Even though there are three months until the 2011-2012 season for the Bangor Symphony Orchestra kicks off, there’s still lots going on with the orchestra. Not least of which is this Saturday’s late-addition-to-the-schedule treat, when the BSO performs a night of Beatles songs with the tribute group Yesterday.
The BSO’s first pops concert, held in March 2010 at the Collins Center for the Arts at the University of Maine in Orono, also featured the Beatles and was a sellout success. When Alex Gray of the Waterfront Concert Series approached BSO Executive Director David Whitehill about potentially re-staging it in downtown Bangor, he jumped at the chance.
“We have a history of playing outside, what with our relationship with the Kingfield Pops, but this is the first time in Bangor,” said Whitehill. “The Beatles were the obvious choice. There’s enough music that you could easily fill three concerts with great songs. You just can’t go wrong.”
Beatles fans can expect to hear all sorts of classics, from songs that boast a great deal of orchestral arrangement, such as “Strawberry Fields Forever” and “I Am The Walrus,” to timeless tunes including “Yesterday” and “Something” — the latter of which is a personal favorite of BSO music director Lucas Richman.
In between myriad other commitments as an in-demand conductor and composer, Richman has found time to make it to Bangor to conduct the BSO on Saturday. He has his mind on the upcoming season, however, which boasts a stellar array of soloists, some interesting concert themes and several premieres of new pieces.
“I’m excited about everything,” said Richman. “There’s such a diversity this year. We’re working with some amazing people and we’re premiering music. It’s a great season.”
The Masterworks at the Collins Center for the Arts season kicks off with a rare evening concert, set for 7 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 10. Award-winning violinist Jennifer Koh will perform Max Bruch’s violin concerto along with the BSO performing Mozart and Brahms. The concert on Sunday, Oct. 30, at the normal time of 3 p.m., will feature an all-Beethoven program — appropriate for the time of year, with its dramatic sturm und drang, and appropriate considering the soloist, pianist Benjamin Hochman, who will play the Piano Concerto No. 3.
“He is magical,” said Richman, of Hochman, whom he has conducted before. “Besides being a brilliant musician, everything he plays feels totally organic and natural. He’s a wonderful communicator, and he’s just such a nice guy. I’m thrilled to be able to work with him again.”
The concert on Jan. 29 is one of the more progressive in the BSO’s history. The program features a Joseph Haydn piece and a performance of Gustav Holst’s beloved “Planets,” but it also features two premieres, one a Maine premiere and one a world premiere.
The first is a performance of “Sidereus,” by contemporary Argentinean composer Osvaldo Golijov. Golijov was commissioned in 2008 by the League of American Orchestras and by a consortium of orchestras from across the nation to compose a piece on the retirement of former LAO president Henry Fogel. The BSO was one of those orchestras, and the resulting piece, “Sidereus,” will have its Maine premiere at that concert.
Also premiering is a brand-new composition by Richman himself, an as-yet-untitled piece written for a BSO patron who won, at the BSO’s gala auction last spring, the chance to have Richman write them a piece.
“It’s something I’ve done in Knoxville for the past eight years, and it has always been very well received,” said Richman. “This one in particular is quite a moving story. It is memorable.”
More details on Richman’s new piece will be revealed once that concert gets a little closer. After the January concert, it’s on to the March 11 show, which features a performance of Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 4, Liszt’s Hungarian Rhapsody No. 5 and Miklos Rozsa’s Viola Concerto featuring Israeli violist Gilad Karni. The season ends with a French-theme concert featuring Debussy, Ravel and Faure, as well as the University of Maine Singers and Oratorio Society.
Brochures for the season will arrive in mailboxes on Monday, and in a new development, new subscribers can take 50 percent off a full season subscription — meaning that tickets for all five concerts can cost between $40 and $100.
“It’s an incredibly good deal for new subscribers,” said Whitehill. “Five concerts, with great seats, for one hundred dollars. It’s a great opportunity for anyone who wants to give it a shot.”
And if there were any lingering doubts about whether or not the BSO had fully adapted to technology and was safely settled in the 21st century, one look at the brochure will clear those questions out. One of the pages features a “QR code” — one of those bar codes you can scan with your smart phone to get more information online. Next week, an exclusive video and extra information will be available to those who hold their iPhone or Android phone up to the symbol. They may play music spanning the centuries — but when it comes to communication, they’re looking toward the future.
“Nobody can say we’re not tech savvy,” said Whitehill. “Anything we can use to communicate with our audience, we’re all for it. It’s just a way of reaching out.”
The Bangor Symphony Orchestra will perform with Beatles tribute band Yesterday on Saturday, June 4, on the Bangor Waterfront. Gates open at 5 p.m. Opening band the Stone Doctors are a Rolling Stones tribute band. Tickets are $28-$52. For information, visit www.bangorsymphony.org or www.waterfrontconcerts.com.