Composers Share Their Homecoming Story - Meet Lisa Neher

Tidepooling* premieres on 3A’s Studio Series concert, Homecomings
October 17 & 18 at 7:30pm

Lisa Neher.jpg
The Pacific Northwest is in my bones, in my blood. The gentle rain in the morning, the awe-inspiring mountains peeking through the clouds, the wild and rough Pacific Ocean…
— Lisa Neher, featured composer from "Homecomings"

I’m from Covington, Washington, a city just a little south of Seattle, and attended Lewis & Clark College here in Portland. Graduate school took me to Kansas and then to Iowa, where I continued to live and work for several years after completing my doctorate. I knew I wanted to end up in a mid to large-sized city with a vibrant classical music scene, one that included an active contemporary classical music community. My fiancé Mike and I visited quite a few wonderful cities as we considered where to move, but I think I was always secretly (or not-so-secretly) hoping that we’d end up in Portland. Thanks to a great job offer for Mike, we moved to Portland a little over a year ago to make it our long-term home. I still can’t quite believe I get to live here and be a part of such an amazing artistic community while also being just 90 minutes away from the mountains or the ocean.

The Pacific Northwest is in my bones, in my blood. The gentle rain in the morning, the awe-inspiring mountains peeking through the clouds, the wild and rough Pacific Ocean…they hold a mythic, heroic, deity-like place in my heart. When we were living in Iowa and visiting the Pacific Northwest, I’d be on the lookout every day for my mountains: Hood, St. Helens, Rainier. One year we visited too early in the spring to hike on Mt. Rainier and I felt a sense of loss, as if I hadn’t seen a dear family member. Sunny beaches for relaxing and swimming are fine, but they don’t beat the raw power of the Pacific rolling in around haystack rock—at least, not for me. I don’t think you can truly know me unless you know the landscape of this incredible part of the world.

Tidepooling, my work commissioned by Third Angle, the Gabriela Lena Frank Creative Academy of Music, and Betsy Russell*, invites audiences to come with me on a walk down to the tide pools along the Oregon coast. I’d like to share with audiences my love of this landscape and the little critters that make their homes inside the pools. As I prepared to write the piece, I took a trip out to Cannon Beach and listened to the sounds of the surf, of my feet on the sand and in the water, and watched the crabs, fish, muscles, anemones, sea stars, and the like as they went about their day. I’m interested in how music offers us the opportunity to pause and live in a moment, an image, or a feeling for a period of time. I hope the music inspires joy and appreciation for this unique habitat.

What was so special about composing for Third Angle was the amazing access I had to the musicians who will be performing my piece. Guitarist Mario Diaz and I met for coffee before I’d written a single note and he shared his tips on composing for guitar and even loaned me a homemade handbook written by his colleague about writing for guitar. I met with flutist Sarah Tiedemann at the Third Angle offices downtown and she demonstrated a basketful of timbral trills for me. Everyone made themselves available via email and gave me feedback on ideas and sketches as I wrote. This is so helpful because it lets me write to each performer’s particular strengths and interests. It also helps me take risks and try new things in my music, because I can check in with performers as I write. Sometimes we have to write fast and with less interaction with our performers and that is such a shame because it means we often write music that is more conventional or safe. Our Homecomings concert coincides closely with my literal homecoming. The whole Third Angle team was on board with bringing my ideas to life, and I am so excited to hear the result of this collaboration on October 17 & 18.

Read more about Lisa here.

The OG Lisa Neher

The OG Lisa Neher


Lisa’s Upcoming Performances:

Performer: Shades of Autumn
Lisa performs chamber vocal works by Cascadia Composers as the featured performer on Cascadia Composers Shades of Autumn concert.
Friday, November 16, 2019, 7:30 pm
Lincoln Hall Room 75, Portland State University, Portland, Oregon
More information here.

Performer: Put a Bird On It! Recital
Lisa Neher & pianist Stephanie Thompson team up again on a recital of works using birds as metaphors for the human experience, including a premiere of a new work by Portland composer Theresa Koon.
Sunday, January 26, 2020, 3:00 pm
Lewis & Clark College Evans Auditorium, Portland, Oregon

Third Angle