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Some macabre music from the BSO

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Some macabre music from the BSO (Photo courtesy of Bangor Symphony Orchestra/Jeff Kirlin)

Bangor Symphony Orchestra kicks off its 122nd season

BANGOR The Bangor Symphony Orchestra is leading off its latest season with some macabre music inspired by Halloween.

The inaugural show of the BSO’s 2017-18 season – the group’s 122nd - takes place on Oct. 22 at 3 p.m. at the Collins Center for the Arts on the University of Maine campus in Orono. The Halloween-inspired program - led by Music Director and Conductor Lucas Richman – will feature Modest Mussorgsky’s famous “Night on Bald Mountain,” Liszt’s “Totentanz” and Berlioz’s “Symphonie Fantastique.”

BSO Executive Director Brian Hinrichs expressed his excitement with regards to this season’s opening performance.

“Each piece is really full of energy and will get your heart pounding, so we are truly opening with a bang,” he said. “It’s also a fantastic mix of the familiar and unfamiliar, which is a signature of Lucas Richman’s programming. The timing is also such that we had an opportunity to have some fun and play up the proximity to Halloween - classical music is full of fantastic depictions of deathly situations.”

And there’s plenty of spooky goodness inherent to these pieces. All three works are linked by their macabre themes. “Night on Bald Mountain” is beloved from the film “Fantasia” and draws from Russian legend to depict a witches’ sabbath on St. John’s Eve. 

“Totentanz” by Liszt will feature acclaimed American pianist William Wolfram in a thrilling evocation of the “Dance of the Dead.”Wolfram was a silver medalist at both the William Kapell and the Naumburg International Piano Competitions and a bronze medalist at the prestigious Tchaikovsky Piano Competition in Moscow. Wolfram has appeared with many of the greatest orchestras of the world and is highly sought after for his special focus on the music of Franz Liszt. This performance marks his debut with the Bangor Symphony Orchestra.

The program will conclude with Berlioz’s epic “Symphonie Fantastique,” a revolutionary work depicting the life of an artist from young love to disillusioned madness, including the “March to the Scaffold” and “Dream of the Witches’ Sabbath.”

“Composers can utilize all sorts of techniques to evoke different moods, and all three pieces here go to extremes in bringing to life some fairly creepy situations,” said Hinrichs. “‘Night on Bald Mountain’ sets out to depict a witches’ sabbath, and ’Totentanz’ was inspired by a famous Italian fresco called ‘Triumph of the Dead’ and depicts a dance of the dead. ’Symphonie Fantastique’ by Hector Berlioz is a bit more unusual, in that it illustrates the life of a young artist, starting with beautiful inspiration and then going to some dark places when that inspiration (in the form of opium, in this case) turns bad.

“So yeah, we are performing two witches’ sabbaths to open our season,” he added. 

Perhaps you find yourself feeling a little intimidated by the idea of going to see a classical music performance; if so, you’re not alone. But rest assured, Hinrichs and the folks at the BSO want you to know that it’s a lot more accessible than you might think.

“I would say come as you are, relax, and enjoy the show,” said Hinrichs. “Classical music audiences at the BSO are not even close to the stereotypical depictions in you see in movies and popular culture. People come to the Collins Center to spend time with friends and family and see their fellow community members make exceptional live music. It’s a really convivial atmosphere.”

And if younger audiences have doubts about classical music? Well, this is one program that could go a long way toward changing some minds, according to Hinrichs.

“There is something in all of these pieces that allows listeners to imagine really stunning visuals; [it really] sparks the imagination,” he said. “These works tell a story, which will keep younger audiences engaged. There just won’t be too much down time for your attention to drift!”

It’s worth noting that the BSO makes a real effort to maintain accessibility in all respects. That means some great deals on ticket pricing for students and family. General audience pricing starts at under $20, but there are also deals like the Know Your Orchestra Voucher Program, which offers $4 tickets for kids 18 and younger and $14 for any accompanying adults. There are student tickets available at that same $14 rate as well.

All told, there are plenty of reasons to check out the BSO’s season opener.

“It’s our 122nd season and the start of Lucas Richman’s eighth season,” said Hinrichs. “This orchestra keeps getting better and better; if you haven’t heard what the BSO is doing today, this is the perfect concert to take a chance on!”

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