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And the band played on – BSO goes digital

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BANGOR – It’s an old adage in the arts – one of the oldest, really: “The show must go on.”

Artistic organizations find themselves putting that sentiment to the test these days, with everyone searching for ways to move forward even as the ongoing pandemic hinders their ability to do so. Everyone is adapting on the fly, searching for ways to continue their respective missions while also doing the right thing and keeping performers and audiences safe.

Suffice it to say, this wasn’t what the Bangor Symphony Orchestra intended for its celebratory 125th season.

And yet, even in the face of the these obstacles, the folks at the BSO have found a way to assemble a first-rate program for this auspicious anniversary, one that – thanks to tremendous effort and patience from many – looks to be an exceptional continuation of the orchestra’s ongoing mission.

The Symphony’s five scheduled classical concerts are moving online, along with new programming intended to meet gathering limits and social distancing requirements for the orchestra. These performances will be filmed without an audience and then distributed via a new online platform; the first in the series will go live in February, with subsequent concerts landing each following month through June.

Digital subscriptions – ranging in price from $50 to $199 per household – include these offerings, as well as other benefits including pre-concert talks and archival access. The new digital platform can be found at watch.bangorsymphony.org.

The three tiers of subscription offerings are as follows (all prices are per household):

Basic: Includes the five Masterworks concerts and the pre-concert talks ($50)

Premium: Includes the previous, plus access to archival recordings and online classes ($125)

Super: Includes the previous, plus access to musician Q&As, a complimentary BSO face mask and access to priority in-person seating, should it become available ($199)

It’s worth noting that even if you’re unable to watch a performance on the date of its release, all concerts will remain available for 30 days after they go live.

Look, there’s no denying that this will be very different than the live, in-person BSO experience. The visceral impact of being in the room with that sort of orchestral power is significant. However, the digital format also presents an opportunity of sorts, a chance to potentially reach new and different audiences with their work. A digital season might well prove more accessible to a wider audience, and once people get a taste, there’s a solid chance they’ll be hooked and ready to continue their subscriptions in the seasons to come.

BSO Conductor and Music Director Lucas Richman and Executive Director Brian Hinrichs were kind enough to take time to answer a few questions about the upcoming season via email. Their responses will like prove illuminative with regard to how the organization has adapted to circumstances and some of what audiences can expect from the BSO’s 125th season.

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How has the current situation altered your programming process? And are the choices you’ve made intended to address – directly or indirectly – the present reality?

Lucas Richman: While we have been obliged to reconfigure our musical offerings due to the pandemic, our focus remains the same as it was in the planning stages of celebrating the BSO’s 125th anniversary season. With our new season, we pay tribute to the diverse community of patrons and musicians who have been such a vital component of the orchestra’s longevity.

What are some of the ways in which the orchestra’s performance dynamics have been altered due to healthy and safety protocols?

LR: My colleagues and I are all disappointed we cannot be making music on a large scale together at this time. We live for each and every opportunity by which we can express our deepest emotions through the great masterworks. If we need to curtail these opportunities for now by limiting the ensemble size for safety concerns, doing so only helps to guarantee we will be able to come back on a large scale sooner than later.

Do you have any plans for different kinds of audience engagement via this new platform?  

Brian Hinrichs: We do! Zoom is really our friend for audience engagement this year. We've just finished running an online course on the history of the BSO for subscribers, and we'll be offering 2 more online courses this winter and spring, which is something we've never done before. Pre-Concert Talks, special Musician Q&As, and other audience interactions will move online along with our concerts.

Can you discuss some of the challenges that have come with the pivot to a virtual model?

BH: There are both logistical and artistic challenges with the pivot to virtual. It's important to note that while our delivery of concerts will be virtual, we still need to gather musicians to perform and film the concerts, so we have been working on an extensive health and safety plan to do this. We've had to establish new repertoire that fits with gathering limits and social distancing guidelines, hire a film crew, and create a digital video platform with a paywall - all of these new hurdles to overcome so we can get back to what our real focus should be, which is making music that inspires and moves our community of listeners.

This is clearly going to be a different sort of season across the board. Could speak to some of the surprises (pleasant or otherwise) that you’ve encountered along the way?

BH: Something I've learned from interacting with artists throughout my career is that restrictions can inspire a jolt of creative energy, and I've seen that happen throughout our planning process for this season. Lucas is thinking of new works we've never done that we can now perform, such as Bloch's Cocnerto Gross No. 1 or Arvo Pärt's Cantus in Memoriam Benjamin Britten. For our March program, composer Reinaldo Moya was commissioned to write a huge new orchestral work, but with COVID restrictions, that has shifted to a piano concerto with strings and percussion, with an added visual element as well. 

Of course, you’re excited about the entire program, but are there any shows/events/whatnot that you’re particularly looking forward to sharing?

LR: I'm particularly pleased that we have been able to maintain the full slate of our originally-scheduled guest artists due to their own programming flexibility in the reconfiguration of the season. As such, we are able to present each of them in repertoire that stretches some new boundaries, including the fact that Reynaldo Moya is now writing a piano concerto specifically for Joyce Yang.

How have you tried to balance the necessary newness of the digital season with the longstanding traditions of the BSO? Do you feel that you’ve been able to bridge that gap between old and new?

BH: On the programming side, while the digital season has freed us to push the envelope, Lucas has also done a brilliant job of folding in traditional composers we know still speak deeply to audiences and musicians alike: Mozart, Schubert, Tchaikovsky, and more. So each concert program itself offers a bridge between the old and new.

And on the technical side, we'll take advantage of the fact that with video, we can weave in commentary and educational information from Lucas, and feature different angles and views of our musicians, but you'll still see the Collins Center and feel like you're experiencing a concert.

Overall, we know that not all of our patrons will be able to view the season online for various reasons, which is hugely disappointing to some, but we also hope the low barrier to entry for new online audiences starts to build connections that will serve us for years to come.

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Season Schedule

(Taken from the BSO’s website at www.bangorsymphony.org)

Masterworks I: Bach to Bloch (February 12)

This kickoff to season 125 places the BSO strings at center stage, with Lucas Richman conducting and Spencer Myer featured on piano.

What’s Interesting About This Concert

  • Three works never before performed by the BSO are featured, with conductor Lucas Richman serving as a guide to the concert in this first digital offering
  • American pianist Spencer Myer returns for a rarely heard Bach concerto
  • Composer Florence Price was the first noted African American female composer to gain national recognition in the 1930s

The Program

  • Ernest BlochConcerto Grosso No. 1
  • Florence PriceAndante Moderato for String Orchestra (from String Quartet in G Major)
  • J.S. BachKeyboard Concerto in D minorBWV 1052, Spencer Myer, piano

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Masterworks II: Moya & Tchaikovsky (March 26)

This concert features Joyce Yang, a piano superstar, as well as a world premiere. Lucas Richman conducts.

What’s Interesting About This Concert

  • The BSO premieres a new concerto by composer Reinaldo Moya, winner of the inaugural Ellis-Beauregard Foundation Composer Award, inspired by the art of Carlos Cruz Diez
  • Internationally acclaimed pianist Joyce Yang makes her BSO debut
  • Works by Tchaikovsky and Arvo Pärt will sparkle on stage

The Program

  • Arvo Pärt Cantus In Memoriam Benjamin Britten
  • Reinaldo MoyaConcerto for Piano, Strings, and Percussion, Joyce Yang, piano
  • Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky | Serenade for Strings

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Masterworks III: Lyrical Wonders (April 23)

This performance focuses on the power of voice, featuring guest vocalists Jamilyn Manning-White (soprano), Kate Maroney (mezzo-soprano) and Dominic Armstrong (tenor), as well as the talents of the UMaine Singers and Oratorio Society. Conducted by Lucas Richman.

What’s Interesting About This Concert

  • Combinations of instrument and voice not heard on the BSO stage before will be the focus of the program
  • Soprano Jamilyn Manning-White returns after her memorable 2016 appearance in La Boheme

The Program

  • Selections from the world of art song and opera with chamber ensemble

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Masterworks IV: Mozart & Schubert (May 14)

This concert, as conducted by Lucas Richman, will feature the musical stylings of violin virtuoso Jennifer Frautschi bringing to life some inspired musical classics that come our way via Vienna.

What’s Interesting About This Concert

  • Two-time GRAMMY nominee Jennifer Frautschi makes her BSO debut
  • Mozart composed his brilliant first violin concerto when he was just 19 years old
  • Schubert’s Symphony No. 5 was deeply influenced by Mozart, with the composer writing famously, “Immortal Mozart! What countless impressions of a brighter, better life hast thou stamped upon our souls!”

The Program

  • Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart Mozart‘s Violin Concerto No1 in B major, Jennifer Frautschi, violin
  • Franz Schubert | Symphony No5 in B major

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Masterworks V: Winds & Brass Spectacular

This show – the season finale – will see the BSO’s own wind and brass sections, under the command of conductor Lucas Richman, celebrating their musical might.

What’s Interesting About This Concert

  • Filmed outdoors, the program and performance will take a cue from the Bangor region’s beautiful natural surroundings

The Program

  • Spectacular fanfares, works for winds, and more

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What’s that you say? You don’t want to wait until February to enjoy some high-quality BSO action? You’re in luck!

The Music of 1896: A Concert for the Community

This offering is a gift from the Bangor Symphony Orchestra to the community that has been its home for the last century-and-a-quarter. Filmed in early November in the beautiful ballroom of the Bangor Arts Exchange, this program features a dynamite quintet, with Angel Hernandez and Simon Bilyk on violin, Laura Gallucci on viola, Noreen Silver on cello and Lucas Richman on piano.

The concert went live on the afternoon of November 22, but it remains available going forward. The performance is free to watch for anyone out there who would like to experience it; just go to www.bangorsymphony.org/1896-music/ and see it for yourself.

The program:

Scott Joplin |Combination March (1896)  
arr. Lucas Richman, for piano & string quartet

George Whitefield Chadwick | String Quartet No. 4 in E minor (1896)       

  • III. Giocoso, un poco moderato

Amy Beach | Romance for Violin and Piano Op. 23 (1893) 
Angel Hernandez, violin & Lucas Richman, piano

Antonin Dvořák | String Quartet No. 12 in F Major, “American” (1893) 

  • I. Allegro ma non troppo
  • II. Lento
  • III. Molto vivace
  • IV. Finale. Vivace ma non troppo

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So many of our artistic and cultural institutions are imperiled by the bleak realities of the pandemic. These organizations have given so much to us over the years; if we want them to continue doing so, they need our support now more than ever.

The Bangor Symphony Orchestra has been an important part of this region’s creative landscape long enough to celebrate a quasquicentennial. Let’s do what it takes to help them stick around and make a run at doubling up for the semiquincentennial, shall we? It’s been a marvelous 125 – let’s aim for 250 and beyond.

Last modified on Wednesday, 25 November 2020 12:54

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