BSO’s Grammy-winning conductor to give concert with South American flavor

Lucas Richman, conductor of the Bangor Symphony Orchestra, mingles with fellow attendees of Bangor's Greendrinks gathering at the offices of WBRC Architects-Engineers in downtown Bangor Tuesday.
Lucas Richman, conductor of the Bangor Symphony Orchestra, mingles with fellow attendees of Bangor's Greendrinks gathering at the offices of WBRC Architects-Engineers in downtown Bangor Tuesday.
Posted March 09, 2011, at 6:09 p.m.
Lucas Richman, conductor of the Bangor Symphony Orchestra, mingles with fellow attendees of Bangor's Greendrinks gathering at the offices of WBRC Architects-Engineers in downtown Bangor Tuesday.
Lucas Richman, conductor of the Bangor Symphony Orchestra, mingles with fellow attendees of Bangor's Greendrinks gathering at the offices of WBRC Architects-Engineers in downtown Bangor Tuesday.

Bangor Symphony Orchestra music director Lucas Richman had tickets to go to the Grammy Awards, held on Feb. 13 in Los Angeles, but travel plans prevented him from going. So, in lieu of donning a tuxedo and walking the red carpet, Richman downloaded the live online feed of the nontelevised portion of the awards and sat down to watch with his son, Max.

Richman was nominated for Best Instrumental Arrangement with Accompanying Vocalist and Best Classical Crossover Album, for “Baba Yetu,” a piece composed by Christopher Tin that Richman conducted with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. He was nominated alongside luminaries such as Bobby McFerrin, Yo-Yo Ma’s Silk Road Ensemble, opera legend Jessye Norman and cellist Matt Haimovitz.

“That’s pretty great company,” said Richman. “So when I won, I just kind of sat there, a little stunned. I’m at home and I’m hearing Laurie Anderson read my name off among all of them, and then I won. Then Max and I exchanged high-fives.”

His Grammy arrives next month, where it will take its place on his piano at home in Knoxville, Tenn. This Sunday’s BSO concert, at 3 p.m. at the Collins Center for the Arts, will be the first in which a Grammy winner conducts the orchestra — and a great opportunity for those who may never have attended a BSO concert to hear a symphony riding high on a wave of renewed creative vigor and commitment to great music.

Maestro Richman, now four-fifths of the way through his first season as music director for the BSO, came into his position with several goals. One of them was to bring as much music to young people in Greater Bangor as possible; another was to encourage within the BSO itself an atmosphere of creative progression.

“With each concert, there’s the sensation that we’re topping the last one,” said Richman. “There’s a feeling of accomplishment, and a sense of ‘Can we pull this off?’ We’re working on growing that fundamental confidence that allows everyone to play with abandon. We have to take that leap of faith, so we can fly.”

Sunday’s concert features a piece never before performed by the BSO: Alberto Ginastera’s Variaciones Concertantes, written in 1953 by the Argentinian composer. Ginastera’s works are flavored with the rhythms and melodies of his country, drawing on the rich folkloric tradition in Argentina.

“His music has its foundation in dance, and you can’t help but be moved by the rhythm,” said Richman. “It gets inside you.”

The BSO will perform Variaciones Concertantes in between the orchestra’s performances of Mozart’s Divertimento K. 136 and Beethoven’s Symphony No. 2 — two pieces that, stylistically, couldn’t be more different from the Ginastera.

“It is an inherantly rhythmic piece. You can’t listen to it in the same way as you would Mozart and Beethoven,” said Richman. “It has its own internal energy that is rooted in South American life. But what’s interesting is the fact that it’s written for essentially the same orchestra as the Beethoven. That same group can articulate two vastly different worlds. It’s great for the musicians, and great for the audience.”

The South American outlook on music — that it is part and parcel of life in general, and not a separate thing that has questionable value as a social force — is something that Richman takes to heart. As with the El Sistema program in Venezuela, which for 35 years has taught classical music to 250,000 mostly low-income children, Richman says that active, consistent engagement with the arts is key to ensuring kids have the best shot possible in their future lives, both personal and professional.

“Things like El Sistema aren’t just about teaching kids to play music — it’s saying that music and the arts must be a way of life. In the U.S., it’s so often an elective, and not an absolute. If we can bring some of the music we make here to them, then I’m thrilled,” he said.

To that end, concert-goers arriving early on Sunday will be able to attend a special concert. Instead of a traditional 2 p.m. pre-concert lecture, the BSO will present a 30-minute concert featuring high school and college students who are involved in the Young Musicians Institute, a new educational program designed to contribute to the artistic development of advanced young instrumentalists in Greater Bangor and beyond.

About 40 high school- and college-age musicians have been practicing and rehearsing since early February with BSO musicians, along with Gina Provenzano, the BSO’s education and community outreach coordinator, and Richman, in preparation for their Collins Center performance.

The Young Musicians Institute concert is open to those who hold tickets for the 3 p.m. concert. Sunday’s program includes Rossini’s Overture to “The Barber of Seville,” Dvorak’s Slavonic Dance No. 8, and Elgar’s “Nimrod” from the Enigma Variations.

“It’s a really wonderful chance to hear some of our talented young musicians,” said Richman. “It’s a nice treat for anyone going to the concert Sunday.”

Tickets to Sunday’s concert are available by calling the Collins Center of the Arts box office at 581-1755 or 1-800-622-TIXX or online at bangorsymphony.org.

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