The fact that the Bangor Symphony Orchestra, Launchpad and Bangor Ballet are now permanent residents of 193 Exchange St. — the historic Nichols Block, as it’s better known — hasn’t really sunk in yet for staffers with those organizations.
“It’s such a big change for us, and to be coming into this building every day is just still so cool,” Brian Hinrichs, executive director of the BSO, said. “It hasn’t really sunk in that it’s really ours. I think once we really start hearing music upstairs, that’s when it’ll feel real.”
This week the upstairs — the 185-capacity grand ballroom on the third and fourth floors — will begin hosting concerts and other performances and programming and weekly rehearsals from the Bangor Symphony Youth Orchestra, as well other local music groups, such as vocal ensemble Divisi. On the second floor, the BSO, Launchpad and Bangor Ballet are in their offices, dubbed the Bangor Arts Exchange. They moved in over Labor Day weekend.
Until now, downtown Bangor did not have a mid-sized performance space for concerts, comedy, lectures and other events and functions. Though the ballroom space was overall in excellent condition, some minor cosmetic improvements and updated electrical elements were needed, and the BSO and Launchpad needed to purchase things like chairs, music stands, sound equipment and lighting. A $25,000 grant from the Bangor Savings Bank Foundation, received last week, helped to pay for much of that.
Launchpad managing director Joshua Gass said he already has received countless inquiries from local groups that want to use the ballroom for various events.
“We’ve had people reach out from all kinds of different places: theater groups, comedy groups, forums, readings, conferences, fundraisers,” Gass said. “Nearly every arts group in the area has reached out about doing some sort of event in the near future. It’s really coming together already. We want people to think of this as a place you can do stuff in.”
The Bangor Arts Exchange ballroom also will play host to the kickoff festivities for ARTober, the City of Bangor’s month of the arts, set for Friday, Oct. 6. The kickoff event, set from 5 to 9 p.m., will feature mini performances from members of the Bangor Symphony Orchestra, Penobscot Theatre Company, Bangor Ballet and other local organizations, as well as work from local artists. It coincides with the final Downtown Bangor Artwalk of the season, scheduled from 5 to 8 p.m. on Oct. 6.
October was designated in 2015 by the Bangor City Council as the month of the arts, and each year the City’s Commission on Cultural Development plans a month of programming surrounding that. A full schedule of ARTober events can be found online at artoberbangor.com.
“ARTober was designed to draw attention to the breadth of arts and cultural activity in Bangor, not just in October, but all year round,” CCD chairperson Mary Budd, who is also the executive director of the Penobscot Theatre Company, said.
Beyond that, the BSO itself has a number of events set for the next few months, including the inaugural “Deep Dive” lecture, which will precede two concerts in the BSO’s regular concert series at the Collins Center for the Arts in Orono. The first “deep dive” will be an Oct. 20 study of Hector Berlioz’s “Symphonie Fantastique,” ahead of its performance on Oct. 22; in the spring, the talk will focus on Mozart’s Mass in C Minor, which will be performed on April 8.
“We’re going to choose two pieces in the season that we can really do a deep, intensive study of,” Hinrichs said. “It expands on what we’re already doing with the pre-concert talks but will let people who already love those really spend a lot of time with a particular piece.”
On Oct. 28, the first in the BSO’s KinderConcert series will take place at the Bangor Arts Exchange ballroom, and will feature Halloween-themed classical, popular and cinematic music performed by BSO musicians. The concerts are geared toward ages 8 and younger. On Saturday, Nov. 11, there’s a gala dinner benefiting the BSO, featuring music from conductor Lucas Richman and violinist Rachel Lee Priday. Beyond that, Hinrichs said to expect a Valentine’s Day-themed cabaret night in February 2018, and jazz and opera nights later next year.
“The sky’s the limit,” he said. “There’s been a big programming void in Bangor, but with this space now we can fill it.”
Launchpad already has nearly two months of programming set for the space, kicking off the weekend of Sept. 29-Oct. 1 with Maine heavy metal bands Hessian and Holy Filth on Friday, Sept. 29 and Maine rapper Spose on Sept. 30. Other upcoming shows include Bangor improv comedy troupe The Focus Group on Oct. 13, Maine indie rock bands Weakened Friends, They Called Me Legion and The Very Reverend on Oct. 18, and another edition of the Bangor-based Wax On DJ battle series on Oct. 27, this time featuring hip hop classics from the Midwest and the South.
Outside programming, the Bangor Symphony Youth Orchestra now has a place to really call its own. Previously, the group rehearsed at Peakes Auditorium at Bangor High School; with the new Bangor Arts Exchange, Hinrichs said there’s already a sense of ownership, even after just one tour of the space for BSYO members.
“I think when you’re separated a little bit from the regular high school experience, and you’re in this cool new space in downtown, it makes you feel like you’re really a part of something,” he said. “Our hope is that this is the start of building an even stronger artistic community in downtown.”