When the curtain is lifted at the Bangor Symphony Orchestra’s concert this Sunday, all eyes, naturally, will be on the newly renovated Collins Center for the Arts on the UM campus. The metallic facade, the shiny new lobby, the new technology. Welcome home, BSO.
“It feels great to be back,” said David Whitehill, executive director for the BSO. “We’re all so excited to get back into a venue that we know very well, and we really look forward to the many opportunities that arise from our partnership with it.”
Whitehill said the best part about the renovations is the level of comfort it will provide for the BSO’s patrons.
“The new aisles, the new cafe and the welcoming and open lobby are really wonderful,” said Whitehill. “The level of social engagement our audience will have now ensures a much more pleasant, comfortable experience.”
But after the initial oohs and aahs over the new facility die down, all eyes and ears will be on the orchestra, led for this concert by guest conductor Lucas Richman of the Tennessee-based Knoxville Symphony Orchestra. Richman will lead the BSO in a program that’s two-thirds Beethoven, and one-third Brahms, with the latter composer’s Symphony No. 4 in E Minor, Op. 98 to be performed.
Appropriately, the concert will open with Beethoven’s “Consecration of the House” overture, opus 124. Beethoven wrote the piece in 1822 for the opening of the Josefstadter Theatre in Vienna — so with any luck, the goodwill bestowed upon that hall will be transferred to the new CCA.
Then it’s onto the big showstopper — a performance of Beethoven’s “Emperor,” his Piano Concerto No. 5 in E-flat Major, Op. 73. The concerto was written in Vienna in 1811, in tribute to Beethoven’s greatest patron, the Archduke Rudolf. The soloist for the BSO’s performance, pianist Joel Fan, said that there’s an air of royalty and majesty in the piece, that’s very thrilling for any pianist to play.
“It’s a magisterial piece. There’s definitely a very strong air of nobility and pride in it,” said Fan, 39. “I imagine it being about a king or a prince or emperor, in the best sense. Not in the castles and servants kind of sense. Something very royal and grand.”
Since 2004, Fan has performed with Yo-Yo Ma’s Silk Road Project, an ongoing collaboration between musicians, artists and institutions. It explores the ebb and flow of ideas among the cultures that lie along the Silk Road, the ancient trade route that stretches from Europe to the Far East, and helped to spread art and thought, as well as goods and arms.
“[The Silk Road Project] was such a big influence in my solo career, because it made me so invested in and so fascinated by the music of cultures from all over the world,” said Fan, whose 2006 album “World Keys” included music from cultures as diverse as Syria, Latvia and Japan. “In my new stuff, I’m exploring the music of Argentina and Brazil, and from New Orleans. There’s so much intermingling of cultures in the world today. There are no boundaries anymore. It makes for a really fresh approach to music.”
Fan is a New York native, but travels extensively as a soloist, spending a great deal of time in recent months in the southeastern and southwestern U.S. While he’s on the road, he tries to get a bit of local flavor no matter where he goes. Whether or not Fan will get a chance to eat lobster, take a picture in front of Paul Bunyan or go sledding is up in the air at this time. At the least, he’ll get a good look at the newest addition to eastern Maine’s cultural landscape, as he helps open the CCA.
“I always rent a car and drive around. I try to get as much of the experience of a place as possible,” said Fan. “It’s something I actively try to do, no matter where I am. It’s the best part of my career, in many ways, to get to see the world. I’m really excited to perform with the Bangor Symphony. And it’s a real honor to be a part of the reopening of their concert hall.”
Whitehill is eager to open the doors to the BSO audience, and to welcome them into a new era of concerts and programming at the CCA.
“I think this venue represents the fact that a lot of thought went into making it the best venue for our community specifically,” said Whitehill. “It’s by us, for us.”
The Bangor Symphony Orchestra will perform at 3 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 1, at the Collins Center for the Arts on the UM campus. Tickets are available by calling 581-1755 or 800-MCA-TIXX, or by visiting www.bangorsymphony.org.