By Barry Johnson
On Saturday, I received an email from Katie Taylor, the artistic director of Opera Theater Oregon, and it had some bad news -- she was calling an end to her attempt to renovate the Guild Theater in downtown Portland and replace it with a small concert hall/theater.
Taylor's plan was intended to create a new, acoustically acute home for Portland's alt.classical music groups, which now perform in various clubs, churches and halls around the city, some of them suitable for inventive flights of musical fancy and some not so much. Although her plan never reached the programming stage, presumably the new hall would have been used by Taylor's own indie opera group and other imaginative groups such as Electric Opera Company, Filmusik, Vagabond Opera and a host of others who play in the border lands between classical and popular music.
Taylor wrote that the cost of the project zoomed to to more than $2 million once the engineers and architects started looking into the building (Taylor originally said that the renovation might cost as little $300,000) and that made the negotiation with the building's owners, Tom Moyer's TMT Development, more complicated. Eventually, they failed to reach an agreement, Taylor said. She also wrote that she's not giving up the effort to build a new home, which makes sense -- she knows far more about it all now than she knew before she entered into this process.
Arts Dispatch has considered the possibilities of a new small, acoustically adroit concert space before. Taylor put a twist on this idea by gearing it toward less traditional groups than I had in mind, and the more I think about it, the better I like that idea. From Portland Taiko, Third Angle, Fear No Music and Portland Cello Project to the many manifestations of Classical Revolution PDX, a hybrid musical sensibility is taking root here. A home base for those explorations makes a lot of sense.
Taylor also had a more practical eye about it all than my pie-in-the-sky proposal. And that's a promising sign going forward, too.