May 22, 2018
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It might get a wee bit loud at Scottish-themed BSO season opener

By Emily Burnham, BDN Staff

For the past 10 years, motorists on Route 3 in Hulls Cove on Mt. Desert Island have been greeted on Saturday afternoons in the warmer months by a rather majestic sight and sound.

David Weeda, usually resplendent in full Scottish regalia, makes the trip most weekends from his home in Bucksport to play the bagpipes at The Colony, a resort just outside of Bar Harbor. Inevitably, heads swivel to see where the sound is coming from, and cars stop to take pictures.

“Once the cars start making their way around that curve in the road, and they see a kilted piper on the cliff, with maybe the Margaret Todd [windjammer] in the background and the sun shining, it’s hard not to stop,” said Weeda. “It’s pretty photogenic. Same goes for when I pipe on top of Cadillac Mountain. Now that’s something special.”

Weeda, who runs the Williams Pond Lodge Bed & Breakfast in Bucksport, now has another piping gig that will take him off the rocky cliffs of Mt. Desert Island and into the concert hall. This Sunday’s season-opening Bangor Symphony Orchestra concert at the Collins Center for the Arts in Orono will feature a program of all Scottish-themed music, including a performance of Max Bruch’s “Scottish Fantasy” with violinist Noah Bendix-Balgley, and a concert-closing performance of Peter Maxwell Davies’ “Orkney Wedding, with Sunrise,” with piper Weeda as soloist.

“This will be my orchestral debut,” said Weeda, 53, who has been playing the bagpipes for nearly 30 years, since he was a young man living in Kansas City. “People don’t necessarily associate bagpipes with an orchestra, and they are very rarely played indoors, so it will be quite impressive, I think.”

Weeda is no stranger to performing for a crowd — he was in a pipe band in his former hometown of Kansas City, and later performed on the street in Provincetown, Mass., where he lived for a number of years before moving to Maine in the early 2000s. Today, in addition to performing at The Colony and on top of Cadillac, he also can be found during the summer piping in Agamont Park in downtown Bar Harbor.

“I like to get kids up and marching around with me, and then I try to get the adults to march with me, too,” he said. “I think there’s something irresistible about bagpipes. You have to listen and you have to watch.”

Lucas Richman, music director for the BSO, built the program for Sunday’s concert around the centerpiece performance: the “Scottish Fantasy,” with Noah Bendix-Balgley, concertmaster for the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra.

“I met Noah while conducting the PSO last year, and in talking with him I knew he was going to perform this piece with them this year,” said Richman. “He wanted to have more than one opportunity to play [the Bruch] and we were very happy to oblige him. “

Finding other music that fit with Bendix-Balgley’s performance meant Richman had to get creative. Thus, there are pieces ranging from Felix Mendelssohn’s evocative “Hebrides Overture” to contemporary Scottish composer James MacMillian’s “Stomp (with Fate and Elvira).”

“It’s not often you have a chance to look for composers from the United Kingdom, and music that revolves around those themes,” said Richman. “It evolved into this really fun theme to start the season with.”

Weeda’s inclusion in Sunday’s concert came at the recommendation of longtime BSO patron Russell Bodwell, who suggested the bagpiper to Richman and company. Weeda is taking his symphonic debut very seriously — he’ll be making a memorable entrance into the hall, during his solo, which will cap off the afternoon’s performances.

“I’ll be in full dress. I’ve even got some new hose,” he said.

Both Weeda and Richman are looking forward to surprising the audience with the performance of “Orkney Wedding” — it might get a wee bit loud.

“It’s the last thing people expect to encounter in a concert hall. Bagpipes make a lot of sound,” said Richman. “But I think it’s a fitting start to the season.”

“Scottish Fantasy” is set for 3 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 29, at the Collins Center for the Arts in Orono. For tickets to Bangor Symphony Orchestra concerts, call 581-1755 or visit the Collins Center box office.

The Bangor Daily News is a sponsor of the BSO 2013-14 season.

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