for orchestra

premiered by

University of Portland Orchestra

commissioned by

University of Portland Orchestra; with support from Indiana University’s New Frontiers in the Arts and Humanities grant

premiere date:

April 24, 2018

Contact for Score


The music of Portland taps into the history and current day of the American city it represents. Even though there were many possibilities to consider, the Lewis and Clarke expedition, the Upper Chinook Native Americans (Portland’s prior inhabitants), and the excitement of life in a city surrounded by a mountain range and an ocean not far away, ultimately served as sources of inspiration for this work. The music flows like a film score, evoking the imagery Lewis and Clarke took in as they ventured through Portland en route to their final destination (Fort Clatsop). Listeners can also hear intermittent drumming and the repeating chant-like motive at the end (played by the low brass and strings with timpani) that emulate the sound of the native American chants. Throughout the piece, the music alternates between tranquil and energetic moments, which I hoped would portray the mood of this unique West Coast city. The work was commissioned and later premiered by the University of Portland Orchestra on April 24, 2018.      


Janáček Philharmonic Orchestra

Reviews and Features

The exciting ‘Portland’ by Erich Stem stands above the rest of the works; it immerses the listener in a colorful impression of the West coast city, its culture and history.
–American Record Guide Read Review

Erich Stem’s 'Portland' starts the listen majestic and organic in the nearly 10 minutes of pristine instrumentation…”  
–Tom Steven, Take Effect, Online Magazine Read Review

Erich Stem’s orchestral rhapsody ‘Portland’ is indescribably vivid; Allowing the listener to hear the bustle of a big city.”  
–Darren Rea, Review Graveyard, Online Magazine Read Review

Story of Portland featured in interview on international travel blog, Just Chasing Rabbits, with Jennifer Campbell  Read Interview

Portland album record label, Navona Records (Parma), features Stem’s America By: A Symphonic Tour  Read Feature

Buy on Album