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Celebrating Lucas! A 2019-20 BSO season preview

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Celebrating Lucas! A 2019-20 BSO season preview (photo courtesy Bangor Symphony Orchestra)

BANGOR – The Bangor Symphony Orchestra, led by musical director and conductor Lucas Richman, is set to kick off its 124th season next month.

The BSO is one of the cultural cornerstones of our region. It has the lengthiest history of any of our area’s arts organizations. Indeed, it has one of the lengthiest histories of any community orchestra in the entire country, bringing music to the Bangor masses since the waning days of the 19th century.

The 2019-2020 season features the symphony’s standard selection of excellence, with the six shows of the Masterworks series taking place at the Collins Center for the Arts on the campus of the University of Maine. Other BSO traditions will continue to be observed as well – their beloved partnership with the Robinson Ballet on a production of “The Nutcracker” will happen in December, while their annual Pops concert (titled “Music of the Knights” for reasons that will soon be made clear) has moved from its usual slot in March into late May.

It also marks the tenth year in the tenure of the BSO’s music director and conductor Lucas Richman; this season is intended to celebrate his time here in Bangor, with original works and performances from the man himself along with the usual excellence of the orchestra and its guest artists.

In addition, thanks to the symphony’s partnership with the Bangor Arts Exchange, the BSO is also providing a wealth of smaller-scale programming over the course of the year, with numerous events – many of them free to the public – taking place in the BAE building, located on Exchange Street in downtown Bangor.

BSO Executive Director Brian Hinrichs is enthusiastic about the upcoming programming and the celebration of Richman’s time with the symphony, speaking about how that celebration shaped the season.

“Each season we put together a program,” Hinrichs said. “We have our ‘Masterworks’ series of concerts, our classical concerts; we have ‘The Nutcracker’ and our Pops show – a variety of related events – and while each one is individual in its own right, we do often try and give it a shape and some deeper meaning. Certainly this year, all these concerts are personally inspired by Lucas or are connected to Lucas in some way. That’s really the overarching theme to the season.”

Not only is Richman’s tenure impressive in terms of sheer length, it’s also proven to be one of the most genuinely connected. Few music directors in the BSO’s recent history have demonstrated the same affection for the community.

“Lucas has been this is the start of his tenth season with us which is pretty extraordinary,” said Hinrichs. “And he's lived here for half of that time, which is even more extraordinary; for many years, he was commuting up. In recent history, the BSO hadn't had a music director who lived here in Bangor in about 50 years. That's special for the community, that's special for us and it just makes it that much more of a meaningful celebration.”

Hinrichs talked about at the season as a whole, one that plays to Richman’s many strengths as a musician, a composer and a conductor. It’s a wide-ranging collection of works from composers old and new.

“I think Lucas is really known for this mix of the old and the new, bringing together some unexpected works with tried and true repertoire. That's really been a staple of his programming and our subscribers just love that. We've seen such a great response to the season.”

Hinrichs went on to talk about some of the big-picture particulars of the BSO’s 2019-2020 slate.

“One of the big things throughout the year is you get to see a little bit of Lucas’ Hollywood side,” said Hinrichs. “Some of the film music he’s done is making its way onto the main stage. You are going to see Lucas as a performer as well as a conductor – he’ll be playing piano in the January concert. You will see Lucas the composer as well. You'll see Lucas's new piece ‘The Warming Sea’ which is a collaboration with the Maine Science Festival; that’ll premiere at our March concert.

“And you will also see some of the works that are most inspiring and personally meaningful to Lucas,” he continued. “We're ending the season with Mahler's Fifth Symphony which is something that he is wanted to do for a long time; in November, we're playing the Academic Festival Overture by Brahms which is this really well-known beloved piece. It was one of the first pieces that Lucas ever conducted. He played it in a youth orchestra, conducted it in a youth orchestra; we are actually going to have members of the Bangor Symphony Youth Orchestra joining the professional orchestra for that performance. So it's sort of a full circle; it’ll be really exciting to see that in November.”

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The season as it stands appears to be just the sort of blending of old and new at which Richman excels. Let’s take a closer look at the “Masterworks” series; six concerts that make up the bulk of the BSO’s season each year.

Masterworks I: Celebrating Lucas! (Oct. 6)

Tovaangar: Coronation and Chaos – Kathryn Bostic (World Premiere)

The Village Romance – James Newton Howard

Carmen Fantasie – Pablo de Sarasate

Pictures at an Exhibition – Modest Mussorgsky

This concert kicks off the 2019-20 season in a big way, featuring a world premiere from a beloved modern composer and an acclaimed violin prodigy making her Bangor debut.

Kathryn Bostic is a renowned film and television and theater composer. She worked actively with August Wilson, composing incidental music to some of the playwright’s last Broadway shows. She did the incidental music for the Robin Williams-led Broadway production of “The Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo.” And she has been commissioned by the BSO for this new symphonic work due in large part to her longtime connection with Richman.

“She is somebody who has studied with Lucas; Lucas conducted her first major symphonic work in Pittsburgh two years ago,” said Hinrichs. “So to celebrate Lucas, we’re commissioning Kathryn for this new piece to open our season which is a really exciting thing. And it just shows how Lucas is really conscious of expanding the repertoire and giving voice to composers who may not have had these opportunities before.”

Meanwhile, one of the other pieces on the program is a piece of movie music pulled from the score of a film that Richman conducted. And while the film itself is well-known for perhaps the wrong reasons, the score is something else entirely.

“So we're playing ‘The Village Romance’ from the M. Night Shyamalan film ‘The Village,’” Hinrichs said. “Stick with me for a second. Now, Lucas conducted that score for the film. James Howard is a really well-known Hollywood composer and that score, regardless of any critical reaction to the film itself, that score ended up having a life of its own.

“So yes – we’re playing the romantic violin theme from the movie ‘The Village’ along with some blockbuster classical music as well. It's that sort of dialogue that we really love about Lucas and want to highlight this season.’

Masterworks II: Brahms & Prokofiev (Nov. 10)

Academic Festival Overture – Johannes Brahms

Symphony No. 3 – Johannes Brahms

Piano Concerto No. 3 – Sergei Prokofiev

This concert will feature not only a brilliant piano player making his return to Bangor, but also some work from members of the symphony’s Youth Orchestra, given the opportunity to share the stage with the BSO.

“At our November concert we have Benjamin Hoffmann, returning; he played in Lucas’ second season and now he's coming back to play the Prokofiev piano concerto. He’s a thrilling pianist and this is the concerto to match him with. So that's going to be really fun.

“And then two works by Brahms. Brahms is a composer near and dear to Lucas's heart partly because of this piece, the Academic Festival Overture. That was a piece that was the first he ever conducted. Then it was the first piece that he trained with Leonard Bernstein to learn. And then it was a piece from his first season with the BSO as well, so we keep revisiting it. What will be special this time is having members from the Bangor Symphony Youth Orchestra perform it onstage with the professionals; they will be studying it on their own and their BSYO season as well.”

Masterworks III: Dvorak & Stravinsky (Jan. 26)

Fanfare from La Peri – Paul Dukas

Sextet for Piano and Wind Quintet – Francis Poulenc

Canzone for Brass Choir – Giovanni Gabrielli

Symphonies of Wind Instruments – Igor Stravinsky

Serenade for Wind Instruments Op. 44 – Antonin Dvorak

While this is an exceptional collection of music intended to lay the focus on the wonderful work done by the woodwinds and the boom of the brass section, there’s an additional highlight as well – Lucas Richman will be making his BSO debut as a piano soloist when he takes to the keys for the Poulenc sextet.

The music spans the course of three centuries, offering up a rich and vivid symphonic timeline.

Masterworks IV: Sounds of the Sea (March 22)

Bicentennial Fanfare – Walter Piston

The Moldau – Bedrich Smetana

The Warming Sea – Lucas Richman (World Premiere)

Tormenta del Sur – Nancy Galbraith

La Mer – Claude Debussy

Perhaps the most exciting concert of the season is this one, which is happening in collaboration with the Maine Science Festival. This is all work inspired by the natural world and the sea – including the world premiere of an original composition from Lucas Richman titled “The Warming Sea.”

“A big centerpiece of the season is definitely going to be this March concert, ‘Sounds of the Sea,” said Hinrichs. “It ties into two other ongoing things: the Maine Science Festival and the Maine bicentennial. We have this new piece from Lucas that looks at a changing climate in Maine, how it has impacted our past and how it's going to impact our future. Lucas is writing this piece commissioned by the Maine Science Festival. The BSO is the headliner of the festival this year so they will be steering all their folks to this concert.

“He is already working actively with the Science Festival; he's meeting every week with scientists around the state to understand what is happening to Maine’s oceans and what that means. And the data he's looking actually coincides with the bicentennial. There's about 200 years of data that shows this ebb and flow and steady upticking of ocean temperatures and what does that mean for industry in the state – and all of it told through music. That's the challenge he set out for himself, to tell this sort of abstract scientific story through an already abstract art form.”

Masterworks V: Beethoven & Haydn (April 5)

Piano Concerto No. 4 – Ludwig van Beethoven

Mass In Time of War, Hob. XXII:9 – Franz Josef Haydn

A celebration of Beethoven’s 250th birthday! Not only does this program feature Italian pianist Roberto Plano on the Beethoven, but noted soprano Jamilyn Manning-White will be joined on the Haydn by not one but two University of Maine choral groups. The UMaine Singers and the Oratorio Society will be taking the stage to help bring this beautiful piece to life.

Masterworks VI: Mozart & Mahler (May 3)

Masonic Funeral Music, K.477 – W.A. Mozart

Symphony No. 5 – Gustav Mahler

Last but not least, we have this pairing of Mozart and Mahler. This one offers some real wall of sound potential, as this will mark the largest assemblage of the season; some 80-plus musicians will take the stage to help bring forth these massive works. The Mahler in particular has been dubbed by some as “the Everest of music,” so it should be fun to watch the BSO scale those heights.

The Pops: Music of the Knights (May 30)

Told you we’d get to this one! The BSO’s ever-popular Pops offering for this year is “Music of the Knights,” so named because the creators of the music being performed – Elton John, Paul McCartney, Andrew Lloyd Webber – are, well … knights. Literal knights. Plus Webber wrote “Phantom of the Opera” and hence “Music of the Night” and so this title is both accurate and punny – the best kind of title.

“Our Pops concert is in May; we’ve pushed that back a little bit later this year to clear the busy March calendar,” said Hinrichs. “We had been doing or pops in March, but there's just so much going on in March. It’s the weekend after Memorial Day and before graduations really start – we've tried to find the optimal date for a Pops concert.

“These are the same folks who did our Oz show two years ago, fantastic casts of Broadway cabaret singers performing with a small band and the full orchestra bringing to life the music of Elton John, Paul McCartney and Andrew Lloyd Webber. So – ‘Music of the Knights.’ These are some of the most successful songwriters of all time. I’m always so moved hearing these songs with a full orchestra; it sheds a whole new light on some of these popular songs. I mean really – ‘Yesterday,’ ‘Hey Jude.’ ‘The Circle of Life,’ ‘Don't Let the Sun Go Down On Me.’ All of these pieces with these incredible singers and the orchestra – it’s really, really fun to hear.”

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Hinrichs also spent some time talking about some of the symphony’s other forthcoming offerings, what it means to have a more centralized presence in Bangor and how that helps them to put forward the kinds of events that generate exposure among the younger generations.

“It's interesting,” he said. “I mean, we're doing a lot of free stuff in downtown Bangor, educational work and the like; the long-term hope is that this will help us connect to the audiences of the future. In a way, we're playing the long game, it’s about realizing that a ‘Masterworks’ concert is maybe not the first step.

“Maybe it’s coming to a music and beer pairing at the arts exchange with Andy Geaghan; we’re thinking about the fact that for some people, this will be their initial touchpoint with us. We go to Acadia Hospital and Saint Joseph's Hospital not to recruit new audiences, but to just bring classical music to more people. And I think that's also a lot of what we do here at the Bangor Arts Exchange. It’s about realizing that we want to impact more lives and connect classical music to folks in more accessible spaces. That means being creative and thinking about projects like programming the Arts Exchange or our music and wellness program.”

As someone who grew up around here, the truth is that I never really felt a connection to the BSO when I was younger. It wasn’t about the music – the musicians in our symphony have always been magnificent. For whatever reason, it felt removed from me, like it was something intended for people other than myself. But people like Hinrichs and Richman have done wonders in combating that fustiness, bringing a much more inclusive, accessible vibe to the proceedings. This BSO is not that BSO – and this one is better.

“Lucas is not just the artistic leader, but our sort of spiritual leader in terms of his attitude and his philosophy around music,” Hinrichs said. “His belief really is ‘Come one, come all.’ He such a great communicator. And I think he's wanted to break down barriers from day one; any of the organizational or programmatic things stem from just having somebody open to that and really believing in that and it all just … trickles down.”

But while Hinrichs is all about singing the praises of everyone else’s contribution to the vision, his own passion for the mission is evident.

“Everything we're doing right now is a testament to that philosophy of inclusion,” he said. “Feeling that if this music can be so meaningful to us and we can feel it so deeply, there's no reason that somebody else shouldn't be allowed to experience it and feel that. Sometimes people feel like ‘Oh, I need to study this or research that and to understand this’ and that can certainly add layers to a musical experience in any type of music, for sure. But the orchestra is great as well because when they're just playing fortissimo and you have 80 people on stage working together it's just … it’s overwhelming, no matter what you're bringing to that concert hall.”

(For more information about the Bangor Symphony Orchestra and their upcoming offerings, visit their website at www.bangorsymphony.org.)

Last modified on Thursday, 19 September 2019 11:15

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