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Highlands Classical Trio embarks on spring tour

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DOVER-FOXCROFT - A rare opportunity to hear Mendelssohn’s Piano Trio in d-minor, Op. 49, live in a local concert presents itself when Highlands Classical Trio, a local chamber music group, launches its spring tour in May. Also offered will be solos and duos by Handel, Gliere and Ravel.

The rigorous 30-minute Piano Trio by Mendelssohn has been a major focus for pianist Margery Aumann and violinist Susan Ramsey — both of Dover-Foxcroft — and cellist Ruth Fogg of Dexter since October, as the trio prepares for performances this spring. The trio forms the centerpiece of a benefit concert to be held on Friday, May 17, at 7 p.m. at the Dover-Foxcroft Congregational Church at 834 West Main Street. A reception follows. Admission is by donation to benefit the church’s important fuel-assistance fund for needy families. Highlands Classical will also make its debut in Bangor with this program at All Souls Church on Sun., June 23, at 4 p.m. Performances will also be given the Hibbard Nursing Home on April 26 at 2 p.m., at Sunbury Village in Bangor May 4 at 4 p.m. and at Dirigo Pines in Orono May 21 at 7 p.m.

The very special dynamism of the Highlands Classical threesome will be apparent. “Margie, Ruth and I hit it off from the start”, observed Ramsey. “We have a common purpose; to bring live performances of music that we love - classical music - to audiences in Central Maine.” The trio rehearses two and a half hours each week and each member squeezes in countless more hours on her own. “This investment of time and energy gives the audience a rich experience, for it provides the performers the time to develop the synergy needed to honor the intentions of the composer, as well as to develop our own interpretation.”  

Aumann and Ramsey — both lifelong, professional musicians — agree that the Mendelssohn trio is one of the great trios of the Romantic Era repertoire, because, said Aumann, “it allows each instrument to rise to great heights of both lyrical and technical expression.” Felix Mendelssohn, a giant in the Romantic tradition of music who was a musical prodigy and prolific composer, was 29 when he composed the piece in 1839. Ramsey noted, “A trio combination is unique, as its small size allows for optimal collaboration amongst the players while simultaneously creating a perfect balance of range and fullness of sound.” 

In order to do the piece justice, they and Fogg, a substitute cellist for the Bangor Symphony Orchestra, consulted Noreen and Phillip Silver at UMaine to get an objective viewpoint on their performance. Noreen Silver, under whom Fogg has studied at the master level, is a cellist and professor at UMaine’s School of Performing Arts. Her husband, Phillip Silver, is an internationally acclaimed pianist. As the Silver Duo, they have performed worldwide.

“One constantly grows as a performer,” said Aumann, “and it was inspiring to receive their ideas.” The Silvers also said the Highlands Classical performers were “very fortunate to find each other and to be able to bring this kind of music to our area,” recalled Fogg.

Aumann and Fogg will also perform the  Sonata in G-minor for cello and piano by Georg Friederich Handel. “Many duo pieces feature a primary solo instrument, and the piano becomes more of an accompanying instrument,” explained Fogg. “In this sonata, the piano and cello intertwine as two dancers, each player embracing the melody line and then letting go."

The program also features two selections from Reinhold Glière’s Huit Morceaux, short pieces for violin and cello, which according to Ramsey are, “absolutely delightful morsels, rich and dense like a fudge brownie,” and varying in spirit from a brooding prelude to a gentle lullaby to a sparkling and lively dance. 

Aumann will play two movements from Maurice Ravel’s Miroir: “Oiseaux tristes” (Sorrowful birds) and “Une barque sur l'océan (A boat on the ocean).” “The former is a short, musical reflection on bird sounds,” said Aumann. The latter tells of a boat’s adventuresome ocean voyage.

Aumann, Foxcroft Academy’s advanced piano instructor, had a full life as solo performer and instructor before moving to a farm in Dover-Foxcroft in 2009 with her engineer husband. A biographical snapshot of her is online at foxcroftacademymusic.org.

Ramsey’s biographical information is also on that site. She directs FA’s string program, operates a private studio at the Dover-Foxcroft United Methodist Church and performs year round with Sebec-based folk singer-songwriter David Mallett. During the Christmas season, Susan Ramsey and The North Country Strings, an acoustic ensemble, travel around the region, performing an original holiday program.

Fogg has played cello since she was 10 years old. She took a break from it during her career in the U.S. Air Force (she holds a PhD in electrical engineering and was an assistant professor in that field at the U.S. Air Force Academy) and to rear a family. She attended music school at Boston University and, more recently, has earned her degree as a registered nurse from the University of Maine at Fort Kent.

It has been Ramsey’s long-held goal that she, Aumann and Fogg would perform this great Mendelssohn trio. Central Maine music lovers are invited to celebrate the fruition of this dream at the Highlands Classical concerts offered this spring.

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