12

1912

PCHA

• Where’s The Women’s “Comfort Station”?

HS found it interesting to note that the Carrère and Hastings (and Stevens) 1910 architectural plans for Portland City Hall Auditorium did not show a restroom for women. Instead, an area was designated “Ladies Retiring Room”.

---Oh..... here’s to the Good Old Days.

1980s?

1990s?

Concert

• Gunfire On Myrtle St.

“1812 Overture” story about a July-outdoors concert forced into Merrill by weather

- male board members had (outside) rehearsed shooting shotgun blanks into the air

- they made do by firing them into metal trash cans, with open doorways to Myrtle

- one paper later reported that “the force of the explosion sent the can spinning down the stairs and into the street”

- NO ONE had sought a permit, nor advised the Portland Police about this!! Coincidentally, one PSO member recalled, a fender-bender at Congress & Myrtle was at the time being checked by Portland Police, who then hear shots fired not far down Myrtle Street. Obviously......... they immediately went to the scene.

- A PSO player told of recalling that the smoke from “the muskets” (the men were all dressed in military garb) engulfed the members and the audience near the stage.

1960s

1970s

Guest

• Van Cliburn’s two appearances

- 1968 Post-renovation Opening was “excellent”

- A longtime PSO patron recalls that a return engagement in 1974 by Cliburn “was not so well received by the audience” (two newspaper critics disagreed with each other, as the Evening Express reviewer was very positive while the editorial page ‘took a free shot’ at the Press Herald reviewer who was critical in an article published earlier in the day )

- While not distinguishing at which Cliburn appearance it happened, one longtime PSO player interviewed told how Cliburn’s mother was also along during one trip--- to “watch her son”, as the tall Texan supposedly ‘had a thing’ for young female violinists.

- A PSO member recalled Cliburn having huge feet, so much so that he couldn’t press the piano pedals straight on, necessitating some type of sideswipe pedal footwork.

1970s

Big-Time Classical Pianist

• Musicians Sometime Have Drinking Problems; But Did You Know About This One?

One longtime PSO musician recalls that when Van Cliburn appeared as guest soloist with the Symphony to open the 50th–Anniversary Season, his contract required that a certain beverage be available to him in his dressing room... I bet you can’t guess what it was: NO..... not that; nor that; .........Believe it or not, ............................................. it was warm milk.

1970s

Vermel

Cliburn

Soloist

Goof-up

A Lesson

• Thirty Seconds Seemed Like An Eternity

Paul Vermel recalls that during one of his appearances at PCHA, Van Cliburn had a “memory slip” and got lost during a composition, then started to improvise--- noodling “something classical” so as to not stop playing. Obviously surprised by what was happening, the conductor prepared the still-playing orchestra to skip ahead to a definitive passage calling for the clarinet to make a pronounced entrance. At the point where Mr. Vermel directed the PSO to skip to, the familiar clarinet section of the piece got Mr. Cliburn back on track. (Paul Vermel told HS during a 2013 conversation that when all this happened, his reaction was........ well the title of this Anecdote are his exact words.)

Backstage after the concert, Mr. Vermel expected Mr. Cliburn to apologize for his slip-up; however he surprised the conductor by making no comment whatsoever. From that point onward, Paul Vermel recounted to HS, “I learned a lesson-- ‘No Apologies’. Since that moment I have never apologized for making a mistake in a concert.”>

1997

Merrill

• “Red Coats” needed a learning-curve in overseeing seating of Merrill patrons

After 1997, the city for the first time engaged “Red Coats” for events at Merrill

- PSO volunteer ushers had previously always handled those responsibilities

- a “learning-curve time” needed for them to become sensitive to symphony patrons

- they started off conducting themselves a bit like police

1997

Merrill

• Bombs Away!

One system approach of theater AVV designers, for overhead speaker clusters, is to have speakers permanently stored in the attic that are directly above what are referred to as “ombay doors” that can be opened so speakers can be lowered when needed. This is an expensive approach, and thus was not used at Merrill Auditorium

(HS: too bad.... it would have been a neat extraspecial effect for performances of the “1812 Overture”.)

Organ

and...... Bombard!

Staying with the “bomb” military-like vernacular for another tidbit, “Bombard” is a legitimate term in the world of top-quality pipe organs. One of the Kotzschmar’s primary “claims to fame” are several very long low-bass pipes; magazine references in “The American Organist” to the Portland organ use the descriptive term “Bombard” in regard to those 32ft-long lower bass cuboids. (HS: sorry for a “gotta show off” moment there.) It’s cool that Merrill audiences can feel the deep vibrations from all three of the Kotzschmar’s huge Sub Bourdon, Contra Magnaton and Contra Bourdon pipes.

1940s

Cook

• Hey! Has Anybody Seen Those Timps?

A 1944 letter from Boston musical instrument dealer Henry H. Savage & Sons to Dr. Cook asked

“Have you any idea when the Tympani will be returned? I have a party who is interested in getting one.” No explanation is in remaining files; however the situation might have been that the PSO tympanist then was using borrowed instruments.

Women

$$

• An Up-Tempo Auction Item

Several times when the Women’s Committee held auctions to raise funds for the PSO, a popular item each year was when Symphony supporters bid to conduct the orchestra for one number. (OK---- if your bid was declared to be the winner.......... what would YOU want to conduct?)

1960s

PCHA

• Walrus

Phillip Wadsworth, architectural-firm partner of Wadsworth Boston with Royal Boston (“Royal”; what a great name!), was described to HS as being “quite portly”, AND for having a “huge walrus mustache”.

1960s

Board

• A 1963 Testimonial

The concert program of December 10, 1963, contained an eloquent testimonial about just-recently assassinated President John F. Kennedy, by PSO Board President Leonard M. Nelson. The value to the United States from the deceased president’s true interest in the arts (as well as football and sailing, added Mr. Leonard) was the theme of the essay. Among Mr. Leonard’s comments was included: “The country had a political leader who could quote from the classics without embarrassment and who could listen to a symphony with pleasure”.

2000s

Players

Shoes

• XXX, YYY [and maybe, ZZZ]: Names Omitted to Protect the Innocent (or the Guilty)

In 2009, Maestro Moody announced his intention to have the Cello and Viola players swap their respective place-locations on the stage, which would result in the violists sitting just above first-row concertgoers. At that time, a longtime violist (in a much later conversation with HS) recalls being told by principal violist Laurie Kennedy, “XXX, you need to get new shoes!” (In a subsequent conversation that HS had with Laurie, she refuted that claim, saying “No, that wasn’t me; our section’s ‘shoe princess’” is YYY”.) If on your own you happen to chat with “YYY” to check out this story and she fingers “ZZZ” as being the shoe princess...... please don’t get dragged down into this fun saga; leave it be. After all--- the PSO’s in the entertainment business, and this tale certainly is entertaining.

1950s

Concert

Guest

• Poet Laureate

In 1959 the PSO Women’s Committee was among the sponsors when Cape Elizabeth neighbors and friends Bette Davis and Gary Merrill performed at The State Theater. The two famous actors narrated the World Premiere of “The World of Carl Sandberg”, a dramatic presentation of the famous poet’s selected works. Mr. Sandberg attended the opening-night performance.

1990s

CARES

Merrill

• A Place For Everyone

“To avoid the elitist label, CARES deliberately developed a media campaign with a populist pitch. The campaign’s TV ads featured...a cast of....ordinary characters including a plumber, waitress, nun, surveyor and carpenter.” The theme was “A Place For Everyone”. (Casco Bay Weekly) A copy of one of the print ads that HS located featured a hard-hatted pipefitter, leaning on heavy machinery with a large wrench in his other hand. Obviously referring to the Kotzschmar organ, the caption was “ ‘Hey, I’ve heard it’s got great pipes!’ “ —As an illustration as to why the populist-strategy campaign was probably necessary, consider one “con” letter sent to one of the newspaper editors from a citizen opposed to any city finances being used for improving City Hall Auditorium. It predicted that the principal likely beneficiaries who would benefit from a renovated auditorium were “Volvo-driving Falmouth residents”.

(HS—“Hey!” As one former work colleague of mine used to say, “I represent that remark!”)

1960s

Fiedler

Staff

• Aye Aye, Sir

Longtime PSO stage manager Dr. Phillip W. Anderson told a great story on himself back in the 1960s. During a visit to Portland to conduct the PSO, Arthur Fiedler was entrusted to the chauffeuring services of the longtime naval officer (and later aide to at least one governor of Maine) during his guest-conducting stint. One evening he was driven to the Eastland Hotel by Anderson, where the conductor changed clothes. They next headed out to find a reception party house. What with the cold, and snow, and all, they got lost. After making a phone call Anderson returned to the car, where Mr. Fiedler, in a frosty voice said “I deem it extraordinary that a captain of the Navy should get lost in his own home port.”

Guest Artists

PSO Trombonist Nic Orovich

1980s onward

Sharing the Stage

• Best Seat In The House

Conversations that yours truly had with longtime PSO principal trombonist Nic Orovich found him musing about vivid memories of when superior guest soloists would perform with the PSO. Particularly strong were impressions that he mentioned were of his playing on the same stage with violoncellist Lynn Harrell, contralto Maureen Forrester, composer/arranger/conductor/genius Henry Mancini, and star lyric soprano Renée Fleming. While he didn’t say it, my guess is that often he wished that his part had more rests such that he could lean back and take in all the talent such stars brought to Portland audiences.

Current Staff

• PSO Library Facts

- 1400 Scores and parts (being reduced in 2012 from 1700; since 300 are not needed)

- PSO sometimes rents commercially; infrequently borrows from other libraries

- rental cost per work is usually $300 to $600

- Principals mark their parts; librarian copies those notations into parts for section

- principals mark parts during summer (but are often tardy submitting them)

- librarian erases all marks before returning rented or borrowed music

Women

1960’s

$$

• Successful Ladies’ Fund-Raiser Dinners

During the 1960’s, the Women’s Committee sponsored annual “Dinners For The Symphony”, when PSO supporters invited friends to dinners in their homes (sometimes in restaurants or clubs) encouraging all to make contributions. Since many individual efforts were well coordinated throughout Portland, these events were well attended. Begun in 1965 under the inspiration and stewardship of Wilma Redmond, the ladies’ efforts that year raised $5200 for the PSO ($38,000 in 2012 dollars). In 1966, more than 1100 diners both enjoyed the evening and supported the PSO at some 100 “Dinners For The Symphony”, raising $6000 (more than $41,000 in 2012 dollars). Similar annual fund-raiser dinners for the Symphony continued on for additional years.

Women

1960’s

$$

Jail!

• A Smart Change In (Dinner) Plans

When the fund-raiser dinners were initiated by the PSO Women’s Committee, they were of the progressive-house type of affairs. Following cocktails at one house, everyone would drive to another person’s home for appetizers, and then proceed to a third home to enjoy main courses and dessert. After a short period of time doing the fund-raiser dinners this way, some wiser heads realized that it would be better to hold all of the activities of the entire evening at a single residence. As one of the leading Committee members from that era much later recounted, “it wasn’t such a good idea for everyone to get into their cars after cocktails.”

1980’s

PCHA

Players

• How could ANYONE play there?:

In 1980, violist Laurie Kennedy was a member of the Buffalo Philharmonic, then under the direction of Michael Tilson-Thomas. That season the Buffalo ‘Phil’ did a New England tour that on sequential evenings included both Boston and Portland. Thus, the acoustical dichotomy between the “gold standard” Symphony Hall in Boston and Portland’s notoriously poor City Hall Auditorium was experienced by Laurie and her cohorts. She recalls the comparison as “a shock” and “wondering how anyone could perform there” ... “it was like a barn”.

A year later, she was regularly playing at PCHA as a member of the PSO. At a Vermont music camp, PSO member Nina Miller had been an instructing colleague of Laurie, and they had a chat after the concert. Then already owning some property in Maine and aware that folks here live “the way life should be”, Laurie decided to audition for the PSO and was selected.

Merrill

Board

CARES

• Thank-You, Jane Moody

Far along in researching items associated with the renovation into what became Merrill Auditorium, in a collection at the Maine Historical Society I came across a thorough chronology of events preceding the opening of Merrill Auditorium, by longtime PSO patron, volunteer and board member/officer—Jane Moody. (HS: If only I’d have seen that early on!! It is excellent.) Subsequently getting to know Mrs. Moody and learn more was a highlight of my THINGS-PSO researching. “In her time,” Jane was responsible for selling A LOT of annual PSO subscriptions!

Moody

2000s

Travel Challenges

• Canceled Flight

Considering all the back-and-forth flying that PSO Music Director Robert Moody has to do in order to meet conducting assignments in Winston-Salem, Arizona and Portland, also many guest-conducting stints in various places, it's surprising to learn that only once (as of 2014, anyway) has he been unable to get to a venue in time for a concert. Winston-Salem's assistant conductor needed to be pressed into service one time when New England snow conditions threw a kibosh into his travel plans. As a rule of thumb, he usually plans arrivals at least a day prior to any concert obligations.

1960’s & 1980’s

Lipkin

Vermel

Hangen

• Musical Book-ends and Paul Vermel

The final work conducted by PSO Music Director Arthur Bennett Lipkin at his farewell concert in 1967 was Ottorino Respighi’s majestic Pines of Rome. Searches through the PSO Archives yield no record that his successor as Music Director, Paul Vermel, ever conducted the popular Respighi work with the PSO. Coincidentally, however, at the very first performance that Bruce Hangen conducted, his audition with the PSO in 1975, Mr. Vermel’s eventual successor chose to conclude the concert with........... you guessed it, Ottorino Respighi’s majestic Pines of Rome.

1960’s

Lipkin

$$

• Everybody Wins

In 1962 the board proposed a $7,000 salary to Arthur Bennett Lipkin to be the PSO’s first resident conductor. His reply: “no.... but yes”. Telling the board that he wanted to maintain prestige with his peers, he said that he wanted a $10,000 salary, but guaranteed that he would contribute $3000 back to the Symphony. (HS: Original signed contracts confirming these arrangements were spotted among the PSO Archives.) Over the years, those contributions were used to commission a large number of new compositions that the PSO premiered, thus “also building prestige” for the Orchestra and for Portland. They also served to boost his reputation in the community, as concert-programs during that era variously always listed him and Mrs. Lipkin as PSO Life Members and/or Benefactors. (HS: Inflation-adjusted to current [2013] dollars, a $10,000 salary in 1962 would be $75,000 -- not bad for the ten-or-so concerts he annually conducted in Portland back then.)

1960’s

Lipkin

More $$

Rumors Boosted His Reputation

• Mr. Lipkin’s Legend Was Enhanced by Rumors That He Worked for Free

Conversations with some non-PSO-board-members from about the time of Mr. Lipkin’s era suggested that knowledge of his pay-give-back was not a total secret, a situation that likely pleased the PSO conductor. His ego was undoubtedly boosted by the public being aware of what appeared to be generosity on his part. Several people interviewed thought that it was widely believed that Mr. Lipkin gave back ALL of his salary, a situation far from actuality..... but a false interpretation that would have made him appear as being wonderfully magnanimous to the PSO and to the community.

1950s

Women

$$

• Typesetter Asleep On The Job

A gala 1958 fund-raising event was staged poolside at the estate of Mr. and Mrs. Charles Shipman Payson in Falmouth-Foreside. The affair was presented by the Portland Symphony Boosters’ Club, and was titled “Fashion Fiesta”. The project raised more than $4500 (think $36,000 in 2012-dollars!) to benefit the PSO. Portland newspapers ran wide pre-affair and post-affair articles about the success of the event...... except for one item the papers politely ignored reporting about: a scrapbook in the PSO Archives contain a sample ticket for the affair that contains a major printing typo. Instead of spelling the correct “Fashion Fiesta” name of the gala, that sample ticket (and presumably all the others) reveal that a type-setter lined up the letters to read “Fashion Siesta”....whoops! What fun to discover.

1960s

Lipkin

run-outs

• Picket-line Woes

A December, 1966, special performance of the PSO and chorus was set for Pittsfield, under the joint sponsorship of the AFL-CIO and the Maine Commission on the Arts and Humanities. At virtually the last moment, a strike called by shoe workers in the town forced a hasty cancellation of the event.

1970s

Women

$$

• What’s Cooking?

The Women’s Committee published The Portland Symphony Cookbook during the PSO’s 50th anniversary year. Members and friends of the Symphony contributed over 400 recipes (334 pages!), and the popular culinary resource subsequently had four re-printings. More than 45,000 volumes have been sold, with some longtime PSO supporters and then Committee members who contributed recipes maintaining that proceeds to the PSO totaled as much as $100,000 (let’s take that claim..... with a grain of salt).

Board

$$

• Library Insurance (story)

- PSO Finance Committee annually reviews aspects of insurance policy

-A member once questioned an $800,000 notation for “important papers”; what’s that?

-at issue were not founding documents of incorporation, etc., or the like......

-BUT “papers” on the music library shelves

Organ

$$

• $60,000 Was A LOT in 1912

When the two major gifts of Cyrus H. K. Curtis ($60,000 in 1912 and $22,000 in 1927) are converted to 2012 inflation-adjusted dollars, the total is equivalent to almost $1.7 million.

1980s

Concert

Percussion

Mahler 6th

• Axmanship Abilities Required

PSO manager Russ Burleigh reported that a 1984 performance of Gustav Mahler’s Sixth Symphony required percussionist Bob Jurkscheit to produce “two thudding blows which represented the sounds of Fate (Mahler really had a thing about Fate). After experimenting with a variety of implements, the method finally adopted was to strike a wooden box with a heavy ax. The rehearsals virtually obliterated the box, which had to be rebuilt for the concert. Fate: you never sounded so good.”

Merrill

$$

• What’s That On My Windshield?

Maine’s State Preservation Director Earle Shettleworth received an “extra surprise gift” when he and others met at City Hall Auditorium with acoustics expert Larry Kirkegaard on September 18, 1992. The group of preservationists heard an initial presentation from Kirkegaard regarding a plan to improve sightlines and acoustics at the auditorium without sweeping demolishment of the facility. ---Oh... so what was that “extra surprise gift”? The answer was a parking ticket!!

1990s

Merrill

Shimada

• Toshi Shimada’s private “clarinet concert” in Merrill.....

-Near the finish of the 1997 renovations, his “anticipation is such that he couldn’t wait for the first rehearsal to try out the hall’s acoustics.

-He snuck into the auditorium Wednesday night and played his clarinet on the stage

.....”giving the workmen a brief, impromptu, concert.” (Portland Press Herald 3/2/97)

-Also that same week, Toshi and longtime PSO patron Peter Plumb pushed the piano onto an empty stage, and with Peter at the keyboard—Toshi walked out into the hall to test acoustics at location after location; ----afterwards, Shimada was smiling.

1990s

Merrill Reopening

Shimada

• Toshi Was “Very, very happy”

After Merrill Auditorium opened as the new home of the PSO, Toshi Shimada later recalled (HS: during a 2014 conversation.) being “Very, very Happy--- For me....... the City........ and the orchestra.”

Merrill

CARES

• A Very BUSY Couple

An extensive Casco Bay Weekly article about the Merrill Renovation referred to Portland CARES. “No one on the CARES team has worked harder than its co-chairs Peter and Pam Plumb. The Plumbs have been so busy that when they finally found time to be interviewed (by the Casco Bay Weekly) about the CARES campaign it was via their car phone on a Friday evening, as they motored through Boston on the way.....for the week-end.”

1930s

Casco Theatre

Bomb

• Going to a Classical Music Concert vs. Going to the Movies (The PSO appears Safer)

Sometime during 1939, a bomb was planted in the projection booth of the Casco Theater on Congress Street (HS: The Casco was later to become the Fine Arts, both located on the site of the original Kotzschmar Hall, originally completed and opened in 1891). An explosion was reported to have “rocked the neighborhood”, and supposedly people nearby “fled to the street from their apartments and hotel rooms ‘scantily clad’.” While works performed at some PSO concerts may have bombed from time to time, concertgoers were never exposed to anything like this. (source: a look-back article in Portland Magazine, 1991)

1960s

Vermel

Ballet

• A Little Advice to the Maestro.... From “A Little One”

An edition of the Press Herald in the 1960s reported that after a dress rehearsal, young “Tina Miele, the youngster who played the role of Clara, a key part of “Nutcracker”, came over to Paul Vermel and tugged at his pants. ‘Mr. Vermel’, she said, ‘May I see you privately?’ The conductor of the Portland Symphony Orchestra moved over a few paces and nodded. ‘You know that part in the score where I dance around the stage doing lots of rapid turns?’ ‘Yes’, replied the maestro. ‘Well I think it would go better for me if you step up the tempo a bit. Would you mind?’ Vermel, who has a delightful sense of humor, and who is fond of children, considered the proposal gravely, as though it had come from the prima ballerina of the Ballet Russe. ‘I will think on it’, he answered, ‘but you understand Madame, I must first consult with the choreographer before making any change.’ Miss Miele, who is no bigger than a couple of minutes, agreed that it might be best to follow tradition. She merely requested that she be advised when her tempo change was approved and danced lightly off. Vermel, barely concealing a huge grin, then walked over to Polly Thomas, who directs the Maine State Ballet, and said: ‘We have a problem. Temperament in the dance begins rather early, I find.’(HS: several years later, the then-13 year-old South Windham native was selected to perform the role of Clara in a Boston Ballet production, without having to go through a regular audition.)

1980s

USA Cable Network

A “Beauty” of a TV Show

PSO’er Nina Allen

• A Manhattan Salon Make-Over

Not a music salon...... but a beauty salon.

In the early 1980s, PSO French horn player Nina Allen was selected by the USA Cable Network to be their “make-over” of the month. A local Portland newspaper reported that she was flown “down to the Big Apple one weekend... ...to film the process for ‘You!’, a beauty and fashion program.” She spent the first days selecting a fashionable wardrobe, and then “on Columbus Day she (and an entire film crew) spent a long day at La Coupe Salon where she had her hair cut and highlighted, new makeup applied and then modeled her wardrobe for the camera.” Nina told the newspaper reporter that “I felt like a movie star. I had a make-up lady and costumer following my every move. It was the ultimate in pampering.” The nationally-broadcast show aired four times on Portland cable TV.

Rehearsal

Celeste

Practical Joke

• At Least It Wasn’t During A Concert

At one time during the PSO’s history, an electric celeste was in the orchestra’s instrument arsenal. One of the other musicians would occasionally unplug the celeste during rehearsals, so that when the conductor signaled for the instrument’s player to come in....... nothing would happen. That was likely not something the celeste player found funny.....although it would have been neat to have been there when it happened. Revealing who “did the deed” would involve unauthorized release of embargoed info.

Eventually the PSO Women’s Committee purchased a celeste as a gift for the Symphony, and that model was not electric.

Rehearsals

Another Practical Joke

Cell phones

• Don’t Forget to Turn Off Your Cell phone During Rehearsals (or you’ll risk getting in BIG TROUBLE!!)

When works don’t include parts for their instrument, temporarily unneeded PSO’ers often retire to the green room to relax while the rest of the orchestra rehearses upstairs. Nina Allen tells that sometimes one of the idlers might start scrolling down their address list of cell phone numbers for those up on the stage-- calling them one by one. Of course, most will only accept messages, since they’ve been turned off – according to the rules. But once in a while..... a ringtone sound is registered..... and the green room cry-out is a gleeful “Gotcha!”. When I asked Nina who would attempt such a prank, she didn’t answer; she was too busy dialing.... and dialing.... and dialing.

2013

“Magic of Christmas”

Moody

Snowstorm

Anybody know the number of an available snowplow guy?

• Oh, The Weather Outside Was Frightful

City Hall and PSO officials needed to get together to decide whether to hold “Magic of Christmas” performances for the initial pair of Sunday concerts in 2013, due to the first blizzard of the season. It was also Maestro Moody’s first experience with a real Maine blizzard since ascending the PSO podium as Music Director and Conductor in the spring of 2008. With snow still falling (sideways, much of the time), a no-parking ban in effect in Portland, few private lots plowed, and concertgoers faced with gale force bursts of wind at home, the decision to go-ahead rested on the weatherman’s predictions that the storm would significantly ease an hour and one-half before the matinee performance. Meanwhile, South-Carolinian Bob had to spend almost two hours hand-shoveling out his driveway, since while commuting and alternately holding podium positions in Winston-Salem as well as Portland for several years, he hadn’t ever before needed a season-long snowplow service agreement.

At the two concerts that went off without a hitch, and almost all ticketholders making it to Merrill Auditorium in OK, Mr. Moody chatted with the audiences that the raging snowstorm had now added something to his own personal “Magic of Christmas” traditions-- “shoveling out my driveway”. However, continuing his humorous allusion to one of the concert’s three themes (“The Spirit of Christmas”; “The Story of Christmas; and “The Tradition of Christmas”), he quickly added--- “tomorrow I’m going to join in another longstanding Maine ‘Christmas Tradition’....... buying a snow blower!” The audience roared with laughter.

Merrill Auditorium

Acoustic Architects Izenour and Kirkegaard

PSO’s Non-Position Regarding Which Plan to Support

• Avoiding “Choosing Sides” About Merrill Auditorium’s Acoustic Architect

Former PSO Executive Director Jane Hunter said during a lengthy telephone interview (in 2013) that whether George Izenour’s or Larry Kirkegaard’s acoustic plans be supported, one versus the other, was not something the PSO took a side on. “The larger issue was rotting curtains and a shabby hall” for the PSO, a major user of the facility. She recalled gutting it (becoming) a significant local issue-- “suddenly it became an historic building”, with “quite a large expression of public angst”. She recalled Mr. Izenour as having “less time than patience”, certainly one of the more diplomatic evaluations of the man heard by this recorder of events-past.

Ms. Hunter said that she didn’t “recall any strong board opinion” on resolving the controversy involving the combating acoustic architects’ proposals for the new hall.

Ms. Hunter pointed out that the PSO had contributed its solicitations list to PortlandCares, the citizen group that had so successfully raised enough contributions and pledges to match a comparable City bond authorization. When the controversy regarding the dueling acoustical architects broke out, CARES was placed in the uncomfortable (HS: and potentially devastating) position that many of those pledges --based on renderings including the Izenour proposals-- might be withdrawn.

Merrill Auditorium vs. the Old PCHA

PSO Costs Increased; Attendance Didn’t Recover; and a Severe Profit Squeeze Developed

• Little “Bounce” for PSO After Merrill Auditorium Was Opened

Ms. Hunter recalled that prior to the renovation of PCHA, the Symphony had enjoyed low rental costs and that “Magic of Christmas” concerts produced very meaningful profits, generating 25 percent of the PSO’s income.

Moving from venue to venue around Portland during the renovation hurt both attendance and extra financial support for the Symphony.

“We expected a three-year bounce from the new hall...... but got only one.” Higher operating costs hurt the PSO’s P&L, subscriptions that had fallen off didn’t fully recover, and there were more and more Christmas entertainment options available to Portlanders.

All of the above was a very bad mix for the Portland Symphony Orchestra.

“Magic of Christmas”

2013 Blizzard

Assistant Conductor Norman Huynh

• A Much Younger Norman Hoped for Even More Blizzard Snows

Offstage, the afternoon of these concerts Maestro Moody told that when the big snowstorm was raging, he texted Norman Huynh to advise him that his assistant conductor duties included shoveling out Robert’s driveway. He added for listeners, that Norman ignored the text. A check with Norman revealed that he was ready to jump-start his “Magic of Christmas” conducting resume, discreetly “off the air” when Robert sent that text. Actually, he was hoping that he would be handed responsibility for the entire concert were Robert unable to get to Merrill. One muse wondered if any “neighbors” snow blowing near Robert’s driveway that morning might have included “Nefarious Norman”........ shooting volumes of snow over onto his boss’ property?

1940s

Misc.

• On the “Other Side” of the Story

Alongside a major Portland Sunday Telegram And Sunday Press Herald article in 1946 titled “Portland Symphony Tunes Up For 24th Season” was a small story about something that proved to eventually have long-term national significance. The small item was titled “Fluoridated Water Is Key To Battle Against Tooth Decay”. (HS: See... I ended up chewing on ‘all kinds of history’ while researching for PSO stuff.)

Moody

The Show Must Go On

• But......... “Flight of the Bumblebee” Is Not On the Program!

Once while guest-conducting an outdoor concert in Minneapolis, a bee flew into Robert Moody's mouth and stung him on the inside of his lip. He instinctively spit out the bee and kept on going..... although feeling some pain. Had he been conducting a Sousa march, my guess is that his final baton stroke for any sharp, sforzando "stinger" would have had some EXTRA emphasis added!

1970s

1980s

Players

Earned Degrees

• Not B.S.; not M.S.; not PhD....... but C.G.P.

Chet Atkins, born and raised in Appalachia, supposedly remained a “regular guy” all his life, even after becoming a famed and beloved Country Star. Or.... so his reputation was said to be. After all..... shouldn’t decades of heading up RCA’s so-called “Nashville Record Division” have hardened him as constantly-decision-making executives are wont to become? Since Sue and I personally know a longtime arranger for another Nashville star, we called him to get a first-hand evaluation of Mr. Atkins. Without a moment’s hesitation, he enthusiastically told us that one couldn’t come across a more humble and self-effacing guy. All his life he comfortably called himself “just a hillbilly”.

While the self-taught (he reportedly started off with a home-made cigar-box-and-rubber-band guitar) musician was hugely successful both talent-wise and financially, late in life he admitted to having for a long time wanted a degree. So..... he light-heartedly granted himself an honorary one--- becoming Chet Atkins, C.G.P. He told folks that the designation meant “Country Guitar Picker”..... later changing it to “Certified Guitar Picker”. Over the years, he also “elected” four other Nashville stars to also use the designation. Isn’t that Wonderful!!!?.

1960s

Lipkin

• Not Only Did He LOVE Music.....

One longtime PSO patron, who knew Conductor Arthur Bennett Lipkin quite well, recalls that other than music - he was PASSIONATE about both tennis and contract bridge (and several newspaper photos from his time show him out on brisk walks with Mrs. Lipkin..... trying to keep up with a leashed beagle).

1910+

Gov’t

• Portland Music Commission

A Carrère and Hastings architectural blueprint preserved in the Maine Historical Society archives contains a hand-notation “for the Music Commission”, suggesting that the then-still-young commission authorized by the City Council quickly became involved in the auditorium-part of the early-1900s design and construction of the new City Hall.

Gregorian

1950s

2nd-hand store helps make the PSO look 1st-class

• Making the PSO Look Better

The first recorded time that the Portland Symphony Orchestra wore full dress tail coats and pants was at a concert in November of 1959. Rouben Gregorian’s son, Leon, recalled during a 2014 interview that his father, back then two years into his stint as PSO conductor and music director, decided that the PSO “just HAD to look better!” when it performed. So, on his own, he went to a second-hand store in Boston and scooped up several dozen used tuxedo jackets with tails. With black fabric bulging from every nook and cranny in his car, he drove the lot up to PCHA and had the men in the Symphony work out who would wear what. Leon added that he remembered his father later saying that wearing the fancy clothes gave a “real boost to the musicians’ pride”. If he even knew the answer, Leon didn’t mention how all the fancy duds were paid for; so whether Rouben Gregorian was reimbursed by the respective musicians, the PSO coffers, or simply not reimbursed at all--- isn’t known.

1980s

KinderKonzert

4-7 year-old kids

Let George Do It

A song that “ALMOST” everybody knows

• Hey George.... Do You Know That Insect Song?

In 1980 in preparation for several KinderKonzert performances, longtime PSO stringbass player George Rubino was asked if he would play a specific piece. Although he didn’t know it, he thought Lynn Hannings, also a stringbass member of the orchestra and then his wife, might be able to teach it to him. However, it turned out that she wasn’t familiar with it either. So they called PSO cellist Debby Rolfe, who was once a school teacher; and Debby sang it to them over the phone. So that’s the preamble to almost 500 kids (HS: Really almost 1500, since there were three KinderKonzert performances that day.), singing and acting out a song THEY all knew well. George WOW’d them all with deep, deep tones coming from his huge instrument (HS: One that seems even more HUGE to 4-7 year olds.). So what composition did the kids all know that stumped both George and Lynn? It was Itsy, Bitsy Spider! (HS: I know.... I know....: spiders aren’t insects. I just tried that anecdote-title on you to have some extra fun.)

1980s

Pops

Heyman

• From Harmonica to Rascal to the Boston Pops

When the longtime Boston Pops arranger Richard Heyman came to guest conduct the PSO Pops in 1984, he told Evening Express reporter Bob Niss that early in his career he started out as a player and arranger for the popular Harmonica Rascals group before becoming an arranger for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer studios during the early 1940s. “Not that there’s anything wrong with playing the harmonica” began the article Mr. Niss filed with his editor, but the reporter seemed surprised that out of a fun-loving, entertaining, semi-gag ensemble had emerged such a prominent arranger and conductor. See--- there’s hope for every aspiring musician, no matter what instrument you pick up...... even one that you can fit in your pocket!

1950s

Players

• Don’t Be Late!

A fun story about three PSO players ran in the Press Herald in late 1959. Prior to each rehearsal or concert, the three respective residents of Dover, NH, Portsmouth and Kittery Point, engaged in a game’ of “Musical Chauffeur” as they drove their cars to a rendezvous highway-location in Kittery. The loser of the game was always the one who arrived last, thus automatically becoming the person who had to drive the trio to Portland and later back...... in his car.

“Magic of Christmas” – 2010

...and...

“Magic of Christmas” – 2013

Child Guest Actor

• “Chilling Out” With Andrew Wagner

A 2013 conversation with the young actor who appeared in “Magic of Christmas” performances in both that year and 2010 provided yours truly with a taste of what stage and back-stage life was for Andrew Wagner. The 10-year-old 4th-grader said that he loved to “play-act and to imagine stuff”, and “just loved” everything about acting. Since the time he was needed on stage was very limited, he said that after changing into his next costume he “chilled out” a lot in the musicians’ lounge, listening to CD’s and using his iPod. Each performance he made sure to grab two pieces of candy to get his sugar up, whispering in my ear, “the other day I took FOUR!”. Already a certified scuba diver, by age 25 he thinks he wants to be both a programmer and an actor. It’ll be fun to see how his career develops; maybe he’ll get calls for more “Magic of Christmas” roles.

1970s

Hangen

Players

• Hey! Guess Where I’m Going to Audition?

In 1975 PSO cellist Deborah Dabczynski got a telephone call from one of the guys with whom she had matriculated at the Eastman School of Music. He had also frequently been her stand partner in the Syracuse Symphony before she moved to Maine. “I’m going to audition for the conductor opening in Portland”, said Bruce Hangen. After he took the PSO podium in 1976, for ten years Deb followed the baton strokes of her former classmate. Regarding his pre-PSO days, she says that he was an excellent cellist, adding the compliment–“The most important things about playing in an orchestra, I learned when Bruce was my stand partner.”

Board

Fiedler

Burgin

• Just Imagine....... It Might Have Been Arthur!

Following the 1951 PSO board members’ decision not to renew Dr. Russell Ames Cook as conductor in the coming year, the board voted to authorize that a solicitation be made for Arthur Fiedler to accept a PSO post that would have been centered around four Portland concerts. Minutes of the subsequent board make no reference to Mr. Fiedler other than to state that he was contacted. No specifics to his turndown of the offer have been spotted. Mr. Burgin was also contacted at about that time (July), and hired for the upcoming season.

1960’s

Concerts

Guests

• Meeting A Celebrated Contralto

Maine Historic Preservation Commissioner Earle Shettleworth recounted a vivid memory of his mother taking him, when he was a young boy, to a performance at City Hall Auditorium by Marian Anderson. After the concert they went backstage to personally greet the famous singer.

Orchestra Seating Section Seats

Preserved after 1997 Renovation

Currently in Balcony Hall Area

• Want to Try Out Three Pre-1997-Renovation PCHA Seats?

After the 1997 renovation of Merrill Auditorium was completed, someone had the good sense to preserve three of the orchestra seats (or maybe they were from one of the balconies?) from Portland City Hall Auditorium.

Upholstered (HS: But watch out! They’re still a bit hard, nonetheless.) in brilliant red fabric, the wooden fold-down seats offer current visitors to Merrill Auditorium a chance to revisit what audience seating was like following the earlier 1968 renovations of PCHA.

While nostalgia is well served by these original seats, personal comfort is not. There couldn’t be a better example to prove why more modern, padded, seats were an absolute necessity when the hall re-opened in 1997. See for yourself; feel for yourself: try them out sometime.

1970’s

Vermel

Women

• Pre-Concert Talks

According to a longtime PSO patron, the first PSO conductor to regularly give pre-concert lectures that helped people better get to know important in’s-&-out’s about compositions to be performed was Paul Vermel. Maestro Vermel attended meetings of the Women’s Committee to make his presentations.

2013

Concert Conversation

Hugh Floyd

Harpsichord

• He Said THAT?!!

During his pre-concert chat with early-arrivers before a 2013 guest-conducting stint with the PSO, Hugh Floyd was discussing baroque music, and the topic of harpsichords came up. Commenting about how this once-common instrument is now often thought to emit a grating sound not always appreciated by audiences 300+ years later, Mr. Floyd told an inside-joke modern-day description of how harpsichords sound: “Like skeletons copulating on a tin roof”. No one gasped, and everyone laughed at this sample of musical wit.

Players

Concerts

• Laurie and The Three B’s

Asked if there were any performances that she would “have put in a bottle” so as to later re-enjoy them, violist Laurie Kennedy responded to HS “ there are so many, since I love to play so much”. However, when pressed, she said she recalls “really good feelings” about a performance of Bartok’s Concerto for Strings. She also fondly recalled a performance of Brahms’s 4th Symphony that was under a guest conductor from Europe, adding “I love the European conductors”. [Laurie admitted to extra-special feelings toward “the Three B’s”, emotionally adding “anytime we play Bartok — Beethoven — Brahms... I’m in heaven ----- that goes for Mahler, also”.]

2007

2010

2015

Moody

Guest Conductors

90th Anniversary Celebration

• Three Extra-Special Birthday Presents

PSO Music Director Robert Moody counts three extra-special PSO-related events among birthday gifts that he has received (or will receive) over the years. In 2007, the May 2nd job offer that he received to become Music Director and Conductor of the Portland Symphony Orchestra came on his birthday. Then in 2010 on May 2nd, for the first time he conducted Mahler’s Second Symphony ("Resurrection") without having a score in front of him, something that he had long strived to do. As this paragraph is being written (in 2014), he is happily looking forward to May 2nd of 2015. In Merrill Auditorium at that evening’s 90th Anniversary Gala Concert of the Portland Symphony Orchestra, he will be joined on the podium by all the living past Music Directors of the Symphony – as they participate in a grand homecoming by guest-conducting the orchestra in works that they had previously conducted when with the PSO.

1940s

Concerts

1812

• Googling “1812”

At the PSO’s 101st Concert, in 1945, according to an original program for that evening, the orchestra concluded the evening with Tchaikovsky’s great masterpiece “1812” Overture Solennelle. (HS: As I didn’t recall ever having seen that particular version of the title listed before, I Googled it. I was surprised to learn what Dr. Cook obviously knew in 1945: the complete full title for what I and many others usually refer to as “The 1812 Overture” is actually Festival Overture “The Year 1812” in E flat major, Op. 49., which in French is Ouverture solennelle 1812.

--- Whad-a’ya know?)

1980s

“Magic of Christmas”

Stolen Tickets

Portland’s Gendarmes on the Alert

• Hey!! Those People Are In Our Seats!

Longtime PSO manager Russ Burleigh told a tale about something that occurred during one of the “Magic of Christmas” concerts in 1983: “A party of several people had called a few days earlier to say they had never received their tickets in the mail, so they were issued substitute tickets. When they arrived for the concert, they found people with the original tickets sitting in their seats. Thanks to a system that we developed that requires the staff to record ticket locations on every transaction, we were able to confirm that the people with the substitute tickets were entitled to those seats. It was soon determined, after confronting the seated party, that the tickets had been stolen from the mailbox, and sold by a young school girl to them. It was quickly settled with everyone finally seated for the concert. -- Perhaps the effect of that episode will be the elimination of any more mailbox thefts (on that street) since it is now a police matter!”

Guests

Concerts

Staff

• Missed Opportunity

Late in age, Andrés Segovia broke his guitar and cancelled an appearance with the PSO. Then the PSO manager, Russ Burleigh recalls that cancellation with extra disappointment since he knew that because of Señor Segovia’s then advanced age, he’d never hear the great master in person.

1980s

Hangen

National Governors Assn. Meeting

Pistol Shot called for in Pops Hoedown

A Security Mix-Up

• Wait! Wait!! Don’t Shoot!!! -- WAIT!!!!

Here’s a tale told by longtime PSO bass player Ann Metcalf, about a happening at the private concert performed when the National Governors Association met in Portland in 1983. While not corroborated by principal percussionist Nancy Smith (“after all...... it was more than 30 years ago; but there is a ring of familiarity about it ”, commented another longtime PSO-er, Joanne Woodward -- then Joanne Schnell), it’s too good a story to be left out of this THINGS-PSO.

Not too far from the end of Richard Hayman’s Pops Hoedown, there is a call for a pistol shot. Upon my checking, current (2014) PSO librarian Jon Poupore mentioned that “it's a cute, little section before the ‘final blowout’, which contrasts pizzicato in the strings to a variety of percussion interjections”. To create the gunshot effect, a starter’s pistol would be used. Wanting to make sure that the Maine State Police knew that none of the political dignitaries would be under attack, the assigned percussionist (HS: Ann thought it might have been Paul Pitts, but she wasn’t 100%-sure of that.) beforehand cleared it with the security detail, but was warned that some of the governors traveled with private plainclothes bodyguards. So...... it was decided that Mr. Hangen would make an announcement about the pistol shot before the Heyman novelty number was performed. However, the PSO Maestro forgot, and raised his baton – ready to begin. Ann recalls that it was then that the percussionist “started madly waving when Bruce was about to start conducting without making an announcement”; obviously, HE didn’t want to be the receiver of a “return shot” from some trigger-happy hero-wannabe storm trooper!

1970s

Fiedler

Concerts

• Did He Ever Chase A Portland Fire Engine?

A half-dozen snapshots found in the PSO Archives reveal Arthur Fiedler conducting a rehearsal with the PSO during the 1970s. Not yet in his beloved blazer since it was a rehearsal, the white-haired, white-mustached maestro was nonetheless as distinguished-looking as we all remember him. However, the pictures show that something else “white” was also in evidence (something that audiences didn’t ever get to see); during rehearsals the popular conductor apparently was in the habit of draping a medium-sized white gym-towel over his left shoulder (presumably to wipe away perspiration and thus maintain his decorum) during practice sessions. (HS: hopefully he hadn’t purloined the towel from the Eastland suite that he was always provided!)

Players

Concert

Mahler #2

Argument

Whew! Just In Time!!

• Hey!

Gimme That Back!!

No, I Need It!!!

It’s Mine, and I Really Need It!!!!

Would You Two JUST SHUT UP?!!!!!

On one occasion, something like the above exchange among several PSO musicians occurred during a Portland Symphony Orchestra concert. As required by Gustav Mahler’s score for his Symphony No. 2, percussionists Nancy Smith and Fischer, along with principal trumpet John Schnell, were a remote “fernochester” (freely translated “in the woods”). The three were closely jammed together in a narrow hallway behind the PCHA stage. After the rehearsal, the two percussionists had left their gear in the hallway, ready for when they needed to retreat there to play during the concert..... after which to then quickly high-tail-it like the wind back to the stage and a “casual and uneventful” re-entry to their regular stations.

But...... when they went backstage for the fernochester segment of the great work, Jeff’s mallet wasn’t there. So, he grabbed Nancy’s mallet out of her hand to perform his part. Since Nancy needed her mallet to play her part, she grabbed it back. With the moment when BOTH were supposed to be playing only seconds away, a back-and-forth argument took place, which in telling the story years later, Nancy referred to as having been a “yelling fight!” Also only seconds away from the time when he needed to play a key remote trumpet solo, John emphatically told the two others to “Shut Up!” (HS: Maybe his words were a bit stronger than that; yours truly should have better quizzed Nancy as she told this tale.)

Anyway, a split second before it was time for all three to simultaneously play, Jeff found his mallet—with Toshi and the audience never aware of the turmoil and impending hallway calamity in the hallway.

1980s

Hangen

Triangulating

C-R-A-S-H!!

• I’ve Been Sabotaged!

At a late-in-the-season Pops Concert during Bruce Hangen’s era as PSO Music Director, one of the percussionists became ill and had to be taken home at intermission. Since a local Portland official was scheduled to guest-conduct one number, instead of retreating offstage Maestro Hangen went over into the percussion section to fill in and handle a key triangle part. When he struck the instrument the string broke, and the triangle loudly banged on the stage. One of the PSO musicians from that era recalls that Bruce erroneously thought that he had been tricked (HS: In fact, no one could have foreseen the need for him to have been pressed into triangle-action.), and was “beyond furious”. Afterwards, ramifications occurred; but reporting those stories would involve yours truly using embargoed info.

Current

Players

• Different Tastes

30+ year PSO member Laurie Kennedy responded to an HS question about conductor-style preferences with an interesting comment: “strings look for completely different qualities than do winds or brasses”.

2012

Stars and Stripes Spectacular

Moody

Avoiding Lightning

• Stay Away From That Guy!

When the storm-postponed 2012 July-4th “Stars and Stripes Spectacular” on the Eastern Prom was successfully performed on July 5, PSO Music Director Robert Moody commented to the crowd about the violent thunder-and-lightning storm the prior evening that forced everyone to find safe cover:

“It was very interesting down here near the stage as the rain started getting harder and harder, and the thunder closer, and then the lightning –which got painfully close at times. The players, we were sort of all huddled here in the back of the tent.... but when the lightning started I noticed that everyone moved as far away from me as they could. I asked why...... they said ‘it’s because you’re a conductor’.”

The crowd groaned in mock panning of the pun; however the perfectly-crafted joke stole the show. (Sources: Joke writer: PSO Concert Manager Joe Boucher; Facebook conservator of joke: PSO General Manager Carolyn Nishon).

1960s

Board

Concerts

$$

• A Press Herald Tribute to the PSO’s Board

The early-to-mid 1960s financial turnaround of the Portland Symphony Orchestra was evaluated at the conclusion of an extensive preview Press Herald article prior to the 1966-1967 season. “What its trustees have accomplished in just five years proves beyond the shadow of doubt that Maine can have anything in the arts it desires, so long as ambition is joined with intelligent, forceful, and visionary leadership.” THAT was a right-on judgment by reporter and music critic John B. Thornton.

Another “Magic of Christmas” Prank

Shimada the Victim

Golan and Manduca the Culprits

• They Didn’t Turn Off Their Cell phones

PSO trombonist Mark Manduca and Concertmaster Lawrence Golan had a sneaky plan to liven things up one long-and-tiring “Magic of Christmas” season. During a “Magic” concert when Toshi Shimada stepped off the podium to talk to the audience, by pre-arrangement the two musicians executed a prank. Mark dialed Lawrence’s cell phone, which loudly rang out on stage; everyone in the hall heard it. Not with even a moment of delay, and intentionally interrupting the conductor, Lawrence answered “hello”. “Oh, Toshi, it’s for you; --It’s CELLULAR-ONE!”, he said, handing the phone over to his boss, as close to 2000 people wondered what would happen next.

--Then, unbeknownst to everyone else (Lawrence knew what was happening, of course), Mark spoke into his phone, “Toshi, Your Fly is Open.”

................Telling the story about this incident more than a decade later, Mr. Golan chuckled at the memory, ...............adding “We got him to look!”

Shimada

“Magic of Christmas”

2005

What’s That Japanese Lettering Say?

社会の窓が開いていますよ

Longtime PSO oboist Stef Burk tells the story that “for Toshi's very last Magic performance, we wanted to send him off in a very personal way. The stage set-up was such that the wind section was all in the front row, right under his nose. I had some black top hats (plastic), so we got PSO cellist Leo Eguchi's dad to email the Japanese characters for ‘Your Fly is Open’  (which should be familiar from the cell phone story), then enlarged and printed them, affixed them to our top hats in the right order, and then put them on for his last Sleigh Ride. He stopped the show when he saw them, and then asked a Japanese friend in the audience to translate. He said, ‘Your trunk is open’ which is apparently the literal translation. I know there are photos of that, which Julie probably has. She made Toshi a book when he left and I'm pretty sure she included those. I don't know how we ever played ---- I laughed so hard it hurt!” What a great caper, Stef! (HS: By the way, here’s a pronunciation guide if you want to try saying the Japanese phrase shown above: “shakai no mado ga aite imasu yo”.)

“Magic of Christmas”

Golan

• Never Mess With the Music

Despite the cell phone trick played on Mr. Shimada at the above-described “Magic of Christmas” performance, PSO concertmaster Lawrence Golan reportedly always remained determined to protect the integrity of the music. His credo was the above title, “Never mess with the Music”. However cleverly changing notes as written might have been to the PSO musicians who wanted to play musical jokes on one another, whenever anyone made such a move...... Mr. Golan was quick to assert to those people, “We don’t do that here.”

1950s

Burgin

• He Played An Unusual Violin, One Usually Favored by Soloists

During Richard Burgin’s long concertmaster career with the Boston Symphony, he especially treasured one of the several violins he owned. The instrument that he favored was a 1744 Guarnerius Del Gesu. Particularly unusual in that it was the only known Guarnerius made entirely of beech wood (instead of spruce and maple). Current research (HS: 2012) is ongoing to determine whether he ever played this valuable instrument before a PSO audience. While a fantastic violinist, Mr. Burgin shunned the soloist’s spotlight. He declared a well-known attitude of concertmasters when he was quoted thus (by TIME Magazine): “I know many virtuosos and I do not envy them. They tell me what it’s like to play the same few pieces over and over and know they have to go here and then be there. Not for me. I like the orchestra.”

(Source: http://pronetoviolins.blogspot.com/2011_04_01_archive.html)

2000s

Concert Theme

Moody

An Historian’s Delicate Ego

• “A Parisian in America”

The PSO’s advance marketing teasers for the June 17, 2014, Classical Concert included the phrase “Journey to France! For a Yank's take of Paris”. The reference was to the fact that George Gershwin’s An American In Paris was on the program. However, since also on the program that evening was French pianist Pascal Rogé, performing Camille Saint-Saëns’ Fifth Piano Concerto, an imaginative wag expressed the thought that maybe the tease-theme should have been “A Parisian in America”.

Actually, the fact is that two wags, each on their own, independently came up with that idea. I thought of it, even writing it down for Sue to witness before we attended a small luncheon presentation several days before the concert at which Maestro Robert Moody also publicly mentioned the same phrase. So, you might ask why did I write it down and have Sue witness the fact? Well, the truth is, anticipating that the always-witty Mr. Moody would say something like that to the luncheon audience, my ego wasn’t going to risk a later snicker from Sue if I then informed her, “I thought of that phrase myself”. You know--- like one of those “oh, yes dear.... of course you did” rejoinders. Of course, compared to the single witness to the phrase I considered to be so witty...... when Mr. Moody said it with a smile to the attending PSO supporters at the luncheon, he enjoyed the laughs of some two score witnesses!

1950s

Board

• An Abandoned Piano

When in 1951 the Chestnut Street Church rescinded its permission for PSO rehearsals to be held there, minutes from a PSO Directors’ meeting reveal that the orchestra did not immediately remove a piano that it owned from the church. (HS: so what happened to that piano? Dunno)

Oh, Boy!, Not Again?!!

Shared Space That Wasn’t Designed For Such Sharing

• What Do Laundromats and the PSO Have In Common?

Prior to the mid-1990s and the renovation of PCHA into Merrill Auditorium, the neighborhood around the Cumberland Avenue side of the Portland City Hall facilities was “a bit seedy”. Former PSO Executive Director Jane Hunter tells the story that “occasionally various people came into the PSO washrooms to do their laundry” (HS: The Symphony’s offices were then within the annex behind the stage, space that during the renovations gave way when the rehearsal hall, new dressing rooms, musicians’ lounges and other rooms were constructed......... and the PSO staff moved to office-building spaces several blocks away.)

1970s

Super-Band

Ice Hockey

• How PSO Musicians Almost Got High-Sticked (an NHL connection)

For NHL hockey fans who might read about WGAN-TV’s broadcasts of PSO concerts in the Timeline section of this THINGS-PSO, here’s an interesting coincidence. The-then Maine Mariners play-by-play broadcaster in the late ‘70s, WGAN-TV announcer Mike Emrick (who by 2012 was to become the NBC Network’s top NHL play-by-play announcer), appeared on one of the PSO’s “SuperBand” broadcasts. Showcasing hitherto secret musical talents, on the TV broadcast Mike guest-conducted............ using a sawed-off hockey stick and also played a number on the kazoo.

1970s

Hangen

• “Hang” One of Those Sweatshirts On the Conductor

In 1976, round membership stickers provided to subscribers read: “HANGen There PSO”. Among the PSO Archives was a picture taken during a rehearsal, showing Maestro Hangen wearing a sweatshirt bearing that slogan. (HS: Had I found any of the sweatshirts in the archives, I would not have told you this anecdote; I’d have swiped a sweatshirt and kept quiet.)

Players

Percussionist Nancy Smith

Kotzschmar Organ Windchest

Close to Being Forever Stuck

• Almost “Lost Forever”

Longtime PSO’er Nancy Smith tells of a time when Kotzschmar Memorial Organ curator David Wallace offered her and another PSO percussionist an opportunity to climb up into the windchest to see the unique and remote percussion section of the great organ. Higher and higher they climbed, eventually reaching nearly the top of the four-story-high structure, with stairs and catwalks becoming increasingly narrow the further they went. Eventually they very carefully walked (sideways!) into a tiny sub-room containing triangles, bells, chimes, drums and all-things-percussion. Since there wasn’t enough room for anyone to turn around, they then had to try sidestepping BACKWARDS! She recalls that “for several moments we thought getting out might prove to be impossible”. Fortunately they escaped OK, and Nancy breathed a sigh of relief.

PCHA

1970s+++

Wintertime C-O-L-D!!

Rehearsals

Players

• Thousands? Yep.... That’s Probably Accurate

In the late 1970s, PSO Manager Russ Burleigh’s “From The Manager’s Desk” column in concert programs discussed challenges of holding mid-winter rehearsals when the heating system in City Hall had been turned way down for week-ends. He wrote that “City Hall Auditorium, which leaks air through thousands of cracks and warped doors, can be very cold on Saturdays and Sundays”. If you think his “thousands” reference was an exaggeration, check with someone who was there at the time. I did, and was told that he was way low..... “millions” would have been more accurate. B-r-r-r-r-r-r-r!

1960s

Vermel

Concerts

Runouts

• PSO’s trip to Canada in 1969:

The orchestra flew by chartered (HS: Do you remember Northeast Airlines?) DC-9 jet. Three concerts were presented over a November week-end, the first in Presque Isle where a near-capacity crowd had an extremely favorable reaction (Bartok’s Concerto for Orchestra completed the program.

(--incidentally, that was a teenage-time favorite of HS, one the first 33LPs I bought with lawn-mowing $$).

A delightful anecdotal sidelight regarding the orchestra’s departure on this trip was passed along by former PSO manager Russ Burleigh: Since the time between arrival of the charter jet and the performance at Presque Isle was short -set up’s require time and the possibility of flight delays needed to be considered- the charter arrangements with Northeast Airlines called for dinner to be served en route, also that no alcohol be on board the aircraft. (HS: In recalling this flight many years later, Katherine Graffam said “Russ promised us a good dinner on the plane so no one bothered much with food prior to going onto the plane”.) Well, the opposite occurred, with no food and plenty of alcohol available. Russ indicated that although the PSO members were responsible, many followed the principle of “a little booze won’t hurt”; (HS: If you think that all those PSO-ers later correctly counted out measures of rests during the performance...... be sure to keep reading.). The pilot did call ahead to order box lunches, which were tucked under everyone’s’ arms when they departed the plane.

Later it took two hours for the buses to drive the entourage to Fredericton, New Brunswick, and all arrived at 3 am. An extra hour had been consumed by border red-tape when “a Hungarian viola player in the PSO didn’t have the proper credentials and was suspected of being an enemy alien”. (Source for this info: Katherine Graffam memoirs)

The next evening the crowd was relatively small, but extremely enthusiastic. The PSO had come on the heels of two other orchestras which performed that week, and other competition cut attendance—Saturday night is “Hockey Night” on Canadian TV.

Katherine Graffam’s memoirs indicate that while the crowd may have been enthusiastic, many of the PSO’ers were otherwise. “The concert that evening was a disaster. It was a very tired and hung-over orchestra, and during a difficult program there were many missed entrances. (Paul) Vermel, normally a very mild-mannered person, was livid and really gave us a well deserved tongue lashing.”

Mrs. Graffam also told of another vivid memory from that trip. As she was dressing for the first concert she realized something rather important: “I had a personal problem—I discovered that I had forgotten to pack the top to my black skirt and just escaped being a topless cellist when one of the young Boston players had an extra one. The only problem (then) was that she was two sizes smaller that I was.”

The next day the group took a 6-hour bus trip to Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island. (No Confederation Bridge existed in those days, and that day’s journey included crossing the Northumberland Straight via ferry (no record of weather problems was found in the PSO records about this part of the trip..... but who would have wanted a list of seasick PSO-ers—had there been any?) Once again the hall was only partially filled, but the audience was reported as overwhelming in its response and praise of the orchestra. Charlottetown, being a modest-sized city, had never had an orchestra of this number on its stage. The performance (all three concerts also included Gioacchino Rossini’s La Gazza Ladra Overture and Mendelssohn’s Symphony No. 3 -“The Scotch”, in addition to the Bartok work) was rated by far the best-performed of the three at the time.

Regarding the Charlottetown concert, here’s another item from Katherine Graffam’s memoirs: “The buses leaked carbon fumes and many of the players arrived in various stages of illness, me included. The evening meal was difficult as the hotel was not prepared to feed so many in a hurry, and some never got fed. Others couldn’t eat anyway.”

An Air Canada DC-9 jet returned everyone to Portland and reported “extremely friendly United States Customs officials” welcoming home the entourage.

**All the above is from a long-ignored post-trip report stored in a PSO Archive box of files dated 1969-70; ---fun to read. **Another bonus is news that a longtime PSO’er fondly remembers that while on PEI during the 1969 trip, she visited the home and barn where Lucy Maud Montgomery frequently visited her grandmother at the turn of the last century, which was the setting for that author’s beloved young girl character, Anne Shirley.... “Anne of Green Gables”.

1950s

Guests

$$

• Hollywood Film Star Visits Portland

In 1957 a well-known show-business personality appeared at a show in Portland, with proceeds assigned to benefit the PSO..................Rin Tin Tin. Minutes of the Board do not reflect who the benefactor was who contributed enough biscuits to pay for the show. However, rumor has it that in respect to the sponsor, for the rest of the season the members of the orchestra had only “dog-eared” parts on their stands. Woof-woof on you!

Players

Stories Told

Stories Not Told

• “Stuff I Can’t Tell You About”

Readers hopefully will enjoy stories recounted from conversations with various PSO musicians, but there are regrets that many times a comment similar to the title of this anecdote was made during respective conversations. While I’m sorry not to have been able to recount those tales for readers........ perhaps I’m even more disappointed that I didn’t get to hear them myself—even with promises to keep them confidential. Darn!!

Players

Graffam

Reviews

PR

• Self-Criticism

Numerous times over many years, not all PSO concerts were reviewed by critics associated with local newspapers. The PSO consciously worked to create publicity about itself, including MANY reviews written by (and by-lined) PSO cellist Katherine Graffam. Not only was she a talented musician, she must have received straight-A’s from her English teachers; she could definitely “turn a good phrase, and her articles were well done. Years later during an interview she gave to a local newspaper, she commented on how carefully she had to be when penning criticisms that might not sit well with the other members of the orchestra. Some would be ready to “knock her ears off” she said. However, that said--- “how neat” it must have been for the PSO’s image-making planners that they could sit back and enjoy the advantages of her “conflict of interest”. (HS: The music reviewer for several Portland newspapers in the 1970s and 1980s, John Thornton, for a time in the 1960s was on the PSO staff payroll. However, perusing clippings from the time that he was employed by the PSO show bylines of other reporters; Mr. Thornton took up his music-critic pen after his stint as PSO business manager.)

1970s

Concert

Unusual Percussion

NOISE!

• Sorry, That’s Mr. Fiedler’s Personal Siren..... not the Boston Symphony’s to Lend Out

Krzysztof Penderecki’s avant garde composition, Flourensences, led to PSO manager Russ Burleigh embarking on an unusual search and then telling about that saga back in 1976. The work required a hand-cranked siren, and the first place that Russ checked to see if he could borrow one was the Boston Symphony, but.... (refer to the headline of this Anecdote to see how the PSO manager got with that approach) — na-da. All the Portland Fire Department’s sirens were attached to fire trucks, but supposedly the Brunswick Fire Department had a hand-crank one. Russ quickly found out that their siren had a short time earlier been donated to the Pejepscot Historical Museum in Brunswick. Fortunately, although all this was happening on Super Bowl Sunday, the museum’s curator wasn’t off somewhere watching the game and said the PSO could borrow the siren (HS: Which, I presume, was used in a rehearsal that evening.). Then..... the audience turned out not to like the noisy piece--- oh, well.

A post-script was that when the hand-cranked siren and police whistles were subsequently used when Flouresences was performed during some Youth Concerts....... fortunately, City Hall employees and authorities did not complain despite what had to be inconvenient (HS: to say the least) incessant disturbances.

1930s

Cook

Concerts

Pops

$$

• 20-cents For A Corned Beef Sandwich

The PSO Archives contain a large number of scrapbooks saved by (HS: or for) Russell Ames Cook. Looking through a Portland Pops concert program played at the Eastland Ballroom in 1939, a page listed the bill of fare for the evening titled “To Nibble and to Drink”. Selected items included a “Corned Beef on Rye Bread Club” sandwich for 20-cents, Peanut Butter and Jelly sandwich for 15-cents, fourteen flavors of ice cream at either 15-cents or 20-cents each, a chocolate fudge cake for 10-cents, a Martini for 25-cents, a Gin Daisy for 35-cents, an Old Fashioned for 40-cents, Champagne Cocktail for 75-cents, beers (Budweiser, Schlitz and Pabst) for 25-cents and Ballantine ale also for 25-cents. Time (AND PRICES!) have certainly changed. Oh, yes---- on the program that night were light works such as the Overture to Bizet’s Carmen, Sousa’s March Washington Post, Strauss’ Waltz The Blue Danube, George Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue and Gioacchino Rossini’s Overture William Tell.... also five other selections. Looks like it was a great evening!

1970s

Vermel

Mikado

Gotch’a!

• NOW!... Mr. Maestro..... You WILL UNDERSTAND ME CLEARLY !!!

Paul Vermel told a fun tale on himself regarding a happening prior to the January, 1973, concert at which the PSO accompanied a New York-based Savoyards troupe in a production of Gilbert and Sullivan’s The Mikado. Walking backstage past an attractive woman in the group who was dressed in a traditional bold and vibrant Japanese kimono, he was taken aback when he realized that the singer was about to have her long, black, hair “shoved” inside a wig. Falling to her waist, her natural hair was gorgeous,. Unable to resist the temptation, he reached out and innocently caressed some of the beautiful, long, strands that were about to disappear. Instantly (he recalled in a 2013 conversation with HS), she spoke to him in authoritative and firm tones (but with a twinkle in her eye that he didn’t at first spot)...... “Maestro......I Will Give You Precisely half an hour to stop that.”

1980s

Concerts

Sousa

Pops

• “The March King” Impersonator

A MAJOR Entertainment Figure made his 16th appearance in Portland during the summer of 1987. Well, it was “sort of” a return appearance; white-mustached Keith Brion, onetime conductor of the Yale concert band, donned a costume and white gloves to guest-conduct the PSO in two performances titled “Marching Along With Sousa”. (John Phillip Sousa had conducted at either City Hall Auditorium or the Jefferson Theater a total of 15 times between 1892 and 1928.) After the concert, an enthusiastic attendee wrote to the Press Herald, sending in her own review: “Absolutely Fantastic” she penned.

1950s

Burgin

• Now, Just Where Is My Violin? --and other Richard Burgin Absent-mindedness’es

Richard Burgin’s daughter once wrote that “total immersion in the music he was performing or studying at the moment explained part of his notorious absent-mindedness in every-day life, which became a staple of BSO folklore. He would frequently forget his bow in the strangest places, and once he even left his Stradivarius on a commuter train. Another time, he journeyed to Concord, Massachusetts for a solo engagement and was amazed to find no one there who knew of any such concert. A telephone call to Boston revealed that the recital was supposed to take place in Concord, New Hampshire. On another occasion, Burgin arrived at an auditorium for a performance and found the place locked and in darkness. After a bit of investigation he discovered he had turned up a month early. And more than one student, showing up for a lesson, experienced first-hand Burgin’s proclivity for not being in the right place at the right time.”

1950s

Burgin

Police

• Even Eccentrics Have to Pay Turnpike Tolls

One legendary story about Richard Burgin and his eccentricities when Conductor of the PSO was told to HS by an old hand (the musician was himself young then) among the orchestra during the 1950s. Sometime during his tenure the conductor was driving up the Maine Turnpike from Boston for a rehearsal, but also closely examining a score on his lap (we’ve all driven “on automatic pilot” while deeply in thought about this’or’that, right?). In fact, he was concentrating so hard on the score that when he got to the toll booth he drove right past, neither stopping nor paying, continuing straight on to a local school for a PSO rehearsal. He immediately got out of his car, oblivious to what error he had committed by not settling up with the toll-collector, and a bit late--- walked into the hall and went straight up to the podium, and immediately gave the downbeat. Two police officers had almost caught up to him before he entered for the rehearsal; they followed him into the auditorium to find the orchestra playing. The story is that they sat down in one of the rows, and the entire orchestra (but not the maestro, who of course had his back to the seating area) watched the cops sit there scratching their heads in bewilderment.

1960s

PCHA

• My Butt Hurts!

The importance of installing new orchestra-level seats during the ’68 restoration of City Hall Auditorium was underscored by a wonderfully-entertaining comment in an Evening Express article just prior to the fall re-opening of the hall: “For years orchestra seats went begging, and for good reason. The hard old portable wooden seats, extremely uncomfortable, could almost paralyze you in two hours.” (HS: Oh... come on...... tell us how you really feel.)

1980s

Shimada

Concerts

• “Hi-Ho”, Toshi

The Evening Express, reviewing the new conductor’s “Opening Night” concert in 1986, reported that “A rapturous audience handed Shimada a long, standing ovation. It was a pretty happy start to the latest chapter in the PSO story. (HS: Of course, it’s likely that the rookie maestro “already owned the crowd” about the time that many were visualizing “The Lone Ranger” at the charge during Rossini’s William Tell Overture. Some in the crowd, who probably wouldn’t admit it, were not thinking about the great classical masterpiece but were focusing back to their youth and favorite chases or escapes by Bugs Bunny.)

Shimada

Concerts

Peacefulness

• A Unique Suggestion Sent to Toshi

The longtime PSO Music Director tells of once receiving a letter from a subscriber that included a programming suggestion to which an unusual, yet very frank justification was attached.

A subscriber couple requested: “Please don’t play too much loud music”, explaining that “we like to come to the symphony (concerts) and doze off.”

1920s

Concerts

Bridgton

Gone Fishing

• So... How’re They Biting?

The first concert of the Portland Municipal Orchestra was given, not in Portland, but in Bridgton at the Town Hall. When the four buses carrying the 65-member Orchestra arrived in town, the hall was locked up; none of the doors could be opened------ the custodian had gone off fishing! Eventually, the hall was opened and the concert was presented, though somewhat late. (This story has lived a long life, and is likely fairly true to fact; it was contained in reports reviewed by HS that were published in the 1930s.)

1920s

Concerts

Bridgton

Thievery

• Oh.......... And There Was Another Problem Before That Bridgton Concert

The PSO Archives contain many detailed memories of Katherine Graffam’s many decades with the Portland Symphony Orchestra, and in those the longtime PSO violoncellist wrote of a second development that also caused the opening downbeat at the 1927 Bridgton Concert to be delayed. With budgets tight in those early days, “there was no money for transportation, so everyone came on their own and one person volunteered to take the heavy equipment in his truck”. She added, “the truck... ...somehow managed to lose the bass drum, which, incidentally was never seen again”. She then told how that problem was fortunately solved, “The manager borrowed a bass drum from the town band”.

1960s

Lipkin

• Always--- The Three Words

One person around the PSO during the early-to-mid 1960s when Conductor Lipkin was on the scene, recalled for HS one aspect of his ego. That individual simply said “always the three words --- Arthur Bennett Lipkin”.

1950s

Players

• Can You Play The Tymps?

Fourteen-year-old Norman Fickett joined the PSO percussion section during Richard Burgin’s second year as PSO conductor, in 1953. Shortly thereafter, some of the Boston players didn’t attend a rehearsal, including the then-tympanist. The conductor asked young Norman if he could play the tymps, and he did. The next rehearsal, when the Boston-based tympani player arrived, Mr. Burgin told him to join with the other percussionists, since Norman was now the PSO tympanist. The Boston player was not very happy. The conductor’s eye for spotting top talent was a good one. A decade later, with his sticks in one hand and two diplomas from the Eastman School of Music in his other, Norman Fickett began what would be a four-decade stint as tympanist of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra.

1980s+

Concerts

Runouts

• Put Out In The Street:

Pops Concerts in Camden drew crowds larger than the beautiful gardens overlooking the harbor could accommodate. But there was a perfect solution..... To create a larger seating area, the PSO was set up on the street at the bottom of sloping Amphitheatre Park—and the street was closed to vehicular traffic during the event. Thus concertgoers filled all of the amphitheatre area and enjoyed both the music and one of the most delightful views that outdoor concertgoers elsewhere would find difficult to ever match..... Camden’s classic New England harbor.

Vermel

Andy Holmes

Music in Maine

1960s

PCHA

• And THAT’s How I Feel About It!

A short handwritten 1966 letter from Paul Vermel to Andy Holmes was found in the PSO Archives. It referred to a then-upcoming Music in Maine concert rehearsal, responding to a note from Mr. Holmes confirming MIM’s use of the hall on April 5, 1967. After thanking Andy for arranging for MIM to rehearse in PCHA, Mr. Vermel inquired “What is the curfew time?” Then, obviously responding to another mention in Mr. Holmes earlier note, he added “......and we will be unhappy to pay the $25.00”, presumably referring to a City-Hall-imposed use-charge.

1960s

1970s

Vermel

Soloists

Concerts

• Paul Vermel Remembers “The Great Ones”

Decades after his retirement as Portland Symphony Orchestra Conductor (HS: a chat in 2013) Maestro Vermel graciously agreed to a long interview about his memories with the PSO. Regarding the subject of memorable guest-artist appearances, saying that the list was long, he especially recalled some All-Stars who were especially “Wonderful”:

...pianist Gary Graffman

...organist John Weaver (three times)

...pianist Van Cliburn (twice)

...clarinetist Benny Goodman [below, see two Anecdotes about him and Mr. Vermel)

...pianist Lorin Hollander

...pianist Byron Janis

...violinist Zoltán Székely [elsewhere, see an Anecdote about him and Mr. Vermel)

...violinist Itzhak Perlman

...classical guitarist John Williams

...jazz pianist Dave Brubeck (“a lot of fun”)

...soprano Eileen Farrell [elsewhere, see an Anecdote about her and Mr. Vermel)

...cellist Leonard Rose

...violinist Joseph Silverstein

...tenor Richard Tucker (“he was Great!”)

...pianist Phillippe Entremont

...organist Virgil Fox (“a crusty fellow”)

...flutist Jean Pierre Rampal [elsewhere, see an Anecdote about him and Mr. Vermel)

...pianist Gina Bachauer [elsewhere, see an Anecdote about her and Mr. Vermel)

1960s

Gregorian

• A Fine Man

Rouben Gregorian was described to HS as “a lovely man, warm, effervescent, always very prepared. He really had the respect of the orchestra.”

1980s

Vermel

Concerts

• Greeting an Old Friend

In November of 1986, concert-goers greeted an old friend, as Paul Vermel returned to Portland to guest-conduct the PSO for a concert. To conclude, he chose Brahm’s Symphony No. 1 in C Minor, Op. 68. Referring to then-sub-freezing temperatures outside, the Press Herald review carried a mid-article section-headline “Warmth on a cold night with the PSO”.

1960s

Gregorian

Lipkin

$$

PR

• 1962 Transition of Leadership:

After years of dwindling attendance that resulted in a long string of consecutive annual losses, in 1961 the PSO board decided to secure a resident conductor, since it felt that significantly more active community involvement by the PSO conductor was necessary. Mr. Gregorian said that he would stay on and move to Portland if he could also obtain a college music position, an event that did not develop. Ironically, a Colby music professor aggressively pursued the PSO directorship (perhaps too aggressively according to board minutes from that period that included the phrase “forcing the issue”). After accepting the position and moving to Portland, subsequent board minutes show that Arthur Bennett Lipkin immediately jumped into action to promote the PSO- engaging in a series of many meetings, speeches, interviews, etc.—“tilling the soil” he once wrote the board in a memo. He said that he wanted to show that he was “a conductor who is fully indentified with the city and state”, a commitment he continued to follow for the duration of his PSO career. Lipkin was continually making suggestions to the board about ways to increase local awareness about the orchestra, and also successfully brought on board additional quality musicians. Throughout his tenure he attempted to have the PSO perform a mixture of pieces that always included works that were liked by patrons, along with new works (including some premieres that he himself commissioned and heavily contributed to) that would boost the orchestra’s reputation.

Concerts

1990s

Lawrence and Joseph Golan

• Now....... For The First Time.......

When father Joe Golan and son Lawrence Golan performed together at a 1993 Candlelight concert, holding the microphone between numbers, Lawrence took the opportunity to discuss with the audience how being the son of a great musician has its pro’s and con’s. Always being able to tap great knowledge and experience was huge; although he was “constantly known as ‘the son of Joe Golan’ ”. However, the PSO concertmaster immediately added, “here in Portland..... now for the first time my Dad is known as the ‘father of Lawrence Golan’.” The audience loved the moment, as especially did the younger Mr. Golan, who recounted the incident two decades later.

Concerts

Lawrence Golan

Joe Golan

Chicago Symphony Orchestra

• The TOP Memory

Some time following when father-and-son Golan teamed up in Portland to perform Bach’s Concerto for Two Violins and Orchestra in D minor, BWV 1043, the two again performed the work with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. Finally a reluctant-to-answer Lawrence Golan compared the two concerts. He admitted that the latter was the better memory, noting that not only was it performed in his home town, but with the renowned Daniel Barenboim conducting....... from the harpsichord. Wow!

1960s

Lipkin

Gregorian

Players

• PSO Players Petition Board of Directors

Prior to the PSO board offering Arthur Bennett Lipkin the PSO music directorship position, board minutes reveal that 61 orchestra members submitted a petition “Resolved: that prior to any new conductor being hired that (he/she) demonstrate solid musicianship and ability to work well with the playing members of the orchestra for two or more concerts”. (HS: This suggests that the orchestra personnel, who had for many years been the board’s only members, might have been chafing somewhat under an independent board--- especially one so determined to finally bring solvency to decades of [at best] shoestring finances. In addition, the orchestra members truly liked rehearsing and performing under the baton of Mr. Gregorian.)

The PSO board did not accede to the petition, confident in doing so since “they felt they held full responsibility for doing what was best for the Portland Symphony and that at this time” they deemed it necessary to secure a resident conductor”. Showing utmost confidence in the “musical prowess” of Mr. Lipkin, the board voted to render him (despite his not previously having even guest-conducted the PSO) “complete charge of concert planning” and re-affirmed in the minutes “that he was hired to build an orchestra to get wider audience support.”

1970s

Hollander

Bowdoin

• Bowdoin Gets a Free Concert Preview

On the morning of December 5 of 1978, the day when Lorin Hollander was to play an evening PCHA performance of Tchaikovsky’s 1st Piano Concerto, he joined conductor Bruce Hangen for a preview discussion at Bowdoin College in Brunswick. Bowdoin students and faculty who attended heard Mr. Hollander more than just discuss the work, he performed excerpts from the concerto....... FOR FREE!

1960s

Gregorian

Players

• Low Audience Popularity

While the orchestra was comfortable under the baton of Mr. Gregorian, a telling sign that his and the orchestra’s program efforts were not all that well received by the Portland-area community is evidenced by comments in the PSO newsletter following Mr. Gregorian’s final concert: “unfortunately, non-members (meaning to HS: both the PSO board and the PSO playing members) were noticeably absent at both the concert and reception” at the Mayfair Room of the Lafayette Hotel that was held for him afterwards. HS was told that during those times sometimes the players would sneak a look through the curtain, and sometimes say “hey look, somebody’s coming” in jest at another usual small crowd.

Concerts

Runouts

$$

• Run-Out Costs Were Too High

For many summers after 1980 or so, the PSO performed up to a half-dozen outdoor concerts in Maine towns outside the Greater Portland area. Everyone loved these gigs -respective townspeople who enjoyed the shows and the musicians who enjoyed being paid; well...... “almost everyone”. The grumpy green-visored fiscal examiners who reviewed the orchestra’s bank accounts eventually frowned enough to get the PSO Board to pay more attention to the P&L side of these events. While the outdoor concerts were great in that concert attendees had good times and that was good for the PSO’s image, aggregate sponsor fees were simply too inadequate to offset all the costs of producing these Summer run-outs. Eventually the accumulated losses would be such that the Summer-Season series would be ended. But.... it certainly was a LOT OF FUN while it lasted.

Concerts

Runouts

1980s

Set-up & Take-Down Chores

• Setting Up Run-Outs Was A Big-Time Logistical Challenge

In one of his “From The Manager’s Desk” columns in a 1984 concert program, Russ Burleigh wrote about what it took to put on an outdoor PSO concert: “It takes about a full day to erect a stage, put the canopy over it and set up the sound system. And all the while we keep a weather eye on the sky.” He continued, “the orchestra has to be transported along with a truck full of equipment and instruments, several coolers of water and food, and sail bags loaded with walkie-talkies, flashlights, sponsor contracts and other data, first-aid kit, bug spray, clothes pins (for music) and so forth. It takes two to three times as many stagehands [as for an indoor concert], and the local sponsors are asked to provide another six to eight strong bodies for the stage and canopy as well.”

And..... essentially most everything has to be reversed after the concert is over, as everything needs to be taken down, sometimes required to be set up in another location the next day. Whew! It’s tiring just writing about all this work.

1950s

Burgin

Players

Rehearsal

• Why the Formality?

Shortly after Richard Burgin became conductor in 1952, a local Portland newspaper printed a picture taken at a PSO rehearsal. Each and every male member of the orchestra was wearing a suit, although no audience was in attendance. While such attire would become more and more unusual during the ensuing decades, as a “dress code” it was normal for those times.

1970s

Women

Vermel

• Stop Thief!

During a Pre-Concert lecture with the Women’s Committee at a hotel, one of the women reported that her fur coat was missing from the coat-check room. The police were immediately notified, a culprit soon apprehended and the coat safely returned. Mrs. Wilma Redmond summarized how she would have written the police report in an Evening Express article; the President of the Women’s Committee penned--- “a glamorous white fur coat disappeared from the coat rack. The management notified the police and within minutes the police located the coat on Congress Street on the arm of the thief (notorious character, non-concertgoer). The coat was returned to the relieved owner (beautiful lady, ticket holder).” (HS: pretty succinct report, don’t you agree?)

1960s

Lipkin

Image

Tickets

• Maybe Gold-Plated, But Not 24-Carat Solid Gold

There was never a question during the years that Arthur Bennett Lipkin held sway over the PSO, that he was a confident, kinetic, self-promoting person who likely rationalized his continual personal PR-ing as efforts to promote the orchestra. He undoubtedly retired thinking that he deserved most of the credit for the greatly improved financial position of the PSO, as well as for the full houses. “Gold-plated” though he may have portrayed himself –probably believing it all (and there is no question that some of his efforts definitely propelled the awareness of the orchestra in the Portland community), he was not “24-caraet solid gold” and the only one deserving credit for the turnarounds. The PSO board had changed the organization’s course in both deciding to hire a resident conductor and becoming determined to end the PSO’s string of losses and accumulated deficits. They had also energized the local business community to support the orchestra with financial contributions, advertisements, sponsoring various PSO concerts and other events and buying tickets. The Women’s Committee added substantial and important energy to the enterprise, engaging respective friends and acquaintances and selling, selling and selling some more, huge numbers of tickets. The focus of PSO staff and volunteers was also always on the target of delivering quality and entertaining experiences to concertgoers and prospective attendees. A LOT of people were instrumental in the team effort to move the PSO’s stature to a higher level.

1970s

Vermel

Soloist

Bachauer

Concert

• A Surprise Private Performance

When famed Greek pianist Gina Bachauer visited Portland in 1973 to perform with the PSO, she requested that an upright piano be rented and placed in her hotel room. At an appointed time for their pre-concert meeting to coordinate “soloist/conductor issues” about the score of the always-arduous Third Piano Concerto by Rachmaninoff, Paul Vermel went to her hotel. Ready to review certain tricky sections, he opened his score as she began to play. She stunned him........ by playing it non-stop to the end, without a single pause to discuss any passage. Mr. Vermel is still shaking his head about such a fantastic private concert.

1970s

Bachauer

Vermel

Advice

• Don’t Touch Those Bags!

Another tale that Paul Vermel recalled about Gina Bachauer’s visit to Portland was about when he picked her up at the airport. At the baggage claim area he reached onto the belt to retrieve the first of several of her travel bags that she had checked with the airline. Immediately, she ordered him to put it down and to not lift any of the others! “Watch your hands”, she admonished him. “You are a conductor. Your hands are your career.” Even though 40 years have passed, Paul still clearly remembers her credo.

Concerts

Runouts

1980s

• A Nearly Washed-Out Concert:

Back in the days when the PSO each summer performed a series of outdoor concerts in towns outside Portland, from the early 1980’s onward, the orchestra was seated under a “40-by-50 foot plastic canopy that sport(ed) cheery broad red, yellow and orange stripes”, as described in a 1986 Maine Sunday Telegram feature article. That day the set-up crew was positioning it along the first baseline of The Ballpark in Old Orchard Beach, ready to raise it up on tent-poles, when a hitch was discovered. No one from the ballpark staff there to help raise the canopy knew where the field’s sprinkler lines were located. Since spikes to secure the lines tied to the pole system needed to be sledge hammered into the ground, there was a chance that the sprinkler system might be lanced--- definitely NOT what anyone wanted to happen (HS: not even “for extra-special effects” had Handel’s Water Music been on the program??). So... the crew backed away and spread out around the edges of the baseline and the watering system was turned on, the positions of the sprinkler heads and the likely lines connecting them determined, DOWN went the spikes without incident and UP went the canopy... and later a (dry) good time was had by all.

Magic of Christmas

Assistance from PSO Musicians

• A “Key” to the PSO Musicians Helping Support a Corporate Sponsor

One season during “Magic of Christmas” concerts, the musicians all helped out when the name of one of the corporate sponsors was mentioned during a thank-you announcement. The sponsor was Key Bank; so how did the musicians help, you ask?

All the players simultaneously did the same thing to support the PSO’s official thank-you: ------Everyone’s arm went up to display their respective credit cards. And of course, they all held aloft KeyBank cards.... (HS: hmmmm?). Another report had it that sometimes the members of the chorus pretended to be reading magazines that they had kept hidden as they went onstage; -- but not during a public sponsor-thank-you, of course (HS: hmmmm#2.).

Concerts

Runouts

1980s

• A Windy Pre-Concert Set-up

Related to the above “look-out-for-the-sprinklers story”, one time in North Conway the PSO set-up crew had to erect the canopy during a particularly blustery morning. A strong gust came along and the wind-driven canopy lifted an attached 12-ft wooden beam AND THE PSO ASSISTANT MANAGER, Linda Bliss, right off the ground. Unconfirmed rumors still float around that the PSO that evening started off with a pre-performance advance encore---- Come Fly With Me. [-----the end to this story is not true... the rest is... but I just had to try “that one” on you.]

1960s

Lipkin

Image

• A Sort-Of Eugene Ormandy, Jr.

More than one person interviewed who was around during the Arthur Bennett Lipkin era questioned how skilled a conductor he really was. A good musician and capable violinist, assuredly, since it was unlikely that his self-confidence alone was enough to convince Eugene Ormandy to select him, when a young man, to be a member of the Philadelphia Orchestra. A person who attended virtually all the Lipkin-conducted PSO rehearsals and concerts speculated that the base of his podium musicality was mostly reflective of how Eugene Ormandy had conducted the works of the great composers. Mr. Lipkin had experienced virtually all of those first-hand. And, from the hundreds of Ormandy recordings the great Minneapolis and Philadelphia maestro made, Mr. Lipkin (and others) could also memorize how most sounded.

1960s

Vermel

Music-in-Maine

School Concerts

• We’ll Be Busy..... It’ll Be Harvest Time

Paul Vermel recalled the story about the first year of setting up Music-in-Maine concert schedules at schools around the state. Not them familiar with all aspects of life in the state, he was taken aback when one school superintendent up in The County declined to accept proposed concert dates in either late September or early October. “Can’t do any then, due to the potatoes”, he curtly responded. Paul had quickly just learned that in certain areas there is something that won’t change for anything ---- the potato harvest school break in “the county”.

1960s

Music-in-Maine

A Refusal

• Not Going to Start Now!

While most superintendents agreed with the idea of bringing live classical music into their schools, one totally dismissed the Music-in-Maine approach when the program was getting off the ground. A person then on the scene recalls him declaring that “in Coopers Mills we haven’t had music for 30 years..... and we’re not going to start now”.

1970s

Concerts

Artist

Staff

• Zip Me Up, Please

PSO Manager Russ Burleigh and Eileen Farrell joked about an incident that preceded her 1970 season-opening appearance with the PSO. Earlier in his career, with the Dallas Symphony, Russ had been assigned “guard duty” outside the diva’s dressing room before a concert. When they re-met before the Portland concert, she quizzically looked at Russ and said “We’ve met–Under humorous circumstances”, sporting a big smile as she made the statement-question. Russ responded, “... and you opened your door and asked me to zip your dress up. I did. It was seven years ago.” Miss Farrell remembered that the incident happened in Texas, but couldn’t recall exactly where. (HS: the location, Russ advised her, was Denton, where the Dallas ensemble played a concert at North Texas State University.)

1930s

Melrose

Concerts

• Marching Along

In late-summer of 1935, the PSO was seeking the services of Paul Melrose for a guest-conducting stint with the PSO. He was then Warrant Officer and Band Leader of the 5th U.S. Infantry Band at Fort Williams, and had hoped to be back from a concert tour prior to the opening of the PSO’s 1935-1936 Classical Concert series. A letter to then-PSO Secretary-Manager Harold Lawrence from the commanding officer at Fort Williams was spotted among Mr. Lawrence’s many scrapbooks containing old PSO-related clippings, programs, correspondence and other memorabilia--- it is fun due to one particular phrase, explaining a delay in Mr. Melrose’s return to Maine. That phrase related the military duties of Mr. Melrose, stating that “the Fifth Infantry is now marching back to Fort Williams and concerts are being played each night in various cities.” (HS: Wow! THERE’s a good reason to carry a piccolo and not a tuba!)

1970s

Concerts

Artist

Vermel

• They’ll Hear Me OK in Fresno

Miss Farrell had appeared with the Fresno Philharmonic during Paul Vermel’s conductorship there. He recalled an incident regarding the “Gotterdammerung scene” to the Evening Express. “The orchestra has very big sounds during her aria, so when we finished I was worried we were drowning her out and asked if we had played too loudly. She gave me a quick look, burst into laughter and replied, ‘Honey, I ain’t even STARTED to sing yet!’ “

1990s

Concerts

Players

Misc.

• First Base.... or First Chair?

When Lawrence Golan was named concertmaster in 1990, an Evening Express article about him said that he once “almost gave up his fiddle for a first baseman’s glove.” Golan told the paper, “When I was about 12, I was at the peak of my baseball career... ...I was in the all-stars and I wasn’t practicing the violin at all. I thought I was going to stay with sports.” The paper headlined the way that events eventually transpired as--- “Baseball’s loss is Portland’s gain.”

2000s

Golan

Indy Pops

Starting Conductor

Starting Pitcher

• On the Mound......... and Wearing a Tux (A Tux???)

During the summer of 2007, the PSO performed five Independence Pops concerts over the consecutive evenings of June 29-to-July 3. The efforts needed to move the large canopy, speakers, chairs, music stands, lights, etc. was a complicated logistical challenge for PSO Concert Manager Joe Boucher. To take his mind off all the goings-on, when he and other stage crew folks took breaks, frequently they’d grab baseball gloves and toss a baseball back and forth...... The final concert was at a baseball stadium in Sanford, where the stage was set up on the infield near second base, facing back toward the stands. Late in the afternoon, Joe and some others started tossing a ball around the infield to relax, when a voice was heard, “Mind if I pitch?” There, already dressed in his white-jacketed tux for the concert, was guest conductor Lawrence Golan. He strolled to the mound and Joe squatted down behind home plate. Joe reports that “he was pretty good..... even tossing some curveballs that actually curved!”

PCHA

1990s

Concert

PortlandCARES

• Bidding PCHA Adieu

Here are summary snippets that Jane Moody wrote down after the last PCHA concert on February 7, 1995:

“PSO has its final concert in the hall. The final piece is Haydn’s Farewell Symphony, where throughout the (Adagio) one-by-one the musicians get up and leave, all wearing bright-yellow hard hats. At the end there is no one left on stage. Shortly thereafter, CARES host(ed a) ‘Close The House’ party with hard hats, kegs of beer and a general thank-you to all of those who have raised the money necessary” for this to happen. (MHS files --- Moody Collection) (HS note: several pictures taken that evening have been located.)

Interviewed after the old Portland City Hall Auditorium’s final concert, Peter Plumb rhetorically asked, “is there anyone here who will miss the clanking of the radiators as the Symphony swings into those slow, quiet moments?” (MHS — Moody Collection)

Players

Dimmick

Violins

Mozart

• An Exciting Time at The Library (of Congress.... no less!)

PSO Concertmaster Charles Dimmick tells the story about an occasion when his parents took him to the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C. While there, he had an opportunity to play some rare violins, and also had a chance to privately examine a Mozart manuscript. For a 14-year-old teenager from Fargo, North Dakota........ talk about an exciting and inspiring experience..... and memory for an aspiring musician!!

1960s

Lipkin

Graffam

• SHE Said.... THAT?!!

Both Katherine and Clinton Graffam were described to HS as “always being very serious” and totally focused on music and the PSO. In contrast to her solemn reputation for which she was noted, consider the following regarding Katherine Graffam: When first ascending the podium, Conductor Lipkin had a habit of always aggressively pushing his music stand down as far as it would go. Then, he would raise it up to a level from where he could conduct the score. Perhaps it was a nervous habit designed to get the attention of the orchestra members; who knows? After a rehearsal break one time, he came to the podium, gave his stand an especially strong downward PUSH; and in doing so he lost his balance and unceremoniously crashed down amidst the violinists. After the CRASH there was total silence throughout the orchestra as, unhurt, he regained both his composure and his position atop the podium........ everyone was simply astonished at what had occurred. Turning around toward her cello section, Mrs. Graffam very quietly whispered (but loud enough for all the cellists to hear her), “I DIDN’T push him!” (HS: the section would probably have immediately all endorsed their paychecks over to her had she done so.)

1970s

Vermel

Concerts

• The AUTHENTIC Composer’s Interpretation

Conductor Vermel tells of “an incredible experience for him and the musicians”, when world-renowned violin virtuoso Zoltán Székely appeared with the PSO as a guest-soloist in 1973. Béla Bartók had composed for and dedicated his Violin Concerto No. 2, BB 117 to his friend and fellow Hungarian Mr. Székely. When Mr. Székely rehearsed and performed the work in Portland, the orchestra had the rare “incredible opportunity” to perform the music precisely as the composer had originally intended.

1980s

Hangen

Concerts

Runouts

• A Grand Send-Off

Bruce Hangen’s final appearance with the PSO in 1986 was the last of the Summer Season’s nine outdoor concerts, this one at Fort Williams Park. Prior to that late-July all-Tchaikovsky program, maestro Hangen was “delivered to the podium at the park in a turn-of-the-century carriage drawn by four prancing white Arabian horses.” Driving the outfit was Tish Howard, the wife of a retired chairman of the board of John Deere Company. The couple maintained a farm they owned near the company’s East Moline headquarters in Illinois, and were visiting George Mitchell and his family in Cape Elizabeth. For his farewell Portland concert that evening, Mr. Hangen received a grand pre-performance processional send-off starting at the back gate of the park, then along Shore Road to the park’s main entrance and then up to the stage, with the Deere chairman’s top-hatted wife fittingly attired in a livery uniform. Before the performance the Evening Express had punningly postulated that the composer’s “Suite from Swan Lake will be a swan song Saturday for Bruce Hangen”. Fireworks followed the concert. (HS: While fireworks likely accompanied some of Tchaikovsky’s premieres, it’s unlikely that the Czars ever arranged for him to be displayed before Russian concert-goers while seated high atop a grand sporting carriage pulled by Arabian horses.)

1980s

Hangen

Podium Ascensions

• There Were Just So Many Special Deliveries

The above title to this Anecdote refers to the fact that in 2013,when Bruce Hangen was reminded about his special ride to the above-mentioned 1986 PSO concert at Fort Williams Park........ surprisingly he had no recollection whatsoever about riding in that antique four-horse-driven carriage. “I just had so many special deliveries in fancy vehicles to so many concerts....” He said, maybe wistfully trying to recall some old memories.

1970s

1990s

Steinway Pianos

Lorin Hollander

Concerts

• Super-Models at PSO Concerts........ of the Steinway Variety

Searching through the PSO Archives turned up a number of newspaper clippings about Lorin Hollander’s search to find a Steinway piano suitable for PSO and PCA concerts, resulting in the selection of the celebrated then-new piano upon which both David Golub and Gary Graffman had showcased earlier in 1978, and upon which Mr. Hollander several months later also played in public for the first time. However, during the 1990’s by which time the Model D so prized 15 years earlier had become “tired” (HS: And which more and more folks now considered best if “retired”.), no articles appear to have been saved. So far (May, 2013), no one has been able to provide me with stories as to when and how a 1990’s-model D Steinway made its way into the joint possession of the PSO and the PCA (subsequently renamed Portland Ovations). The 1990’s Model D is the piano now (2013) used in concerts, with the 1978 Model D relegated to rehearsal use when the more-prized newer Model D is waiting on the stage for performances. (HS: I smiled when folks around the PSO didn’t know what I was talking about as I first attempted to confirm which of the two model D Steinway’s stored away below stage at Merrill Auditorium was the newer. Directly pointing at those two instruments, the response I received was, “we don’t have a ‘D’ piano, all we have are the ‘A’ and the ‘B’ pianos which you see here.” Obviously, the “A” Steinway was the newer, and that letter-designations related to relative performance quality.)

Why the “Hollander” Steinway Needed Replacing

• Explanation: It “Wore Out”

Former PSO Executive Director Jane Hunter offered yours truly pertinent perspective about the 1978-Steinway needing replacement, commenting that it hadn’t been stored in the best of situations at the old PCHA. Often temperatures in the storage area were too cold, and usually the instrument needed to be moved through very tight quarters. Thus, she summarized, “it wore out”.

1970s

1980s

“Magic of Christmas”

Concert-program

Coincidence?

• A Portentous Porteous, Mitchell & Braun Advertisement

After several years of Holiday-Season concerts that had different theme-titles, In December of 1980 Bruce Hangen inaugurated annual “Magic of Christmas” concerts. Although that label hadn’t yet been applied to the 1976-season’s pair of “Holiday-Pops” performances (HS: One pre-season promotional circular included the phrase “Christmas Pops”), they arguably mark the origin of what has by now (2013, when this is written) evolved into a 38-year tradition happily shared and enjoyed by both PSO musicians and PSO concertgoers alike.

It was surprising to spot that in 1976, four years before the title “Magic of Christmas” would first be applied to the PSO’s 1980 Christmas-season concert, that exact phrase had appeared on the center two pages of the concert program for the PSO’s December 7 Classical Concert (HS: When Gounod’s St. Cecelia Mass had been performed.)

The complete phrasing in that 1976 concert program center spread was “REMEMBER THE MAGIC OF CHRISTMAS WHEN YOU WERE A CHILD?”. However, the question was not posed in association with any PSO concert. Instead, it was the lead of a Porteous advertisement, the Porteous, Mitchell & Braun Co. department store whose flagship location and headquarters were at 522 Congress Street. Below the three-word-phrase that would later become synonymous with Christmas-season family enjoyment in Portland, the advertisement encouraged shoppers to “Come to ‘The Christmas Tree Store’.... And bring your family for an adventure in shopping....”. Two years later, the identical Porteous center spread advertisement was once-again included in the PSO concert program of December 5, 1978.

So, one might easily wonder---might PSO Music Director Hangen or PSO Manager Burleigh have unconsciously “stored that phrase away” in 1976 or in 1978, with later recall bringing it front-and-center to their consciousness..... the result being that the PSO started regularly using the title in 1980?

Anyway, whether that Porteous advertisement had any influence as a catalyst or not........ now almost 40 years later-- “Magic of Christmas” concerts remain a wonderful seasonal tradition for thousands of Portland-area families. But...... maybe that advertisement headline was key? Hm-m-m-m-m-m. There is no question that the concept for the PSO’s “Magic of Christmas” concerts was born to the collaborative minds of Mssrs. Burleigh and Hangen...... a series that evolved into a fantastic success and entertainment joy for thousands and thousands of PSO attendees.

To view either the 1976 or 1978 program center spread advertisement from Porteous, check out PSOhistory.org and ‘click’ on either December 7, 1976 or December 5, 1978 among the 90-year chronological listing of PSO concerts.

Merrill

Sound

• Why Merrill’s Rear Walls are Rounded

Rounding of the back walls of the interior of Merrill Auditorium was done (during the mid-1990’s construction) to improve the acoustics of the hall.

1940s

Cook

Concerts

• Musical Homefront War Patriotism

To build and maintain morale, during World War II the Federal government sponsored a series of free homefront concerts where patriotic songs were sung by local residents and War Bonds sold. A group of fifteen prominent conductors from around the country were chosen to give music lectures and lead and conduct these concerts. As one of those, Dr. Cook often traveled to other locations around the U.S., his tours designed around his schedules related to the PSO, Princeton and other advisory positions he held. The scrapbook that his family maintained during his Portland-years is among the PSO archives, and it includes many clippings showing his involvement at various locales. The government printed millions of song sheets containing music and/or words to patriotic songs that were provided to audiences. Dr. Cook’s scrapbook contains several such song sheets. The patriotic-song program was named “Music For Morale” and in the scrapbook are many local-paper clippings about the PSO director’s journeys that often referred to his many “Cook’s Tours”.

1990s

Performers

Players

Canadian Humor

• Career Advice

The founder of the Canadian Brass ensemble that headlined part of the Gala Opening of Merrill Auditorium in 1997, the excellent tubist Chuck Daellenbach, was a graduate of the Eastman School of Music. A story about Chuck that was in an ESM alumni magazine that my wife Sue received some years ago re-affirmed the verbally-entertaining talents of the guy. An Eastman commencement speaker that year, it was reported that he concluded his remarks to graduates ready to take their talents and move into various music professions, intentionally lowering his voice and then in resonant stentorian tones, solemnly advised.............. “The most important professional advice that I leave you with is the following...............: Never!---, Don’t EVER!!---, leave your wallet backstage!” As you would expect, those gathered in the Eastman Theatre in Rochester..... roared with laughter.

1960s

Lipkin

Concerts

Misc

• Now.... What Does That Word Mean?

A headline accompanying The Maine Evening Express reviewer Harrison Brown’s article about Arthur Bennett Lipkin’s opening-night concert in 1962 boldly declared “Symphony, Conductor Lipkin ‘Great’ In Season’s Opener”. Among the plaudits in the article, Mr. Brown wrote about “the new sound, not only in the strings but in the refulgent brasses was never more noticeable than in the Sibelius Finlandia. (HS: I don’t know about your vocabulary, but I had to look up the definition of “refulgent”.)

1960s

Lipkin

Board

PR

• He’s Gonna Make a “GO of it”

The Press Herald headline about that evening was “Portland Symphony Starts New Era In City’s Culture”. If ever the PSO Board members had justification in sticking out their chests, comments like that certainly must have made them feel strongly vindicated about having insisted on selecting Mr. Lipkin as maestro.

1960s

Runouts

$$

• Tough Competition

A Press Herald article in early 1967 reported PSO board concerns about the wisdom in accepting an invitation for the orchestra to perform a June concert In Montreal on “Maine Day” at Expo 67. The PSO would require almost $12,000 to cover expenses of travel, hotel and rehearsals, but another handicap also needed consideration–competition. Another orchestra was already booked for the evening on that day, L’ Orchestre de la Suisse Romande, one of Europe’s leading ensembles, which would be conducted by the celebrated director, Ernest Ansermet. Isaac Sternwould be the violin soloist with the Swiss orchestra. An alternative offered the Portland group was to play an afternoon outdoor concert in an open shell, although the schedule was already set so that the PSO would be sandwiched between two marching bands, hardly the setting for a symphony. (It was ultimately decided that the Vághy String Quartet would represent the state at Expo 67’s “Maine Day”. The VSQ were appointed the quartet-in-residence at theUniversity of Mainein 1966, a position the VSQ held until 1968. The quartet had been formed in 1965 when the members were studying at the Julliard School of Music in New York City. For their Montreal performance, the VSQ featured compositions by Walter Piston, Peter Re and Morton Gold.... all Maine composers.)

Hangen

PSO Archives

• How Do You Say “Well-Liked” in Spanish?

The newspaper-clipping files in the PSO Archives are dutifully labeled, such as “Classical – 1976”, or “Education – 1979”, or maybe “Bruce Hangen – 1981”. When going through a large box of such files, something about a hand-written yellow-sticky note inside the clear-plastic label affixed to one 1985-1986 pendaflex folder told me that “the guy was loved and popular”. Containing a half-inch-thick collection of articles about Maestro Hangen and his final season atop the PSO podium, onto the label of that file folder at label had been written–“El Conductor”.

1980s

Hangen

Concert

• Ready. Aim. Fire!! (But what’s the target?)

Joking with the press when the first Symphony By The Sea Pops Concert was being publicized, Conductor Bruce Hangen expressed excitement about the fact that five cannon would be borrowed from Portland-area collectors to assist the PSO during The 1812 Overture. (HS: Whoa!  Even though a year later a newspaper article referred to these as “salute cannons”, do you know who among your neighbors has a cannon collection?!) “We will not have to go to the bass drum or shotgun approach” for the crescendos,” the Press Herald reported. Then, grinning, he added, “Whether they’ll be pointed at the audience, I don’t know.”

1960s

Concerts

Lipkin

• Look At The Map!

Following Arthur Bennett Lipkin’s final concert in 1967, the local newspapers ran a large number of articles about the various events. One such aspect of the concert was the Voice of America recording made for subsequent re-broadcast to Nigeria as a tribute. Apparently the Evening Express assigned a rookie scribe to interview the Nigerian ambassador to the United States who had flown up to Portland for the concert. A bold headline (fortunately not on page#1) alerted readers to statements made by the Algerian Envoy. (......whoops.....)

1970s

Organ

Virgil Fox

• Oh, Ber-r-r-t!

Former PSO manager Russ Burleigh once told the story about the only time that Virgil Fox ever made a trip to Portland to play the Kotzschmar Memorial Organ. “When he arrived in Portland, he announced that he wanted to practice on and get used to the Kotzschmar Organ at night. This meant midnight. Peter Plumb had the dubious honor of delivering him to City Hall at this strange hour. During the day of the concert, he had organ curator, Bert Witham, traipsing all through the forest of pipes, finding and solving troublesome ones, tuning them, and explaining the intricacies of our historic music machine. Whenever he wanted him for something, he would nearly shriek, ‘Oh, Ber-r-r-t, and Bert would do his thing, all the while moaning and groaning about this maniac at the keyboard.”

1980s

Players

• “T” To The 3rd Power

After 25+ years without a marching band, PSO tubist David Winer, who had begun developing one at Portland High School several years earlier (HS: starting with 12 members), proudly announced that the then-present group of 57 members had been invited to the annual Marching Band Spectacular at Westbrook. The PHS kids were invited as “The Most Improved Band”! Mr. Winer told the Evening Express an interesting fact about himself. He was also proud to be one of the 1500 U.S. members of the Tubists Universal Brotherhood Association. [The EE added, “Whose letters spell.....You know.”]) (HS: Oh, about that title, consider Town Tubist Tells Tall Tale.)

1970s

Concerts

Audience Survey

Family Harmony

• Marriage Counseling

While a number of intra-PSO marriages failed to last over the years, this THINGS-PSO is too friendly a treatise to ever go into particular details, and stories about specifics won’t be included herein (HS: Although one particularly “good tale” about a PSO-related meeting at a Portland-area marriage counselor a-l-m-o-s-t made it into the final draft. Ask me on the side and I’ll tell it to you, sans names of individuals involved, of course.), However, one “sort-of marriage-counseling-related” anecdote does deserve to be included.

In the late 1970s the PSO surveyed subscribers to find out which pieces a majority would nominate for an “Audience Choice” concert. More than 300 responses were received, and the numbers voted most-popular were clear-cut “warhorse” favorites..... George Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue ending up at the top of the list. Bruce Hangen and the PSO staff played it fair-and-square and didn’t pre-rig the outcome. Most people simply listed their favorites, and very few wrote anything in a section of the survey requesting general comments. Several did, however, including this surprise: “In the interest of domestic tranquility, please do not provide only one ballot for two people.” Later telling this story as an aside in a concert program, PSO manager Russ Burleigh wrote: “A point well taken.”

1970s

Vermel

Concerts

Guests

Farrell

Gotch’a

• Personable, Talented..... and Witty

When famed Metropolitan Opera and frequent lyric-opera/concert soprano Eileen Farrell appeared as a guest soloist with the PSO in 1970, she told an Evening Express interviewer that she was not a “Wagnerian soprano”. However, for her performance in Portland she had agreed to Paul Vermel’s out-of-the-box urgings to that evening sing the Immolation Finale from Richard Wagner’s “Die Gotterdammerung”. Honored that she would sing a non-traditional work (for her, that is), the conductor was thus especially sensitive about being sure that the musicians would not overpower her voice. Before a rehearsal, he asked his wife to walk here-and-there throughout PCHA to observe if the balance was OK between the orchestra and the soloist. At the conclusion of the run-through of “The Immolation”, he turned toward the empty hall and called out into the darkness something like “can you hear her OK?” Before Mrs. Vermel could respond, Miss Farrell boomed out, “My Dear Fellow.... I wasn’t really SINGING yet!” It is likely that her instant, clever, retort brought the house down with laughter. (HS: Incidentally, without any prompting on my part, but on his own recollection--- former PSO Manager Russ Burleigh confirmed this fun-happening in a separate conversation with me.)

1940s

Concerts

Guests

• BIG $$$

Not having previously heard about Dorothea Powers before reading about her appearance with the PSO in 1948, I did some Googling: Reportedly she had been a “child prodigy, who quit playing in 1937 she married a successful businessman”, becoming Dorothea Powers Percival.” A 1946 United Press International story said that her “Earl of Plymouth” 1711 Stradivarius violin was “known as one of the three finest violins in the world”. It had been owned by Fritz Kreisler since the 1920s when the long lost instrument had been found in England [after having been missing for 125+ years]. She bought the violin from Mr. Kreisler in 1946 (reportedly for less than its then-$80,000 value, although details of the sale were not public), saying “that she would use the violin for her return to the concert stage”. Over the years she appears to have at one point owned three strads, simultaneously. All this suggests that her husband was, indeed, a VERY successful businessman. According to another Google-found report, “Depending on condition, instruments made during Stradivari’s “golden period” from 1700 to about 1725 can be worth millions of dollars. (Incidentally, Googling about Miss Powers turned up a 1940’s publicity photograph of her dressed in a gown and holding her violin. In addition to her being an excellent musician..... she looked stunning!)

Shimada

Retirement

2006

• One Thing That Toshi Wouldn’t Talk About

During the run-up to “Toshi-week” in 2006, when the retiring PSO maestro was feted here and there and everywhere in honor of his 20-year stint as Music Director and Conductor, one interviewer asked, “What will you miss?” when he is living in New Haven. His answer was left incomplete, an intentional avoidance by him. Published in Arts Guide Portland, it was, “Sapporo Restaurant. Yoshi Hayashi, the owner, has been wonderful to my Japanese taste buds. I will also miss Casco Bay, but I am only four hours away from Portland. And of course, great fly fishing spots (No, I will not tell you where).”

Oboist Neil Boyer

Two Rehearsals and One Performance

Catch’a-Plane

Grab’a-Limo

• The PSO Oboist Was Almost a Jet-Setter

Neil Boyer tells about one time having a three-service commitment that involved an impossible-to-achieve-by-driving transportation challenge. A mid-morning dress rehearsal in Vermont was closely followed by a dress rehearsal in Portland, with the day concluding back in Vermont with that ensemble performing in the evening. Since an over-and-back commute was not going to work, timewise, the PSO oboist chartered a private plane and a pilot to shuttle him to Portland, and then quickly spirit him back to Vermont after the Portland rehearsal. While when he first told the story, Neal didn’t specify the type of plane involved, I told him that I guessed that “most assuredly it must have been a luxurious Learjet, met by a tuxedo-ed chauffer with a stretch limo, wouldn’t you think?” (HS: I didn’t want to ruin my visualization of his Super-First-Class jet-setting, but reluctantly called him back for more info..... hoping that I wouldn’t find out his means of transport really were just a single-engine two-seater Cessna and a rickety, rusty old Portland taxi-cab. But.... his answer revealed an even worse “Last-Class service”. His words: “Don’t I wish! It was a little Cessna Cardinal and I damn near froze to death. I was a student pilot at the time which was why I got the idea to begin with. The fellow who flew me was one of my instructors and he brought his wife, so they could go shopping in Portland (while I slaved away over a hot oboe) and she sat up front with him where the heater was.”)

1960s

Lipkin

Players

• New Conductor A Newlywed

The first winter that Mr. and Mrs. Lipkin lived in the Portland area, they resided (renting, presumably) in the upscale Falmouth Foreside home of one of the Payson families (who, also presumably, were in Florida). That abode, likely along the lines of the upscale Chestnut Hill, Philadelphia, suburb from where they had moved, appears to have remained their Portland-area residence throughout the first several years of the conductor’s stay (at least through the winters; the Lipkins were summertime world travelers). In later years Mr. Lipkin would often meet PSO associates in his hotel rooms for meetings. (Then married for about a year, minutes show approval of a first-anniversary present to be purchased for the couple; -- the bride was likely long accustomed to similarly first-class neighborhoods, as widespread rumors had it that she was raised within a Very Rich family.......... and a multi-millionaire many times over. Also, her first husband, Davis Cavanaugh, had been an ambassador from the U.S. to several countries around the world. HS came across one person who thought she was a divorcee prior to her marriage to Mr. Lipkin, but no one interviewed seemed to know for sure. One longtime PSO patron recalls her “tall and statuesque”.) Throughout his early PSO tenure, the couple frequently entertained at the comfortable home and extensive property on Thornhurst Point. (A longtime PSO player fondly recalls Conductor and Mrs. Lipkin entertaining the orchestra during events at that handsome residence.)

1960s

Lipkin

Record

• Recording A Tribute

Sometime during the 1960s, long play 33&1/3 rpm records were cut for the PSO by Lee Quimby Associates in Cape Elizabeth. Presumably, copies were made available to subscribers and PSO supporters. The record label was titled “A Tribute To Arthur Bennett Lipkin – Conductor, Portland Maine Symphony Orchestra”. From different concerts performed during the latter period of Mr. Lipkin’s PSO career, the complete works included were: Worthy Is The Lamb, Blessing and Honor and A-MEN from Handel’s “Messiah”; Liadov’s Suite of Russian Folk Songs; Elliott Schwartz’s Electronic Music, Bach’s Fugue in G Minor; Dukas’ Fanfare for Orchestra and Handel’s Concerto for Harp and Orchestra. It is not now known if the record was (1) a tribute to Mr. Lipkin or (2) a self-tribute to him. It is possible that it was produced after his retirement. Katharine Graffam retained several copies among her extensive collection of PSO memorabilia. (HS: So now..... the problem is--- Finding Someone Who Has A Working Record Player!)

Don Doane

• Big Don and his Big Band

An important fixture within the Portland music scene for many years was Don Doane. An excellent basketball player and musician, he went on from South Portland High School to Boston University, on a basketball scholarship, after graduation returning to Portland to be a public school band director. Nights, he played jazz trombone gigs around the area, and for many years in the 60s went off to “see the world” as a trombonist with Maynard Ferguson’s band, and some other legendary band leaders—Meyer Davis and Count Basie (HS: Although Don’s was a short stint with the Basie band, ending when he refused to take a trip to Japan due to a fear of flying.). Later he interspersed teaching positions (HS: for a time during 1966-1968 he was back in Portland and played as a member of the PSO) with sabbaticals so he could go off to play with bands led by Woody Herman and Bobby Hackett. Locally, he eventually formed the Don Doane Big Band, which made guest appearances with the PSO on numerous occasions.

Don Doane

• CAREFUL! That’s a Special Trumpet

A mutual longtime acquaintance of HS who played with Don Doane in Maynard Ferguson’s band tells of one time when Don bought a used trumpet in a shop, planning a spoof on his boss. At a gig on the band leader’s birthday, at one point Don went to the mike and announced to the audience the significance of the date to Maynard. He then produced the trumpet that he had purchased, holding up a now-polished shiny instrument for all to see, describing it as rare, valuable and special...... and called his boss over to the mike to receive this unique birthday gift from the band. Just as Maynard arrived and held out his hands, Don DROPPED IT onto the floor! That’s a neat practical joke.

1960s

Lipkin

$$

• When Playing Monopoly..... Try To Own the Pennsylvania Railroad

One source that HS found revealed Mary Lipkin’s full maiden name--- Mary Cassatt Castleman. Her Main Line Philadelphia connections coincided with the fact that a president of the Pennsylvania Rail Road, Alexander J. Cassatt, may have been her grandfather. A.J., as he was known, was the brother of Mary Cassatt, an artist who had moved to Paris, and at age 33 in 1877, was invited by Edgar Degas to show her works with the Impressionists. The fact that Mrs. Lipkin’s first two given names were “Mary Cassatt” suggests that she might very well have been a member of the Cassatt family, but no 100% evidence has been spotted. What is known is that Arthur and Mary Lipkin took several-month-long foreign trips during his years as PSO conductor. His income, alone, was nowhere remotely close to financing such excursions; local rumors had it that it was “her money” that allowed the couple to live very comfortably. (If A.J. was indeed her grandfather, she would have been in position to enjoy Philadelphia’s “high society”; AJ’s summer Main Line digs included a 600 acre farm (!) and during his work tenure the Pennsylvania RR for some years had a larger annual budget than did the United States Federal Government. That’s rich.)

1950s

Players

• Start Of A Long Career

In 1952, the youngest member of the PSO was tympanist Norman Fickett, age 15. In later years he would have a multi-decade-long career as tympanist with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra.

2000s

Players

• Full Circle

When percussionist Norman Fickett revealed his intention to retire from the Detroit Symphony Orchestra after four decades, more than 100 applicants responded to an open “cattle call” opportunity to audition for the post. One young recent Eastman School of Music graduate seeking the position who traveled to Detroit for a tryout, was Gregory Simonds. Although he did not receive the nod, not long thereafter he was selected to fill an open percussion slot with the Portland Symphony Orchestra. The PSO, of course, was the orchestra where, in 1952, the then-young Norman Fickett was tympanist during his high school days.

1960s

Concerts

Youth

• Dates of Presidential Inaugurations Don’t Get Changed..... but PSO Concert Dates Are Different

January 22, 1961, was the originally-scheduled date for a Sunday-afternoon PSO Youth Concert. However, a conflict developed when several of the orchestra players who were also members of the Deering High School Band on that day ended up returning from an away trip. The Band had been in Washington, D.C., to march in the Inaugural Parade for President John Kennedy. The date for the PSO concert was changed and performed one week later.

1980s

Hangen

Graffams

• What’s That Paper Bag You’re Carrying Mean?

As have the PSO’s conductors for many years, Bruce Hangen often gave talks to groups prior to concerts about upcoming performances. Some of these were “Brown Bag Lunch” affairs. A clever marketing slogan during the Hangen-years was printed on the outside of hundreds of specially-designed paper bags--- “Brown Bag Lunch with Bruce, Brahms and Beethoven”. Actually, the bags were not used when such lunch-chats occurred, since attendees actually brought their own sandwiches... but I bet they were useful –and fun–walking-around-town publicity notices reminding Portlanders about the symphony. (HS: Rummaging among the hundreds of souvenirs and memorabilia saved by longtime PSO cellist Katherine Graffam, I came across one of these bags—fortunately unused.)

“Magic of Christmas”

Players

Thievery

Recovery!

• A “Magic” Disappearance..... and then a Magic Reappearance

During the years before renovations brought “The New Merrill” into being, the PSO’s offices were located in rooms behind the stage, space that was eliminated when the stage was deepened and dressing rooms and the rehearsal hall were constructed. In those pre-Merrill times, between rehearsals and performances, the musicians often left their instrument cases in the office area when they went off for dinner. Between a matinee and evening performance of “Magic of Christmas” one time, Stephanie Burk returned from dinner to find that her oboe was missing. The concert would start in ten minutes. Along with its valise-like case, it had been stolen from the PSO office area, as, it also turned out, were several suitcases of musicians who hadn’t yet checked into their hotels. Trumpet player John Schnell was also co-personnel manager at the time, and he ordered that the concert be delayed. Hurrying outside, he had the presence of mind to look inside nearby dumpsters in the area, which yielded success. Likely hoping to find money, the thieves had emptied out the contents from all three satchels, and left most everything in one of the dumpsters he checked. Stephanie was understandably upset with having her horn stolen, but was ready to perform with a borrowed instrument and reed, when –like magic–in walked John with her horn. Fortunately, it was none the worse for wear, and cold winter temperatures had not cracked the wood.

Current

Merrill

Sound

Players

• Still Room For Improvement

In 2012, several members of the PSO politely said they believe that Merrill’s stage acoustics need yet further improvement. “There are still problems hearing (each other) on the stage”. However, comments about the rehearsal room were not diplomatic: “Terrible”, “can’t hear” (each other) ; “sounds awful” and sarcastically, “makes the upstairs (Merrill stage) hearing ‘really good’ “. The PSO members are thankful that budgets allow for most rehearsals to be held upstairs on the Merrill stage.

1990s

Merrill

Organ

Gov’t

• Cutting The Red Tape

Skirting city regulations (justifiably): Because Merrill Auditorium was owned by the City, all renovation-project work assignments were subject to the city’s competitive-bidding regulations. A very nervous FOKO sought a Sole Source exemption insofar as disassembly/reassembly of the Kotzschmar Organ was concerned, maintaining that only one firm, Organ Clearing House in N.H., was totally qualified to handle that work so that all the previous decade’s restoration work would be preserved. Fortunately, the City Manager granted FOKO’s Sole Source exemption request for this $80,000 contract. (source: City Manager’s Office memorandum)

1960s

Misc

Concerts

• So... What Did That Word Mean?

In you didn’t already know, the “refulgent” definition referred to above includes “shining radiantly; resplendent”.

1970s

Players

• Too Big To Bring Home To Practice>

In the mid-1960s, a Portland mother refused to allow her sixth-grade son to play the string bass in a school musical show. She told him it was too big to bring home to practice. Another boy, who had never played the string bass before, was asked to take his place. By 1971, the “replacement”, Dan Hall, was a member of the string bass section of the PSO. That’s a happy ending.... for sure.

Aaron Copland

• So.... What’s the Story Behind the Title “Appalachian Spring”?<

Maybe you already knew this; but the answer to this question somehow had never come to my attention. Some Googling provided me the details (HS: And I admit to substantial unattributed plagiarizing.):

* Mr. Copland wrote a ballet score for dancer and choreographer Martha Graham. He originally gave it no title, simply referring to it as Ballet for Martha.

* Shortly before the premiere, Ms. Graham suggested Appalachian Spring, a phrase from a Hart Crane poem, “The Dance” from a collection of poems in his book “The Bridge”.

* It goes: “O Appalachian Spring! I gained the ledge,<

                  Steep, inaccessible smile that eastward bends,

                  And northward reaches in that violet wedge<

                  Of Adirondacks”

* Because he composed the music without the benefit of knowing what the title was going to be, Mr. Copland was often amused when people told him he captured the beauty of the Appalachians in his music, including one time during an interview with NPR’s Fred Calland.

* Little known is that the word “spring” denotes a source of water in the Crane poem; however the poem is a journey to meet springtime.

1960s

Players

• Mercenaries

Around 1960 or so, PSO conductors, wanting to further improve the musical quality of the orchestra, pressed for more and more professional players from Boston being added to the PSO. One item in the PSO Archives notes that it was then not unusual for the longtime local members of the orchestra to refer to the imports as being the “mercenaries”. One former player referred to them as “ringers”, but then immediately interjected that “we knew the imports were absolutely necessary” for the PSO to sound good. Fortunately, these types of jealous insults dissolved over time and have long not been an issue.

1980s

Tickets

Run-outs

Police

• “Car Laden With Tickets, Police Called”

Normally such a newspaper headline would deal with a story about a traffic scofflaw. However, about two weeks before a 1983 PSO run-out concert at Pleasant Mountain in New Hampshire, an Evening Express story did carry as a headline the first part of the above title. And... the police were called. Bad News: But..... what had happened was that the editor and publisher of the mini-tabloid, The Traveler, had more than $2000 worth of tickets (HS: Presumably they were destined for use by some of his advertisers, as a promotion... although that fact was not in the newspaper.) stolen when his car was stolen while he made deliveries in Portland one morning at 1am. Not only did he want those tickets, but he obviously wanted his car back!  Good News: The next issue, the EE reported that a lady out walking her dog who had read about the stolen car, spotted it and called the rightful owner. The tickets were still safely tucked away in the glove compartment. (HS: Good thing for the car’s owner that they weren’t tickets to a big-time rock show and were found by the thief. They’d have been fenced in minutes!) There was no additional follow-up EE article among the PSO Archives about whether the people who ended up with the tickets enjoyed the PSO’s concert.

1960s

Concerts

Artists

• Guard Those Finger Tips

In ’69, PSO classical guest-guitarist John Williams agreed (for an additional fee) to also perform at a school.

-However, a condition was that he only “perform solos, inasmuch as another orchestral performance would be too much for his nails” when he was in Portland.

1970s

Players

• Silk – Sounds and Sight

A 1971 Evening Express article about PSO viola principal Julia Moseley mentioned that she used one of her grandfather’s pure silk handkerchiefs to protect her throat. It didn’t however, protect it enough to prevent a large bruise under her jaw....... “the trademark of a violist” cited reporter June Fitzpatrick.

1980s

Hangen

Concert Etiquette

• Not Hustling Cough Drops

In an early-1980s’ February concert program, Bruce Hangen wrote a sidebar note in his then-regular “Notes from the Podium” column. He commented that “to those who think I am glaring at the coughers in the audience, please forgive me for giving that kind of impression. While I am not terribly fond of audiences which border on the tubercular, my turning around after the first movement of a concert is only meant to check if all late-comers had enough time to find their seats before continuing with the program.”

Tchaikovsky

Tschaikowsky

Etc.

• Hey, Pyotr Il’yich..... How Do You Spell Your Last Name in English?

Going through seemingly hundreds of references to the great Russian composer as this THINGS-PSO was being drafted, many spelling variations of Tchaikovsky were noted. Early-years’ Portland Orchestra programs regularly used “Tschaikowsky”, but current PSO programs (and its website; so there!) show “Tchaikovsky”. There are other English-variations on the authentic cyrillic  “Петр Ильич Чайковский”, and Googling reveals that “the composer himself used ‘Tchaikovsky’, ‘Tschaikovsky’ and ‘Tschaikowsky’ when writing in other languages, while ‘Chaykovskiy’ would be a more literal transliteration.” So.... since Music Director Moody has signed off on “Tchaikovsky” for the PSO’s current times, that’s the spelling that “rules” for THINGS-PSO. (HS: However...... don’t bet too much on all needed edit-corrections to have been made.)

1950s

Women

$$

• A Lady With MANY Interests

In 1953, the PSO sponsored a Fashion Fiesta fund-raising poolside event at the Falmouth Foreside estate of Mr. and Mrs. Charles Shipman Payson. (HS note: Mrs. Payson’s interests included much more than music, as she by then had been actively involved in sports as a racehorse stable owner for almost 30 years and was a part owner of the New York Giants National League baseball team [after the majority owner of the Giants moved the team to San Francisco, she became the majority owner, in 1960, of the newly-established New York Mets] as well as a life-long fan of heavyweight prizefights. [In 1962 she told Sports Illustrated that she had attended virtually every championship in the weight class over the preceding 49 years.] She was also a major philanthropist, which included donations of many impressionist and contemporary art classics to major museums, as well as a venture capitalist. An “absolute classic” quote in the Sports Illustrated article reported her often publicly-made references to Charles Shipman Payson as “my present husband”; she teased him with that label throughout their 50-year marriage. Poor Charlie;--- well maybe not.... Since the Sports Illustrated article was titled “Happy Blend of Sport and Cash”.)

1930s

Board

• Do You Know of Any Duets for Bassoon & Tympani?

Contained in the PSO archives is a 1932 receipt from the then City Clerk, A. Edwin Smith, affirming the City having received on behalf of the Portland Music Commission from Mr. Carl Liberty:

-“1 Bassoon and 1 Set of Kettle Drums”

There is no indication as to why or how this occurred. Carl Liberty was a charter member of the orchestra, and although in the 1960s and by-then retired from the PSO, was still teaching students. (HS: During the 1960s, PSO concert programs listed names of Portland-area music teachers, and he was shown as a percussion instructor.)

2013

Players

Magic of Christmas Rehearsal

• Daughter Calls Out a “Magic” Surprise Hello to Her Mom

A happy article in the Press Herald about the 2013 “Magic of Christmas” concert series told how longtime PSO violist Ann Stepp was delighted to learn something. The newspaper reported that Ms. Stepp “did not know her daughter would join her on stage until a dress rehearsal”. The previous spring, Daughter Sarah Boone had joined the Portland Community Chorus, from which the Magic of Christmas Chorus is drawn. Ms. Boone, the orchestra, family and friends kept her participation a secret. Reporter Bob Keyes wrote that “Boone revealed the surprise just before the rehearsal began. She discreetly followed her mother into her dressing room. Alarmed, Stepp asked, ‘What are you doing here?’ “ .....Said her daughter, ‘it’s customary to attend rehearsals when you are part of the performances.’ “ One observation was that Ms. Stepp’s “jaw just dropped.”

As had also been true when her mother performed during the first-ever “Magic of Christmas(HS: Ann was appearing in her 34th edition of the PSO’s popular Holiday series, having played in Every One!), Ms. Boone was pregnant. In fact, some might technically assert that she had also been on stage when Bruce Hangen conducted that initial “Magic” concert, for she had been in utero in 1980.

Keep posted to see if the little boy born in March of 2014 eventually also makes a “Magic” appearance.

PSO Staff

• A Dixon Here, A Dixon There... Watch-out! – There Might Be Dixons Everywhere!

An interesting coincidence (HS: At least to me, anyway) is that current (2012) Portland Symphony Orchestra Executive Director Lisa Dixon, who graduated from college at the Eastman School of Music in Rochester NY, is not the first “Dixon” among PSO staff ranks. Back in 1983, Samuel C. Dixon, who coincidentally was a Rochester native, for part of that season was a member of the PSO staff under a fellowship program run by the American Symphony Orchestra League (Lisa was also an ASYO fellowship awardee, of which there only 6 chosen each year). A recent Dartmouth College grad in 1983, a Google-check revealed that Sam did go on to engage in the professional management side of the classical music business. In 2012 he is Executive & Artistic Director of an extensive concert program at internationally renowned Spivey Hall, located on the campus of Clayton State University, a 400-seat, acoustically-superior performing arts venue opened in 1991 that presents the best in jazz and classical music to the metro-Atlanta community.

1960s

Lipkin

PR

• Conductor Was Also Mr. Ambassador

Arthur Bennett Lipkin was seemingly indefatigable in finding ways to promote the PSO (and simultaneously, himself, it might as well be added). In 1964 he made a cultural tour to Japan, Hong Kong, Cambodia and Thailand where he took part in some musical programs and also presented a key to the City of Portland to some foreign officials. Prior to his departure on that trip, Maine Governor John Hathaway Reed designated Mr. Lipkin as “Maine’s First Ambassador of Culture”. The prior summer he and Mrs. Lipkin had made a similar “music ambassadorial” journey to a number of European countries. (The Timeline section of ThingsPSO covers additional similar grand tours that Mr. and Mrs. Lipkin made to foreign regions to promote Portland with individual country’s leaders.) Eventually throughout his five summers traveling abroad as an unabashed promoter of Maine, he presented ceremonial Portland keys to officials in more than 70 cities.

1970s

Vermel

Madiera

Concerts

• I’ll Trade You a Paul for a Frank

In the early 1970s, the members of both the PSO and the Rhode Island Philharmonic Orchestra were to each have an opportunity to learn “how those other guys live”. Maestros Paul Vermel and Francis Madeira were scheduled to swap podiums for a week and guest-conduct “the other’s guys (and girls)” in subscription concerts in each other’s city. Mr. Madiera was set to return to Portland, where he had guest-conducted during the twilight of Mr. Lipkin’s tenure; however he fell ill and Paul Vermel stepped in to conduct the program set in Mr. Maiera’s place. Mr. Vermel did travel to conduct in Providence, his first appearance there.

1940s

Madiera

• Unique 1941 Television Broadcast

An unusual bio-info item regarding two-time PSO guest conductor Francis Madeira was detailed in the 1965 PSO concert program when he appeared with the Portland Symphony. In 1941 he gave the first televised piano recital in the United States.

1960s

Lipkin

PR

• So, What Do You Give A King Who Already Has Everything?

When Arthur Bennett Lipkin did his “ambassadorial thing” in the Far East, he had an audience with the King of Thailand. Obviously, just a key wouldn’t make his visit memorable to the monarch. So...... to indeed make his drop-by an unforgettable one....... he presented the king a Maine pine cone.

1960s

Lipkin

Royalty?

• A “Titled” Conductor

A PSO guest-conductor from many years ago recently (2012) told a neat story to HS about former PSO conductor Arthur Bennett Lipkin, always a highly-egocentric person. The two conductors frequently interfaced during meetings and activities of the American Orchestra League, of which Mr. Lipkin was president for several years prior to his ascending the podium in Portland. A nickname frequently used for him among his colleagues at the league was “Sir Arthur”. (HS: I’ll bet that he NEVER SAID, “oh...... that’s not necessary”.)

1960s

Lipkin

Domestic Needs

• Not in His Job Description

“Sir Arthur” became a little too demanding of service one time in Portland. Reports have it that when a toilet at his residence didn’t properly function, he picked up the phone and called the PSO’s president, requesting......... whatever. While the head of the PSO board was most likely very diplomatic in responding to the complaint of the man who held the PSO baton, it would be interesting to learn what thoughts were going through his head during that conversation. So.... while both PSO top-dogs had the Yellow Pages phone books, I wonder who called a plumber?

1970s

Vermel

• His Watchdog Wasn’t Watching

During a rehearsal one early-February evening in 1971, Paul Vermel’s car was parked in a nearby lot. A bad guy took his car. “Fortunately or unfortunately”, he told a local reporter, “I left my dog at home. I’m trying to teach him to stay alone. However, if he’d been in the car, it wouldn’t have been stolen.” “The parking lot attendant said ‘Just leave the keys in the car’. I did. It was just like handing him (the thief) the car on a silver platter. (HS is still on the alert for a follow-up story about any recovery of the maestro’s car.)

1990s

Merrill

Sound

• A Good Theater Designer, But---

An acoustician involved in the restoration of City Hall Auditorium commented to HS that George “Izenour was more an expert in lighting and sightlines... (and he) built good shells, but they were often not well done acoustically”. (No--- that acoustician’s first name was neither Larry or Robert.)

1910s

PCHA

Misc

• No Horses Now

An old Carrère and Hastings drawing shows that where the rehearsal room’s rear Myrtle/Cumberland corner is today...... previously was the City Hall stable. Later, 25 or so parking spots (one designated for a former PSO manager who fondly remembers that particular perk as an extra-special benefit; -----think “snowstorms”) were in a lot along Cumberland where the right side of the rehearsal room is now located.

1960s

Artists

• Does Anyone Younger Than 30 Know Who Her Student Was?

In a pre-concert article about harpist Mildred Dilling’s then-upcoming 1965 solo appearance with the PSO, a press notice referenced that “she taught Harpo Marx”. (Sunday Telegram)

1960s

Artists

Misc

• A Night at The Opera (or.... you create your own caption)

Harpist Mildred Dilling, who solo-ed with the PSO in 1965, told the Press Herald reviewer John Thornton a wonderful story about her pupil and friend, Harpo Marx. She recalled that the ‘mute’ Marx brother, famed for his penchant for chasing girls on stage while honking an old fashioned claxon, indeed was a talented harpist. At his first formal recital at a small hall in New York City, “Harpo finished his program in a blaze of technical brilliance, then hurriedly left the stage. The applause was very good, and it kept growing and growing. I thought it would never stop, but Harpo did not come back to the stage.” Looking for him, she finally found Harpo sneaking down a back hall. She asked why he had not come onstage to acknowledge the tumultuous tribute; his response--- “I was in the back, leading the applause.”

Merrill

Sound

• Locking Out The Sound

The doors that lead into the interior Merrill Auditorium are designed to be “sound locks” that keep outside noise from entering the hall.

1960s

PCHA

• Creating A Problem

One irony regarding the 1968 renovation is particularly noticeable now (with the benefit of seeing it in 2012). A mid-spring picture in one of the newspapers showed a workman removing floorboards to which stringers had been nailed years ago. One of the “improvements” during the renovation would be replacing those floorboards with tile.... “asbestos tile”.(Ouch! THAT proved to be a big problem 30 years later.)

1960s

Lipkin

Misc.

• Quick-Witted Toastmaster

During the week-long tributes to then-retiring Arthur Bennett Lipkin, one affair at the Portland Club brought forth several fun rejoinders. The Nigerian composer Akin Euba “expressed his pleasure at seeing snow and said that he had snapped some pictures to send his family back home, who had never seen such a sight! He added, laughing broadly, ‘And I’ll be glad to tell my witch doctor it snowed.’ “The MC for the evening immediately responded, “Please tell us the code number so we can phone him to cut it off.... now.” (Source Sunday Telegram)

1970s

Women

• Quality Control

During one of the tasting dinners to evaluate recipes for the PSO Cookbook, a hostess served a colorful cherry dessert in delicate stemmed dishes. While she returned to the kitchen for a moment, she sensed some unusual activity was taking place from where she had just left. Upon rejoining the group, she found her guests very carefully (and with as much grace as possible) removing pits from the cherries. (Sunday Telegram)

1980s

PCHA

Organ

• There’s Never Enough Office Room

A tale was heard by HS that at one point someone in city hall was pushing a plan whereby the Kotzschmar Memorial Organ would be moved to the State Theater, to create more space for City Hall offices. Fortunately, more reasoned heads prevailed with firm “NO’s” and the bureaucrat’s scheme scuttled. “Besides”, the source who told this story to HS said, “The State was not a big enough facility anyway.”

1960s

Players

• It’s A Family

When the PSO kicked off its season in October of 1963, among the nearly 70 players were 11 performers, among five families, who were related: one of husband and wife and daughter, two of mother and daughter, one of husband and wife, and one of mother and son. Another “close relationship.... Of sorts” was PSO violinist Mrs. Dexter Morrison and the classic instrument she had by then been playing for 18 years, a Gurdantus – made in 1731. (Portland newspaper articles)

Current

Players

• Something Was Wrong

Regarding families, a special delight of all my researching is having heard many individual PSO players sincerely describe how warmly they believe all the orchestra members feel toward each other. The phrase “we really are a family” has been mentioned time and time again. It was also extra nice for me to have heard from many PSO players that they look at certain seats in the audience to see if “the regulars” are at concerts. One said that he “just knew something was wrong” when one night the seat of an elderly concertgoer (who he didn’t know personally.... but always “shared smiles with”) was empty; that supporter never did return to PSO performances. A wonderful comment he made to HS was that “the family’ is more than the folks on the stage.”

1960s

Players

• A Family Affair – Music

Jean and Andrew J. McMullan were members of the PSO in the 1960s. She played the cello, while he, a Curtis Institute grad, played the French horn. A newspaper Sunday feature photograph in those years featured the entire McMullan family and their instruments. Two of their four talented children were holding violins which the teenagers then played in the Portland Junior Symphony. Another held his baritone horn while a six-year-old brother stood next to the piano, looking dutifully serious. (If he was like HS was at that age, then he probably had a guilty conscience for not having practiced that day).

2004

“Magic of Christmas”

Concert

Special Visitor

• Talk About MAGIC at a “Magic” Concert.........

A VERY SPECIAL unannounced visitor was ready to come on stage just before intermission at one of the “Magic of Christmas” concerts in 2004. Making a first visit to Portland, this important guest was to be escorted to the podium. As the first half of a “Magic” concert ended, with a huge smile (he was in on the surprise, as was Joe Boucher) Maestro Shimada signaled an ‘OK’, and out came the instantly-recognized and thunderously-received........World Series Trophy won by the Red Sox two months earlier! Sox minority owner Les Otten, who used to own Sunday River ski resort, was accompanying the team’s director of security (who added extra drama to the special moment by wearing white gloves!) on a two-day Maine tour with the trophy. Did the audience go wild over this surprise “Magic” moment? You KNOW the answer!!

1960s

PCHA

Concerts

Artists

• This Is Your Captain Speaking

After the Vághy Quartet departed Maine for Canada in 1968 when federal funding assistance dried up, PSO Conductor Paul Vermel faced a manpower problem since all four held principal chairs with the orchestra. With Van Cliburn coming for the November re-opening of City Hall Auditorium following a major renovation, and a huge crowd certain to be hoping for continued musical improvement from the orchestra, Mr. Vermel needed to quickly beef up the string sections. Since he found that four quality replacements were hard to come by, for the first concert (Schéhérezade was on the program!), he secured contracts for the opener with two members of the top-notch Aeolian Chamber Players. Both flew out of New York on Sunday, in advance of the Tuesday evening concert. However, both the imported concertmaster and his first-chair-for-the-night cellist associate found that all their plane could do once it reached Portland was to circle. A raging northeaster forced the pilot to retreat to Boston, and they thus missed a crucial rehearsal. Fortunately, both were such consummate professionals that when Mr. Vermel’s baton first came down at the start of the Rimsky-Korsakov work..... all was OK. Whew!

Burgin

• Forgetful

Former PSO conductor Richard Burgin had a legendary forgetful memory. As a player, he invariably forgot to take his mute with him to rehearsals and performances, and so frequent were his lapses that several of his first-violin associates made it a habit to keep an extra mute in their pocket that they fully expected to have to lend to him. While this one’s rather hard to believe, he sometimes sat down for rehearsals............ without his bow. Another report has it that one time he left his Stradivarius on a train!

(HS: Googling yields neat stuff.)

1970s

Pops

Hit Songs

Guests

• More MacRae Numbers

As promised in the Timeline Section of this THINGS-PSO, here’s the list of numbers that Gordon MacRae sang with the PSO after the intermission of his April 3, 1979 concert with the PSO. Although he hadn’t appeared in the two Rodgers and Hammerstein hit shows of “South Pacific” of “The Sound of Music”, many in the audience that evening likely thought that he should have been offered leading roles in both. From those two shows, the popular bari-tenor treated Portlanders to: Some Enchanted Evening, This Nearly Was Mine, Sound of Music, My Favorite Things and Edelweiss. The description of this concert in the Timeline mentioned that he had closed out the evening with Climb Every Mountain.

Burgin

• But Don’t “Forget..... He Also Was A Very Accomplished Musician

The American premiere of Prokofiev’s Concerto for Violin and Orchestra featured Boston Symphony Concertmaster Richard Burgin as soloist. The concert was conducted by Serge Koussevitzky. He also gave the first American performance of Sibelius’ Violin Concerto. He was immensely respected as a musician. At his funeral, one eulogist began: “What did Richard Strauss, Stravinsky, Sibelius, Hindemith, Rachmaninov, Joachim, Auer, Heifetz, Piatigorsky, Prokofiev, Martinu, Schoenberg—and other men of genius just as disparate--- have in common? Close, collegial and friendly relations with ................ Richard Burgin.” (HS: Pretty Good Company, eh?)

1960s

Vermel

Holmes

Bonnie

NYC

Batyah

• Hello, Do You Know Where Bonnie Is?

Julliard-trained vocalist Bonnie Godfrey appeared as guest soloist with the PSO in both 1962 and 1964. Shortly after announcement that he would become the PSO’s music director later in 1967, in January Paul Vermel was planning the program for his inaugural season..... and Miss Godfrey was someone he wanted to contact about a possible return appearance. Spotted in the Symphony’s archives was a witty note from PSO Manager Andy Holmes in response to a memo he had received from Mr. Vermel that inquired as to where he could contact the contralto. All Andy could confirm after “four telephone calls to New York” was that she was living in a new apartment somewhere in Manhattan, but the PSO manager nonetheless came up with a tongue-in-cheek suggestion. Wise-guy Andy memo-ed back, “When you arrive on the 23rd (HS: Mr. Vermel had a previously-scheduled trip to NYC already on his calendar), you start at First Avenue and Christopher Street and ring door bells. I arrive in New York on the 26th for three days, and will bring you a light lunch somewhere in Chinatown.” The manager then added more useful information, noting that Miss Godfrey’s manager would alert the PSO the next time she contacted him.

Eventually a series of contacts was made, and she was guest soloist during an April, 1968, performance of Guiseppe Verdi’s Requiem Mass. She had changed her name by then to Batyah Godfrey, and for years would go on to stardom performing as Batyah Godfrey Ben-David (HS: The latter after she became the wife of fellow Julliard graduate Kerry Ben-David). As both a contralto and mezzo-soprano, her then-still-ascending career would be highlighted by 594 appearances at the Metropolitan Opera in New York City between 1969 and 1988. Portland concertgoers saw her first!

1970s

Vermel

Staff

• When I Want Your Opinion, I’ll Ask

A 1972 local newspaper article reported on an amusing exchange between Conductor Paul Vermel and manager Russ Burleigh. During a break when the PSO was rehearsing Berlioz’ Romeo and Juliet, Russ commented to the conductor that he thought the section of the opera at the tomb of Juliet was “too fiery”. Mr. Vermel is said to have shot back, “Well, when you write yours.....”

1960s

Board

$$

• Hopefully The Folks Who Accepted the Checks Weren’t PSO Subscribers

A pair of young men in 1967 broke into the third floor PSO offices in City Hall and stole 18 checks, which they later cashed for about $1400. They were apprehended and committed to the county jail. Bank officials told the local press that the PSO wouldn’t suffer any monetary loss because state law makes the party who cashes bad checks liable for the loss.

1970s

Fiedler

Women

• One Old Fire truck That Arthur Fiedler Missed Seeing

One of the local newspapers reported in the 70’s that after a concert directed by Arthur Fiedler, board member and Women’s Committee President Jane Moody and her husband hosted a reception at their Falmouth Foreside home. The article stated that “Everyone who went to(the)Moody’s after the concert was, of course, disappointed that Fiedler didn’t appear. The Moodys had gone all out and placed on their lawn in his honor a Lisbon Falls (or was it Livermore Falls?) discarded fire engine, circa 1929. This surprising sight showed up in the flares of luau torches (on the way ) down the drive to their home.” The article mentioned that the maestro really wasn’t a cad, and had a good excuse--- he quickly drove home after the concert to be with his wife who had then recently had a cataract operation.

Strand

Kendall

1920s

• “Saw Mill River Road” Recording

An easy-to-reach Library of Congress website contains a 1923 recording of Harry Tierney’s popular and bouncy Saw Mill River Road, then-performed by The Great White Way Orchestra. This was one of the works played in 1924 by Portland’s recently-formed Strand Amateur Symphony Orchestra when, the next year, the PSO-forerunner ensemble began publicly performing. The link-address is:

http://www.loc.gov/jukebox/recordings/detail/id/9293

(HS: Listen in! You’ll have Fun!)

Players

Concerts

Graffam

• A “Lights Out” Performance

Longtime PSO cellist Katherine Graffam once told a local interviewer about a concert the orchestra played during its “early days” at Bowdoin College. That night she was the soloist performing a Saint-Saëns Cello Concerto (she didn’t specify to the Evening Express whether it was the great composer’s First or Second cello concerto [Oops, you caught me! Mom said to never be a show off---]). “Just before the cadenza the power failed and the hall was in complete darkness. I finished the cadenza, but the orchestra couldn’t remember the rest of the accompaniment, so we sat and waited for a good 15 minutes before the lights came on again.”

1940s

Players

Concerts

• Wartime Recruits Were “Recruited” for the PSO

Another interesting story that Katherine Graffam told the Evening Express was about how some of the PSO’s “most successful concerts came during the years of World War II when the town was filled with service personnel; and war workers who were rationed on gas and anxious for nearby entertainment. Our benefit was two-fold, as the influx also brought some excellent players to swell our membership... ...Our concertmaster for several years went directly on to join the Boston Symphony”.

1970s

Concerts

Guests

• Ax-d!

One time the PSO had a “winner gets gig” piano competition:

Bad Outcome–The winner, who by winning earned a guest-soloist appearance with the PSO, was “blah”. Emanuel Ax came in #2. (HS: “Ouch!”)

1970s

Organist John Weaver

NOT at PCHA

• He Was Just Trying To Help.......

After performing with the Portland Symphony Orchestra at PCHA in late January of 1975, renowned organist John Weaver repeated that concert with the PSO the next evening at Keene State College in Keene, NH. It was in a gymnasium and the organ was a huge electronic affair with massive speakers. The stops were operated by a computer, and in the afternoon the soloist spent more than an hour getting the stops all lined up for the pieces he would be doing that evening. A particular feature of this organ was that it had to remain turned on from that point, or all his settings would be erased.

So, he closed the lid on the keyboard, thus hiding the “off” switch from prying eyes, since that was a time when everyone was being particularly admonished to save energy and colleges in particular were very cautious.

Well, you guessed it. While he was off enjoying dinner, some enterprising janitor discovered the organ was still on and flipped the switch. While this was unfortunate for Mr. Weaver, extra unfortunate was the fact that he didn’t realize the switch was off until five minutes before the concert.

The concert had to be delayed, and he had to walk out in his full dress clothes (he wasn’t due to play until the second number) in front of a full house, and recreate his settings from memory in a few minutes.

(---The above tale is paraphrased from a report that PSO manager Russ Burleigh wrote for a PSO concert program.)

1980s

Hangen

Pops

Yuk!

• Probably The Right Decision

The concert program for an “All-American Pops Concert” in Portsmouth listed a work titled An Island Fantasy. It was composed by a Portland-born composer after a trip to the Isles of Shoals. Although the programs had already been printed, conductor Bruce Hangen decided to cancel the performance of this piece. So.... did he think that the work might be too hard for the PSO.... or too easy? Here’s the answer he gave a newspaper reporter: it was scrapped after he researched the piece at the Harvard University music library, and discovered--- “It turned out to be a dud”.

1960s

Concerts

Guests

• Still Going Strong

Prior to the March, 1965, performances by the PSO of his Concerto for Piano, and also Variations on a Theme by E. Burlingame Hill, Walter Piston was interviewed for the program notes. The notes reported on the interview: “the creator of eight symphonies, and numerous chamber works, twice winner of the noted Pulitzer Prize.... Pondered for a moment and said ‘I feel I am just beginning”. At the time, the Rockland native was 71 years old (he lived to be almost 83).

1970s

Vermel

Concert

• Not in the Percussionist’s Tool bag

Some twenty-plus years before the City Hall Auditorium HVAC system received long-needed upgrading, a December concert in the 1970s was provided some extra-curricular sounds the night that a dissonant Webern piece already had the audience wondering “what sounds would we hear next?” On that cold, wintry, evening, according to a Press Herald account, “City Hall’s steam pipes added their own aching clanks in the Webern works, huffing and puffing and creaking for at least three of the Six Pieces for Orchestra. The bleats and groans prompted one listener who did not like Webern’s music to turn to his wife and say: ‘Let’s listen to the radiator instead!’ “

2000’s

Solotoff

Meeting Agendas

• Getting the PSO’s “Stuff” Organized

No, this title doesn’t relate to wishes that the PSO’s Archives could be better organized (HS: Although that certainly is true.). It relates to how former PSO executive director Ari Solotoff laid out agendas for his staff meetings. A management technique he picked up while interning at the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, at weekly staff meetings, he asked his staff to prioritize topics as – “really big stuff”; “big stuff”; and “stuff”. That way, the most significant new topics would get covered, ones that often get short shrift at organizations’ meetings when included in the traditional “New Business” agenda category. Who hasn’t heard the refrain, “sorry, we’re out of time...... so we’ll be sure to get to that at our next meeting”?

KinderKonzerts

Education

Description

• What KinderKonzerts Are All About

The following is an overall description of the PSO’s decades-long KinderKonzert education program that is from staff files:

Brass, Woodwind, Percussion, and String ensembles made up of members of the PSO spend the fall and spring months traveling around northern New England, bringing the power of live music to thousands of children. Each ensemble presents a program of about 40 minutes of music with narration, guiding Kindergarten through third graders through new musical concepts such as melody, harmony, dynamics, and rhythm. The program is designed to get students to interact through singing, dancing, clapping, and answering questions following the program. Teaching materials are sent out to all the schools participating when they have made a reservation. These materials include an introduction page to the ensemble performing, explanations of musical concepts approached, and audience responsibilities. Also provided to the school staffs are Maine-Learning results addressed in the programs, The National Standards for the Arts, and teacher evaluations.

Orono Run-out

Dropped Mute

• Not Me!!!

Reports have it that longtime PSO principal French horn player John Boden one time dropped his mute during a performance in Orono of Richard Strauss’ Till Eulenspiegel’s Merry Pranks. Of course, the incident added some extra percussive effects never intended by the composer. Naturally, he received a lot of kidding about that noisy goof.

Ever since, whenever anyone else in the PSO drops something during a rehearsal, the old hands in the Orchestra look at John....... who expecting such attention always throws his hands out reflecting innocence, and declares “not me!”

Katherine Graffam

Clint Graffam

• Perfect Timing

One time, cellist Katherine Graffam mistakenly brought only her long-range glasses with her to a concert performance. Naturally, she was in trouble by not having her close-range ones. But.... husband Clint, with no oboe part in the concert’s first work, quickly drove home and brought the glasses she needed to the auditorium.

1990s

Merrill

Misc

• Restoring the Proscenium Sculpture (see way below)

-Traditionally sculpted for theatre prosceniums since Shakespeare owned The Globe Usually a pair of contrasting masks, both comedy and tragedy

-Carrère and Hastings original plans called for a sculpture of comedy only

-(the architecture firm wanted to avoid reference to the tragic 1908 fire at Portland City Hall)

-The City Auditorium’s original proscenium sculpture had badly deteriorated

-Re-design work and contracting for a sculpture was turned over to an intern

-Took medical leave after a skate-board accident, so he never got to that project

-Only days before the 1997 Re-Opening Gala at Merrill no repair had occurred

-World-famous Italian woman sculptor, then in Portland guest lecturing at USM, Prof. Imafraida Scalpélsini, was quickly called to Merrill

-She pressed the PSO’s always-smiling stage mgr to climb one of two high ladders

-(Joe Boucher says stage mgr’s are always ready to do “anything” so “the show can go on”)

-The sculptress climbed the adjoining ladder, all the way to the ceiling above

-With Joe as his model, for an hour she caulked, repainted and carved the image

-Thus.... that’s how the whimsical fellow smirking down upon you was reborn

(HS note: this story is a total fabrication....... but a nonetheless fun tall tale to tell and hopefully spoof somebody)

Players

A PSO’er

High School Band Award

• A McDonald’s High School All-American Connection With the PSO

While most sports fans are aware that the fast-food hamburger McDonald’s Corporation chain annually names All-American high school teams in basketball, football and baseball, there may not be much familiarity among concertgoers in Portland with the fact that for years the company used to also select an All-American High School Band. And..... there’s likely less awareness among Merrill Auditorium audiences that one of the long-time members of the PSO includes the honor of that award among her accomplishments.

PSO Principal percussionist Nancy Smith, then a high school student in Jacksonville, FL, was named to McDonald’s All-American High School Band back in _____ (oh, the year doesn’t really matter, now...... does it?).

Players

Nancy Smith

Winning a Scholarship

• A Life Changing Event

During a delightful long lunch filled with tales about this’n’that, Nancy Smith recounted that her experiences with the McDonald’s All-American Band included an important “life-changing event” for her. As a member of that band, she was entitled to audition for a McDonald’s scholarship. An eventual audition winner, she earned a half-scholarship to the New England Conservatory of Music. Experiences at NEC, along with her degree, led to a successful career in music for her.

1990s

Merrill

Misc

• More Wing Space; How Convenient is That!

As the exterior wall behind the stage was about to be expanded during the mid-1990’s auditorium renovation, engineers realized that the northwestern-facing wall outside what was to be stage right wing space needed reinforcement, based on seismic readings. Using up-to-date materials, the thickness of the new wall would now actually be less than the original exterior wall. There was a “silver lining” dividend that this needed change created–“an additional 1’-” to 1’-4” of additional stage right wing floor space which proved to be a significant help to the stage rigging system.” (HS: not to say–ALSO to the comfort of stagehands!)

Related to that wall needing strengthening, once that was done the rear demolition work occurred and “for weeks there is virtually no building in back of the proscenium arch. All that exists is a great gaping hole covered by a plastic tarp where the stage area was. The extent of the demolition, inside and out, amazes everyone.” (MHS – Moody)

1960s

Organ

Misc

• WHAT A Caper!!!

According to an Evening Express article printed in the Spring of 1965, Portland Police received a theft report from the understudy to Conductor Lipkin, Greater Reasoner, that sometime during the previous night the Kotzschmar Organ had been stolen. All 6,518 pipes and the console were removed by thieves sometime after 7 pm. The paper reported that “the magnitude of the robbery and the short space of time in which it was accomplished led police to ponder the possibility of a group effort, rather than the work of a single man.” Conductor Lipkin “denounced the theft” to the newspaper as “a hideous crime against beauty”, but in the same breath he complimented the unknown thieves on their taste.” Mr. Lipkin went on to say “I must salute these knaves for their obvious feeling for the finer things in life. They knew what they wanted to steal, and they stole about the best one around!” The Express article went on to report that Police Chief Leon T. Webber “disclosed that he had launched the first stages of a massive organ hunt within moments of the discovery of the crime. I’m having my men check every pawn shop in the city.”

The article ended with the following paragraph, printed upside down: “Actually, the idea of the Kotzschmar Organ being stolen is ridiculous. It is, perhaps, as ridiculous as this story, which is nothing more than the Evening Express’s way of saying” –you probably guessed it by now... in large letters was printed APRIL FOOL!

2000s

Moody

Young Composers’ Competition

Christopher Staknys

Youth Concert

• Young Composer Treated By Robert Moody Just Like Any Other Composer

The annual Young Composers Festival Award is a Maine Music Educators Association Composition Competition in partnership with the Portland Symphony Orchestra. USM instructor Michele Kaschub, festival chair for MMEA, tells that in 2009 when she first approached PSO Music Director Robert Moody with the idea that respective award-winners’ works be performed by the Symphony at a Youth Concert, “I came into that meeting armed with arguments justifying that Robert should consider such an idea. Before I got very far, he jumped in and enthusiastically said ‘this is a great thing to do; let’s do it’.”

At the first such rehearsal, young composer Christopher Staknys sat in the balcony and several times Maestro Moody stopped the musicians and turned to ask Christopher about aspects of his interpretation and whether the various instruments were projecting according to the composer’s wishes. Later in the rehearsal, the composition of an older and more experienced composer who was also at the rehearsal was being played; again, several times Mr. Moody stopped the musicians and asked questions about interpretation, dynamics, etc. Dr. Kaschub vividly recalls that the professional respect the music director showed Christopher was no different than that accorded the older composer.

This respect and encouragement shown Mr. Staknys made a lasting impression on the MMEA chair, adding assurances to her then-already-held belief that “Robert was going to be great in his position with the PSO.”

2000s

Shimada

Role Model

Elevator Encounter

• When I Grow Up

A then-much-younger Christopher Staknys once was with his mother when the two happened to get into an elevator at the Portland Library that was already occupied by PSO Music Director Toshi Shimada. Immediately recognizing the conductor, the young boy looked up and confidently announced, “some day I’m going to be a composer”. Given his later Young Composers Festival Award, Christopher proved to be a person of his convictions.

Young Composers’ Competition

PSO Youth Concerts

• When it Comes to Performing Young Composers’ Works, Maine is Unique

The Maine Music Educators Association Composition Competition chair, Dr. Michele Kaschub, is also one of the judges who evaluates perhaps a dozen works when the entries are submitted. She also annually reviews several hundred entries for the national music educators association. She informed yours truly that she is aware of no other state where a program is in place to have the compositions of respective state winners regularly performed by other orchestras. THAT is a special feather in Maine’s hat.

1990s

Guests

Oops

Chet Atkins

• The Kid Sure Was Prepared.... He Must Have Been a Boy Scout

Despite a 15-year lapse between PCHA appearances with the PSO, Chet Atkins had two strong recollections about visit #1 when he returned for visit #2 in 1990. First, of course, was a memorable lobster dinner—“Nashville is not a very good seafood town” he told a Portland reporter during a pre-visit phone interview. Second, he put himself down by telling that as several stand-up electric-guitar numbers with the Symphony concluded, he “sat down to play the acoustic guitar. When I did I felt a draft – my pants were unzipped in my tux. I looked down and a kid had a sign written (HS: Penned onto a page in his program, with a Sharpie, is my guess.) that said ‘Your fly’s unzipped’. I think I signed that after the show.”

1990s

Organ

• Controlling the Pressure

Important changes after the mid-90s renovations re the Kotzschmar Organ:

Turning on the air chest makes ears pop: It is the equivalent of descending 7000 feet in an unpressurized airplane.

As the air in the air chest is pressurized, the temperature inside rises..... to as much as 100 degrees, summer or winter. If it is 100 degrees inside the air chest and 55 degrees in the rest of the auditorium, 100-degree air goes into a 55-degree pipe. The pipe metal expands and changes the pitch. Things improved as a result of the mid-nineties’ renovations: the new organ chamber, now a concrete structure on all sides, replaced only half-inch thick plaster, so the influences from the interior auditorium temperatures were no longer so great on the organ.

(Information from curator David Wallace, to Maine Sunday Telegram)

1940s

Pops Concert

Kiwanis

Tall Tale?

• The Yankee Storekeeper’s First Concert

In March of 1946, the Kiwanis Club of Portland sponsored a Portland Pops Concert at the Eastland Hotel Ball Room. At this concert, an honored guest was 76-year-old Ralph E. Gould, a prominent Kiwanian from Madison, Maine, and a one-time general store proprietor who won fame as the writer of homespun novels, the most notable of which was “The Yankee Storekeeper”, fashioned from his experiences owning a store in Solon, and later one in Hartland, where he also ran a funeral parlor. He was described by some as a shrewd, tight-fisted Down Easter. (HS: Deduction suggests that he was related to then-PSO business manager Ralph T. Gould, but a Press Herald article about his attending the concert makes no mention of such a relationship.) While it was quite likely a publicity stunt to sell tickets to the Pops Concert, the PH article reported that he reluctantly agreed to attend the concert, his first-ever classical music event, “dubious about music and its charms”. Supposedly he “wasted six months of his youth trying to learn to play the fiddle”, and “could never forget those lost six months. It just soured him on music generally.” Likely responding to cajoling from others that he be extra crotchety, “he had confided before the Pops Concert that if he had all the money in the world he would buy up all the musical instruments and smash them.” After the Pops Concert was over, the P-H reported, “he confessed that he had enjoyed himself immensely ---- and the music, too.” “The trouble with me... ...is that I never heard good music before.” Who knows now how true this all is (??)..... but it makes a good tale.

1980s

Merrill

Misc.

• A Red-Ribbon Gift

Once the PSO commissioned a saxophone concerto by composer David Amram. He composed a hymn as part of the concerto, to honor an unborn child that he and his wife were expecting. As the premiere was approaching he went home for the birth... but made it back for the performance. While accepting the acclaim of the audience on the stage, instead of flowers the PSO presented him with........... a ribbon-wrapped box of cigars!

Players

Tubist Don Rankin

Downtime

• Lots of Rests; Not Too Much Oomp-Pah-Pah

Longtime principal Donald Rankin told a 2014 PSO Music Lover’s Luncheon that he frequently had far more rests to count than notes to play, as composers’ scores often didn’t include much for tubists to play. “I get a lot of magazine reading done”, he told the luncheon audience during an interview with PSO Assistant Conductor Norman Huynh. Read the next Anecdote to learn about one particular unexpected by-product of his playing downtime.

1980s

Comet

Rehearsal

Tuba

Oops!

• In Her Stronger-Than-Usual French Accent, she inquired: “Ar-r-rrr You R-r-ready?”

When she auditioned with the PSO in February, 1986, Music-Director-Candidate Catherine Comet was thrown a curveball when she was told that then-principal tuba player Dave Weiner had become ill during a morning rehearsal and couldn’t return for the afternoon rehearsal nor perform at a concert. On the program was Prokofiev’s Symphony No. 5 in B flat major, Op.100, which contained an important tuba part at the opening. Calls had gone out for a substitute musician, and Donald Rankin was rushing on his way from Boston, but wouldn’t arrive until close to the end of the final rehearsal. Finally the late-to-arrive harried commuter-musician plopped into his seat, dumped his winter overcoat on the floor, took the cover off his huge instrument, opened the music folder to a work that had the important tuba part, wiped his brow and looked up at Ms. Comet. Wanting, of course, to maintain decorum of control and professionalism she raised her baton and quizzically looking at him asked (rolling her “r’s” as her native French-upbringing accentuated her accent), “Ar-r-rrr You R-r-ready?” He nodded, her baton came down, and the orchestra began playing----: notes booming forth from his tuba were terribly out of tune..... and she stopped. She frowned; began again; and the same thing occurred. The sounds from his tuba were horrible! Everyone was uncomfortable. Then......... under the glaring eyes of Ms. Comet and the other members of the orchestra--- he lowered his tuba to the floor, reached inside the huge shiny bell............ and took out a National Geographic magazine that he had flipped into his instrument’s large opening after the last time he had played his horn. THAT.................... wonderfully broke the tension and everyone went on to an in-tune performance.

Don recounted that after the performance Ms. Comet had teased him, saying that he had ruined her future performances of the Prokofiev Fifth, since she would forevermore each time think of him and his troublesome magazine.

1990s

Merrill

Misc

• Construction Tours

During the construction of Merrill, on the last Friday of every month at 1pm, “hard hat” tours of the construction site were conducted for anyone interested. (HS: Had we lived in Maine then..... I’d have been “a regular”! Never would there have been a nosier sidewalk superintendent.)

Youth Concerts

Education

Description

• The PSO Recognizes that Today’s Youth are Tomorrow’s Concertgoers

The following is an overall description of the PSO’s decades-long Youth Concert education program that is from staff files:

Youth concerts are designed to expose grade 3-to-6 students to a full symphony orchestra. These concerts exhibit diverse styles of music so students learn about a variety of composers from classical, to Baroque, from romantic and sometimes even folk. Teachers are sent a teacher’s guide which includes all they need to know about reservations, concert behavior, program, bios and facts about composers the students will hear on the concert. Bios for the conductor, soloist and guest artists are also provided, as well as lesson plan ideas, national standards for the arts, writing assignments, a four page glossary of musical terms, a “meet the orchestra” section where students can see the layout of the orchestra and the four families of the orchestra: strings, winds, brass, and percussion. The guide also includes website resources, an evaluation form for both the teacher and student and history of the PSO.

1970s

Pops

Guests

Musicians

Stern

• Poor Ol’ Conway

In early February of 1978, a pops concert (HS: About which I had previously seen “z-e-r-o”) was called off. A memo from PSO manager Russ Burleigh was mailed (HS: remember--- no get-it-fast emails in those days) to the PSO musicians. The first paragraph contained: “We’ve got to do it to you again. Got a call this morning and Conway Twitty is not coming to Portland. Seems ticket sales were bad. Isaac Stern is sold out but poor old Conway can’t draw. Too bad.”

1990s

CARES

Merrill

• Everyone Cares

The Portland CARES “A Place For Everyone” marketing slogan during the important campaign of that private group of citizens ended up having significant staying power. The theme atop the Gala Grand Opening Program for Merrill Auditorium in 1997 was........ “A Place For Everyone”.

1990s

Doc Severinsen

Pops

Lawrence Welk

• A One’a an’a Two’a

When trumpeter Doc Severinsen played at a Pops Concert with the PSO in 1972, late in the performance the mustachioed guest took Toshi Shimada’s place on the podium and conducted a rollicking 20-minute finale, which featured pieces associated with –among others-- Glenn Miller, Guy Lombardo and Lawrence Welk. The Press Herald reported that during the playing of the latter’s theme, several members of the Orchestra used children’s soap-bubble blowers.

1970s

Rehearsal

Players

C-O-L-D!

• P-practice, p-p-ractice

Stealing the-above particular headline from an early-December Press Herald article in the 1970s is a must for this anecdote. The newspaper reported that temperatures inside PCHA during a PSO rehearsal were around the low 50s. Since this was a “dress rehearsal” for a concert set for the next evening, the musicians simply took the first word of that phrase extra to heart...... they bundled up in cold weather clothing and practiced. Pictures of scarf-wearing PSO members accompanied the short article, and decades later former PSO principal violist Julia Adams told yours truly that she remembered Jean Alvord knitting gloves for all the violists that were open so that fingertips could play the strings without interference. (HS: Today, the PSO’s labor agreement prohibits any rehearsals or performances when temperatures fall as low as 62 degrees).

1960s

Organ

Board

• Got-cha!

Two of the past important Board members and Presidents of the PSO were Jerry Newberry and Peter Plumb. Both turned out to have been organists from their youth. Each went on to clerk for a federal judge on the bench in Portland, although their respective tenures did not overlap. Their first face-to-face meeting was eventful. By then a factor in a Portland law firm, Jerry was asked by a senior partner to interview Peter, who the partner introduced as a lawyer for someone in Boston who had purchased the Kotzschmar Organ and was immediately ready to have it taken apart and removed from City Hall Auditorium. Jerry admits to having “bought the ruse” and anguishingly suffered through what turned out to be a bunch of convincing BS from both Peter and the partner about this horrendous scheme. Before Jerry was ready to jump out of a window, they finally revealed it was only a caper.

PSO Principal Oboist Neil Boyer

The Dreaded “Cone”

• No! --- No!! --- Don’t Make Me Sit THERE!!

One of the PSO’s longtime flutists tells the story that principal oboist Neil Boyer is known for often playing very loud. Other musicians in the orchestra dreaded it when the setup for a concert showed them positioned directly in front of Mr. Boyer or slightly off to the side but ahead of the oboist. The nickname for this zone was the “Cone of Death”. There!- I bet you didn’t know that one!!

Guests

Concerts

• Famous Performers at Merrill Auditorium

Many famous performers have graced the auditorium stage throughout its long history, including John Philip Sousa, George Gershwin, Sergei Rachmaninoff, Vladimir Horowitz, La Scala Grand Opera Company, Virgil Fox, Jessye Norman, Marilyn Horne, The Czech Philharmonic, Marian Anderson, Arthur Fiedler, Alvin Ailey, Itzhak Perlman, Earl “Fatha” Hines, Van Cliburn, E. Power Biggs, James Galway, Prof. Peter Schickele (PDQ Bach), Henry Mancini, Wladziu Valentino (to his friends, “Walter”; but to his fans--- simply) Liberace, Efram Zimbalist, Nathan Millstein, Eugene Ormandy and The Philadelphia Orchestra, Arthur Rubenstein, George Gershwin, Glenn Miller, Leontyne Price, Sigurd Rascher, Percy Grainger, Yo-Yo Ma, Victor Borge, Leopold Stokowski, Joseph Silverstein, Andre Watts, Rudolph Serkin, Sigmund Romberg, Jose Iturbi, Harry Belafonte, Mischa Dichter, Dave Brubeck, Vladimir Horowitz, Helen Traubel, Zino Francescatti, Ray Charles.... as well as many popular recording artists and TV personalities.

(HS: I chuckled when I saw the autograph on Tommy Smothers’ picture among the many that hang backstage at Merrill Auditorium--- You MUST look at it sometime---- in bold marking-pen ink was written....... Yo-Yo Ma!) (Some of these names, also plenty of others, are listed in the Timeline section of this THINGS-PSO.)

1980s

Players

“Magic”

Xmas “Cupid”

• WHAT a Christmas Present to Receive!

In 1987, Pam Spencer was a member of the PSO viola section. At the time that “Magic of Christmas” was performed that December she was single and “Santa” was involved in her meeting............. But wait—let’s read how Pam tells this delightful story as recounted in a vignette about her that is on the current [2013] PSO website: “My husband Geoffrey Doughty is the broadcast announcer for the PSO; which is how we met. 25 years ago he joined the orchestra on stage as narrator for a piece we were doing during that Magic of Christmas season. Bassist Lynn Hannings was a friend of his, confirmed that he was single and arranged an introduction. Voila! (or Viola!)”

1910s

Misc

• Maine’s Maxine Elliott...

...one of the stars at Portland’s Jefferson Theater around the turn of the 19th century, was a star national actress, eventually becoming a successful businesswoman. Research reveals that she was born Jessie McDermott around 1870, in Rockland. It is said “that reviewers disagreed ‘over whether it was her beauty or her acting ability that attracted attention’.” In any event, Maxine Elliott became quite successful, and in 1908 opened her own theater in New York,  The Maxine Elliott, located on Thirty-Ninth Street just off Broadway, in Manhattan. “Both owner and manager, she was then the only woman in the United States running her own theater. At about this time she became friendly with financier J. P. Morgan.” Some biographers of Morgan believe the seventy year old Morgan “got to know Ms. Elliott quite well” (quotation marks inserted by HS), but no evidence substantiates various rumors. Assuredly Morgan gave her financial advice of all sorts.

(I realize that “quite a stretch” is required to make the above PSO-relevant...... but really—isn’t that fun stuff to read?)

Curtis

Guests

Concerts

Misc

• Not A Cymbalist... A Zimbalist

Cyrus H.K. Curtis and his wife had only one child, a daughter, Mary Louise. Her first (34-year) marriage ended with the death of her husband, in 1930. By that time the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia, which she had founded in 1924, was thriving. She remarried in 1943, becoming the wife of the Institute’s director, Efram Zimbalist (who had earlier appeared as a violin soloist with the PSO at City Hall Auditorium).

1970s

Jean-Pierre Rampal

Flute-news

• So.... is it Rampal the Flutist, or Rampal the Flautist?

Included at the end of one of PSO manager Russ Burleigh’s traditional “From the Manager’s Desk” columns at the back of a 1973 PSO concert program was a mention of a then-upcoming appearance by flutist Jean-Pierre Rampal. After encouraging those without tickets to be sure to purchase several, Russ offered this clever musical tidbit:

“Note: “flutist” is correct; “flautist” has become an obsolete word, unless of course, you play the flaute.”

1980s

Guests

Pops

Nero

• Who Fiddled?

Press Herald reporters must have fought each other to see who would be assigned to write the reviews to an April-1989 PSO Pops concert. Rojean Tulk got the assignment, and immediately after the performance took off on “too obvious of a pun track”. The catalyst for getting paid for writing sophomoric humor was guest pianist-conductor Peter Nero, also a renowned composer and arranger. Here’s how Tulk’s predictable review quickly turned: “You’ve heard that Nero fiddled while Rome burned? Well, this Nero tickled ivories while Portland sat spellbound. And if the town was burning, we didn’t care.” So much for political correctness in a city where historic fires wiped out thousands of fortunes and peoples’ life savings. The reviewer’s conclusion that both Nero and the PSO played with grand enthusiasm and folks knew they had gotten more than the worth of their price of admission from both Mr. Nero and the PSO.... which -by the way- the guest artist conducted for the evening.

Merrill

• Restored To Its Original Glory

Look carefully in the Grand Foyer near “Merrill Auditorium” on the wall. The detail work visible was all in the original building, -- only for many, many years it was covered over (who now knows when or why?) with gray paint.

2000s

Moody

“Magic”

Concerts

• Taxi Magic

Robert Moody tells the story about how quickly he learned about the important tradition of “The Magic of Christmas” performances, shortly after landing at Portland International Jetport for his first interview for the PSO’s Music Director opening. Chatting with the taxi driver who picked him up, upon mentioning his purpose for being in town, the driver said “Oh Yeah, the Portland Symphony Orchestra.” Immediately, he added, “Magic of Christmas! Wouldn’t miss it! Always take the kids!” Fortunately for all, Robert’s involvement with the seasonal concerts has made it even more imperative that the taxi driver, and thousands of other Portlanders, each year be extra sure “Not to miss it!”

Organ

FOKO

• Not a Western U.S. Radio Station Call-Sign

One of the principals at the expert Foley-Baker group who will restore the Kotzschmar Memorial Organ during 2012+, let slip what he and his colleagues use as a nickname for the grand Austin-built organ. Their affectionate term for the instrument is “KMAR”.

(HS: For pronunciation, Think K-Mart, without the “t”.)

Concerts

$$

THAT’s A Serious Bundle of Moolah

Oh... For The Good Old Days (finance-wise.... anyway): Former PSO manager Russ Burleigh recalls that in the 1970s the National Endowment for the Arts had lots of $$ to give out. The PSO regularly received grants of $45,000 each year, and one year also received an extra $75,000. (Inflation-adjusted to current 2012-dollars, such grants today would be HUGE..... well above $300,000.) The sobbing you hear in the background are any PSO grant-writers of today who just learned of this.

Players

Gaining Height

PSO Tubist Dave Weiner

• Gaining “Royal” Stature....... and Being Able to Play His Instrument

Dave Weiner was the PSO’s principal tuba player for a long time. Although short in stature, he obviously handled his instrument very capably. Some years after Dave retired, one PSO player recalled that the tuba player had a red velvet pillow that he always sat on so that he could reach the mouthpiece of his giant horn.

1970s

Concerts

Health

• A Gentle Reminder

“Audience Etiquette” was the subject of a small notice spotted in a 1973 PSO concert program. Referencing an article attributed to a program booklet at the Royal Festival Hall in London, Portland City Hall Auditorium concertgoers were advised: “During a recent test in the Hall, a note played mezzoforte on the horn measured approximately 65 decibels of sound. A single ‘uncovered’ cough gave the same reading. A handkerchief placed over the mouth when coughing assists in obtaining a pianissimo.” The Portland program then pointed out--- “Cough drops are available from the ushers.”

Concerts

Pops

1980s

Shimada

• And they’ll be Twice-the-Price Next Year

At a Valentine Pops Concert in 1989, at one point between numbers Toshi Shimada announced that whoever was sitting in seat F-14 (and there were several of those in PCHA, in various sections) would receive two free tickets to a future PSO concert. He also announced something else about those seat locations. Re-read the title of this Anecdote.

1980s?

1990s?

2000s?

“Magic”

Players

Rules and Regulations

• It’s Christmas..... Not Hallo’ween

Sometime during the 30+ year time that “Magic of Christmas” performances have charmed Portland audiences of all ages, it has been reported that “higher-up’s” put a stop to what was a very Christmas-season-like activity. As members of participating choruses would file onto risers when it was time for their groups to join in song with the PSO, the story exists that one of the French horn players would greet them by tossing candy up into their ranks. The story as to why he was asked to stop his acts of generousness hasn’t been heard (by HS, anyway), so if you run into John Boden perhaps he’ll tell you what explanation he was given from whichever PSO-bigwig had taken too many “Scroogepills”.

“Magic”

Players

Hi-Jinks

Trombones

LIGHTS

Then.... Darkness.

• A “Magic” Electrical Outage

Another fun often-told tale regarding “Magic of Christmas” celebratory happenings involves the PSO trombone section. Legend has it that one season the T-bone guys strung up strings of lights on their slides, which were plugged into the power outlet that provided electricity to the lights on their music stands. Finally, the time came for the Santa’s hats, etc. that the PSO musicians still don each year, and the trombonists were ready to WOW the audience with lots of flashing lights, sliding back and forth. But when the turn-on-the-switch moment came for their sure-to-please show for concertgoers to begin, there were NO LIGHTS--- not even above their music stands any longer. It seems that the demand for all that extra electricity was too much, and a circuit breaker flipped!

Note: Longtime principal trombonist Nic Orovich has played in every “Magic of Christmas” concert, and he says that the legend isn’t true, saying “I don’t remember the lights ever shorting”.

Oh...... com’on Nic----  that’s too good a tale not to be repeated once again!

Nic did confirm that at least one of the trombonists wrapped his slide with battery-operated lights, a stunt that took orchestra-members’ “Magic of Christmas” hi-jinks “to a different level”.

“Magic of Christmas” 1986

Barney the Dog

Hi-Jinks

Uh-oh..... Somebody’s in Trouble

• Nic DOES Remember This One --- Arf, Arf...... Arf!

During their almost 2-week-long stay in Portland during the 1986 “Magic of Christmas” series of concerts, soprano Nadia Pelle and tenor Franco Farina --husband and wife stars of the New York City Opera in the early 1980s-- brought along their cute little dog, Barney. Wanting to put some extra excitement into each show, at the end when it was time for the “Sing-Along”, the couple would carry out Barney in either one’s arms; the audiences loved it.

After the first show, trombonist Don Davis had an idea that he thought would add even more excitement, and in the “Magic of Christmas”-sophomoric humor spirit-of-the-day, be a good trick to play. He obtained one of those higher-than-the-human-ear-can-hear dog whistles, intending to blow it and get a rise out of Barney. However, the dog didn’t react—although his blowing the whistle made a loud hissing sound.

Well, Russ Burleigh reportedly reacted with a disciplinary letter that criticized the trombonist and formally called Don to task. It seems that some folks thought the hissing coming from the back row of the orchestra sound was meant as criticism of Ms. Pelle and Mr. Farina. Oops!

“Magic of Christmas”

High Jinks; again!

That’s a No-No!

• Insulting a Sponsor

Another disciplinary reaction to “Magic of Christmas” high jinks was necessitated one time when the first violinists, in unison, pulled their Sleigh Ride hats out of matching grocery bags: each sporting the “Shop ‘n Save” logo. So, you ask--- why was this a no-no? The answer is that Hannaford Brothers was an Official Sponsor of the PSO that season. (HS: Eventually Hannaford’s took over the Shop ‘n Save brand; but the bet of yours truly is that no PSO-er who earlier had been called on the carpet for the caper ever received any “Get Out of Jail” Monopoly cards after the corporate takeover.)

And Winners Are---

The Violists!

“Magic of Christmas” Hat- Hi-Jinx

• King of the Hats

When the “crazy-hat competition” among the various instrumental groups of the PSO really got going during annual “Magic of Christmas” concerts, the viola section soon went over the top (HS: Pun intended there..... sorry.). They made so many different hats and caps -- of numerous types, sizes and colors --, that they jumped into a solid First-Place and no other section was even a close second-place. One year the entire complement of viola players each wore a different hat for every “Magic of Christmas” performance, with never a duplication! “Elf hats were a ‘big win’ ”, years later would enviably remark a longtime PSO cellist. The championship they earned --which appears as the title for this Anecdote-- was told to me by an envious member of the violin section, the group notorious for almost always being the least adventuresome and enthusiastic of all PSO players when it came to having fun during the annual holiday-season concerts. The violists’ “Hat-Mama” was Anne Stepp, with lots of help from others--- notably Jean Alvord. At home, Anne retains a box or two of those now-no-longer-young hats.

“Magic of Christmas” -sometime in the 1990s

“Hat”-Jinx

PSO Oboist Neil Boyer Joins the Fun

• “Pancho” Boyer Finally Wears A “Magic of Christmas” Hat

For years PSO Oboist Neil Boyer played the role of curmudgeon as more and more of his fellow PSO musicians donned festive headgear before Sleigh Ride was performed; —he didn’t. “Hey! Neal’s not participating in the fun” must have been said more times than the percussionists made whip-snapping sounds in Leroy Anderson’s classic piece. One year (and maybe other years, too) someone sitting behind Neal would raise a sign above his head during the high jinks, with an arrow pointing down to the bearded oboist; the sign reading “Bah – Humbug”. As Neal later recounted about all the hat-fun, “I had no objection to other folks doing so. In fact, I enjoyed it enormously—just didn’t think I should have to if it wasn’t natural for me to do so. As a result the guys (probably Parchman, though it might have been Julie and Stef, or even the flutes --but probably Parchman [HS: Unfortunately, Mr. Parchman was not available to comment about this topic, ....nor many others.]) started holding up a large Bah Humbug sign behind my head during Sleigh Ride. This I enjoyed also, but it didn’t move me to wear a hat.” (HS: Neil was enjoying all the goings-on so much that he was the first to ever tell me that at one point trombonist Mark Manducca wore a heavily waxed handlebar moustache sporting an ornament hanging from each side of it.)

Finally, with most of the other PSO’ers reportedly seeing through his Scrooge-like veneer (HS: I was told by some that “down deep, he’s a pussy cat, and we all just love him”.), likely during the 1991 “Magic of Christmas” run (HS: At least deductive reasoning causes me to think that was the year the following happened.), a small cadre of his musician compatriots took it upon themselves to bring him into the fold. Instead of the Leroy Anderson classic, everyone but Neal was in on the fact that ......... but, let’s let Neal tell it....: “Instead, the brass started playing the opening bars of Star Wars or Aaron Copland’s Fanfare for the Common Man (I did tell you that I had a lousy memory). I just figured it was more of the usual high jinks and didn’t think much of it until general hilarity broke out in the orchestra and they all began looking off to my left at what was then, the violas. From off stage came, hand over hand, over their heads, THE BIGGEST SOMBRERO YOU EVER SAW. This thing was three feet across if it was an inch and it had Christmas ornaments hanging all over it. Like ‘glittering death’ it came nearer and nearer until they placed it firmly on my head (it was so big that both the flutes and the other oboes had to move to accommodate it) and once again the downbeat for Sleigh Ride was given. I wore a hat from then on.”

“Magic of Christmas” -sometime in the 1990s

“Hat”-Jinx, again

Re: PSO Oboist Neil Boyer Joining the Fun

Answer to: Who Done It?

• The “Sombrero Owner” Steps Forth

Long after the “messing with Neil” statutes of limitations had expired, conversations with longtime PSO oboist Stef Burk revealed more details about the sombrero that was the eventual catalyst for Neil to pick his own hats to wear at “Magic of Christmas” concerts. Here’s the straight info from her: “The impetus for making a hat for Neil was the fact that he flatly refused to wear a hat for Sleigh Ride. Julie and I started talking about making him one, and the idea grew into something huge when I mentioned having the sombrero. She and I covered it with bows and hung ornaments around the rim. We then asked the stage hands to pass it to the low brass at the designated ‘donning of hats’ point in the show, and the trumpets obliged with, I believe, Fanfare for the Common Man (not totally sure about that, but it was a suitable fanfare). The hat was passed through the orchestra to Neil, who was I think actually pretty amused, and he did, in fact, play Sleigh Ride wearing the hat.”

Incidentally, in 2014, Stef added that “The sombrero is safely stored here in Strafford. It was one my husband bought in Mexico many years ago. It's a little worse for wear, having also been used by my daughter's kindergarten class to dance around (and maybe on).” -----Adios, amigos.

“Magic of Christmas” Pranks

Monster Hats.... Again

Are There Any Duck Hunters in the Audience?

• Ducks “Quack”, Don’t They?      < It’s a Joke; Get it?

During another “Magic of Christmas” series, Stef Burk produced monster hats for Neil, Julie Verret and herself to wear during Sleigh Ride; ones that poked fun at oboes’ often-duck like sounds that are forever the butt of jokes from other sections of the Orchestra. These colorful orange, yellow and red-beaked monstrosities topped out more than two feet above the head of each oboist, made from inflatable ducks such as those used by children in kiddie pools. How any of the other musicians seated behind the three PSO oboists could have seen Toshi is hard to imagine; ----but since it was Sleigh Ride and the PSO was playing......... who followed the conductor anyway?!! It’s a good thing that duck-hunting season was over when this caper happened, for you can bet that as a responding prank -- the trombonists would have eventually pulled out and blown wooden duck calls hidden in their pockets. (HS: After saying “I do have a photo of the three of us wearing those”, in 2014 Stef produced that picture. A copy now resides in the PSO Archives. “Quack-quack-quack!”)

“Magic of Christmas”

Toshi Shimada

The Santa-Cap Copy Caper

• Toshi’s “Santa Hat” Became Another Can-You-Top-This Catalyst for Sleigh Ride Hi-Jinks

So, you ask---- What kind of stuff kept upping the ante regarding all those “Magic of Christmas” hi-jinks? Well, here’s a version of one that was reported by one of the PSO musicians:

Reportedly, at one point in the early 1980s, the always-fun-loving Bruce Hangen started sporting brilliant red white-tasseled Santa-Claus Santa-caps before conducting the PSO musicians in rousing renditions of Sleigh Ride. Of course, it was inevitable that someone would eventually do “something” to have some fun with Bruce (HS: And also with the rest of the PSO players, and the audience, too!). While various musicians have varying recollections as to the following happening, at one point contrabass principal Henry Peyrebrune secretly bought Santa hats for everyone in his section, requesting each to keep them out of sight until it was time to “answer Bruce”..... when everyone donned Santa-caps, in unison. And thus, an important tradition was born--- fun-and-entertaining “Magic of Christmas” capers going on..... and on..... and on...... and etc.

“Magic of Christmas”

What High Jink is Next?

• Just A Simple White Wool Scarf, Then..............

Bruce Hangen also donned white wool mufflers to add to the mood when he conducted Sleigh Ride. The various musicians were enthusiastic as they also began sporting other accoutrements, equipment, paraphernalia, stuff, apparatus, things, implements, outfits, odds and ends, bits and pieces, trappings, accessories, etc., etc., etc. Well........ you get the idea--- it was almost anything goes. One longtime PSO’er said, “Bruce wore a scarf, then the hats and earmuffs came.... and it went on from there”.

“Magic of Christmas”

More Hi-Jinks

Angelic Horn Players

• Certified Angels

After one of Jane Hunter’s (or-- maybe it was a Russ Burleigh edict) disciplinary tirades about too many hi-jinks during “Magic of Christmas” concerts, principal horn John Boden arranged for special matching headgear for his section to wear when it was time to play Sleigh Ride. With ironic humor definitely his intent, he intended to visually show that the PSO horn players were certifiably “anything but” the type of bad guys that had been cited by the head PSO disciplinarian; ---they were each adorned with golden halos! (HS: For the record: Nina Miller found and bought the halos.)

What’s the Score?

No! NOT the Music Score

• This One Couldn’t Have Pleased the Sleigh Ride Police

One PSO musician claims that because of the boredom of playing the same works “so many times during ‘Magic’ performances”, stuff was bound to happen, even from the angelic horn players. Finally...... “Brass players being brass players, before long you had the trombones with a miniature portable TV on their stands watching “the game” and passing the score on to the orchestra during performances. I think there is a rule against that now. ” ----- No Kidding?!!!!

“Magic of Christmas”

An Animal (?) Performing Hi-Jinks??

And Everyone Thought These Two Were Perfect Angels

• Not “Three Wise Men”........ Instead --- “Two Wise-Guys”

>>Whoever would have guessed that these two had a trick like this up their sleeve?<<

While the Orchestra was playing Sleigh Ride during one “Magic of Christmas” concert------, out from the wings wandered............ A CAMEL! Two of the cast members had found that a camel costume used in a local church pageant “had followed them into the auditorium, just determined to make an on-stage appearance”. With one standing tall in the front, the other hunched over in back, the large animal normally associated with Nativity Scenes during the holiday season--- unceremoniously sauntered around the stage and astonished EVERYONE: the audience, Mr. Shimada, and all the orchestra members! The camel-duo was inspired by the percussionists, who annually dressed as The Three Kings; each adorned in gorgeous robes and crowns borrowed from another church pageant. This time, nobody in the orchestra lacked an alibi and thus couldn’t be censored. So--- who were the two unlikely-ever-to-be-suspected-beforehand pranksters? Inside the camel costume were Municipal Organist Ray Cornils and longtime Magic of Christmas Chorus Director Judith Quimby. Wow! – what a super stunt!! (HS: Subsequently, every three seasons or so, the camel continues to make reprise appearances during some “Magic of Christmas” concert, with neither the PSO musicians nor the conductor ever knowing beforehand if/when the ship of the desert will strut onstage. Longtime harpist Jara Goodrich is now paired with Ray whenever hundreds of gleeful kids enthusiastically cheer a “camel sighting”. Although Ms. Goodrich doesn’t have a harp part to play and is thus available during Sleigh Ride, a credible source reports that the front end of the camel assured her that the reason for her being chosen to be the rear end of the camel was “because she had the best [censored by HS!!] in the orchestra!”)

“Magic of Christmas”

Hi-Jinks

AH-CHOOO!!

Percussionists

• More About Those Three Kings......

The percussionists adorned in velvet robes with shiny crowns atop their heads during performances of Sleigh Ride were also “Three Wise Men”........ or maybe more correctly “Three Wise Guys”. In addition to delighting the other sections of the PSO with their attire, which annually won them competition points when everyone later happily gathered in the green room, the folks who provided rhythm and a steady beat also were creative when it came to pulling tricks to “beat” their fellow percussionists when it came to “Magic of Christmas” pranks. The group would often delight the other PSO sections by donning bright-red ping-pong-type noses like circus clowns wear. While that sight entertained other PSO’ers, on one occasion a trick was pulled on one of the percussionists....... by the other percussionists. Paul Pitts experienced a severe bout of on-stage sneezing since ground pepper had secretly been put into his nose!

“Magic of Christmas”

What-to-do Now?

“Slapstick” Humor

Percussionists, Again.....

• Hey!! Where Are My Slapsticks?!!!

That is what PSO percussionist Paul Pitts asked one year when Sleigh Ride was up and one of his responsibilities was to provide the sharp sound-of-a-whip at the important moments of Leroy Anderson’s bouncing-along composition. The problem was that someone (HS: I’ll never tell.....) had hid his slapsticks, and all of a sudden he was in one of those what-do-I-do-now?-predicaments. Reflexively, he had only one spontaneous reaction when Maestro Shimada pointed at him to produce the critical sound------ he clapped his hands together. Despite his best efforts, the wimpish-sounding smack wasn’t anywhere loud enough to provide the desired effect. Knowing immediately that a great prank had been pulled on his percussionist, and surprised himself, Toshi doubled over in laughter....... but kept his baton-beat going. THAT would be a caper hard to beat in the future....... but-----

Another “Slapstick” Story

More “Magic of Christmas” Hi-Jinks

Yep, Those Percussionists are Still at it

• Secretly Stored-Away Slapsticks

After having had his slapsticks hidden by the other percussionists, Paul Pitts set out to protect himself from again being put into a “no-slapsticks” situation when it was time for Sleigh Ride to be played at a “Magic of Christmas” performance. And...... he wasn’t going to be unobtrusive in assuring the other percussionists, and everyone else in the PSO, that he was equipped to produce a loud-and-effective “crack-the-whip” sound. He had done some “hiding” of his own, secretly stashing away a second pair of slapsticks. As everyone in the orchestra was placing the fun Leroy Anderson favorite atop their music stands, he literally “took a walk”. When he arrived at the other side of the stage (!!) , where the cellos were seated........ he reached down and retrieved his back-up pair of slapsticks. Holding them aloft for all too see, he returned to his place in the percussion section and signaled to Toshi that it was now OK for the PSO to play its signature “Magic” piece!

Now Folks... These Are Grown Adults We’re ‘Talking About Here

But--- Isn’t This Stuff Fun?!!

• OK...... One Last Slapstick Caper--- (but that’s the end; it’s time to go to bed now)

On another “Magic” occasion, percussionist Richard Kelly admits to having borrowed a power drill and three screws from the stage crew before a “Magic of Christmas” concert. He didn’t require the Black & Decker instrument to fulfill an assignment called for by composer Leroy Anderson; he wanted this shop equipment to pull off yet-another trick on Paul Pitts.

Here’s what happened: Only moments before it came time for Paul to pick up his slapsticks from the floor, in order to respond to Toshi’s command at the critical moment for a whip-crack in Sleigh Ride...... he found that he was unable to lift them at all. The reason: Richard had drilled three holes through his wooden percussion instrument, and then tightly screwed the slapsticks down onto the stage!

More “Magic of Christmas” Good Humor

Stringbass Players

George Calvert Stands Tall.... in Two Ways!

• A Stringbass Section Standing Tall, Suddenly Stands Even Taller!

During one series of PSO holiday-season concerts, there were an extra large number of poinsettias decorating the stage at “Magic of Christmas” concerts. Unbeknownst to the audience or the other musicians, someone had placed a half-dozen “unauthorized” poinsettia plants atop the console of the Kotzschmar Memorial Organ, near where the stringbass section was situated. These bright-red-flowered plants were in plain sight and looked no different than dozens of others decoratively set atop the console or many others spread around the stage. When it was time for the Symphony to perform its traditional good-humored Sleigh Ride, while the other musicians were donning their tasseled-and-tinseled hats, the members of the stringbass section removed the secretly-placed poinsettia plants from the console and set them atop their seasonal, colorful headgear. And..... none fell off!

The reason that the plants remained in place was that contrabassist George Calvert had made special hats for everyone in his section, and each hat included a special clip-on platform to secure the poinsettias (those were authentic-looking plastic plants!). Thus, among all the hats and caps worn by PSO musicians, the members of the contrabass section showed off the grandest crowns of all. Obviously, their caper delighted the audience and won the admiration of all the other musicians on stage. Q-Was there jealousy? A-You bet there was. .......What a great feat!!

If you’re looking for this trick at the next “Magic of Christmas” performance you attend, you’ll not see a repeat of the “original production”. When Merrill Auditorium was renovated and the organ received a new console, that was the end of allowing live (or fake) poinsettias to be placed on top of it because of the risk of damage.

“Magic of Christmas”

Stringbass Players Not Fully Seen by the Audience

• That Kotzschmar Organ Console Blocked Full View of the Stringbass Players

Reportedly (HS: And my sources shall remain anonymous, despite whatever statute-of-limitations privileges they might be entitled to all these many years later) the stringbass players sometimes took advantage of the fact that the organ console somewhat hid them from the view of audiences. Maybe (HS: “Maybe; schmaa-bee”, you CAN MAKE A BET ON THIS ONE!) at least one of them occasionally performed in bare feet...... and also maybe another played a “Magic of Christmas” concert or two –or three or four?—wearing ski boots. Understanding just how anyone could find wearing such footwear to be comfortable is beyond me.

“Magic of Christmas”

Follow-up to Poinsettias Atop Bass Players Hats

Local TV-Anchorman

• Plants Need Watering, So...........

In 1990, local TV personality Jeff Barnd was a featured narrator during the PSO’s “Magic of Christmas” concerts. As the series of performances moved along, he of course knew that the contrabass-section players would entertain everyone by putting on their poinsettia headgear before Sleigh Ride performances, and naturally being a fun-loving guy, each night he was ready to have some prankster-fun himself. One concert, with a garden hose in hand, he playfully headed toward the poinsettia-adorned musicians, appearing 100%-ready to sprinkle water on the plants atop their heads....... and to inevitably douse everyone in (and also anyone near!) the section. Returning a phone call in 2014 (HS: He’s been a TV anchorman in Baltimore for 20 years), he told that he came up with that clever caper on his own, and had fun “going down the line” pretending to water each and every bass-player’s “hat-plant”. (HS: Darn! I forgot to ask him if he received a disciplinary complaint from the PSO staff?).

“Magic”-again

TV-Anchorman –again

Shimada

Hi-jinks -again

• “Look........ I Can Play, Too”

Jeff Barnd told some other tales about his fun stint during the 1990 “Magic of Christmas” concerts. Admitting to Toshi that although he had played in his high school band, he was nervous about not being able to hold up his end being a “serious, knowledgeable classical music MC”, the PSO Maestro told him to relax and have fun. So he decided to “do a different stuff each show”. At one concert he brought a Fisher-Price xylophone onto the stage, obviously set to play something on it. Nothing was listed in the concert program that involved Mr. Barnd, but that didn’t let that stop him. Loyal to his career job, the TV anchorman pecked out a well-known melody....... so well known that the percussion section quickly joined in with a solid beat. So... what was Jeff’s choice to make his performing debut with the Portland Symphony Orchestra? Well.... what do you know------ the “Theme From Jeopardy” rang out through PCHA. (HS: Rest assured---- Martin Perry, the PSO’s pianist at that time, didn’t lose his job.)

Another caper started one afternoon while he was shopping for gifts, he spotted “the tacky-est thing you’ve ever seen”, a large black-velvet framed portrait of Elvis Presley. So.... he bought it, had it gift wrapped, and surprised Toshi by presenting the gift to him during a performance. The PSO conductor “went with the ad-lib bit”, unwrapped the framed picture, showed it to a laughing orchestra, and proudly displayed it to the audience. When the laughter died down, Mr. Shimada got it going again when, quick with a quip as he was with his baton, he said “I’ve always wanted a photograph of Tom Jones”. (HS: This prank was so good that the two decided to have the portrait re-wrapped, and then re-presented to Toshi at the next concert..... then they repeated the antic twice more!) Years later, several PSO musicians commented that they thought Mr. Barnd became too much of a “ham” as that season’s “Magic of Christmas” performances moved along (HS: Hey, Mr. Narrator; this is OUR show!”).

Praise from a Colleague

Trombonists

• A Dichotomy: Generalizations About Trombonists and the PSO’s Trombonists

One of the PSO musicians once was proclaiming on how trombone players are forever adolescent. “EARLY ADOLESCENT!” was the phrase used. “You can almost smell the junior high school gym socks when you’re around trombone players. And yet, on a per capita basis, I’d bet my (instrument) that in the PSO the trombones have the HIGHEST I Qs in the orchestra. Each has a really good mind, and in the case of one of them, a brilliant mind. And yet, they behave like early adolescents. One, who shall remain nameless though he is proud of what I’m telling you, wears the same shirt for all “Magic of Christmas” concerts, even if there are thirteen or so, without washing it!  By the end of the run he has to keep it away from the fire alarm. 

How Another “Magic of Christmas” Tradition Got A Re-Boot

Toshi Gave the OK to-Go-Ahead-Again

• Now....... Regarding the “Stop the Monkey-ing Around” Edict;
---------------- On Second Thought, Some “Mickey-ing” Around Seems Like a Good Idea

Although “too high” hi-jinks among the Orchestra members were for a long time discouraged at “Magic of Christmas” concerts, the temptations among the musicians to break the monotony with so many identical concerts being performed in rapid serial order, were just too great for “ease-off” discipline to indefinitely stand a chance. More and more, each holiday season at Merrill Auditorium-- bright-colored hats and other adornments came out of players’ storage boxes. In addition to potted poinsettia headgear, even items such as big-eared Mickey-Mouse doorknob covers began to appear on the scrolls of cellos. Big Smiles would break out whenever one section or another (HS: the respective sections reportedly often kept “this year’s great plan!” secret until the last moment) outdid the reigning champions.

Eventually, Toshi Shimada came to realize that the audiences at the latter “Magic” concerts --each year hi-jinks tended to be the most by the end of the run-- actually looked forward to seeing what clever adornments the musicians would show off. Reportedly, he finally came around and, while not encouraging anything close to mayhem, actually asked the musicians to “bring out the fun stuff” at EVERY “Magic” concert. When the office staff came around to accept such shenanigans as a good thing....... is a fact still being investigated.

Jim’s Seemingly Ageless Mickey Mouse Souvenir Still at “Magic” Concerts

• The Elastic May Be Stretchy By Now..... But Jim’s “Mickey-Mouse” Doorknob Cover Lives On

The “by-now-old-and-worn-out” colorful Mickey-Mouse Doorknob cover that was among a “THIS Will Be Cool to Display!” collection that PSO principal cellist James Kennedy acquired for his section during a long-ago family excursion to Disney World in Florida continues to make annual visits to “Magic of Christmas” concerts at Merrill Auditorium. A bit threadbare by now, stretched out ‘though it may be, it “hangs on” still....... keeping the scroll of his cello warm and happy-looking. The next time you are at a “Magic” concert-------Watch for it!

“Magic of Christmas” Humor Again

Violin Section Sets a New Fashion Standard

• And a New Use for Tinsel

Former PSO Concertmaster Lawrence Golan reportedly came up with the idea that the Sleigh Ride festivities could be given extra sparkle if the violinists all added a special extra decoration to their instruments. He arranged for each to have strands of gold tinsel nearby, so that when it was time for Leroy Anderson’s fun piece to be performed, with the strands attached to the ends of their bows, there would be dozens of golden flashes providing an extra visual treat to the audience--- in perfect time with the beat. More than a dozen years after Mr. Golan moved on from the PSO, that colorful tradition continues at every “Magic of Christmas” concert.

Concerts

Guests

1960s

Goodman

Concerts

Don Doane

• Benny Goodman's '69 PSO appearance:

..... He was very withdrawn as a person, finally loosening up somewhat when PSO manager Russ Burleigh happened to mentioned the recent "Miracle Mets" World Series championship; Goodman, it turned out, was a huge Mets fan.

..... The PSO files contain a letter of apology to a Falmouth Foreside couple (undoubtedly important PSO supporters) regarding "the unfortunate experience that you have had, through our error, at the Symphony." The PSO requested this couple "to entertain Mr. Goodman during his stay in Portland. Unfortunately, none of us fully realized that Mr. Goodman was as much of an introvert as he turned out to be." The letter went on to say that the PSO was "sorry for any unpleasantness you might have experienced over this..." Apparently.... Benny didn't "make the party.” (HS note: explain THAT to your other invited guests!)

..... A longtime legend among Portland-area musicians is that Benny reacted to “All the old ladies in the audience [who] were so hyped up” about his being in town...... that “they started haranguing Goodman so much that he decided to stand up the Falmouth Foreside couple, and even threatened to leave town entirely. So the conductor (or was it PSO manager Russ Burleigh?) called up Don [Doane], who was just finishing his supper, and asked if he would take care of Benny Goodman.” The two had known each other amidst the top-level jazz scene. “So Don said yes, picked up Goodman, and the two went to DiMillo’s for lobster. People walking by their booth said hello to Don, but then did a double take at seeing Benny Goodman with him.” (HS: I confirmed during a conversation with Don that the “legend” is 100%-the-truth! And........ Benny proved to be a regular-guy, for when asked by Don what he wanted to do after dinner---- he said “I’d love to go to L.L. Bean”, and Don drove him to Freeport where Benny bought “lots of stuff”.)

1960s

Goodman

Don Doane

• Talk About Standing Someone Up!

During their dinner together at DiMillo’s, Benny Goodman complained to Don Doane that the next night he was supposed to go to a big banquet at a private club in Portland. Saying that he couldn’t stand having to talk to all the guests, he asked Don if he would come to the special dinner and sit next to Benny at the head table, so that he’d have someone to talk with. Don agreed, so Benny was now less apprehensive about the banquet. After school was over the next day, and all he could do when looking out the windows at a fantastic October day was think about playing golf, the Gorham Country Club was exactly where he headed. At the completion of a fun round with his pals they went into the clubhouse and played cards. Upon arriving home, his wife was standing at the door saying, “Where have you been? The Portland Symphony has been calling and calling.” It was only then that Don realized that he had completely forgotten about agreeing to sit with Benny Goodman at the banquet. So.... did he quickly change and head into Portland? “Nope”, he told HS...... “I didn’t go to either that dinner or the concert the next evening.” You can be sure that there was an unhappy Benny Goodman at the banquet. Wow! Who would have believed that tale?

1960s

Goodman

Vermel

• Be Sure to Also “Reed” This About Benny Goodman

..... During his stay in Portland in 1969, Benny Goodman mentioned to Conductor Vermel that he needed to get some new clarinet reeds. So, off they went to one of the music stores. Paul tells, “of course, there was a great hullabaloo when the great Benny Goodman walked into the store” and asked the manager to sell him some reeds. (HS: I had an after-school job in a music store during my high school years..... and I would have gone ‘delightfully crazy’ had this happened where I worked.)

..... Another tidbit regarding this simple shopping trip— When the manager reappeared with two boxes of reeds, he profusely apologized that he didn’t have any Selmer reeds (HS: Benny Goodman did advertising for the Selmer Company), but was quickly put at ease. It turned out that Mr. Goodman was not uncomfortable using the same types of just-plain everyday “off-the-shelf” reeds purchased and used by high school clarinet players.

Players

• Seniority-Sorority

The PSO's viola section boasts the most years of average tenure in the PSO, with five of the ten having more than 30 years of service. Oh----- How'd those two guys get in there?

PCHA

Concerts

Sound

• Bad Acoustics Once Helped Make the Music Sound Better

Former PSO manager Russ Burleigh told a story about how Carl Smith once made a CD of old ('72 or so) PSO recordings, to help fund-raising efforts for Merrill Auditorium. "They sounded really good," Russ said, "but--- City Hall's reverberations covered up a lot of goofs."

Conductors

Rehearsals

Etiquette

• Don’t Abuse Rented Music Parts

When the PSO library doesn’t contain music it needs for a concert, parts are often rented or borrowed. Since many conductors by habit fold the corners of pages during rehearsals to mark places in the score to later go back to and discuss with the musicians, such action might be considered abusive by the owner of the music. Nowadays rehearsals pages can easily be marked by conductors without folding the corners. But...... what did conductors do before the 3M Company invented “sticky-notes”?

1940s

Cook

Archives

• Treasures Among the PSO Archives

Several scrapbooks compiled for Dr. Russell Ames Cook, made their way into the PSO Archives after his death. The trove of clippings that they contain provide lots of 'info' about him and the musical organizations with which he was involved. However, insofar as PSO items are concerned, their greatest value is that they contain an estimated (HS: I need to make an actual count.) 80+ percent of the concert programs during his 15-year tenure as conductor, in most instances the only surviving copies known to still exist.

1960s

Lipkin

“The Messiah”

Classic Arthur

• “I Don’t Conduct Choruses; I Conduct Orchestras”

Curtis tells the story about how when Arthur Bennett Lipkin returned to Portland to guest-conduct “The Messiah” in 1969, at the rehearsal he coldly announced the above to the Portland Symphony Chorus. They were left to make ensemble entrances as best as they could, while the former PSO conductor did exactly as he said he would...... giving cues ONLY to the Symphony musicians. Newt said that none of the members of the chorus liked much about Mr. Lipkin’s style, manner or anything else (HS: Certainly an understandable attitude for them to take.).

1960s

Lipkin

Portland Municipal Organist John Fay

Getting Even

• THAT Shut Him Up!

Another anti-Arthur story heard dealt with Arthur Bennett Lipkin’s notorious bad  reputation to publicly chew out at least one musician at each rehearsal. On this occasion, the pompous conductor told organist John Fay that he was playing a section too loudly (HS: The work involved was one often played in the past by the great Portland organist-- although this night it was “his turn” to be in the hot-shot conductor’s gun sights.). John lowered the level of the Kotzschmar Organ the next time through that passage; and in front of everyone Lipkin none-too-politely once again rudely told him that it was still not soft enough. It was rehearsed again; Mr. Fay took his foot way off the volume pedal; and the irascible Lipkin ripped him once again. By now John had “had enough”. The next time through, the fed-up organist slammed the pedal to FULL VOLUME and the walls of City Hall Auditorium literally vibrated, with the unreasonable conductor close to being blown off the podium. Nothing further was discussed about the organist not playing softly enough.

Concerts

Musicians

Safety

• THAT Wasn’t A Jelly Bean!

Backstage at concerts, two colorful large jars rest on a table near the entrance to the stage. The musicians know what they contain, but a young guest making a pre-concert tour was fooled when she asked why were there jelly beans? Wouldn’t’ she have been surprised if she had just grabbed several and popped them into her mouth? Those were dozens of colorful ear plugs for players who sit in front of the brass or percussion sections.

1980s

Moody

• I Signed Up For WHAT!?

Fun lore (said to be true) about Robert Moody is that his first solo on stage was "I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus", accompanied by his 12 year-old sister

also... As a joke his 4th grade girlfriend signed him up for cello lessons at school.... and when his name was later called he was too shy to say anything and started to take lessons--- which, obviously, greatly affected the direction of his life.

1960s

Vermel

Rehearsals

Too Many Rests

Don Doane

Russ Burleigh

• Gotta’ Have A Smoke? Whad’aYa Think This Is...?, It’s Not a Jazz Gig

PSO conductor Paul Vermel was a regular visitor stopping by the Bridgeway Restaurant on Saturday afternoons to hear jazz in the late 1960s. Don Doane was a regular trombonist performing there, and the two got to know each other quite well. At one point Mr. Vermel asked Don if he would do him a favor and play trombone in the PSO. Paul knew that Don only wanted “to swing”, so when Don said, “No, I hate classical music. Two trombone notes then 50 measures of rests need to be counted – I’ll need a cigarette.” Paul said that Don could slip away for a smoke whenever there were 50 or more rest measures, and that the conductor would signal him eight bars before he’d need to be ready to play again. Reluctantly, Don agreed..... and at the first rehearsal when there were 50+ measures of rest for the trombones, he walked off stage and lit one up. PSO manager Russ Burleigh came over and berated Don for “treating the rehearsal as a jazz event”. Before Russ could go any further with his admonishment, Don told him of his “deal” with Paul. Apparently Burleigh then just shook his head and walked away.

Organ

Misc

• Too Much White Paint

The Kotzschmar organ casing is currently (2013) cherry wood. This is the third casing for the organ, and a document in the PSO Archives refers to one of them at one time being "brought up to then-modern times" and painted white.

(HS: Undoubtedly......... Liberace would have approved!)

2013

Robert Moody

Portrait

• On Time for a Party

Before a watching group of major PSO patrons gathered in a mansion on the Western Promenade, Robert Moody was asked to say a few words prior to the unveiling of James Crowley’s impressive large oil-on-canvas portrait of the maestro. Awaiting his first look at the artist’s work, he began by telling of how his tendency to be fashionably late to arrive at social events was often at odds with tightly-planned schedules arranged by the PSO staff – he referred to frequent instances of how the PSO Artistic Operations Director must have thought “It’s almost panic time”. The assembled group, all also anxiously awaiting their first look at the portrait, had received engraved invitations specifying a 6pm-start for the invitation-only affair. Reflecting on the special significance of this evening’s event to him, the usually “rarely without something to say” maestro couldn’t hide the level of his personal excitement. Looking at the still black-velvet-covered portrait, he cleared his throat and somewhat nervously blurted out..... “Tonight..... I arrived at 5:30!” Moments later the unveiling occurred, and all he could say was “Wow!” ---- The room erupted into applause, with lots of other “Wow’s” heard from the crowd.

2013

Robert Moody

Robert’s Mom

Portrait

• Moms Always See The Big Picture

At the unveiling of the large portrait of Robert Moody, he joked about the comment his Mother made when first learning about the project:

           She said: “Thank God it’s now and not 50 years from now.”

2013

Robert Moody

James Crowley

Portrait

• One Guy It’s Best Not to Get Crossways With

At the unveiling of James Crowley’s portrait of Robert Moody, the classically-trained artist discussed with the Press Herald’s Bob Keyes about the several months when he was at work on the project at his easel. He remarked how amenable, easygoing and accessible Mr. Moody had always been when meeting with him or conversing with him on many occasions. While expressing his sincere appreciation for the PSO maestro’s helpfulness, he added that, of course -- “Most people are pretty nice to a portrait painter”. The reporter’s article mentioned that the artist laughed as he said that. (HS: What a great line!)

1970s

Pops

Fiedler

Players

• Not Always The “Mr. Nice Guy” His Image Portrayed..... to Musicians, Anyway

Everyone always seemed to love Arthur Fiedler.... “Mr. Pops”. It turns out that “Everyone” didn’t necessarily include the musicians who played under his direction. Reports have it that he had a bit of a mean streak that would emerge when players under his baton made mistakes. As he would often criticize those players in front of their colleagues, sometimes quite harshly, many PSO musicians did not look forward to his appearances with the enthusiasm that concertgoers did. One PSO musician from the 1970s frowned when telling me that “he would even throw his baton at players”. (HS: Wow.... I was surprised to hear about that.)

1960s

PCHA

Sound

• Harmful To Kids' Health

Relative to the pre-1967 renovations, longtime PSO patrons maintain that KinderKonzerts of that era, designed to engender kids' interest in classical music, actually risked having the opposite result due to the physical status of City Auditorium: "kids couldn't hear, kids couldn't see...." and potential interests they might have developed were being ruined by exposure to the hall.

1980s

Shimada

• Making The Best All-Around Choice

Former PSO manager Russ Burleigh recounted to HS that when the mid-80s search for a new music director was well along, the board realized that the "players wanted one of two others", but members of the search team "knew that Toshi would be more 'city-oriented' ".

Players

1950s-to-

Present

• A “Golden Connection” Between PSO Era-s

Frances Snow Drinker was the outstanding principal flute player in the PSO from the late 1950s into the 1970s. As were (and still are) many PSO musicians, she taught students, including today’s (2012) PSO flutist, Alison Hale, who joined the orchestra in 1977. Sharp-eyed concertgoers can spot that Alison’s instrument is a special gold flute. In fact, it is an extra special Powell flute, for it was once her teacher’s instrument and has Mrs. Drinker’s name engraved on it.

Concerts

1980s

• A “Perfect Storm” of a Concert

Reading about a September, 1984, Pops Concert, the PSO’s fourth annual “Symphony By The Sea” makes one think about the 2000 movie “A Perfect Storm”. A series of difficulties made the event a never-ending “What Else Can Go Wrong Now?” happening:

* *>* After three years on the lawn of the Atlantic Hotel, beer and liquor laws required a change of venue when the hotel decided to remain open after Labor Day week-end (HS: even though the hotel made its above-the-ocean lawns available, its liquor license would have been put in jeopardy by PSO attendees bringing their own beer or wine.)

*Private land in South Portland was chosen for its ample parking and closeness to the harbor near the Portland Breakwater Lighthouse “Bug Light”, although there was risk of foul odors from a defunct nearby former fish-waste processing plant. (HS: Fortunately, the winds did not blow souvenir-wisps toward the crowd, and as then PSO PR-manager Debby Hammond said to the newspapers, nobody “was assaulted” by the winds blowing unpleasant smells toward the audience.)

*Local Congressman John McKernan needed to intercede to persuade the U.S. Corps of Army Engineers not to close the Portland drawbridge this weekend for dredging.

*Strong winds required a several-hour delay in starting the concert. A carnival-like parade, kite-flying, clowns and jugglers kept everyone entertained.

*The winds died down somewhat, but gusts of 15+ mph required workmen to put up wind breaks to offer some protection for the orchestra. Nonetheless, challenges remained for the musicians to keep their music from blowing away (HS: clip-clothespins were deployed at each stand.)

*During the concert, the temperature dropped from a cool-68 degrees to 60. The string players were challenged with stiff fingers, while the woodwind instruments kept slipping out of tune.

Audience members, snuggling to keep warm, needed to strain to hear the PSO due to the gusts blowing sounds from the orchestra out toward the bay.

*Several harbor tourist-ships braved the whitecaps to observe the concert from out on the water, waiting for a later-scheduled offshore fireworks display to be started. (HS: One of the larger cruise ships arrived at the area while the orchestra was playing a song from “The Man of LaMancha” ..... impolitely BLASTING its horn to greet everyone. Obviously ready for such an interruption, Maestro Hangen immediately stopped the orchestra.... then sharply brought down his baton; triple-forte, every member of the PSO played a different note, thereby throwing back at the ship a most-unmelodic and harsh SHPRONNKKK!!; after which they resumed playing The Impossible Dream.)

*A small sailboat overturned in Casco Bay, and the U.S. Coast Guard flew both a helicopter and a small plane to search for the sailor (HS: unfortunately, he drowned and a body was recovered the next morning).

*The fireworks display had to be cancelled at the last minute, due to the emergency aircraft being in the vicinity. (HS: After the concert, Debby Hammond sort-of summed up the evening, saying “Now we have a new storage problem. We’ve never had to store fireworks before.”)

1970s?

Women

Lipkin

• Right Person...... Wrong City

Wilma Redmond was for many years one of the most active leaders of the PSO Women's Committee. During Arthur Bennett Lipkin's tenure as PSO conductor, she played a key role in raising funds to benefit the orchestra's P&L statement. She was also a board member, representing the Committee. As was his habit, the conductor always referred to her by using only her last name, "Redmond". Several years following Mr. Lipkin's retirement she was attending a national conference sponsored by The American Orchestra League, where a still hobnobbing Mr. Lipkin spotted her. Now many years later, in retelling the incident, she gently shook her head in disbelief, recalling that from across the room she heard a booming voice call out, "Hey! Redmond! How're things going in Birmingham?"

Players

Percussionist’s Prank

Rehearsal(s)

• Oh! So that’s Where the Nickel Went.

A tale has it that one time as a caper, PSO percussionist Paul Pitts decided to play a wise-guy trick on one of his section mates. When no one was on stage, he scotch-taped a nickel inside one of the tubular bells in the chimes, leaving the coin dangling at the end of the adhesive. Knowing that it would vibrate and noisily disturb the sound purity when that chime was struck at an important moment of a piece set to be rehearsed, his sophomoric moment was intended to bring some levity to the upcoming orchestra practice. However, when the critical chime was struck, all was normal....... and everyone played on. He assumed that the tape had let go, and his nickel was lost somewhere on the stage floor.

Many months later, during another rehearsal when the chimes were required for a different composition, a noisy vibration was set off inside one of the tubes when the conductor signaled for it to be struck. Instantly realizing that the distraction was caused by a vibrating coin (that he had originally taped to the wrong tube), reports have it that –loud enough for the entire orchestra (and the conductor!) to hear– he blurted out a phrase that is now the above caption title to this Anecdote.

2000s

Programming

Players

Rhode Island Philharmonic

Moody

Winston-Salem Symphony

• Seeking Providence..... Information, that is

When roughing out respective “next-year” schedules, the PSO staff needs to seek as much information as possible about calendar plans being considered by the Rhode Island Philharmonic. This is because a significant number of PSO musicians are members of both organizations. Avoiding direct schedule conflicts are in the mutual interest of both organizations. Thus, calls between the Portland and Providence-based symphony staffs are many. In addition, the Portland Symphony Orchestra staff needs to coordinate concert schedules with the Winston-Salem Symphony, since Robert Moody can’t be in both places at once. His frequent guest-conducting appearances in other locales also need to be taken into account as the PSO sketches out and sets upcoming years’ schedules.

1950s

Don Doane

Boston Celtics

• A Darn Good Basketball Player Goes Up Against a Great Basketball Player

When Don Doane was at Boston University, he at first thought that he’d go on to a pro basketball career as a 6-1 point guard, not into one where he’d become a jazz trombonist. However, when the BU team one time had a long scrimmage against the Boston Celtics, Don went up against a green-shirted guy named Bob Cousy. Don tells the tale that it was after that game that he looked in the mirror and decided........ that he was meant to be a T-bone player.

1980s

2000s

Guest

KinderKonzert

Players

• This “Little Kid” MADE IT BIG!

A tiny late-March-1987 clipping by-chance spotted among thousands in the PSO Archives discussed then-upcoming KinderKonzerts scheduled for April and May in several southern Maine communities. In addition to mentioning an upcoming small ensemble of PSO musicians who for many years had regularly performed for elementary students (HS: And fortunately, PSO’ers still do now-- some 30+ years after KinderKonzerts were first introduced to Portland youth.), the article also reported that a seven-year-old youngster named Joel Noyes would be among the performers at all the KinderKonzerts that spring. This was indeed a great tidbit to spot, for three-and-one-half decades later, I was in the audience when Portland concertgoers were thrilled by a 2012 appearance when cellist Joel Noyes was part of an amazing duo (HS: The Cleveland Orchestra’s Brian Thornton was the other.) which performed two double-cello concertos at a concert in Merrill Auditorium, one by Antonio Vivaldi and the other by David Ott. Mr. Noyes is currently (2013) Assistant Principal Cello of the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra. Born into a musical family, he began playing the cello at the age of three under the tutelage of his father (HS: Both his parents, cellist Richard Noyes and violinist Clorinda Noyes, are currently in their 30th year as members of the Portland Symphony Orchestra.) eventually graduating from the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia. While at Curtis, he was chosen principal cellist of the Institute's orchestra, and frequently played in the Philadelphia Orchestra. And...... all that info from the catalyst of a tiny KinderKonzert clipping; Hoo-Ray!

1990s

Merrill

Sound

• Kirkegaard Tales

Acoustician Larry Kirkegaard almost didn't become involved in the Merrill restoration project:

-Building Committee decision was likely "only one meeting away from being made" when the Second Opinion Committee review was authorized

-Kirkegaard was then mostly abroad, working on two projects in major cities and very busy

-During a one-day visit to Portland, he looked inside the auditorium; an observer then on the scene says that almost immediately "he was hooked" and accepted the assignment

Kirkegaard's remembrances include:

-his first reaction being "an intriguing project"

-that first morning he pounded on the walls with his hands, went up into the attic, and also clapped his hands. When HS joked with him that hand-clapping didn't sound very scientific, he said that he did that as though he was "asking a question of the space can you do this?" At first, his mind heard the space answer him, "no way” ---- and then------------ well, maybe."

-not wanting to hang acoustical panels

HS mentioned that plans existed showing them as proposed in the early 1960s-- Larry then (correctly) guessed that that design was from Bolt, Baranek and Newman.

It coincidentally turns out that during that era he had interned at BB&N, although at that time he was not involved with any Portland project.

-he especially liked the "volumes of the hall"

-"the stage HAD to be extended"

-responding to an HS question, he said that the toughest parts of the project's challenges were stuff around the stage, and the air conditioning. HS had mistakenly assumed that he would have cited significant difficulties insofar as sound reflections and refractions.

-answering another HS question as to whether anything was NOT done that he wished would have, he responded with an immediate "no".

Tight cost limits were a significant challenge to Kirkegaard re achieving major project objectives:

-preserving balconies .improving sightlines

-significantly better acoustics (for performers AND concertgoers)

-enlarging and improving stage area, including adding LOTS of mass behind stage

-audience comfort (meaning HVAC issues, as well as better acoustic-kind upholstery

-community pride

1990s

Merrill

Sound

• I Love All My Kids

HS asked Larry Kirkegaard what were his favorite projects. After at first demurring, he said that his "best memories involved the whole process" but then relented and stated that his two favorites were X and Y (get to know me better, and maybe I'll share those specifics with you sometime).

1990s

Merrill

Sound

• Oh... Was That Regular or Decaf?

A person who every day was on the scene during the renovation work to create Merrill Auditorium recalled to HS that one of the Tishman building contractor supervisors was a "down & dirty Boston guy with a thick accent" who one day was among a group of the professionals who together went out to lunch at a nice restaurant. Larry Kirkegaard was in town and also among the group. While neither stuffy nor pompous, but unquestionably possessing an Ivy League sophistication, that day he probably unintentionally illustrated that he was a polished 'Harvard guy' when he asked the waitress for a cup of coffee. He requested that it be poured from a freshly-brewed pot. The Tishman supervisor reportedly bruskly said to the waitress, "the stuff that you're throwing away-------------, that's for me!"

1990s

Merrill

• THAT's Magnetism!

That same Tishman supervisor one time commented about there being "so much steel in the well-built 1912 City Hall, that every compass in New England should be pointing 'right here' ".

1960s

Graffam

• List of Music Teachers

During the 1960s, virtually every concert program contained names of Portland area music teachers, listed by the instruments they taught. A former PSO manager said that the champion of keeping that information in front of PSO patrons was Clinton Graffam, who always wanted to promote kids' music lessons whenever possible. "Down the line", time wise..... of course he'd always be wanting there to be a goodly number of younger musicians coming along to be in the Deering High School orchestra.

1970s

Promotion

• Want Your Stereo To Last Longer?

That was the question that an attention-grabbing promotional flyer from the PSO asked about in 1970. Opening the flyer presented a for-sure solution---- “Come More Often and Hear the PSO!”,

2000s

PSO Music-Director Candidates

• Where Are They Now?

Following is a quick-summary recap of the respective career-paths of PSO music-director-candidates not selected when that position was offered to Robert Moody in 2007 (compiled mid-2013):

* Edwin Outwater, in 2007, became Music Director of the Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony in Ontario, Canada. He continues in that post (as of 2013).

* David Alan Miller remains Music Director of the Albany Symphony Orchestra, a position he has held since 1992.

* Alexander Mickelthwate has accepted two contract extensions with the Winnipeg Symphony, currently extending to the 2015–2016 season.

* Peter Rubardt remains Music Director of the Pensacola Symphony Orchestra, recently losing out to another finalist for the podium of the El Paso Symphony Orchestra.

* Randall Craig Fleischer is still Music Director of both the Hudson Valley Philharmonic and the Anchorage Symphony; and also is now in his 4th year leading the Youngstown Symphony Orchestra.

* Leslie Dunner remained with the Joffrey Ballet for six seasons, and is now a well-traveled guest conductor with many international gigs. He is the Louisville Ballet's principal guest conductor.

* Daniel Meyer moved on from his early-career positions in Pittsburgh, and is currently the musical director of the Erie Philharmonic and director of the Asheville Symphony Orchestra.

* Emil de Cou remains Associate Conductor of the National Symphony, and is the [email protected] Trap Festival Conductor.

* Lawrence Loh is Resident Conductor of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, and also Music Director of the Northeastern Pennsylvania Philharmonic in the Wilkes Barre/Scranton region.

* Markand Thakar remains Music Director of the Baltimore Chamber Orchestra, and is also Co-Director of Graduate Conducting at the Peabody Conservatory.

* Arie Lipsky remains Music Director of the Ann Arbor Symphony and recently was appointed principal guest conductor of the Haifa Symphony Orchestra. He is also Music Director of the Ashland (Ohio) Symphony and chair of the chamber music program at the Chautauqua Institution School of Music

* Jonathan McPhee remains Music Director for Boston Ballet, the second largest musical organization in Boston, and is now also Music Director for the Lexington Symphony and Symphony New Hampshire.

(HS: Since the PSO never publicly-released a specific list of the names of candidates to succeed Toshi Shimada, it is likely that some of the above technically were not on the search committee’s official candidate radar. One PSO official expressed it superbly when interviewed about what could have been a delicate subject to some on the list: “All of the candidates are conductors; however not all the conductors are candidates”.)

Concerts

“Magic”

2012

• Practice Makes Perfect...... In Every Profession

Illusionist Lyn Dillies amazed concertgoers during the 2012 “Magic of Christmas” concerts, performing impossible tricks while Maestro Moody and the orchestra played classic works that enhanced her literal on-stage magic. In an interview following one concert, she talked about developing her craft and performing skills at an early age. Since Lyn knew that she needed to gain practice at performing before people, the then 12-year-old would ring doorbells in her community, and when invited inside would set up her portable table----- removing colored scarves from it and amazing neighbors with all types of sleight of hand tricks. Fortunately for the folks on her street, she hadn’t then fully developed all the tricks of illusion that in later decades would WOW and delight head-shaking audiences. Had they known what tricks she’d eventually go on to invent, some of her neighbors might not have pretended to have been away – occasionally hiding when they saw her knocking on neighbors’ doors----- one of her astounding headline-grabbing supernatural feats would be when she made a grown Indian elephant “appear” on an empty stage!

She performed a take-off of this attraction at each of the 2012 “Magic” concerts-- while she didn’t make an elephant suddenly appear on stage, Lyn did bring a “he wasn’t there a moment ago!” Robert Moody onto the podium at the beginning of each performance.

1960s

Players

• American Federation of Musicians, James C.Petrillo - President

Longtime PSO bass player George Rubino told a story about how he early-on learned the benefit of belonging to the musicians union. When first offered a contract to play with the PSO as a young man, (he was not yet in college) the deal proffered was at $3 for each rehearsal, versus $9 then being paid to "union players". Since his then-frequent jazz gigs in the area had led him to already be in the union, he "asked union" insofar as being compensated was concerned....... and got the $9 rate.

(HS: incidentally, HS Googling revealed that the longtime, powerful Musicians' union President Petrillo's middle name was Caesar; ....that fits.)

1940s

Guest Artists

Percy Grainger

Katherine Graffam

• A Legendary Eccentric; Confirmation Witnessed by a PSO’er

Anyone who ever wondered whether the composer-pianist Percy Grainger really did have some of the eccentric traits for which he was known, needed go no further than longtime PSO-er Katherine Graffam for confirmation. On many occasions she would tell of first-hand observations. The following is a segment of a letter she wrote in 1992, a copy of which resides in the PSO files:

“I recall two performances with Percy Grainger... ...I have very warm memories of these concerts and of Percy Grainger as a superb musician and a warm, interesting person.

“His legendary reputation for eccentricity emerged rather early. The first rehearsal was upon us with no word from the soloist as to his arrival time or manner. However, upon our appearance at City Hall Auditorium, where the concert was to take place, early arrivals discovered our soloist wearing a very old and tattered raincoat, curled up asleep on a large table backstage. He had walked two miles from the railroad station in the rain. It was a stormy night and he had strolled from Union Station to City Hall. We had trouble persuading the hall security man that he was not someone who had wandered in to escape the elements.

“Then, there were his dietary habits. One of the orchestra members entertained him at a party following the first concert and had prepared some rather special food, including lobster rolls. She was chagrined to find that he was a strict vegetarian and could eat none of her fancy food. She ended up boiling an egg, and he was happy. After the party, he refused, again, offers of transportation, and with his knapsack over his shoulder, he added two more miles to his Portland travels on foot. “

Getting Ready to Perform

Backstage Warm-ups

Soloists and Conductors

Just Like Before A Big Race at a Track Meet

• Who’s That “Helicopter” Backstage?

The PSO’s longtime piano tuner, Matt Guggenheim, usually quietly sits offstage during concerts when the PSO’s Steinway piano is being used. This is due to the fact that he often needs to re-tune it at intermission, especially after hard use during the first half of a concert. He also has a repair-bag filled with extra strings and pins, pieces of felt, tuning forks, various tools, and other items ready for any mechanical emergencies.

While always trying to remain out of the way, unobtrusive and focused on being ready for whatever professional demands may come his way (HS: He described his focus as wanting to be sure that the piano is mechanically and tonally at its best.), he gets to see an aspect of a concert that regular concertgoers don’t---- guest artists and conductors warming up. He says that the warm-up habits vary all over the lot, with some soloists and conductors “all alone and concentrating in their own cocoons” – despite Matt and other backstage regulars also being close by. Other artists, some he describes as “big-time important artists”, are remarkably relaxed-and-friendly, on occasion even gregarious, often extending “how are ‘ya-s” to people they’ve never seen before. He’s always impressed at how those folks can appear so calm and collected.

Many have active physical routines that are designed to get their muscles loosened up and their blood flowing---- or working to otherwise achieve adrenaline rushes. He says some rapidly and repeatedly jump-up-and-down in one place, while others actively wave or rotate their arms around and around, looking like wanna-be helicopters.

(HS: Watching lots of sporting events myself, his descriptions sound just like what we’ve all seen athletes do before opening jump-balls at basketball games; prior to the first face-off at Bruins’ tilts; or just before the starter’s pistol is raised at track meets and the “take your marks” call goes out.) The classical music world certainly has the likes of accomplished concert pianists or conductors who are athletes in their own right..... that’s for sure—and Matt’s reports of the pre-appearance backstage activates that he’s observed reinforce that fact.

---Note: In October of 2011, P-H reviewer Christopher Hyde wrote a profile piece about Matt. It’s available on the internet, and provides some interesting insights about the man and his profession. Referring in the article to demand for his craft, which Matt calls a "necessary luxury", he says "They're like Beethoven. The bombs can be dropping 40 miles away, but what they care about is their music.” (HS: Matt tune’s Sue’s piano; however—I hadn’t thought of describing her wanting regular piano tunings in that regard. Yikes!)

1960s

Concerts

Players

• Leave the Metronome Ashore

In 1965, the PSO's then-newest trumpeter had to rehearse on his own prior to a January concert, and then later missed a March concert. William Bailey was Captain of the Coast Guard ship Coos Bay, and had to go to sea for weather station duties and then later for anti-submarine practice. A fun tidbit in a local newspaper article about him mentioned that when he practiced from sheet music in his cabin on the ship, he said that "a metronome will usually be of no value... ...because the ship's motion will throw it off.” Also fun to read were responses the reporter got from radiomen whose shack was directly across from the captain's quarters. “You probably hear him play the trumpet quite often'?, the reported inquired. 'Not really', the sailor responded. 'When he starts playing we turn the receivers up real loud and the dits and dahs drown him out. He gives us no trouble.' “ (HS: That radioman must have been a reed player.)

2000s

Audiences

Moody

• Strong Opinions

During a 2014 conversation, Robert Moody observed “how much Portland audiences let him know what they like and don’t like; more so than anywhere else I have conducted”. The PSO maestro commented on how much email response he would receive following concerts, something that he definitely viewed as a positive.

1990s

Shimada

Interview

Car Experiences

Humor

• A Big Wheel is Interviewed by the P-H’s BIG WHEELS Columnist

A 1996 Press Herald article illustrated Toshi Shimada’s sense of humor, in a car-article Q&A:

Name: Toshi Shimada

Occupation: Music director and conductor, Portland Symphony Orchestra.

Residence: Cape Elizabeth

Car: 1994 blue Buick Regal

Q. What do you like most about your car? A. It's powerful, yet smooth - like my orchestra.

Q. Favorite option? A. The sound system. It has violins on the left, cellos on the right.

Q. What's unique about it? A. Nothing. American cars all look alike.

Q. Best/worst time in your car? A. Best: a police escort to Independence Pops in Cape Elizabeth/

                                                                 worst: being stuck on the bridge twice in one day.

Q. How does it reflect your personality? A. Conducts its business with authority. Sounds great, too.

Q. If you could pick anyone, whom would you take for a ride. A. My wife, Eva. If you insist, Catherine DeNeuve.

Q. Worst intersection? A. Myrtle Street and Cumberland Avenue after a Magic of Christmas concert.

Q. Pet peeve as a driver. A. Traffic jams. The horns are always out of tune.

1970s

Duke Ellington

Concert

Don Doane

• “The Duke” Plays a Joke On Portlanders

A few minutes before the Duke Ellington Band was to go out on stage for its 1972 appearance with the PSO (when Westbrook native Don Doane was a last-minute sub T-bone player), Mr. Ellington called Don over to him. He said that the band was supposed to walk out onto the stage after a PA introduction announcement. He asked Don to walk out first, all alone and then just stand there, so that first seeing a “white guy” would surprise the crowd. Don did; it did; and then Duke came out laughing and laughing. (HS: After that concert, Duke Ellington extended an “open..... any-time” invitation to Don to join his band. What a tribute to a genuine nice guy!)

1960s

1970s

Reviews

• The Friendly Fellow From the Fourth Estate

John Thornton was for many years the music critic and reporter from the Evening Express. He wrote well and was highly knowledgeable about music. Almost traditionally, he held a high opinion of the PSO and its conductors (even through the volatile Lipkin years when the orchestra performed well almost in spite of who held the baton; during the Vermel years, Mr. Thornton sometimes made negative references to Lipkin concerts--- references that didn't much appear earlier when they were performed). He was a person comfortable with and friendly with various PSO conductors, people told HS. "Controversy was not something he was born to", volunteered one individual who HS interviewed, describing him as a "Hail fellow well met", not in any derogatory manner, but simply observing that "he was a person who wanted to please everyone." (HS: an earlier Anecdote refers to the fact that Mr. Thornton had been the PSO business manager earlier in his career.) His reviews undoubtedly helped the PSO's image in the Portland community. HS has found no indications that the current Press Herald music critic is close to anyone among the PSO family.

1980s

PCHA

Merrill

• Less Is More

At first glance, the architect's 1988 proposal to reduce City Hall Auditorium's seat-total by 400-500, to 1900-2000 would seem to be a "non-starter". However, designers on the project took into consideration that the major users of the facility then “refrain(ed) from selling the seats with the worst sightlines and acoustics". In addition, removing some seats would allow larger and more comfortable seats to be installed, thus increasing the attractiveness of the hall to patrons. The Wolf report stated that "reduction in total seating capacity of approximately 20 percent is generally held to be inconsequential". (HS emphasis added) The Wolf consultants predicted "an increase of at least 15 percent in overall attendance" due to improved facilities, also that promoters would be able to charge slightly more for tickets. Another estimate was that an attendance increase of only that magnitude would produce a potential economic impact of injecting $1 million annually into the Downtown Portland economy.

1980s

Concerts

Guests

• The Rach-3rd, A Shining Performance

Asked whether there were any PSO performances that "blew him away", Russ Burleigh recalled a performance when Gina Bachauer played Rachmaninoff’s 3rd Piano Concerto. The next-day newspaper reviews also crowed about her prowess.

1960s

Lipkin

Board

• Tingles

A longtime PSO patron told HS that conductor Arthur Bennett Lipkin's wife was always a big supporter of her husband's musical career. Mary Lipkin had the nickname Ting, and frequently would start off personal notes that she sometimes sent to PSO directors with "Tingles from Ting".

1860s

Fire

Misc

• Too Much Coincidence

Regarding the Conflagration of 1866, later that year the Farmer’s Almanac reported that "The Portland Press says that during the Revolutionary War, when Mowatt burned Portland, an infant but a few weeks old was removed from a house on Forest street, below India street, in that town, and taken out of the town for safety. The house was burned down. During the recent conflagration, that same infant was removed from a house erected on the spot where stood the one burnt by Mowatt, from which ninety years ago she had been removed, and she was once more taken to a place of safety. She was the venerable Miss Hannah Thorlo. She is now ninety-one years of age, of infirm health, but possessing a remarkably bright mind. Fortunately, the house of her childhood was untouched by the fire."

1990s

PCHA

Merrill

• Rock'N'Roll Engineering Test

One person who HS interviewed recalled one principal local architect involved with the mid-'90s Merrill renovation as seeming to always be looking for reasons NOT to retain the balconies. He frequently-voiced concerns about, or questioned the strength of that part of the building's structure, as well as possible fatiguing of what he referred to as aged metal. When some wall was removed, very high purity French Iron was revealed (the precise location of those parts of the Carrère and Hastings plans is now unknown): ---but......THINK EIFFEL TOWER. A comment made by the person interviewed about this topic was an amusing, but incredibly simple and practical comment about his personal observations: "I doubt that man had ever been to a rock concert at City Hall Auditorium", referring to 4-inch up-and-down vibrations that he had seen as Portland kids, en masse, jumped incessantly and enthusiastically.

1970s

Hangen

Musicians

Auditions

• So.... Do You Want To Audition For Principal Flute?

A copy of the audition requirements issued to prospective players in 1978 was spotted in the PSO Archives. Specific preparation requirements for Principal Flute, First and Second Violins, Cellos, Contrabass, Timpani and Percussion were listed. Regarding the expectations for Principal Flute as an example, here’s the list:

--One Solo Work of Applicant’s Choice
* Mozart Concerto for Flute in G major, first movement
* Bach, J.S. Orchestral Suite No. 2; Polonaise-Double and Badinerie
* Brahms Symphony No. 4: fourth movement
* Mendelssohn Midsummer Night’s Dream: Scherzo
* Stravinsky Petrouchka
* Debussy Afternoon of a Faun
* Beethoven Leonore Overture No. 3
* Bizet Carmen Suite No. 1: Intermezzo
* Rimsky-Korsakov Scheherazade: fourth movement
* Strauss Til Eulenspiegel
-----The audition will also include sight-reading.

1990s

Merrill

Sound

• A Massive Disagreement

Re importance of substantial mass being added behind stage during mid-'90s renovation: The rear masonry walls of the auditorium were increased in depth by at least a foot. Previously, "Lots, maybe 50% of low-frequency energy was going out through the back wall", one scientific person who HS interviewed said. (So... longtime PSO patrons in the pre-Merrill days must have frequently missed out hearing plenty of what-had-been-impressive bass tones-- at least to the players onstage.) Amazingly, the Izenour plans called for use of only 5/8" gypsum board for some walls, a fact to which Larry Kirkegaard -while speaking before the Building Committee- sarcastically commented, (quote) 5/8" gypsum board indeed! (end-quote) Certainly there was indeed no love lost insofar as these two competitors were concerned.

1970s

Vermel

Soloists

Rampal

Concerts

• OFF To The Races

The PSO’s 9th conductor tells of a time in February of 1973 when he, the orchestra and Jean Pierre Rampal rehearsed a piece that the great flutist said he wanted to play somewhat slower than the initial tempo Paul Vermel took in the first run-through. With that understanding in mind, Mr. Vermel recalled (during a chat with HS in 2013), that at the performance Mr. Rampal “raced through it!” .......Whoa-there, JP!

1970s

Vermel

Music Critics

• Why Do You Always Want to Sit There?

Maestro Vermel also recalled a chat he once had with Portland newspaper reviewer Harrison Brown. The reporter always insisted on sitting in the first row (although sitting further back in the orchestra seating area would have provided him a more rounded sound from the orchestra). When Paul asked Brown about his preferred front-row seat, the response was “pure reporter”; he immediately responded “I want to be sure not to miss any boo-boo’s”. (HS: Pulitzer-Prize career strategy, eh?)

1970s

Concerts

Guests

• History Repeats Itself

During Max Morath's 1977 appearance with the PSO, the Evening Express reported that he "delighted the audience by reading a 1912 'Century Magazine' denunciation of ragtime as savage, immoral and indecent. He regaled them further by reading a 1971 Chicago Tribune editorial denouncing rock in the same terms."

2000s

Discovery Concert

STAR WARS

Kids and their Anti-Heroes

• I Don’t Like Him; and I’m Not Going to Shake His Hand

No.... the above title to this anecdote does not refer to any petty relationship among musicians, PSO or otherwise. It describes the reaction of one youngster who went on stage after the 2013 STAR WARS Symphonic Spectacular Discovery Concert. There, the actors who had portrayed characters from the movie during the concert were on hand for pictures, happy to greet any and all kids who wanted to come up the stairs. Moving down the line, when one young boy came face to face with Darth Vader, the actor extended his hand to say “hello”. Immediately, the youngster backed away and wanted NOTHING to do with the character he regarded as the worst villain in the universe!

Robert Moody

4th–of-July Thunderstorm

2012

• Physics: Electricity

At the July 4 concert on the Eastern Prom in 2012, a violent thunderstorm attacked the area, causing the concert to be delayed. Robert Moody frequently tells the story that as the musicians sought safety and cover in the center of the tent, whenever he would drift over to a group—they would split up and go other places under cover. The next night when the concert was performed, he told the audience about this episode, reporting that he asked why so many people seemed to be avoiding him. The Maestro reported the answer he got to the audience: “Because he’s a conductor!”

1990s

Merrill

• NOT "Doing the Continental"

Former PSO manager Russ Burleigh recalled how the seating-design plan urged by George Izenour called for "continental seating" (when there is no center aisle, but wide spacing between each row of seats). During a conversation with HS, Russ pulled no punches, commenting "I hated that idea!"

Players

• A Long PSO Romance

Although more than several married couples have each been PSO performers, the longest such members were Clinton Graffam and Katherine Hatch Graffam, who each joined the orchestra as exceptionally talented high schoolers in the late 1920's. Oboist Clint, longtime the City Schools' Music Director, retired from the PSO in 1983. Cellist Katherine Graffam continued until 1987, and one current (2012) PSO member tells of her annually inviting the section over to her house for roast beef dinners. That same PSO member tells how Clint had a police radio in his car, and loved to listen for news of fires-- scenes of which he would make real-time visits. Special Note: today's PSO principal oboist and violoncellist respectively hold the Clinton Graffam Chair and the Katherine Graffam Chair positions with the orchestra.

1960s

Concerts

Staff

• It All Sounded So Simple

In order to mesh brush and baton in the 1967 PSO performance of Twenty-Seven Studies on Themes of Paul Klee by Gunther Schuller, a display for the audience of colored slides of the artist's work that inspired the composition needed to be flashed on a screen. Late in the week prior to the performance, it was discovered that slides similarly used in the original performance of the work had been lost and the paintings themselves were now widely scattered. The Press Herald reported that "PSO manager Andrew Holmes made a hurried trip to New York City, visited Schuller's home and took both black and white and colored pictures of copies of the seven Klee works involved. Hurrying back to Portland with the films Saturday, he had them developed-- then found still more problems to solve. A screen large enough to project the slides on stage could not be found. Nothing daunted, Holmes went shopping and purchased a king sized bed sheet. Working closely with stage manager Dr. Philip W. Anderson, he constructed a frame large enough to hold the sheet. But, how to flash the cue from the conductor to the projectionist... and to the electrician in charge of the backstage board... so that the slides would be shown smoothly and in the right order? At rehearsal Monday night, Dr. Anderson and Holmes talked over a small battery powered two-way wireless communications system. Outside interference jammed the works, but the problem was solved by a change in antenna length. ...only one problem remained. Should the slides be shown at the start of each of the seven sections as the composer preferred or at the end of each movement as guest conductor Maurice Kaplow wished, or shown all during each movement? This was still being debated" late the night before the concert. "To further complicate the project, about 80 music stand lights have to be arranged for the musicians early today. They are needed for when the house lights are turned off and the slides go on", continued the P-H. THEN "the piano must be moved onstage for the Beethoven concerto, over many wires and connections." (HS: I'm tired just typing out all these details.)

(Fortunately, one reviewer mentioned when the slides were shown: each briefly prefacing each movement.)

1990s

Merrill

PCHA

• Zoo Talk

At Larry Kirkegaard's initial meeting with the Building Committee, he used memorable humor to make the point that top-quality professional dancers would never agree to appear on the City Hall Auditorium stage, claiming "the stage floor is inappropriate for any performance other than elephants and acrobatic dogs."

1990s

Merrill

Gov't

• Preservation Ordinance

The City of Portland Planning and Development Department website states that "Portland has a rich collection of architecture and landscapes that date back to the eighteenth century. The quality, craftsmanship, and beauty of these properties are an important part of the City's special character and heritage. In 1990, the City of Portland established a historic preservation ordinance to help protect this legacy." The origin of that ordinance might well have influenced how events in 1992 evolved related to the Building Committee's considerations as to whether to approve the Richmond-Izenour or the Winton Scott-Kirkegaard renovation plans for City Hall Auditorium. The 1990 ordinance followed two earlier failed attempts on the part of citizens focused on historic preservation issues. Reportedly, passage of the 1990 statute was a close call, and it is likely that people who had been both pro or con relative to that vote subsequently thought the preservationists afterwards were being somewhat "on probation" insofar as how enforcement of the new law would play out. If that indeed was the situation, then it was under such an atmosphere that preservationists who supported The Second Opinion Committee involvement proceeded on what was the city's first major post-ordinance-passage "hot topic". That group's late get-involved timing, at essentially what was an "it's a minute before midnight, Cinderella" moment, undoubtedly added to already high tensions during mid and late 1992. That events proceeded to what is now widely agreed to be a happy ending for Merrill Auditorium, is a most positive testament to Portland. All sides came together, and final practical solutions covered a broad swath: much-improved acoustics, a significantly more comfortable environment for patrons, and also the balconies preserved-- all financed without further city tax dollars being spent. Preservationists did not simply play (as many Portlanders probably feared they would) a legal trump card........ and hopefully that outcome helped stave off future overly-strident preservation versus pro-development battles.

PCHA

• Prize fights

...had sometimes been held in the old City Hall Auditorium (prior to the 1967 renovations). Many more were held at the Expo.

1960s

Organ

Misc.

• Playing For The Dodgers..... and

Organist Gladys Gooding passes away. While it is not known if she ever performed on the Kotzschmar Memorial Organ, she is nonetheless the answer to the trivia question, "who is the only person to have played for the Brooklyn Dodgers, the New York Rangers and the NY Knicks?" Organist... played for..... get it? She regularly played the organ at both Ebbets Field and in (the old) Madison Square Garden.

(HS: Sorry.... I couldn't help myself; reading all those blue-mimeograph board minutes gets tiring.)

1990s

Merrill

$$

CARES

• What a Lousy Birthday Present:

 The day that the shockingly-high contractor bids to renovate Merrill Auditorium were opened at City Hall, Assistant City Manager Anita LaChance was in attendance and recalls that gloom and silence then descended upon the city leaders also there. "It was MY BIRTHDAY.... and I'll never forget it!" (HS note: "A round of negotiations to try to bring the lowest bid within budget [was] unsuccessful." <source - MHS Moody Collection)

All the necessary added expenses of the renovation "provokes stormy sessions at the Planning Board and the Portland City Council." For a time, new seats and air conditioning were out of the basic re-bid package. Sarcasm abounded. The MHS Moody Collection includes a reference that "on the Krogh & Crocker' talk show one morning, there is a discussion about the possibility of having no seats in the hall -- everybody will just have to bring their lawn chairs."

At one point Lee Urban delivered a spirited pep talk to the Building Committee, that the project's "essential" goals were still intact - improved acoustics, better sightlines, and a bigger and more versatile stage. (MHS - Moody Collection)

1990s

Merrill

Sound

• Merrill Auditorium Engineering Challenges

One of the top Winton Scott architects interviewed responded to an HS question about "what was especially tough about the Merrill renovation project?" His primary answers were:

-"getting everyone's arms around the acoustics came together pretty well"

-"dealing with the mechanical systems was a big challenge", referring to HVAC issues

-"structural aspects regarding the stage expansion"

-and overall.........

"continually managing the project requirements vs. budget constraints"

1960s

Lipkin

Concerts

Organ

• Climbing Around The Windchest

Back in the sixties, the then-president of the PSO one night was called from his pre-concert bathtub when conductor Lipkin's wife called to firmly announce that "Arthur won't be playing tonight!" With drops of bath water plopping on the hallway floor, when the bathrobe-clad president asked what the problem was she even more firmly proclaimed that "there's not a proper D-flat chime!" Assured by the-then PSO prez that one would indeed be on stage for the concert, she relented and agreed that she'd be sure her husband would be there and indeed conduct that evening's PSO performance at which a commissioned work would be premiered.

- Fortunately efforts to avert further conductor consternation succeeded: Alerted as to the situation (and to the promise made by the prez that "a chime will be there"), Andy Holmes, the PSO manager at that time, immediately went to City Hall Auditorium, and climbed deep inside the windchest of the Kotzschmar...... removed a d-flat organ pipe..... returned to the stage and hung the borrowed hollow chamber amidst the percussionist's other tools.

Players

Merrill

• Two Women Important In Portland Musical History

Talented pianist Virginia Merrill often accompanied cellist Katherine Graffam at meetings of the Portland Rossini Club, in which both women were long active.

1970s

Vermel

Bach

White Wig

Glue

Theft?

Mystery

• HEY! Where’s that Johann-Sebastian-Bach Wig?

During the February, 1970, “Bach to Rock” Family Series concert, Maestro Vermel donned lederhosen knickers, knee socks, a fancy white shirt with a lace-up collar, and clip on suspenders that would have made him appear right at home at any Oktoberfest celebration that Johann Sebastian ever attended. The good-natured conductor also wore an 18th-century-type white wig that had been rented (HS: for $37.... with specifications from Mr. Vermel that it be “easy to put on and take off, with no glue or other attachments necessary. Yikes.... they GLUE those things?!!) from a wigmaker on West 46th St. in New York City. The wig was mailed back to New York, about a week after the concert (HS: Does anyone recall a white-wig-wearing guy walking around Portland the week of 2/9-2/17? Maybe he borrowed Maestro Vermel’s hairpiece?). In late May the wigmaker wrote that the wig had not been returned and that extra rental would be due. Fortunately the PSO had insured the wig three months earlier when it was handed over to the post office, and had a receipt...... facts which were sent back to New York. A week later the owner of the wig mailed a letter to the PSO advising that “The wig had been mislaid at the post office, but it has been returned.” (HS: Does anyone recall being at a NY post office in the spring of 1970.... and seeing a white-wig-wearing guy walking around?)

1920s

Organ

• He's Pancho WHO? !!

Portland's second Municipal Organist left Portland in a hurry. Appointed to the position by The Music Commission in 1920, Dr. Irvin John Morgan suddenly resigned his position before his two-year contract expired. Author Janice Parkinson Tucker in her book "Behind The Pipes" wrote that it later was discovered that he left town with the wife of a local engineer, Joseph K. Tetel, and they went to Philadelphia. Her book contains the following concerning "intrigue in the municipal organ department": ..."The organist had reportedly convinced Mrs. Tetel that her husband was really Pancho Villa, the Mexican bandit chief."

(HS--- oh, of course.... that old line "leave that famous bandito for me" line works every time!) Really! I'm not making this stuff up; it's info in a book written by a highly-regarded longtime member of the Maine Historical Society.

The affair must have been quite exciting, for the Maine Memory Network Collection of the Maine Historical Society reports that “Threats of lawsuits ensued, and the newspapers were full of the scandal.”

Players

Rehearsals

Lynn Hannings

Help Dealing With A Snowstorm

• An Unusual Feast

Lynn Hannings has shared a most interesting recollection that has been included on the PSO website: “There was a terrible snowstorm... (that one April) ...dumped feet of snow on Portland, stranding the orchestra members at Merrill Auditorium over night. We called out to a local restaurant for food and received a case of pretzels and a case of bourbon!! After that unusual dinner, I was glad to be able to curl up in my bass case and get a good night’s sleep!”

1950s

Players

• Diverse Daytime Jobs

An early 1950's PSO news release featured local pride in the fact that the orchestra members at that time included "but a handful of professional musicians". Illustrating the diversity among the individuals in the ensemble, the release included "Among some of the more interesting professions represented are: a Berwick physician, a local eye specialist, school teachers, a landscape gardener, a sign painter, music supervisors from the schools of Portland, Westbrook and Falmouth, a piano tuner and a college professor."

1910s

PCHA

• Steady Now:

A photograph taken in 1912 during the final months of construction of City Hall Auditorium shows architects John Calvin Stevens and his son, John Howard Stevens, measuring for possible dip in the upper balcony structure. The father is shown at the side of the balcony with a surveyor's transit level that is pointed at a measuring rod being held by his son, who is near the center of the balcony in the first row. Not immediately recognized by most observers of the photo (including yours truly when I first saw the picture) are sandbags placed at every seat location, the aggregate (no pun intended) simulating the weight-effect of a full crowd in the balcony. Earlier they had presumably taken a base reading without any "patrons", real or simulated. Since the Auditorium opened shortly after this picture was taken, it is assumed that the surveying measurements did not show anything adverse.

1920s

PCHA

• A Disquieting Event to Read About

Prior to voters changing Portland's government from mayoral common-council to manager-council, in 1923, City Hall Auditorium was rented for two meetings by a (surprising -- at least to HS) tenant strongly in favor of change: 6000 white-robed Ku Klux Klansmen (3003 at a first meeting, another 3000 at a second session).

1980s

Concerts

Players

• Unscheduled Heroine:

When a scheduled guest artist, a pianist, was stricken prior to a final concert rehearsal in 1980, on 1-hour's notice PSO French horn principal Laurel Bennert agreed to step in and perform Mozart's Horn Concerto No. 3 as replacement soloist. She "gracefully executed the runs and trills that lay in wait among the staves of her score", penned the Evening Express reviewer that evening. The paper's report summed up by telling about her "great sensitivity to the changing demands of the score and a mastery of the technique of the horn. Vigorous applause drew Miss Bennett back onstage repeatedly" as at the conclusion of her last-minute stepping in, she "found herself covered with her French horn, flowers and glory."

Players

Laurel Bennert

French Horn

• So.... What Ever Became of Laurel Bennert?

Currently (2013), Laurel Bennert Ohlson is the acting Principal Horn player with the National Symphony Orchestra, an ensemble with which she has held an affiliation since 1980. Arguably one of today's top-20 orchestras, the National Symphony Orchestra is the orchestra of the capital of the United States. The performance home of the ensemble is The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. The NSO regularly performs for state occasions, presidential inaugurations and official holiday celebrations. Through its tours of four continents and performances for heads of state, the National Symphony also fills an important international role.

- She has appeared as a soloist with the National Symphony Orchestra and Eclipse Chamber Orchestra, also the Virginia Chamber Orchestra and in numerous solo engagements in Washington, D.C., Boston, Long Island, and across South America. She is a member of the Monarch Brass Ensemble, a nationally recognized all-women brass ensemble whose members are outstanding women brass players from North America’s top symphony orchestras and universities. Ms. Ohlson plays an Englebert Schmid Eb triple horn. She is an active performer and teacher through the NSO’s Youth Fellowship Program, Summer Music Institute, and annual State Residencies. She has presented clinics and recitals at International Horn Society Workshops and International Women's Brass Conferences. She has been on the Board of Directors of the IWBC since 1991, and is currently Vice-President of that organization. A native of Long Island, and a graduate of Boston University School For The Arts, Ms. Ohlson majored in horn performance with a minor in mathematics.

- Googling produced the fun-info that she has delighted both young and not-so-young audiences with her "History of the Horn" lecture/demonstrations in which she performs on twelve different horn-related instruments including the Alphorn and ever-popular garden hose.

- Lastly, on Long Island, she was a girlhood playing colleague of the PSO’s longtime horn player, Nina Miller. (HS: Nina introduced Laurel to the PSO, for which she performed during three years before graduating from college.)

1960s

Concerts

• Uh-oh!

Former PSO Manager Andy Holmes' fond recollection of a fantastic musical memory, a performance of Brahms' Fourth Symphony in the 1960s is mentioned in the Timeline section of this ThingsPSO. When HS asked him if there were any direct opposites (in terms of musical un-accomplishment) he recalled with a twinkling smile...... "Oh...... were there!"

Concert Reviewer

Bernstein

2000’s

• Wit or Smart-aleck? .....You Decide

Press Herald “Classical Beat” columnist Christopher Hyde is not well regarded by PSO musicians. That is hardly a secret, probably related to the infrequent compliments he extends toward the Symphony and its performances in his articles. It is also probably related to the writing style that he favors, a form that often comes across as making his high intellect quotient annoyingly too obvious. One description of his that likely rankled many classical music lovers was in a 2007 article that rankled me when I read it in 2013. He referred to Leonard Bernstein as “that acclaimed graduate of the Julliard School of Talking”. I guess that’s clever?

During my one and only lunch (HS: I bought.) with Mr. Hyde, I asked him if there were any PSO performances that really stood out in his mind. With barely a pause, he responded “I can’t think of any”. He agreed to get back to me if any later came to mind. Two years have now passed (May, 2014), and I have yet to hear back from him.... neither a concert remembrance of any kind nor a thank-you note for inviting him to lunch and picking up the check.

1990s

CARES

Merrill

$$

• Thanks UNUM, and Shaw's Too

In 1996 PortlandCARES made "a last ditch attempt to add back into the (then curtailed) project some of the items that were of utmost importance from the beginning: air conditioning and all new seating. ....UNUM Foundation stepped up with further help, issuing "a $40,000 challenge grant to promote additional fund-raising for the $140,000 chiller necessary for the air conditioning". (HS: talk about WORTHWHILE health-care services!!!) One of the major contributions forthcoming after UNUM's challenge included a major gift from the Davis Foundation (funded by a Shaw's Chairman).

1960s

Staff

Board

• Uncle Phil (or "Dr. Phil")

A 1966 Press Herald story column, "Peeks At People", was focused on Dr. Phillip W. Anderson. At that time he had long been the unpaid, indispensable and cheerfully enthusiastic production manager of the PSO. Some 46 years earlier he had started ushering at City Hall Auditorium. He eventually became the head usher and then moved to backstage work. He became production manager in 1960 when Rouben Gregorian was conductor. Earlier, in the 1930's, he graduated from the University of Maryland Baltimore College of Dental Surgery, gaining his DDS in 1935. He returned to Portland and, except for World War II service, was in father-and-son dental practice for 27 years. He remained in the Naval Reserve after the war, finally separated from the service with the rank of commander. In addition to his practice and his backstage efforts for the PSO, at the time of the P-H article, he was naval aide to Governor John H. Reed. Eventually officially recognized for his institutional and backstage knowledge, Dr. Anderson became a member of the PSO Board of Directors. (Reports had it that he possessed a strong ego, and that he frequently butted heads with a PSO conductor who also had a strong ego...... Arthur Bennett Lipkin.)

1990s

PSO Offices

Merrill Renovation

Artist’s Rendering

50 Monument Square

• Hey! THAT’s Not Where We Are!!

The PortlandCARES group that spearheaded fundraising efforts for the 1990’s renovation of Merrill Auditorium produced a full-color artist’s rendering of what the new hall would look like upon completion. The cross-section illustration reflected both interior and exterior views of the structure, looking at the Myrtle Street side of the building. Shown in back of the stage were spaces for the rehearsal hall and other rooms, including top-floor offices where the PSO staff would be located.

Now (2014), a framed copy of that impressive illustration hangs in the large conference room used by the PSO and other music-related Portland arts groups at 50 Monument Square. However......... since the originally-planned top-floor Merrill offices were lopped off due to budget constraints associated with the renovation—the framed cross-section illustration hanging on the current meeting-room wall is only a “what might have been”. That portion of the artist’s rendering never came to be...... but of course-- no one ever “lopped off” those might-have-been offices from the rendering. Fortunately for all, the rest of the impressive drawing truly reflects the impressive interiors of Merrill Auditorium that actually came to be.

1960s

run-outs

• A Near-Disappearing Act

Once Dr. Phil had a bunch of boxes especially built to use as sets of risers to best display the orchestra during outdoor concerts. At one such affair the earth was a bit too soft, and just prior to the start, the platforms in the back row started to sink under the weight of the players. Catching themselves AND falling music stands immediately became the simultaneous concerns of the disappearing PSO'ers.

1960s

Concerts

Misc.

• About The Star-Spangled Banner

Looking back at PSO programs from the 1960's, noticeable is that every concert began with the Portland Symphony Orchestra members playing the national anthem of the United States of America. Nowadays The Star-Spangled Banner is performed only at the opening concert of each season. Perhaps that is enough; ------perhaps not.

2000s

Pops Concerts

Louis Armstrong Tribute

Printer’s Error

• Hank Has Certainly Made Too Many Typo’s...... but

The concert program for the pair of PSO Pops! Concerts in November of 2009 listed twenty or so Louis Armstrong numbers then performed by Byron Stripling. While he did a super job, the folks that printed the PSO program didn’t. Midway during the first half, along with the Symphony the super guest trumpeter played a super rendition of Do You Know What It Means to Miss New Orleans?” Concertgoers who might have glanced at their programs saw a close, but not correct title listed: Do You Know What It Means to be Miss New Orleans? Now....... if only the concert could have been presented on April 1!

Merrill Auditorium

Renovation

Hidden Wealth

• MORE Than What Glitters at Merrill Auditorium IS GOLD!!

The Spring 1998 issue of Maine Tour Magazine contained an article about Merrill Auditorium, looking back at the renovated hall’s first BUSY year in operation (HS: And “busy” it surely was, with “more than 130 performances, attended by an aggregate total of more than 175,000 people”, reported the magazine.).

But the article also contained what to concertgoers is by now likely a rarely-known fact: “An interesting story literally underlies the visible gold trim of the (auditorium’s) architecture. Because neither removal or reuse was advisable, under the present faux gold are 50-60,000 sheets of real gold leaf!”

1990s

Merrill

• Sports and Music

"Merrill Auditorium, Hadlock Field, the Portland Exposition Building, Fitzpatrick Stadium and the Auditorium at Portland High School are managed by the City of Portland's Public Assembly Facilities Division..." (from Merrill Auditorium's 1997 Opening Night Program)

970s

Concerts

Players

• Baby, It's Cold Outside (and Inside!)

A Press Herald snippet in 1978 was titled "P-p-ractice, p-p-ractice", a report about "a rather chilling dress rehearsal...at Portland City Hall". Bundled up in cold weather clothing, the PSO-ists had to deal with temperatures around the low 50's inside the auditorium, with the reason unstated.

1930s

Concerts

Madiera

Shimada

• Once a Cuckoo..... Always a Cuckoo

Frank Madiera guest-conducted the PSO in 1965. The Music Director and Founding Conductor of the Rhode Island Philharmonic retired from the Providence ensemble in 1978 and moved full-time to Maine, where he has resided for almost 35 years. Currently (in 2012) living at the Ocean View Retirement Community, HS met him and enjoyed a fun and lively chat. He recounted a great tale about himself, laughingly saying that he once solo-ed under the great Philadelphia Orchestra Maestro Leopold Stokowski. He said that in 1932, then age 8, he played the cuckoo part in Mozart’s Toy Symphony (he later performed as piano soloist with “The Philadelphia”, during the time he was matriculating at Julliard). Anyway, after living in Maine for some years, Mr. Madiera learned that Toshi Shimada had scheduled the Toy Symphony as a work to be performed by the PSO. He wangled his way into gaining the assignment to play the cuckoo part for the PSO’s performance of the classic Mozart work, thus having great fun reprising the solo role he had in Philadelphia more many decades earlier.

Burgin

Board

Players

• Conductor Burgin's List of Demands

After a full season on the podium, when offered an extension for a second term by the Board of Directors, Richard Burgin did not immediately accept. According to minutes of that 1952 session, he "suggested that before he could give his acceptance the following conditions should be met:

[1] That he would receive a higher remuneration for his services. This, he stated, was of secondary importance and no definite increase was mentioned.

[2] That the officers and directors of the orchestra be composed, preferably of non-playing members, or at least of (only) a small minority of playing members.

[3] That a guaranteed fund of $10,000 be set up for the backing of the orchestra. This, he suggested, need not be in actual donations, but rather as a guarantee to the Portland Symphony Orchestra to cover all expenditures. This amount would naturally be decreased by the actual intake received from concerts.

[4] Lastly - That the conductor should have full power to decide on the playing personnel of the orchestra and to hire for the season such a number of outside players as he considered necessary." Taken as a whole, these items presented a HUGE cultural-change gauntlet for the PSO to hurdle; it's doubtful that Mr. Burgin expected such modifications to occur all at once since changes of this magnitude would have turned upside-down the music-making social club pillars upon which the PSO had both been founded and long operated. Nonetheless, although it would take another six-plus years before his major proposals would be close to what would finally occur, the seeds necessary to eventually make the PSO a significantly better professional orchestra had been planted. Mr. Burgin had simply tried to "force the issue" before its time was ready. His eventual successor, Rouben Gregorian, would carry on arguing for what might aptly be called the "get professionals to become professional" cause first put forth by Mr. Burgin.

Current

Staff

Archives

• Needle In A Haystack

In 2012, several PSO staff members were together wandering through an antique store in Arundel. Of course, dusty this's and that's were randomly scattered everywhere (like most antique emporiums). Director of Artistic Operations Carolyn Nishon wandered past some old scrapbooks piled on the floor, took a couple more steps and then, for-who-knows-what-reason--- returned to pick one up. Inside she found several dozen old Portland playbill and concert programs from the late-1930s to mid-1940s, including programs for seven PSO concerts directed by Russell Ames Cook. That dusty old scrapbook also contained another SUPER-FIND, an original PSO concert program from 1937, at the time the only one found among the Archives from when Paul Melrose held the baton (HS: Later in the “search for old PSO stuff, Harold Lawrence’s ten scrapbooks also contained this and other Melrose programs.). The original owner of the scrapbook was Janet Winslow; her 1941 Student Rossini Club membership card is pinned to one of the pages. What a find, Carolyn!

1940s

Guest

• "By George, I Think He's Got It!” (Another (BETTER) name, that is)

Many people logically thought that Ruggerio Ricci, who soloed with the PSO in 1948, came from Italy. However, although his parents were Italian immigrants, he was born near San Francisco and initially named Woodrow Wilson Rich. His parents later gave him his Italian-sounding name because it seemed a better fit for a musical prodigy. (HS: Googling reveals that his brother, cellist George Ricci, was originally named George Washington Rich.) Throughout his life, Ruggerio was called Roger by his friends. After his death (in 2012), New York Times writer William Yardley reported that Mr. Ricci's son said that “Until the 1950s or 1960s, his passport said ‘Woodrow Wilson Rich, a k a Ruggiero Ricci,’ ” (Sources: Googling)

1970s

Hangen

Misc

• Conducting a Recording

In a Portland Independent interview one time, PSO Conductor Bruce Hangen was asked about his college days. He said that he "was admitted to Eastman (School of Music) originally as a Public School Music major since that curriculum had more conducting courses than any of the other programs, but in the first couple of months I discovered that Eastman had started a conducting major program... I had to audition for..(the)Director of the School. I went meekly into his office, which was about as large as my whole house, with my score of the Rite of Spring, baton, and a recording.” "Obviously it's impossible to conduct a recording; all..(he)..wanted to see was if I was coordinated enough to do it. I was, so he said, OK, I approve you for the program."

In a 2013 person-to-person conversation with HS, Mr. Hangen recalled the record he took into the office of the ESM boss, Walter Hendl. He advised that the jacket cover read “Rite of Music”.

Merrill

Sound

• That's Not Grime On Those Windows

Looking up from inside Merrill Auditorium at the Myrtle Street wall reveals opaque acoustic mass that has been applied inside the arched windows that is designed to improve acoustics. Originally the architects had proposed bricking-in the arches and also the French doors.

1970s

Concerts

Guests

• THE THIRD TIME IS THE CHARM:

Isaac Stern twice stood up Portlanders in 1978; (well, not really "stood up"--- at least in the way our mother's taught us not to act.) Scheduled to appear under the co-sponsorship of the PSO and the PCA in late January, his appearance was postponed four days so that he could play for the funeral of Sen. Hubert Humphrey. Then, a storm closed the Portland airport, and neither Stern (from Ottawa) nor his pianist (from NYC) could land. Twelve days later City Auditorium was crammed, with a sell-out crowd (extra seats were placed on the stage! ["Me! Me! Me!”]). A rave review in the Press Herald began "If the world of music had seven wonders, Isaac Stern would be among them."

1960s

$$

Board

• A SUPER Offer!

In the mid-1960's, a Sunday newspaper article reported about the need for the PSO to eliminate its accumulated $12,000 deficit. The next day, a Maine supermarket-baron contacted PSO president Lenny Nelson with a fantastic offer. Richard Sampson offered to match up to $5900 contributed by others; how great a surprise is that! (About that time he sold his 31 stores to Hannaford's.) A deal was struck, some 45 individuals or companies stepped forward... and within several months the deficit slate was swept clean!! ($12,000 in 1965 would be more than $40,000 in 2012.)

1960s

Concerts

Kids

• Time Off From School..... YEA!

One of the early successful PR moves by Arthur Bennett Lipkin happened after the conductor inquired why Portland's students were not released from school during afternoons when the PSO performed Youth Concerts. Mr. Lipkin got board leader Lenny Nelson to join him in paying a visit to the City School Superintendent. Although the 'super' was most welcoming, he admitted that he didn't know anything about music; upon which Mr. Lipkin asked him whether he could tell the difference between an electronic doorbell and a brass door-knocker? When the 'super' responded "certainly", Mr. Lipkin heartily congratulated him with "then you know music!" They hit it off, and shortly later the top school boss announced that school kids who wanted to go to the Youth Concerts had "time off from school" to do so! Hoo-rays were heard all around, from both school kids and promoters of the PSO.

1970s

Byron Janis

Russ Burleigh

Dinner in Lewiston

• Gourmet IT WAS NOT!

The night after appearing as soloist with the PSO in Portland in early December of 1973, the guest artist repeated the PCHA concert in Lewiston. Wanting to arrive early, accompanied by his wife, Maria, and key PSO staff personnel--- after setting up for the concert, “there was nothing to do”, according to PSO manager Russ Burleigh. The group ate backstage, having a supper of Kentucky Fried Chicken before the performance. Russ later recalled this experience as “Not a very exciting story, but it’s one of those memories of something a little out of the ordinary during the course of a visit by a great artist.”

1960s+

Players

• Take a Bow #1

Contra bass player George Rubino is the longest-serving member of the PSO (49 years and counting in 2012). Originally a member of the Portland Youth Orchestra under the baton of Clinton W. Graffam, he subbed with the PSO during his teenage years. After graduating from the New England Conservatory of Music, he returned full-time to Portland and eventually moved up to principal (after the retirement of Lawrence Hatch, the brother of PSO cellist Katherine Hatch Graffam). Later, he relinquished his position to be able to devote more time to business and teaching activities, but remained as a member of the section. While not "taking bows" with the PSO, he teaches privately and is also double-bass instructor at Bates College. His business activity is both successful and fascinating. (For those details, read on...)

1970s+

Players

• Take a Bow #2

During most of his years "Taking A Bow" with the PSO after great performances, George Rubino has also been encouraging hundreds of other bassists around to also "take a bow"..... but with that phrase having a second meaning. For many years, George has also been busy as a bow-maker. His high-quality handcrafted double-bass bows enjoy a premier reputation, among the world's finest players, and users include the principal contrabass players of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, New York Philharmonic Orchestra and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. He has given lectures and conducted workshops on bow making and bow playability throughout North America, Europe and Australia. During his 38-year bow-making career, George estimates that he's made "maybe a thousand". Oh, by the way- that's the number of bows.... not dollars (one of his used bows is currently listed on the internet for $3500; since that's for a used bow, let your imagination roam to guess the value of the new bows he handcrafts!). So, "take a bow", George; no..... "take a double-bow".

1970s+

Players

• Take a Bow #3

(HS: Although when undertaking this THINGS-PSO history compilation project I first got to know George Rubino, I was fortunate to also enjoy an interview with Lynn Hannings.) Back in the 1970s the two were married and held forth not only as PSO double bass players, but also as dual entrepreneurs operating Rubino String Instrument Repair, Inc. in Pownal. Both became world-class bow makers, and now (2013) each have their own successful bow making businesses. Lynn also is an industry leader and expert authority insofar as something called “Pernambuco” is concerned. (So....... once again read on to learn more details.)

Ricardo Morales

Benny Goodman

• Clarinet Virtuosos Linked by Their Teachers

Two clarinet soloists who first appeared with the PSO, 45 years apart, had an interesting artistic connection. One of Benny Goodman’s teachers during his classical-training phase, later became one of the teachers of Ricardo Morales. The former, of course, became a jazz great, while the latter a world-renowned principal player awarded appointments with world-class classical orchestras. (Twenty-one year old Señor Morales won auditions to be principal clarinetist for the Metropolitan Opera under James Levine, and later won auditions for principal positions with the New York Philharmonic and also with the Philadelphia Orchestra.

1980s

Concerts

Guests

• A Visit By a B-I-G TV Star

Sesame Street's Big Bird both sang and conducted at a special PSO children's concert in 1980, as the group played a number of Sesame Street tunes especially arranged for full orchestra. The program also included several light classics chosen for the young audience. Inside Big Bird was the actor who originated the character more than 10 years earlier, a native of Eastport.

1980s

Parade

Prokofiev?

• Everybody Loves A Parade. Well..... Almost Everybody.

In late July of 1985 a parade was held in Portland to celebrate the Deering Oaks Family festival. The parade route extended from Marginal Way and the Preble Street Extension to the Deering Avenue Interstate-295 overpass. More than fifty units participated, ranging from marching bands and drum and bugle corps, to various women’s auxiliaries, to municipal service units’ fire trucks (HS: some were gorgeous antiques) and police cars, to six floats entered by businesses or organizations in either one of two categories. The PSO had a float titled “Peter and the Wolf” traveling in the parade. When the trophies were awarded at the end of the procession, the PSO’s entry finished................... shhhh- last.

1970s

Concerts

Misc

• There's That 'Word' Again

The 55th PSO season in 1979 opened with an "ear-cracking salvo of tympani that jolted some unwary concert goers out of their seats" wrote the Press Herald reviewer. The orchestra refulgently began Aaron Copland's "Fanfare for the Common Man."

1970s

Russ Burleigh

Richard Tucker

Post-Concert Happening<

• Just You Wait and See: I’m Going To Become Famous!

Longtime PSO Manager Russ Burleigh told a fun tale about a post-concert backstage introduction in 1974: “When I introduced him to my 78-year old father, visiting from Florida, Mr. Tucker virtually tore the program from my father’s hand and asked, ‘Do you want my autograph?’ and gave it (back) to him. Forty years later, it would be interesting to know for what price one of those “autograph websites” would try to sell that autographed program from the great Metropolitan Opera star?

1980s

$$

Misc

• YOU Can't Be S-E-R-I-O-U-S !!

During a half-dozen years in the 1980's, an annual indoor tennis tournament generated net proceeds to benefit the PSO. The tourney had an outside sponsor, and the matches were played at the Expo. A last-minute cancellation by a pro one year threatened to mess up the already-scheduled matches. The organizer suggested that a "pretty good" 15-year-old kid from Long Island be invited to fill in as the #8 seed. He accepted the invitation to play.......... and that was John McEnroe's introduction to Portland.

1960s

Board

• Searching Through PSO Archives

Although the PSO Archives contain lots of historical nuggets, many of the boxes which contain old memos, programs, newspaper clippings, letters, etc. are randomly organized (THINK: the stuff in your parents' attic). Finding materials to examine when researching THINGS-PSO was quite 'hit-&-miss', as a scrapbook from the 1930's might be followed by discovering programs from the 1970's. Fortunately for PSO-posterity, an exhaustive saver of PSO "stuff" was Katherine Graffam, and she long ago carefully transferred all her bulging scrapbooks to Debby Hammond, who added the collection to the orchestra's Archives. However, while she had saved a zillion newspaper clippings, so far only a very few old concert programs of hers have surfaced. FORTUNATELY, Merle Nelson saved and had bound all the programs from her husband Lenny's three-year tenure as PSO president; HS was privileged to examine that super trove. (You can't imagine the joy HS had looking through all the concert listings for 1963-4, 1964-5 and 1965-6; in sequence!) A lot more programs await, extending over the tenures of various PSO conductors (and, hopefully easy to find).

Players

String Bows

Lynn Hannings

Endangered Resources

Pernambuco Wood

Ebony Wood

• Preserving Pernambuco

In 1990, PSO bass player Lynn Hannings received a Fulbright Scholarship and an Annette Kade Fellowship to study at The French School of Bow making in Paris, France. Now (2014), for years Lynn has been a teacher at the Violin Institute of the University of New Hampshire, teaching rehair, repair

and bow making for historical preservation. Her work to preserve the endangered wood traditionally used in bows, pernambuco, is heroic.

In 2004 Lynn became the president of the International Pernambuco Conservation Initiative, IPCI-USA, which represents members in the U.S. and Canada. It is her goal to get all musicians whose lives and performances are enhanced with the use of pernambuco bows to participate in the restoration of the species. She says, “We must all plant trees to save the specie and by doing so also improve the lives of poor farming communities in Brazil, making them partners in conservation. This we need to do for future generations of musicians; to empower them to inspire and entertain audiences with our centuries-old musical traditions performed with traditional pernambuco bows.” Although she lives in Maine with her family, she still periodically travels to Brazil. As this is being written (2014), Lynn finds herself devoting more and more time to issues related to preserving and protecting ebony trees, the wood long used in making clarinets and oboes. Balancing ebony preservation issues with responsible artistic-use issues is an often difficult bridge striving to get supporters of opposing interests to meet near the middle.

1960s

Concerts

Board

• Whad-a'ya Doing Sunday Afternoon?

Readers of the above PSO Timeline know that in the early 1960's concert attendance was very low. More than several of the board members regularly missed more Sunday-afternoon concerts than not. And... many of them habitually resolved skiing-vs.-concert conflicts by heading up to Sugarloaf (HS: how would that vote go in your family???) Finally a mental light bulb went off in the heads of the PSO board members: "Let's gain larger crowds AND achieve labor efficiencies!!" Sunday-afternoon concerts were shifted to Tuesday evenings, with rehearsals held on Sundays and (if necessary, also during the day on Mondays and Tuesdays), with Youth Concerts also held on Mondays. And...... IT WORKED!

1950s

Concerts

Guests

• Supply Who? What If YOUR Daughter Wanted to Marry Him?

In 1958 the PSO premiered a composition by Colby College professor Peter Re (the Express couldn't resist the temptation to report "as in Do-Re-Mi") titled Variations On Airs By Supply Belcher. The paper stated that a check had been made with the Portland Public Library to be sure that Mr. Re "was not pulling Maine's leg". The composer of the original airs [indeed---- actually named Supply Belcher!] had been a Revolutionary War captain who had settled in Farmington. A short article in the paper about its library search opened with: "Yes, young man, there WAS a Supply Belcher". (HS: WHAT A NAME !!!)

1980s

Players

Concerts

Weather

• Baby, It's Getting Cold Outside

As winds of 17 mph or more continued to whip the waterfront during the "perfect storm" conditions when the 1984 outdoor Bug Light Symphony By The Sea concert was underway, the normally dropping temperatures as the evening wore on felt ever colder due to the wind/chill effect of the gusts. A PSO player during that event recalls that kids of some of the musicians laid on the floor of the stage with an important assignment--- holding down one (or two, when possible) music stands so that they weren't blown over by the winds. Not that everyone wasn't aware of the increasingly colder evening becoming ever-more uncomfortable, but most could easily see the Fahrenheit reading atop the Casco Bank time/temperature building moving lower and lower.... 68 to 67, to 66, to 65, to 64, to 63 and eventually to 62. That not only made the PSO players feel even more uncomfortable, it raised the issue that the concert would have to be suspended mid-measure due to an impermissible playing condition clause within the union contract. Reportedly, there were many raised eyebrows among the PSO players that evening---- wondering if Bruce Hangen might have to point his baton at the number "61" atop the Casco Building... and then point at the parking lot to signal "we're Out'a Here!"

Runouts

Players

• This IS Portland, After All

Although budget necessities forced the ending of free outdoor PSO summer concerts that for many years were regularly played throughout communities in the Greater Portland Area, one interesting tidbit of info was uncovered as HS did his research. Agreements with the musicians provided that these outdoor concerts would be called off if temperatures dropped below 62-degrees. Apparently there was no similar provision insofar as maximum temperatures were concerned ("this IS Portland, after all"-- HS was told). So you ask, "how many concerts were called off due to 'cold'?” No list of any such cancellations has been found (let me know if you come across that info!).

1999

Itzhak Perlman

“Relax, everyone”

• Breaking The Ice

The PSO members were a bit nervous when violinist Itzhak Perlman was to be guest soloist during the Opening Night concert of the Symphony’s 75th season in 1999. Naturally, they were anxious to perform at their top level amidst the presence of perhaps the world’s best-renowned artist. Likely familiar with similar trepidation by players in regional orchestras from experiences elsewhere, the great violinist knew exactly the trick to help everybody relax and be themselves. Debby Hammond, years later during a conversation recalled the moment: “He came on stage for his rehearsal, and, knowing the players were a bit nervous about performing with him, said, holding up his violin, ‘Is this the one that works?’ Tension evaporated! I was lucky to be present for that moment.”

 

And......... as said regarding the Timeline section of these notes.......
certainly more yet to come: to be uncovered in old files or in tales still to be heard....