Rite of fall

Posted Sept. 25, 2008, at 6:23 p.m.

BANGOR, Maine — Ah, autumn. The changing leaves, the sweaters and scarves, the air so crisp it’s like taking a big bite of a just-picked apple every time you breathe in. Along with the ever-shortening hours of daylight and the pumpkin beer heralding the beginning of fall, September means the start of another new season — a new Bangor Symphony Orchestra season.

The 113th season kicks off this Sunday, with a 3 p.m. concert at Peakes Auditorium, featuring performances of pieces by Brahms and Dvorak. There have been a lot of changes over the past few years, and this year may hold the biggest changes yet. Where to begin?

Well, for starters, if you’ve driven or walked down Main Street in Bangor in the past few weeks, you may have noticed that something is missing. Where’s the BSO office? Answer: it’s not there anymore. It’s located at Husson University now.

“This partnership with Husson has been in the works for a long time,” said BSO executive director David Whitehill. “Husson has been actively trying to bring more fine arts and performing arts to campus, and they always want to engage the community.”

Husson president William Beardsley echoed that sentiment. With the new, state-of-the-art, 500-seat Gracie Theater set to open on campus in 2009, the time was right to bring a community arts organization such as the BSO into the Husson fold.

“We do so much already with community education and with sports,” said Beardsley. “Performing arts should also be a central part of the atmosphere on campus. You’re going to hear a lot more music around now.”

Husson and the BSO have a long, shared history, one that stretches back to the days when both organizations were located within a stone’s throw of one another in downtown Bangor.

“We were on Hammond Street, and the BSO was in the Isaac Farrar Mansion on Union Street,” said Beardsley. “We were looking at each other from across the street. So it’s come back around.”

The Isaac Farrar Mansion used to be known as the Symphony House, and it was home to both the BSO and the Northern Conservatory of Music, a music school that operated in Bangor from 1929 through 1972. In 2005, 35 years after the NCM held its last class, Husson began to seriously consider reincorporating the school. Earlier this year, the university did just that. The BSO moving to campus helped to drive that decision — and now the establishment of a new Northern Conservatory of Music is a very real possibility, instead of just a dream.

“[Husson] essentially said to us, ‘We’ll give you low rent, if you can help us figure out how we can do this,’” said Whitehill. “Aside from that, though, it’s a really natural partnership. We’d love to have a conservatory from which to draw talent and encourage musical community.”

There are plenty of other changes for the BSO, too — a newly redesigned Web site (www.bangorsymphony.org), and a sooner-than-expected return to the Maine Center for the Arts, now known as the Collins Center for the Arts, set for February of 2009. There are undoubtedly more on the way. Perhaps a BSO-sponsored chamber music series at the Gracie, when it opens? A musician in residence program at Husson? Speculation abounds, but potential is vast.

“Partnership is really the future,” said Beardsley. “This can only benefit the both of us, and the community at large.”

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