Dear all,

Today I had the opportunity to watch one of the Portland Symphony Orchestra performances in the morning. You read it right - in the morning. It's part of the Youth Concerts, a project that started during Arthur Bennett Lipkin's tenure with the symphony, as a resident conductor (1962-1967). The main goal of the program is to educate the young minds (8 to 13 years old) on "diverse styles of music, while learning about the elements of orchestral music and the instruments that perform it."

The theme for the series this year, Storm Chasers, is the weather and how it can be represented in a Classical repertoire. The concerts were held today at 9h30 and 11h10 am, at the beautifully architectured Merryl Auditorium and will repeat tomorrow at the same times. I was there a bit before the second performance.

I have to compliment the organization of the event for their ability in placing 800 children and their teachers (for each concert) into the auditorium in a very dynamic and efficient way - not an easy task - and even harder to remove them without much commotion and time between both presentations. The main entrance of the theater was surrounded by three-lanes of yellow buses.

Previously to the show, the teachers/schools had access to a pack containing some educational material and a warm welcome to the event by Heather Klenow, the Education and Operations Coordinator. In the material, you could find the program of the Youth Concerts, guidelines to prepare the children for the event with information on the orchestra instruments, the biography of the composers they would listen to, a glossary of musical terms, the artistic record of the performers (including guests), among other useful materials to make the experience pleasant and unique.

According to Normal Rapkin, one of the Orchestra board directors, who I met this morning, this project is presented to the local community twice a year. Once around March and then again around October. Today though it was the first concert where the Orchestra had a guest participating in the programme and he (Rapkin) seemed very excited about it. The guest he was referring to is the Québécois ensemble Le Vent du Nord (a local report on the band's shows with the orchestra can be found here).

Le Vent du Nord (Benoit Bourque, Simon Beaudry, Nicolas Boulerice and Olivier Demers) is in town since last Friday and gave two public performances over the weekend. These were Benoit Bourque's last public performances with the band, since he will start new projects soon. This farewell placed a sad note on the event for many fans that drove up (or down) here for the shows. I had the opportunity to meet some new friends, also talented artists and great people to be with. They told me how much Benoit's incredible energy, talents and stage presence will be missed.

This Québécois band, that has its name translated to English as "The Wind from the North", presented two of their compositions for the Youth Concerts Series together with the Portland Orchestra: Les amants du Saint-Laurent (N. Boulerice) and Gigue à trois (Trad/B. Bourque).

For the majority of the program though, the Classical agenda prevailed:

Wagner - Overture to the Flying Dutchman
Debussy - Nocturnes I. Clouds
Vivaldi - The Four Seasons, Op. 8 No. 4 "Winter" I. Allegro non molto III. Allegro
Beethoven - Symphony No. 6, Op. 68 "Pastorale" IV. Allegro "The storm" V. Allegretto "Joyous thanksgiving after the storm"
Straus - Thunder and Lightning Polka

Daniel Meyer conducted the Portland Symphony Orchestra and Le Vent du Nord with expansive, warm gestures and joy. Concertmaster Charles Dimmick led the Vivaldi’s Four Seasons, in this performance.

Daniel introduced the Orchestra percussion to the little ones in the audience while reproducing the sounds of a storm under formation. The following step was to request each part of the theater to reproduce some of these sounds with their hands and feet, complementing the auditory effect. The children around me in the orchestra section were delighted! Another act that completed the presentation was the comic entrance by meteorologist Kevin Mannix (WCSH Channel 6) to introduce one of the classical pieces, explaining the physics behind the storms. At this point, for the average age of the audience, I think terms as "electrical charges" could pass unabsorbed since the concept isn't much accessible to the children of that age (hey, I'm a Physicist). But overall, if the teachers did their work beforehand, I'm positive that the children had an educational experience today. I know for sure, after hearing to many comments, that they enjoyed the whole event. Comments as "If I learn the guitar I can play with a symphony!" (reference to Le Vent Du Nord's guitarist Simon Beaudry) or "I'll buy the CD and make sounds of rain with my family now!".

In terms of complaints, the ones I've heard were - "I wanted to hear one of the band's songs without the orchestra" (from one of the teachers), "we should have more time to let the kids explore the instruments presented like the [Le Vent du Nord's] hurdy-gurdy played today, that isn't a common one" and "the guests weren't called back to the stage for the curtain call". I'm curious about this last one too. Is this a change in the traditional structure of the concerts that they adopt for these series? I missed the reappearance of all the performers after the end of the concert for acknowledging the audience's applauses.

Still, I want to congratulate the Portland Symphony Orchestra and their boards and staff for the initiative on the Youth Concerts series.


1 Comment:

  1. Heza said...
    Hi Marcela,
    I just read your post and its great. I wish we could have talked more while you were in portland but it was the busiest weekend ever. I hope you make it back to Maine again...look me up. Please send me an email (on the PSO website) I would love to hear from you again.

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