful energy to songs from The Wiz, Porgy and Bess, Bette Midler and more.
Presented by Oregon Symphony. Singer, composer and actor Lyle Lovett has broadened the definition of American music in a diverse career that spans 14 albums. The Grammy-winning Texas trailblazer and his backup band perform for the first time alongside the Oregon Symphony, combining his rich sound, singular gift for storytelling, and wry sense of humor…
Presented by Oregon Symphony. Get ready to fight a dragon, swim with merpeople, and find out just who put Harry’s name in the Goblet of Fire. For the first time ever, audiences can rediscover the magic of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire while the Oregon Symphony performs Patrick Doyle’s unforgettable score.
Presented by Oregon Symphony. The best dance parties are brought to you by a full orchestra! With “Mambo” from West Side Story and Leroy Anderson’s Sandpaper Ballet, this is a line-up sure to get you off your feet and dancing in your seat.
Presented by Oregon Symphony. A musico-cultural portrait of New York life in the late 1960s, Luciano Berio’s monumental Sinfonia is a bubbling crucible of sounds, styles, ideas, texts and moods. Portland’s own award-winning media artist Rose Bond, whose previous collaboration with the Oregon Symphony packed the hall, returns to craft eye-popping animation to illuminate this…
Hip hop icon Nas teams up with the Oregon Symphony to celebrate the 25th anniversary of his critically acclaimed debut album, Illmatic. Experience one of the defining records of ’90s hip hop, showcasing the rapper’s meticulous rhymes and cutting social commentary in this unforgettable symphonic rendition.
Beethoven’s profound musical statements about freedom, equality and humanity resonate even more powerfully today than they did when the Ninth Symphony premiered almost 200 years ago. Oregon Repertory Singers join the orchestra and four soloists for a full-throated celebration of Beethoven’s final masterpiece.
The Flaming Lips will perform their iconic 1999 masterpiece The Soft Bulletin in its entirety, joined by the Oregon Symphony. The ever-evolving psychedelic pop-rock group led by legendary front man Wayne Coyne will create an unmissable, moving, and magical experience. The band’s career breakthrough album featured hit singles “Race for the Prize” and “Waitin’ for…
The wildly talented star of Broadway, film and TV joins the Oregon Symphony for a spectacular evening featuring songs from her latest album, For The Girls. Celebrated for originating the role of Glinda the Good Witch in the Broadway smash hit Wicked, the Emmy and Tony award-winning actress will pay heartfelt tribute to remarkable women…
Everyone’s invited! Join the Oregon Symphony for its annual FREE community concert. The program will include a side-by-side piece with members of the David Douglas High School orchestra, winner of the 2019 Schnitzer Wonder Award. Tickets are free but you must reserve a ticket by calling the Oregon symphony ticket office at 503-228-1353 Tickets: Limit…
Award-winning designer Michael Curry – whose 2017 imagining of Stravinsky’s “Persephone” dazzled three sold-out halls – returns to the Oregon Symphony, drawing from ancient Mayan tradition to create a mysterious, supernatural setting for Revueltas’ 1939 film score La Noche de los Mayas.
Join Portland legend China Forbes for a 50th birthday celebration of her favorite songs as she takes the stage for her first solo performance with the Oregon Symphony!
There’s nothing like a Chris Botti concert. He’s the complete package: a dazzling trumpeter, a brilliant bandleader, and a born showman whose joy at being on stage is infectious. Now he returns to dazzle hometown fans with the unparalleled crystalline and poetic sounds that have made him one of the most successful performers of all…
The consummate violinist returns to perform Dvořák’s gloriously melodic Violin Concerto. Composed during World War II, Shostakovich called his Eighth Symphony “a poem of suffering” and “an attempt to reflect the terrible tragedy of war.”
Yefim Bronfman, “a marvel of digital dexterity, warmly romantic sentiment, and jaw-dropping bravura” (Chicago Tribune), performs Mozart’s dramatic C Minor Piano Concerto. An American in Paris, inspired by George Gershwin’s Parisian escapades during the Roaring Twenties, portrays the cheerful hustle and bustle of the city of love.
Since forming in 1994, alt-pop darlings The Dandy Warhols have emerged as one of the most innovative bands on the international scene. Now the Dandys return to share the stage with their hometown orchestra for the first time ever, in a show featuring new favorites and classics from the band’s 25-year career.
Oregon Symphony and Resonance Ensemble join forces to present the World premiere of An African American Requiem, Portland composer Damien Geter’s bold, thought-provoking musical response to violence against African Americans in the United States. Combining traditional Latin Requiem texts with civil rights declarations, poetry, and the famous last words of Eric Garner, “I can’t breathe,”…
The longest crescendo in the repertoire, Ravel’s magnificent Boléro begins at pianissimo and builds up to such astonishing intensity that it brings audiences to their feet every time.
Handel’s joyful Water Music, Smetana’s beloved Vltava (The Moldau), and Ralph Vaughan Williams’ masterful “Sea Symphony” close the Classical Season in a program that celebrates the beauty, power, and mystery of bodies of water the world over.