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All-Percussion Program Spotlights Michael Charles Smith as Marimbist, Composer, and Producer

Local Stars of Broadcast and Theater Cast in “The Soldier’s Tale”

Portland, OR – On the heels of announcing the March 12 launch of an innovative new web series for kids, “Meet the Instruments,” Portland Columbia Symphony has released new details of its March 26 all-percussion virtual concert as well as its April 17 livestream of Stravinsky’s “The Soldier’s Tale,” both of which feature local musicians and artists in innovative, Covid-safe environments. Of particular note are personnel additions to “The Soldier’s Tale,” which include Vin Shambry, Robert McBride, and Stephanie Cordell as cast members.


Throughout the pandemic, PCSO has doubled down on its mission to champion and cultivate musicians and audiences through affordable, accessible concerts, putting local musicians to work and ensuring that art remains available to the community. Additional details and events, including outdoor performances, continue to be added throughout the season.

Friday, March 26, 2021, 7 pm (free virtual concert)

Created and directed by PCSO’s Michael Charles Smith, this concert sees Smith joined by his PCSO section-mates Mike Romanaggi and Craig Johnston as well as four additional area percussionists in a full-spectrum showcase for percussion.


Repertoire includes Smith’s arrangements of Mozart’s haunting Lacrimosa (immortalized by Amadeus) and Elgar’s beloved Nimrod from the “Enigma Variations,” as well as his own composition “Water,” which will be paired with visuals by two Pasadena-based visual artists, painter Kenton Nelson and documentarian Erwin Darmali.


“Kenton Nelson approached me while I was playing marimba at the PDX airport a few year ago,” recalls Smith. “He was drawn to my music and we had a wonderful conversation about collaborating someday on a project that would bring his paintings and my music together. He found an opportunity for us to work together when he was preparing a show and release of a new book of his paintings with a common theme: water. He thought I would be the perfect person to write some pieces to be played at the show to accompany his beautiful paintings and commissioned me to write some pieces. I wrote a three-movement marimba solo called "Water" inspired by his new book of paintings by the same title. This virtual/visual concert was an opportunity to include another great visual artist, Erwin Darmali who has been filming and documenting Kenton as he painted the Water pieces. Water Movement #1 now brings this project full circle including Kenton's beautiful paintings, my marimba pieces inspired by them, and Erwin's masterful filmmaking.”


Capping the program is Brazilian composer Ney Rosauro’s Concerto No. 1 for Marimba and Percussion Ensemble, with Smith as soloist.


Michael Charles Smith,
marimba soloist
Mike Romanaggi, Craig Johnston, Nick Rose, Isaac Rains, Jim Casella, Brian Gardener,


Mozart (arr. Francis/Smith) Lacrimosa, from Requiem in D Minor
Michael Charles Smith “Water” (Mmt. I)
Elgar (arr. Smith) Nimrod, from Variations on an Original Theme, “Enigma”
Ney Rosauro Concerto No. 1 for Marimba and Percussion Ensemble


Online viewing is free and open to the public. Viewing link will be published at Sponsored by Marimba One.

Saturday, April 17, 2021, 7 pm (ticketed livestream performance)


Music Director Steven Byess comes back to town to direct Stravinsky’s iconic theater-piece, The Soldier’s Tale in a concert production livestreamed from North Portland’s Disjecta Art Center. Joining the seven instrumentalists to tell the tale of a soldier who trades his fiddle to the devil for a lifetime of riches is acclaimed storyteller, actor, and singer Vin Shambry as the Soldier; classical radio broadcasting legend Robert McBride as the Devil; and actor, director, and educator Stephanie Cordell as the narrator.


About Vin Shambry
Voted Portland’s Best Actor by Willamette Weekly reader’s poll in 2016, Shambry has won three Portland Drammys and Audelco Award for Best Actor in a Play (Black Man Rising). A dynamic storyteller, he can be heard on The Moth, and has worked extensively with Artists Repertory Theater. With roots in musical theater, Shambry has performed on Broadway as Tom Collins in Rent and as John in Miss Saigon.


About Robert McBride
After three decades as an on-air radio host (most notably with Portland’s own All Classical Portland), McBride now puts his iconic voice to work as a narrator, audio book reader, and voice-over artist. Prior classical concert production appearances include narrating Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf and Britten’s Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra.


About Stravinsky’s “The Soldier’s Tale”excerpted from

“Igor Stravinsky's life (1882-1971) spanned a world of musical change, and probably no other composer wrote in as many styles as did he. His early compositions mirrored the nationalist ideals of his teacher Rimsky-Korsakov, but he quickly moved on to develop his own style. With his trio of ballets Firebird, Petrouchka, and The Rite of Spring, Stravinsky almost single-handedly invented modernism. He later went through a neoclassical period, and finished his career embracing the serialism and twelve-tone principles of Schoenberg.


The Soldier's Tale comes from 1918, a lean post-war time when jazz was just beginning to emerge into the mainstream. Stravinsky was broke, deprived of his royalties because of the Revolution, and his other source of income, Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes was also going through lean times.


“Stravinsky invented a new style, pared down to essentials, in melody, rhythm and instrumentation. The Soldier's Tale is scored for just seven instruments: clarinet, bassoon, cornet, trombone, violin, double bass, and percussion. The concert version also features four speaking parts, those of the Devil, the Soldier, a Princess and an unseen Reader. The Devil and Princess are also required to dance.


“The story is a dark Faustian fable about a deserting soldier and the Devil who eventually possesses his soul. The soldier’s violin becomes a symbol of both the soldier’s soul and the Devil’s wiles. The story is based on an old Russian folk-tale but the music is as far removed from Russian traditionalism as possible, making it a lesson for all cultures and times.”


Portland Columbia Symphony’s unstaged concert production of Stravinsky’s concert version will feature three speaking parts.


Stephen Shepherd,
Marc Bescond,
double bass
Sean Kelleher, clarinet
Margaret McShea, bassoon
James Smock, trumpet
Greg Scholl, trombone
Gordon Rencher, percussion
Vin Shambry, the soldier
Robert McBride, the devil
Stephanie Cordell, narrator
Steven Byess,


Access to view is $15 per household; tickets are available at


Additional details and events, including outdoor performances, will be added throughout the season.


Founded in 1982, Portland Columbia Symphony cultivates and champions a diverse community of musicians and audiences through affordable and accessible performances. Under the music direction of Steven Byess, PCSO seeks to deepen connections to the art form through the design of culturally and locally relevant programming, an inclusive narrative, and educational programs that engage audiences from Multnomah, Washington, and Clackamas counties. PCSO maintains a dual performance schedule, with concerts held in both Portland and East County.