June 20, 2018
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Colorful music, new and old, to illuminate Bangor Symphony concert

By Emily Burnham, BDN Staff

Composer and conductor Christopher Tin didn’t plan on writing an album about water, but water themes — rain, the oceans, mythological water creatures — seemed to follow him around, when organizations approached him for commissioned works.

The Bangor Symphony Orchestra was one of those organizations, when several years ago it asked Tin — a longtime collaborator with BSO music director Lucas Richman — to write a piece that they could premiere at a concert. The resulting commission, “Sireines,” will be performed by the BSO and the four-woman vocal group, Anonymous 4, at the concert set for 3 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 19, at the Collins Center for the Arts.

“In one way or another, all these pieces I’ve been writing have something to do with water,” said Tin, 37, who won two Grammy Awards in 2011 for his album “Calling All Dawns,” on which Richman conducted. “In thinking about the ocean, I thought, ‘What if we reimagined Anonymous 4 as the sirens from Homer’s Odyssey?’ I ran it by them, and I ran it by [the Bangor Symphony Orchestra], and they both loved the idea. And here we are.”

Also premiering at Sunday’s concert will be a new piece from Richman, “A Clear Story I Let Relive,” a result of the annual auction of an original Richman composition, on which BSO patrons can bid at the symphony soiree, held in March. This year’s winning bidders were Peter and Elizabeth Hansen, who wished to dedicate Richman’s composition to their parents and to their own grandchildren.

“The name comes from an anagram of the four parents’ names,” said Richman. “The melody comes out of the letters of the three grandchildren’s names, Peter, Gus and Ian. The idea is about the passing of traditions and memories from generation to generation.”

Both Richman and Tin are prolific composers, mostly for film, TV and, in Tin’s case, video games. They met in 2005 when Tin was a participant in Richman’s annual workshop for composers writing for film. Tin was about to have his first major professional success, with the song “Baba Yetu,” the theme for the popular video game “Civilization IV.”

The song later made its way onto the album “Calling All Dawns,” for which Tin needed a conductor, so he could stay in the recording booth to monitor progress. For that, he called Richman, who was impressed by the Tin’s ability to combine diverse influences — “Dawns” incorporates many musical traditions from African choral music to medieval chants — but still maintain his own personality.

“As a composer, you’re a combination of everything around you … someone like Chris, who’s very involved with composing for film and video games, you’ve got to be able to get a message across with music instantly,” said Richman. “He has a knack for writing music that has great power, and tells a story that’s very compelling. With ‘Calling All Dawns’ he incorporated elements from so many musical traditions and languages, and yet his individual voice shines through.”

Also on the program for Sunday’s concert are two larger pieces, which fit in with the impressionistic nature of the bill: Wagner’s Overture for the opera “Tannhauser” and Strauss’ “Death and Transfiguration.”

“The Strauss in particular is very colorful, very evocative,” said Richman. “If Strauss was alive later, he’d have been a film composer. His music was cinematic before the word ‘cinematic’ existed.”

Tin’s visit to the Bangor area will include much more than Sunday’s concert. With the Anonymous 4, Tin will enter the studios at the New England School of Communications at Husson University, where the group will record their vocal tracks for “Sireines,” which will be included on Tin’s upcoming album, “The Drop That Contained The Sea.” The new album, which will be released later this year, will feature the London Philharmonic Orchestra, and will move through all those compositions about water that Tin has been working on for the past year.

“After all this writing, I hit upon the idea for a song cycle about the water cycle,” said Tin. “The album will be ordered in that way, from clouds to rain to rivers to oceans.”

Tin is a busy guy — in 2013 alone, in addition to composing enough music to fill an entire album, he also got married and completely renovated his California home.

“The past year has been a blur,” said Tin. “An incredibly productive blur, but a blur. I’m just now able to relax and enjoy it all.”

Tickets for Sunday’s Bangor Symphony Orchestra concert, set for 3 p.m., are available at the Collins Center for the Arts box office, or by calling 581-1755. The Bangor Daily News is a sponsor of the BSO.

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