Lucas Richman will play his first concert as music director of the Bangor Symphony Orchestra this Sunday at the Collins Center for the Arts at the University of Maine. The program, titled “Welcome, Lucas” highlights a number of Richman’s favorite pieces, and will allow the BSO audience to get to know their new conductor. It seems likely they’ll find him as warm, accessible and abundantly talented as BSO staff, musicians and board members found him when they offered him the job back in June. They’ll also get a chance to meet his father, Peter Mark Richman, an accomplished film and television actor famed for his roles in shows as diverse as “Star Trek: The Next Generation,” “Dallas” and “Gunsmoke.” Richman is on this weekend’s program to narrate the spoken part of Aaron Copland’s “Lincoln Portrait.”
The Bangor Daily News sat down with Richman on Wednesday to ask him a bit more about himself in advance of the concert this weekend.
Your parents are both actors. What did you learn from the both of them that informed your musical career?
I’m very fortunate to be able to say that I had great support in my development as a musician at all levels. My parents didn’t think twice about me pursuing it as a career. They encouraged all of us — I have four siblings — to be creative. I don’t know what it would have been like to grow up in a household that was not that.
Aside from conducting, you’re also a composer. What are you working on currently?
Well, I just finished the premiere of my piece based on the poetry of Jack Prelutsky [“Behold the Bold Umbrellaphant”], and I’m in the midst of rearranging it for a chamber setting, down from a full orchestra. Jack asked me to rearrange it to be performed by the Seattle Chamber Music Society. Going from a full orchestra to five instruments has been a very interesting process. Just a few days ago, I arranged my song for breast cancer awareness, “We Have a Bond,” for six harps and voice for the Pittsburgh Symphony. Also, John Williams has asked me do an arrangement of some of his songs for a concert with the Knoxville Symphony. There’s always something to work on. Sometimes it’s hard to say no to certain things.
Which classical composer would you have liked to have dinner with?
Johannes Brahms. The other person I would have said would have been Leonard Bernstein, but I was very fortunate to have been able to work with him. Brahms we don’t know much about. We know a lot about Mozart and Beethoven and Stravinsky, but not him. His music has a timelessness and a calm and a sadness. There’s not a note misplaced. I’d want to know what he was like, to see if the man resembled his music.
Other than the obvious fact that it’s your first year with the BSO, what are you most looking forward to for this season?
Honestly, what I enjoy most in a new city and a new area is getting a feel for the way of life there, and the pace of life. The kinds of food people eat, the kind of weather. I’m excited to see what really makes up Maine. Also, I’m excited to make some wonderful music and have fun with the orchestra.
What can you tell us about the pieces the BSO is playing this weekend?
In programming this, they asked me to put together a slate that is representative of me, and I think what I’ve gathered is representative of a lot of things. It starts with [John] Corigliano’s “Promenade Overture,” which is very unique and theatrical. It starts out with only the percussion, and the orchestra slowly gathers onstage as the music progresses. I get an opportunity to engage the audience. It’s a really fun piece to perform. I think it will set a tone for the season — we’re starting out with an American composer, performing a piece that has a great deal of humor.
The Brahms piece [“The Academic Festival Overture”] is very special to me, because Leonard Bernstein conducted it when I was at Tanglewood when I was 16. As it turns out, the overture was the piece he himself auditioned on when he was very young at the Curtis Institute. And, as it turns out, I later conducted it at the Schleswig-Holstein Music Festival in Germany. So I definitely have a history with the piece.
The Copland piece, the “Lincoln Portrait,” is very important to me because of the influence Copland had on me as a very young musician. And it’s always fun to listen to because Abraham Lincoln’s words are so powerful, and I think few people can read those words with such noble intonation as my father. I’ve performed it with him twice, one in Knoxville, and once at the foot of Mount Rushmore.
Finally, there’s a solo violin piece by our concertmaster, Trond, who will perform Bloch’s “Nigun.” The concertmaster is the link between the orchestra and the music director, and this piece speaks to that relationship. It’s also our participation in Daniel Pearl Music Days, which honors the journalist who was murdered by his kidnappers in Pakistan. I knew Danny; I was in junior orchestra with him in high school. It’s very personal to me. We’ll end the night with [Leonard] Bernstein’s “Symphonic Dances” from “West Side Story,” which, of course, I have a very personal connection to as well. We’re going to have a great time making music.