View 1676-1978  -  View 1979-1998 - Viewing Timeline Section 1999-2014

THINGS-PSO, Opus 1 - TIMELINE SECTION ....... A Reference History of the Portland Symphony Orchestra



1999       The first Classical Concert of the New Year, with a “Majestic Creations” theme, was performed at Merrill Auditorium on Tuesday, January 12. Jean Sibelius’ lyrical The Swan of Tuonela may have been the only piece on the program familiar to most in the audience. Scored for a small orchestra, “The Swan” is the second part of Op. 22 Lemminkäinen (Four legends), tales from the Kalevala epic of Finnish mythology. Other bold and descriptive works conducted by Toshi Shimada were contemporary Polish composer Witold Lutoslawski’s 1954 Concerto for Orchestra, (HS: Which concluded the evening’s  program); Belgian composer-virtuoso (HS: He toured the world playing mostly his own compositions.) Henry Vieuxtemps’ 1836  Violin Concerto No. 2 in F sharp minor, “Sauret”, Op. 19, with guest violinist Russian-born Mischa Kaylin as soloist. Responding to an enthusiastic audience, for an encore he played an unaccompanied Bach Gavotte (HS: Which the P-H reviewer wrote “sounded like a string orchestra all by itself”.). Rounding out the program for this evening was Bard Professor Joan Tower’s distinctive 1981 sound picture, Sequoia, inspired by California’s huge trees. The Press Herald headline labeled the concert a “Winner”.

Twelve days later, on Sunday afternoon the 24th, the season’s second “Symphony Sunday Concert” was performed by the PSO. Ray Cornils was on hand again, although this time playing a harpsichord as guest soloist at a concert titled “Events of 1899” (HS: There is no typo there, of course.). Played first was Mexican Carlos Chavez’ Allegro con brio movement of his Fifth Symphony (HS: Señor Chavez was born in 1899.). Next was Francis Poulanc’s witty Concert  Champêtre (“Rural Concerto”). (HS: The noted French composer was also born in 1899.) The program’s second half primarily consisted of works by Johann Strauss, Jr. (HS: Who passed away in 1899.). Among his hundreds of compositions, the ensemble performed Emperor Waltzes; On the Beautiful Blue Danube; Voices of Spring; and Auf de Jagd Polka. Also featured during this section of the program was the famous Radetsky March, the de facto anthem of the Viennese military and the signature piece of Johann Strauss Sr.

Concertgoers gathered at Merrill Auditorium for a Classical Concert on Tuesday, February 2. A newspaper article found among the PSO Archives noted that “Sea of Tranquility” was the theme for this all orchestral evening. The program consisted of Olivier Messiaen’s 1931 religious orchestral suite, Les offrandes oubliées (“The Forgotten Offerings”); Ludwig van Beethoven’s exuberant Symphony No. 2 in D major (Op. 36); Jules Massenet’s dreamy  Meditation from “Thaïs”; and Robert Schumann’s romantic Symphony No. 4 in D minor, Op. 120. The P-H review of this concert by Steve Feeney concluded with thanks to the PSO for “a thought-provoking and enjoyable exploration”.

If there’s a Pops Concert scheduled for February 14, then couples should expect a theme involving Valentine’s Day..... right?  Well, such was not the situation this year. A pair of Pops Concerts on Saturday and Sunday, February 13 & 14, celebrated films of the silver screen and music, at two “A Symphonic Night at the Oscars” performances. The sources of the works played, and the stimulations of memories of concertgoers, was straight from the vaults of MGM, RKO, Paramount and Warner Brothers studios. Scenes were projected on a large screen behind the orchestra, as music of composers from the Golden Age of Hollywood was performed by film-buff Toshi Shimada and members of the Symphony. The first half of each concert featured major scenes and musical stanzas from “The Adventures of Robin Hood”, starring Errol Flynn, with music composed by Erich Korngold. Next from the PSO came Max Steiner’s music accompanying stars Vivian Leigh and Clark Gable in scenes from “Gone With the Wind”, although the PSO did not play Tara’s Theme (HS: Only kidding; OF COURSE that was on the program.) Dramatic music and impressive scenes from “Ben–Hur” led to the intermission, with Charlton Heston supported by segments from Miklós Rózsa’s huge score, the longest ever composed for a film (HS: So says a Google-search website.). A PSO-issued news release noted that “the second half of the concert kick(ed) off with the... ...opening and closing scenes of Orson Welle’s masterpiece ‘Citizen Kane’ ”, music by Bernard Hermann. At various times during the concerts, unaccompanied music included the Orchestra performing Mr. Korngold’s Fanfare from “King’s Row”, and Franz Waxman’s Suite from “My Geisha”. The Sun-Journal reported that “The pace then change(d) with the scene from ‘An American in Paris’ in which Oscar Levant performs the solo part in Gershwin’s Piano concerto in F, as well as all the other orchestral parts, thanks to memorable trick photography.” Closing out the fun Pops delights was a long set from “The Wizard of Oz”, and the familiar music of Herbert Stothart. The P-H’s reviewer, Barbara Wilson, labeled the overall “Pops” performance that she attended, a “grand-scale musical extravaganza in which colossal, Oscar-winning musical scores were given the chance to shine in their own right”.

For the March 2 Classical Concert at Merrill Auditorium, Maestro Shimada included what a P-H review intentionally but contradictorily labeled as a “both avant garde and unclassifiable” work, Chinese Tan Dun’s 26-minute-long major symphonic work, Death and Fire: Dialogue with Paul Klee, inspired by the great painter. The post-concert article said that the “audience (was) spellbound for 27 minutes” (HS: That’s a pretty long attention span for a modern work.... although maybe he was correct.) Also on the program was guest soloist Canadian Jon Kimura Parker, playing Johannes Brahms’ passionate Piano Concerto No. 1, in D minor, Op. 15. This concert, given the theme “colorful and Exotic”, began with Hector Berlioz’ whirlwind Roman Carnival Overture, Op. 9, H 95.

At about this point in time, the then-called PCA – Great Performances (HS: Name had been changed from Portland Concert Association [PCA], and again – some years later would be renamed as Portland Ovations.) and the Portland Symphony Orchestra co-purchased a new Steinway Model D Concert Grand that was kept at Merrill Auditorium for concerts. This piano still (2013) remains in use, with the  earlier-acquired (HS: In the 1980’s) Model D Steinway usually played by artists in Merrill’s rehearsal hall facilities as the newer instrument awaits on the stage. Although specific details haven’t yet been ascertained as to why and how the new Model D was acquired, Portland Ovations’ executive director Aimée Petrin recently advised that Emanuel Ax (HS: “Manny”, she casually referred to him.) helped select the particular instrument purchased. Mr. Axe also was the first to perform using the new Steinway during Ovations’ 1998-1999 season. For reasons unexplained, a copy of the warranty associated with this instrument that was found by a staff member digging among the PSO Archives, shows a sale date of February 15, 2000. (HS:  Maybe this particular instrument was on consignment for an extended period before it was purchased?)

On March 6, with the help of a $10,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, a 47-member PSO chamber ensemble traveled to a two-day residency in Machias, in conjunction with the University of Maine. Two String KinderKonzerts (attendance was more than 1100) were presented where bassoonist Janet Polk was featured as soloist in portions of Mozart’s Bassoon Concerto, K. 191, as was an open dress rehearsal for about 100 high school and college students and teachers that preceded a sold-out evening chamber concert. A PSO-issued news release in the PSO Archives listed the Symphony P. 16 n G Major by Michael Haydn, which included the slow introduction section penned by Mozart. The concert concluded with the humorous Kindersymphonie (“Toy Symphony”) by Leopold Mozart. This event was the first residency for the PSO since Greenville in 1991. A photocopy of a pre-concert newspaper article (HS:  Publication name missing on the copy.) heralded the residency, describing the PSO visit as “a rare classical music experience” and a headline advising “Portland Symphony Coming Down East”.

The season’s third “Symphony Sunday” chamber music concert was performed back in Portland at Merrill Auditorium the following day, thus it is likely that much of that concert program included works played in Machias. Afterwards, the Press Herald review of the concert declared it a “good way to get out of a March storm and into a much sunnier space. There was nothing cold or blustery about any of the pieces on the program”. With a “Mostly Mozart” title, the PSO’s Janice Polk was the featured soloist in a performance of Mozart’s 1774 Bassoon Concerto in B flat major, K. 191/186e. (HS: In regard to her performance, PSO bassoonist Janice Polk years later recalled in an interview, “Thanks to a heavy snowstorm, there were maybe 100 people in the audience when I first played this Mozart concerto with the PSO.”) The other composition by Wolfgang was his great Symphony No. 41 (“Jupiter”). The PSO’s concert program also listed a Haydn work, but not one composed by Joseph. Performed this afternoon was Michael Haydn’s Symphony No. 16 in G Major, Perger 16, Sherman 25, MH 334. A composition by Leopold Mozart, Wolfgang Amadeus’ father, concluded the program, his Kindersymphonie (“Toy Symphony”), which featured a quintet of special guest musicians performing on such toy instruments as a rattle, drum, trumpet, and bird warblers imitating a cuckoo, nightingale and quail. (HS: See an Anecdote elsewhere in this THINGS-PSO about one of the guest participants, Francis Madeira, former music director of the Rhode Island Symphony.).

The Choral Art Society Masterworks Chorus, under the direction of Robert Russell, joined with the Portland Symphony Orchestra for a March 30 Classical Concert that began a half-hour earlier than usual, at 7 pm. The reason for the early start was a performance of Johann Sebastian Bach’s giant masterpiece two-part oratorio, St. Matthew Passion, BWV 244, that can take more than three hours to perform in its entirety. The concert was performed three days before Good Friday, the closeness of course chosen because of the Disciple’s text. The Chorus was assisted by six guest singers: soprano Janice Chandler, mezzo-soprano Margaret Yauger, tenor William Watson, tenor Timothy Johnson, bassbaritone Kevin Deas and bass Keith Howard. Mr. Russell had chosen to have the words sung in English. Unfortunately, up until when this paragraph is being written (2013), no review of this concert has been located in the PSO Archives.

Another concert featuring a choral ensemble joined with the PSO for a “Symphony Sunday” concert on April 18 at Merrill Auditorium. This time the group was the Bowdoin Chamber Choir, augmented by some members of the Brunswick community who successfully auditioned for the privilege. Professional vocalists who also were on hand were soprano Jenny Lynd Robertson and tenor William Hite. The work the combined ensembles performed was George Frideric Handel’s cantata, Ode for St. Ceceilia’s Day, HWV 76, honoring the patron saint of music. Orchestral compositions also on the “Miracle Works” program this afternoon at Merrill Auditorium were Gustav Holst’s St. Paul’s Suite, (Op. 29, No. 2) (which opened the concert), and  Joseph Haydn’s Symphony No. 96 (the “Miracle Symphony”), Hoboken I/96 . (HS: Googling reveals that music historians now largely believe that the chandelier that supposedly crashed to the floor following this symphony’s premiere without injuring anyone in the audience, actually collapsed during the premiere of his Symphony No. 102. Coincidentally, Merrill Auditorium has two fewer chandeliers than when Portland City Hall Auditorium opened in 1912, although those were removed when the balcony was more steeply raked during the 1995-1997 renovation.)

The final Classical Concert of the 1998-1999 season was performed on Tuesday, April 27. The major work at Merrill Auditorium this evening was Gustav Mahler’s Symphony No. 5. (HS: When I Googled to learn what key this symphony was in, I read that it is “sometimes described as being in the key of C? minor since the first movement is in this key [the finale, however, is in D]). Mahler objected to the label: ‘From the order of the movements [where the usual first movement now comes second] it is difficult to speak of a key for the “’whole Symphony”, and to avoid misunderstandings the key should best be omitted.” OK..... so no key signature will be typed in by me.) The Press Herald reviewer informed readers that the work took about 70 minutes to perform, and “uses the brass section to replace the choirs the composer resorted to in other works when he had exhausted the emotional resources of an augmented symphony orchestra. The unfortunate brass section is hung out to dry with every flub and false note out in the open for all to hear.” Fortunately, the review article advised, there were no flubs or false notes this evening, and the Orchestra “performed the work superbly throughout, without the slightest falling off of energy or interest toward the conclusion. It received a deserved standing ovation, and the audience adjourned to a reception marking the end of the season”. Performed at the outset of the concert was Mozart’s brief five-minute-long Overture to “Marriage of Figaro”, which the P-H complimentarily advised was “played with jewel-like precision”. Although the concert had just begun, an intermission occurred after the Mozart work, surprising many in the audience, especially late-comers who had not been in their seats before “Figaro” began. Originally scheduled also to be performed was Estonian classical composer Arvo Pärt’s three-movement Third Symphony for Orchestra; however, the 25-minute-long work was cut from the program at the last minute because of time constraints.

On Saturday and Sunday, May 1 & 2, Duke Ellington’s faithful were front-and-center at a 100th-anniversay tribute to the great band leader and composer’s birth. During the first half of the concert, the Orchestra performed several of his symphonic works, notably Solitude and also the Three Black Kings suite. Both used all the Symphony’s resources. During the second half of the evening, the Symphony was joined by one of its own members who had assembled a small group. PSO trombonist Mark Manduca and Five Cylinder Jazz on their own stirred concertgoers with a series of riffs, on Cottontail; Solitude (again); Single Petal of the Rose; What Am I Here For; Do Nothing ‘Til You Hear From Me; In a Sentimental Mood; and Take the Coltrane. A medley of well-known Ellington hits were then played by the guests and the Orchestra that included: Caravan; New World a-Comin; Satin Doll; Sophisticated Lady; Mood Indigo; and Take the A Train. A PSO-issued news release also mentioned Black, Brown and Beige; and Grand Slam Jam. The evening concluded with an encore of It Don’t Mean a Thing If It Ain’t Got That Swing. The other members of Five Cylinder Jazz were saxophonist David Demsey (The only saxophonist to hold graduate degrees from both the Eastman School of Music and Julliard), bassist John Hunter, pianist Janet Reeves, and freelance drummer Ron Bouffard.

At four Youth Concerts, two on Monday the 3rd and two more on Tuesday the 4th, Portland area students also received an introduction (HS: As the York County Coast Star reported.) to “how the Duke’s creativity redefined the art of jazz composition and raised the art form to new heights”. The theme was “Beyond Category: The Life and Music of Duke Ellington”. Mr. Manduca and his jazz group appeared with the PSO at these concerts, performing works or excerpts of compositions enjoyed by parents of many of the students over the weekend. After the jazz musicians jammed with the orchestra on the band leader’s greatest hits, including It Don’t Mean a Thing....... Orchestra members described the audience as “electrified”, and a cheering standing ovation was given the number. Program highlights included Caravan; Satin Doll; Sophisticated Lady; Mood Indigo; Don’t Get Around Much Anymore; and Take the ‘A’ Train. The Orchestra performed Les Trois Roix noirs (“The Three Black Kings”), the larger-scale Ellington work for jazz orchestra.

At the October and May Youth concerts this 1998-1999 season, a total of nearly 13,000 school children attended the performances, almost 3000 more than a season earlier.

The “Classic Encounter” concert that was performed in October did not gain life as a continuing type of “classic light” regular series for the PSO, although the name would later sometimes be used as part of the name of various concerts. Presumably the expenses involved of presenting such a concert were deemed not worth continuing for far-less-than-capacity audiences.

On Saturday, May 15, PSO Concert Master Lawrence Golan branched out on his own, conducting the first-ever performance of the Atlantic Chamber Orchestra, a small ensemble (which included some PSO’ers) by Mr. Golan designed to perform a wide variety of works at smaller, intimate venues..... presenting events not usually played by the PSO at the much-larger Merrill Auditorium. This inaugural evening featuring the professional touring orchestra group created by Mr. Golan, of which he was Artistic Director and Conductor, included Aaron Copland’s Appalachian Spring Suite (original instrumentation), highlights from Antonio Vivaldi’s Four Seasons, and Felix Mendelssohn’s Octet, Op. 20. This was a multimedia event including photography, slide show, light show, poetry, comedy, wine tasting, classical orchestral, chamber, solo, and rock music. The show was held at the Pavilion, 188 Middle Street, in Portland’s Old Port.

Donald L. McDowell is re-elected PSO President.

A typewritten list of PSO commissions over the years, assembled by an unidentified person who sourced the information as from Board minutes, was found in the PSO Archives (HS: This list was likely assembled in connection with the Symphony’s 75th Anniversary.). That list follows:  ’63-64  Signs of the Zodiac, Daniel Pinkham; ’65-66  Pine Tree Fantasy, Walter Piston; ’67  (unspecified) “Commission work of New England composer and Vincent Persichetti”; ’67-68  (unspecified) “Commission work – Eliott Schwartz, Peter Re”; ’68-69  (unspecified) “Work by Walter Piston”; ’71  Island, Eliott Schwartz; 50th year  (unspecified) “Commission – Walter Piston and Eliott Schwartz”; ’75  American Bicentennial by Michael Colgrass; ’76  Gunther Schuller.

On the PSO’s financial front, total revenues exceeded expenses by almost $194,000, however credits included investment gains of almost $89,000 The saving factor for the 1998-1999 fiscal year were contributions and other support of $865,000. On a purely operating basis, the deficit for the year was more than $700,000 (HS: Thank heavens for total contributions equaling 55% of ticket sales and other operating revenues.)

Sometime during June Robert Moody made his Carnegie Hall conducting debut, with the Brooklyn Philharmonic Symphony Orchestra. A 2014 conversation with Mr. Moody revealed that, taking some time to relax following his earlier guest-conducting performance in New York City, he enjoyed a first-ever visit to Maine, then driving up through New England to Mt. Desert Island and Acadia National Park. Obviously then not aware of his future in Portland with the PSO, he drove right past the city without stopping to look around. During our chat, the South Carolina native didn’t mention having seen any snow during that 1999 trip; THAT type of first-class-Maine experience would come later for him...... many times.

This summer, Toshi Shimada and the Symphony performed “Independence Pops” concerts five times over the five-day period, June 30 to July 4. In order, concertgoers in respective venues at Cape Elizabeth, Saco, Lewiston, Bridgton, and South Portland enjoyed patriotic music and popular works by American composers. An advance- flyer that listed the 4th-of-July-weekend performances highlighted “Fireworks!” at the first four locales (HS: If accurate, this implied that there was no fireworks display at the ‘actual July-4’ event in South Portland at the  Southern Maine Technical College campus. Seems strange..... but for some now-unexplained reason maybe that was what happened.). While the aggregate batch of 4th-of-July holiday concert pieces performed over the years by the PSO was understandably quite uniform and predictable, the advance-flyer did list planned works as: “Sousa: Marches; Cohan: Medley; Berlin: Selections; and Gershwin: Selections”. Limited PSO Archive sources confirm that it is known for certain that specific works played included: John Harbison’s Foxtrot for Orchestra; Remembering Gatsby; a Duke Ellington Medley; Selections from “Rodeo” by Aaron Copland; John Williams’ Theme from “Star Wars”; Stars and Stripes Forever; and Tchaikovsky’s “1812” Overture. Scheduled outdoors concerts at both Saco and Lewiston needed to be moved indoors due to rain.

A PSO Annual Report located among the Symphony’s Archives mentions that nearly 11,000 people heard the “Independence Pops” concerts this summer.

As mentioned above, one of the 4th-of-July concerts was in the Lewiston-Auburn area. For the first time since 1989, the PSO was invited to return to this region and perform an “Independence Pops” alongside the shores of Lake Auburn, at Central Maine Technical College. No program or concert review has been spotted about this July 2 performance. However, undoubtedly the works played duplicated similar Fourth-of-July-holiday concerts scheduled for other venues during the next several days. After the fact, there was substantial evidence that this concert would have been better not performed, however. It was part of the Liberty Festival, locally aggressively promoted as an annual celebration that would become Maine’s premier “Fourth of July event, bar none”. The Festival included an air show featuring seven barn-storming pilots, at which 10,000 to 15,000 people were projected to attend. When only 2500 attendees appeared, the Festival immediately was broke and did not have enough funds to pay the pilots. Fortunately, the PSO had run its own show and therefore collected and kept all the proceeds from a sell-out crowd. THAT..... as they say--- was a close one!  To illustrate the apparent overall ineptness of the Festival operators, an early-September newspaper clipping carried in the Maine Times heralded the Auburn concert that had been performed two months earlier.

An early-on-found (by HS) operations file in the PSO Archives included a letter of agreement for the PSO to bring a chamber group to the Great Waters Music Festival in Wolfeboro, NH. (HS: Subsequently a complete concert program was uncovered in the Archives.) Two rehearsals were held as part of the festivals activities, as was a Saturday-evening concert on August 14. A newspaper advertisement stated that works to be performed under a tent along the shore of Lake Winnipesaukee at Brewster Academy included “music from the waltz king, Johann Strauss Jr., and from Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. On the Beautiful Blue Danube, the Emperor Waltz(es), and the Radetsky March are among the selections presented by the full orchestra.” The concert began with Mozart’s Overture to “The Marriage of Figaro”, with a performance of that composer’s Symphony No. 40 in G minor (K. 550) then taking everyone to an intermission. The above-mentioned Strauss works were played during the second half of the concert, and also included were Voices of Spring and Trisch Tratch Polka. The theme of the concert was “The Charm of Old Vienna”. (HS: Debby Hammond has never been one to miss an opportunity to “sell” the PSO. Several months before this concert she sent a memo to Executive Director Jane Hunter advising that within 18 miles of Wolfeboro, the PSO had 10 subscribers and 19 donors, as well as 54 who had previously bought tix for “Magic” or “Indy-Pops” concerts. She concluded the memo: “If you would like to do some cultivating in Wolfeboro around the August 14th concert, just let me know.” Go for it, Debby!)

PORTopera performed “La Boheme” by Giacomo Puccini at Merrill Auditorium, on July 22, 24 & 26. Bruce Hangen conducted.

This season, the PSO named several new musicians. Stephanie Schweigart and Leah Givelber were selected as new first violinists, while Charles Dimmick, Mirabai Weismehl and David Parry joined as second violinists. Paula Majerfeld became assistant principal second violin, and Rachel Braude the orchestra’s new third flute and piccolo player. John Tanzer joined as new timpanist. Returning violinists Karine Swanquist and Edward Wu were appointed co-assistant concertmasters, and Jennifer Hillaker has moved from the second to the first violin section. Currently (2014), Mssrs. Dimmick, Parry and Tanzer continue as members of the Symphony, as does Ms. Braude (HS: She also married Mr. Dimmick several seasons after the two, independently, joined the PSO.)

A free outdoor concert was performed by the PSO at Payson Park in Portland on Sunday afternoon, September 12. The event was to celebrate “75 Years of Orchestra Live!”, and although it technically followed the Orchestra’s seventy-fifth birthday by seven months, it qualified by being in the PSO’s 75th year of existence. It was obviously a good PR move to present a free concert with the hope that some new folks might step up and purchase more tickets for the Symphony’s upcoming 1999-2000 concert season. This was a 90-minute performance with no intermission, a gift to the people of the Portland region for supporting its orchestra for 75 years. The concert opened with The Star-Spangled Banner, sung by a local high school chorus. Featured works by the PSO known to have been included were Mozart’s “Marriage of Figaro” Overture; the first movement of Beethoven’s Sixth Symphony (“Pastorale”); music from Tchaikovsky’s “Swan Lake”; Aaron Copland’s Hoe-Down from “Rodeo”; Antonín Dvořák’s Finale from the “New World” Symphony; and John William’s Selections from “Raiders of the Lost Ark”. In addition to some marches, Selections from “My Fair Lady” by Frederick Loewe was also on the program. Also played were Aaron Copland’s Fanfare for the Common Man; also his Hoe Down from the ballet “Rodeo”. America, the Beautiful likely stirred concertgoers from comfortable positions on the lawn, to their feet and up for singing. Marches heard that afternoon were Sir Edward Elgar’s Pomp and Circumstance No. 4 (HS: This was not the march often played at graduations, but the processional played at Prince Charles and Princess Diana’s wedding.) and John Philip Sousa’s Stars and Stripes Forever. Dignitaries from the City of Portland and the State of Maine presented proclamations announcing the Portland Symphony Orchestra’s 75th anniversary season. Held by PSO musicians for children prior to the concert was an Instrument “Petting Zoo”, always a popular feature with students. This event for kids promoted hands-on familiarity with horns of PSO members. (HS:  I am not precisely sure when this activity began, but I first noticed a clipping mentioning one in 1990.... and it was continuing today [2014].)

The next-morning’s Press Herald carried a font-page color picture show a huge crowd on the lawns behind Mr. Shimada and the Symphony playing on a stage, with the caption noting “splendid weather at Payson Park” to welcome “the ensemble’s first appearance there”. At this concert the Portland Symphony Orchestra received a Proclamation from the State of Maine commemorating the PSO’s contributions to the state during its first 75 years.

The popular pre-performance “Concert Conversations” were again scheduled for the PSO’s 1999-2000 season. These informal lectures and demonstrations variously involved performers, musicians, composers and other guest speakers who provided perspectives on significant aspects of specific concert programs and also other topics pertinent to “behind the concert scene”. Notable participants during the season included Maestro Shimada, Portland composer Tom Myron, Bowdoin music professor and composer Elliott Schwartz, PSO concertmaster Lawrence Golan, composer Nancy Van de Vate, and former Rhode Island Philharmonic music director and conductor (HS: He also was the ensemble’s founder.) Francis Madiera. A sample of topics ranged from “What Makes it Sound That Way? Composers and Styles”, to “Beyond the Audition Process”, to “Beethoven and the Romantics: Anatomy of Influence”.

Another special feature this season were a series of free receptions for musicians and fellow music lovers at receptions following every concert.

In what had to be a highly-anticipated October evening, on Tuesday evening the 5th, violin soloist Itzhak Perlman returned to Portland to open the PSO’s  75th anniversary season. The highly sought-after personable virtuoso performed Beethoven’s Violin Concerto in D major, Op. 61, one of the most important works of the violin concerto repertoire, composed in 1880. Preceding Mr. Perlman’s performance, the Symphony opened the evening’s music with Johannes Brahms’ Akademische Festouvertüre (Academic Festival Overture), Op. 80 (1806). (HS:  The concert program for the evening actually first listed the work in the composer’s native German language.) Following the intermission, the Orchestra played Hector Berlioz’ romantic five-movement Symphonie Fantastique, Op. 14, H. 48 (1830). Unfortunately, up until the time when this paragraph is being written (May, 2013), no newspaper clippings regarding Mr. Perlman’s appearance have been spotted. (HS:  While I have not closely examined all performance contracts of guest artists who appeared with the PSO over the decades, a “large” five-figure fee to secure Mr. Perlman’s then-upcoming appearance almost “jumped” off the page when I opened the operations folder for this concert. The PSO was obliged also to provide a private jet aircraft under certain conditions [which did occur, the files indicate].)

In the Timeline Anecdote Section of this PSO History is a delightful tale regarding an incident that occurred during Itzhak Perlman’s 1999 visit, a happening prior to his rehearsal with the Portland Symphony Orchestra. It was told by Debby Hammond, who was on the scene at that rehearsal. Be sure to check it out; it is titled “Breaking the Ice”.

Although he may actually have left the Portland music scene during the summer, Richard Vanstone was no longer listed among the PSO violinists during this concert, and then only occasionally during the next 10+ years. The longtime assistant concertmaster (HS: He had served as interim concertmaster for the 1990-1991 PSO season, following the sudden departure of Sandra Kott in August of 1990.), and also for several years the Symphony’s assistant conductor, returned to the Philadelphia area where he had grown up (HS: Googling reveals that for some years he was director of the West Chester University Orchestra.). For many years Mr. Vanstone would sometimes commute from Philadelphia to play in PSO concerts, but by the 2012-2013 season had let his membership in the Boston Musician’s Association union Local 9-535 lapse, thus being no longer eligible to perform as a PSO regular. At the time of this October-’99 concert-opener, the PSO’s then-newly appointed assistant concertmaster was Edward Wu.

As part of the celebration of the PSO’s 75th Anniversary, at this concert the Friends of the Portland Symphony Orchestra set up a table in the lobby of Merrill Auditorium to receive orders for the second cookbook published by supporters of the Symphony. Titled “Concert in the Kitchen”, the hardcover volume was set for printing in early December, to contain 175 recipes and feature full-color photographs of original artwork by Maine artists. The Friends included an insert in the concert program, noting that “Tried and true recipes were selected for every course, from ‘Curtain Raisers’ to ‘Standing Ovations’.” The volumes were available at a pre-publication discount rate of $20 per book.

The mid-October weekend of Saturday and Sunday the 16th and 17th had Toshi Shimada and the PSO in Pops Concert mode for a pair of performances with the theme – “From Waltz King to Big Band Swing”. The first half featured well known music of Johann Strauss Jr., starting with Kaiser-Walzer (Emperor Waltzes), Op. 437; then Pizzicato Polka (HS: This work he composed with his brother, Josef.); and Freut euch des Lebens (Let the Life be Joyful!), Op. 340. The first three were followed by Perpetuum Mobile, Op. 257; the Tritsch-Tratsch Polka, Op. 214; and last, On the Beautiful Blue Danube, Op. 314. Adding visual on-stage entertainment to the Symphony musicians’ music were competitive guest ballroom dancers Valérie Guillet and Joel Wuesthoff, both from the Portland area. The “Swing” part of the concert consisted of two suites which the program attributed to an arranger by the name of Norris (HS: Although there were no program notes providing more information about him, unfortunately.). Here Come the Bands Suite No. 2 was followed by Here Come the Bands Suite No. 1. The former included five numbers: Artistry in Rhythm (Stan Kenton); Little Brown Jug (Glenn Miller); Sentimental Journey (Les Brown); Green Eyes (Jimmy Dorsey); and finally, One O’Clock Jump (Count Basie). The latter suite had six well known hits: In the Mood (Glenn Miller); Gettin’ Sentimental Over You (Tommy Dorsey); Skyliner (Charlie Barnet); You Made Me Love You (Harry James); Begin the Beguine (Artie Shaw); and to close, Sing Sing Sing (Benny Goodman).

Several thousand Portland-area 3rd-to-6th –grade students were bused to Merrill Auditorium on Monday morning the 18th of October, as well as the following morning. Four Youth Concerts were presented by the PSO over this two-day period, each with a “You Asked for It!” theme that featured guest conductor-composer and narrator Russell Peck. Mr. Peck conducted his own work, The Thrill of the Orchestra, commissioned and first-performed (1985) by the Florida Symphony. The movements of Mr. Peck’s essentially-instructive 13-minute work were named:  Intro; Percussion; Brass; Woodwinds; Strings; The Thrill; The Colors; and Finale.

The diverse Youth Concert programs on these two dates also included excerpts from compositions by Antonín Dvořák , Pyotr llyich Tchaikovsky, Aaron Copland and also percussionist Dave Mancini. PSO Archive materials indicate that the other works respectively included: Serenade for Winds in D Minor; Serenade for Strings in C Major; Fanfare for the Common Man; and Suite for solo drum set and percussion ensemble. (HS: . Mr. Shimada also participated when these concerts were performed.) Teacher’s guides sent in advance to schools extended the concerts back into classrooms.

In late October another NEA-sponsored residency by a PSO chamber ensemble treated students and local citizens at the University of Maine, Presque Isle, to KinderKonzerts, a master class, an open orchestra rehearsal and a concert. Violinist Keng-Yung Tseng traveled with the PSO group, and also performed. An émigré from Taiwan in 1980 (HS: with the nickname Dodo, a letter in the PSO files reveals), he graduated from the Manhattan School of Music several years later. Works performed were the same as those played the following Sunday at  a chamber concert in Portland (detailed below). Maine Public Service Company also provided financial support for this residency, which extended from Wednesday the 27th through the concert on Friday evening.

“Mozart & More” was by now the series-name for PSO chamber music concerts. This moniker would end the name-change evolution from earlier-years that began with “Cathedral Series Concerts” at St. Luke’s on State Street; to the more-than-a-decade-long PSO “Candlelight Series Concerts” at the Eastland Ballroom; then the “Symphony at the State” chamber series during the renovation of PCHA; followed by the “Symphony Sunday  Series” chamber concerts after Merrill Auditorium was dedicated.

Keng-Yung Tseng returned with the PSO group to Portland for a Sunday-afternoon “Mozart & More” Series Concert at Merrill Auditorium on Sunday afternoon, October 31. After the chamber ensemble opened with Mozart’s Serenade No. 12 in C minor, K. 338, (384a) (1782), the soloist performed Antonio Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons (Le Quattro Stagioni), Op. 8, Concertos nos. 1-4 (1725). Following the intermission, the PSO musicians concluded with the lengthy theatrical work L’Histoire du soldat (The Soldier’s Tale); Suite (1918), composed by Igor Stravinsky. Also played was Beethoven’s Rondino, Op. 146.

The following day in Rockland, at the high school, the Portland Symphony Chamber Orchestra presented the same “Mozart & More” chamber program that was performed a day earlier in Portland. This Monday-evening concert was the first of four M&M performances presented in the heart of mid-coast Maine this season, with the final three at the Camden Opera House.

A pipa soloist was featured at the PSO’s classical concert on Tuesday evening, November 9. (HS: I’ll admit my ignorance---  I had to Google what a pipa was. It is a four-string fretted instrument that has been in continuous use in China for nearly two thousand years.). Playing a Chinese pear-shaped pipa lute at the performance was international award-winning Gao Hong, who had emigrated to the United States in the mid-1990s, and was by-then on the faculties of both the University of Minnesota’s Mac Phail Center for the Arts and Carlton College, as well as Guest Professor at the Central Conservatory of Music in Beijing. A PSO news release at the time stated that she was “one of the world’s few masters of the pipa”. With the PSO, this evening she performed the world premiere of Nancy Van de Vate’s A Peacock Southeast Flew: Concerto for Pipa and Orchestra (1997). The American composer’s new work, based on an old Chinese poem about star-crossed (married) lovers, had been commissioned by virtuoso pipist Yang Jing, from Beijing, PRC. A YouTube recording of Ms. Van de Vate’s composition yields a gentle and ethereal work that to a westerner’s ear sounds like traditional 12-tone oriental music from long ago, but evolves into semi-romantic, semi-contemporary sections. However, the presence of the strummed or plucked pipa continually references long-past eastern cultures. Why and how the 25-minute work happened to be premiered by Maestro Shimada and the Portland Symphony Orchestra was not explained in the concert program. However, a conversation with Debby Hammond revealed that Mr. Shimada had met Ms. Van de Vate when guest-conducting in Europe, and thought that offering her a commission to compose a work would be a good move to take.

Also at this concert, dubbed by the PSO as “a concert devoted to western music inspired by Chinese influences”, the Symphony opened with Carl Maria von Weber’s Turandot: Overture (1809). After the intermission, Gustav Mahler’s hour-long symphonic work Das Lied von der Erde (The Song of the Earth) (1908) was performed by the Symphony. Strange as it may seem, the Austrian composer’s work fit it with a “Chinese poetry” theme of this concert, since he employed use of  Chinese motifs in this composition, unique for his overall musical output. Mezzo-soprano Claudine Carlson and tenor Jon Garrison joined with the PSO for the Mahler work.

After the concert, P-H reviewer Hyde expressed his observation that the “tremendous range of effects” of Ms. Hong’s playing “was sometimes obscured by the orchestra, in spite of the best efforts of conductor Toshiyuki Shimada.” As for the symphonic work, the reviewer concluded his article, “The orchestra itself was in top form, in one of the best performances I have heard of my favorite Mahler.”

The 1999-2000 season’s second Pops Concerts were performed on Saturday and Sunday, November 20 & 21, at Merrill Auditorium. Concertgoers were already likely in a happy mood before Guest Conductor Emil de Cou first raised his baton, knowing that a fun evening was in store— for the theme was “Hooray for Hollywood”. A number with that very name (from the movie “Hollywood Hotel”-1937) by Harry Warren opened the concert. Then came Tchaikovsky’s Waltz, from “The Sleeping Beauty” (the 1959 film had that same name); Richard Wagner’s Ride of the Valkyries (used by producers in both “Big Broadcast of 1938” and also “Apocalypse Now”-1979); and Amilcare Ponchielli’s Dance of the Hours from “La Gioconda” (included in Walt Disney’s “Fantasia”-1940). Before intermission, two more works were played: Sir Arthur Sullivan’s The Mikado: Overture (featured in “Foul Play”-1978) and Camille Saint-Saëns’ Organ Symphony: Finale (excerpt) (used in “Babe”-1995). Seven more themes familiar to movie fans were performed after the break. The first three were David Raskin’s Theme from ”Laura” (1944); Franz Waxman’s Creation of the Monster (from “Bride of Frankenstein”-1935; also “Gods and Monsters”-1998); and Bernard Hermann’s nightmarish Vertigo: Prelude and Scène D’amour (written for Alfred Hitchcock to effectively employ in “Vertigo”-1958). Immediately thereafter came another pair of less-than-gentle interludes that Mr. Hermann also composed for Mr. Hitchcock, Car Ride and Shower Scene (from the thriller “Psycho”-1960). Then to significantly relax the audience came Maurice Jarre’s romantic Theme from “Doctor Zhivago” (1965); followed by the giant classic western big-screen sounds of Theme from The Big Country (1938) by Jerome Moross. The two weekend Pops concerts concluded with the grandiose Flying Theme (from “ET The Extra-Terrestrial”-1983). Maestro de Cou was then Acting Music Director of the San Francisco Ballet, and later added to his SF-responsibilities as Principal Pops Conductor of the San Francisco Symphony. Described as charismatic, prior to his Portland appearance he had guest-conducted the Boston Pops in Symphony Hall, and numerous other well-regarded Pops orchestras. Later in his career he became associate conductor of the National Symphony Orchestra also the regular NSO conductor at the annual summertime Wolf Trap Festivals.

The Friends of the Portland Symphony Orchestra launched their new “Concert in the Kitchen” cookbook on the skyway level of the Portland Public Market on Tuesday evening, December 7th. Maestro Shimada was on hand to sign the first two dozen books sold, with music provided courtesy of PSO musicians. A handbill about the celebration of the new cookbook mentioned that attendees should expect delicious samples and guest chef demonstrations. Holiday discounts were included on all books purchased at the affair.

Looking at pre-season order forms from this era, fifteen “Magic of Christmas” performances were originally scheduled during the period December 9 through December 20. No subsequent references to how strong demand was for tickets have been located (as of 2013) among the PSO Archives; however, proof that such a situation developed is provided by the fact that in the end a record sixteen performances were held (Source: 1999-2000 PSO Annual Report). The precise date of the extra 16th performance is now an elusive fact (HS: Although that’s just a nit-pick by your honest correspondent.).

By the conclusion of this season’s “Magic of Christmas” concerts, according to a much-later compilation covering 1999 and the ensuing seven years, the 1998 attendance peak of “almost 26,000” was never again reached during the time frame extending to 2006 (HS: And likely beyond then, although detailed comparative numbers have not yet [2013] been spotted in the PSO Archives.). Although the PSO’s internally-generated statistics don’t always coincide (HS: Something that should never occur, of course...... and in hindsight a harbinger of “bad things to come” later.), by 2006 the total attendance at “Magic of Christmas” concerts would  be trending downward at a level of only slightly more than 19,000. (HS: A 27% decline [!!] in the PSO’s primary money-maker product would unquestionably be confirmation of serious problems. But...... more on that later.)

Soprano Elizabeth DeGrazia joined with the PSO this evening, as did the Magic of Christmas Chorus directed by Judith Quimby. Program highlights this evening included Tchaikovsky’s “Nutcracker” Selections; Clement Moore’s A Visit from St. Nicholas, read by the USM’s Minor Rootes; a Robert Wendel arrangement of Jerry Hermann’s The Best Christmas of All from the CBS-TV Special, “Mrs. Santa Claus”; John Rutter’s The Very Best Time of the Year; George Frideric Handel’s Hallelujah Chorus from “Messiah”; the traditional Joy to the World and Twelve Days of Christmas; Adolphe Adam’s O Holy Night; and the by-now long-traditional “Magic” favorite, Leroy Anderson’s Sleigh Ride. Ray Cornils played the Kotzschmar Memorial Organ, with concertgoers joining in song for some numbers during a Carol Sing-Along.

Mr. Shimada conducted the “Magic of Christmas” matinee on Friday, December 17, although he was not feeling 100 per cent. It turned out that he had contracted a flu bug, and was not up to continuing for the evening performance. Lawrence Golan stepped in when Toshi was taken home, and the PSO concert master also conducted both “Magic” performances on Saturday—with Mr. Shimada back on the podium for the two Sunday concerts. Many years later  (in 2014) during a conversation with Debby Hammond, she recalled that Friday afternoon---- “I’ll never forget Toshi’s colorless face and the perspiration being far more than would come from conducting when I went back stage...none could tell from the audience that he wasn’t well!”.

During a conversation (late in 2013) Mr.Golan recalled this conducting experience as one of the highlights of his PSO career. He was then just about to embark on numerous guest podium appearances with other orchestras, presaging his primarily focusing on conducting rather than performing.

A glitch this year was less-than-acceptable work by a set designer. A post-concert letter from the PSO staff discussed the client’s dissatisfaction, mentioning that some pieces of the late-to-be-delivered set (including a “tree that was so poorly done that it could not be used”) needed to be dismantled and set aside a day or so prior to the first performance. The designer was advised that legal action was being considered by the PSO. (HS: I didn’t search for follow-up correspondence; however, the situation reflects a “behind the scenes” [no pun intended] look at risks of being in the concert-performance business of which concertgoers are generally unaware.)

The PSO Annual Report for this period notes that over 25,000 people attended the “Magic of Christmas” concerts this December (HS: Although a later-distributed board report cited the level at less than 24,000. Such a wide variance naturally causes wonder about “who’s counting?”..... and “how accurate are those counts?”.) Whatever the actual number of concertgoers, a “Magic” attendance record was achieved this year, a high mark that as of 2013 has never been exceeded.

After the previous paragraph was written, a copy of the 1999 “Magic of Christmas” concerts’ program was located. It is planned that a digital PDF-scan of that program listing will be uploaded to the PSO website sometime in the future (HS: post mid-2013, when this paragraph is being written), along with copies of portions of hundreds of other concert programs currently being collected, assembled and scanned. People wanting copies of parts of respective PSO concert programs are welcome to contact me directly for assistance; I will do my best to provide help.

This season’s “Magic of Christmas” theatrical aspects were directed by Brian P. Allen, who afterward would continue in such a role for several more seasons. I have learned that when Mr. Allen first addressed the PSO musicians at a rehearsal regarding his authority, a euphemistic description of their response to his being in charge was “less than enthusiastic”, especially inasmuch as the PSO senior staff supported his admonitions that hi-jinks during Sleigh Ride be curtailed. Since advance sales for “Magic of Christmas” tickets accounted for the large majority of all tickets sold for the series, any box-office audience response to new directions the Portland Symphony Orchestra and Mr. Allen were taking with this year’s shows would not be known until the future (HS:  In the end, ticket sales in future years would tail off, eventually substantially so. In 2014, some of the PSO musicians still have negative recollections about what they think the “cut down on the hi-jinks” edict brought about.... although the overall cause-and-effect calculus on box-office sales was certainly more complicated than just a single factor.).

This holiday season, the Portland Ballet Company did not present its “Victorian Nutcracker” to live orchestra music at Merrill Auditorium.

A concert-program insert would be given to concertgoers in January, thanking individual PSO musicians who volunteered their time and talents during the holiday season to perform at the Barbara Bush Children’s Hospital, Maine Medical Center, Mercy Hospital, Seventy-Five State Street, and the Inn at Village Square. Performers were violinists Charles Dimmick and Matt Watras; violists Betsy Miller, Nikita Pogrebnoy, Pam Doughty and Jean Alvord; cellist Debby Dabczynski; flutist Stepanie Mortimore; clarinetist Jan Halloran; oboists Neil Boyer and Julie Verrett; bassoonists Janet Polk and Margaret Phillips; and hornists John Boden, John Aubrey, Michelle Bolton, Scott Burditt, and Alyssa Coffey.


2000       The first concert of the Twenty-First Century for the Portland Symphony Orchestra was on January 11. Exclusively played on this Tuesday evening were compositions by a trio dubbed by some as Twentieth-Century Russian music’s ‘”trio of titans”. Each of the three composed music that was condemned by their own USSR  government in 1948, “for producing music inimical to Soviet realism and containing ‘decadent modernism and formalism.’” Opening the performance was Festive Overture, Op. 96 (1954) by Dmitri Shostakovich. Next came the Concerto for Piano and Orchestra (1936) by Aram Khachaturian, with Oxana Yablonskaya the guest soloist. Deposed as professor at the Moscow Conservatory and deprived of all concert engagements after applying for a visa to emigrate in 1975, she was allowed to leave the USSR in 1975, not having touched a piano for two years. Her New York  debut, two months later at Alice Tully Hall, was met with unanimous acclaim, and she went on to perform in over forty countries in the most prestigious concert halls. She also became an instructor at Julliard. P-H reviewer V.R. Cann reported that Ms. “Yablonskaya’s wonderful performance... ...led to a standing ovation. Deservedly so.” He added, “At the end of the concerto, they would not let her go so she sat down and played Scarlatti’s “Sonata in D Minor” as an encore. It was the perfect counterpoint to the highly charged drama of the work that preceded it.” The only work after the intermission was Sergei Prokofiev’s Symphony No. 5 in B-flat Major, Op. 100 (1944)., which the reviewer wrote was “a splendid close”. Concluding this concert of music by highly-restricted composers with this work symbolized the efforts of each of the three composers featured this evening, for after his Fifth Symphony was introduced, Mr. Prokofiev declared that he intended it as “a hymn to free and happy Man, to his mighty powers, his pure and noble spirit.”

A “Mozart & More” chamber music concert was again performed for mid-Coast Maine concertgoers, this time the first of three that this season would be at the Camden Opera House. Works performed at this Saturday-evening concert on January 22, were repeated for a Portland audience the following afternoon.

As did the concert in Camden, the M&M performance at Merrill Auditorium featured Julianne Verret, the PSO’s principal English horn player, who combined with the PSO’s principal trumpet player, John Schnell, in a performance of Aaron Copland’s soulful-but-sometimes-harsh 10-minute-long Quiet City (1940). This composition was extracted from his incidental music written for the Irwin Shaw play of the same name. The P-H review said that the two soloists “were first-rate”. Earlier the ensemble had opened the program with Beethoven’s Die Ruinen von Athen, Op. 113; Overture (1811). Leading to the intermission after the Copland work, was Béla Bartók’s three-movement Divertimento for String Orchestra, Sz.113 BB.118 (1939). The concert concluded with Mozart’s Symphony No. 40 in G minor, K. 550 (1788). The newspaper reported that the hall was only half full, and that Assistant Concertmaster Karine Swanquist admirably filled in for an ill Concertmaster Lawrence.

At the beginning of February, the PSO announced its schedule for the following year 2000-2001 season.

On Tuesday evening, February 1 at Merrill Auditorium, Eastman School of Music cello professor Steven Doane was guest soloist with the PSO. Toshi Shimada began the concert conducting Zoltán Kodály’s Dances of Galánta (1933). These arrangements were inspired by the gypsy folk traditions of his native Hungary, and based on music and old dances performed there. The composer once wrote that he “spent the most beautiful seven years of his childhood” in the old town of Galánta. Mr. Doane then appeared on stage to perform Sir Edward Elgar’s Concerto for Violoncello and Orchestra in E minor (1919). After the intermission, the Orchestra played the Symphony No. 1 in C minor, Op. 68, by Johannes Brahms. The composer claimed that he spent twenty-one years completing this work (1855-1876) that takes 45 to 50 minutes to perform.

The PSO next presented a sort-of reprise to its earlier well-received “Hooray for Hollywood” Pops concert, on Saturday and Sunday, February 12 & 13 presenting “BRAVO Broadway!”. (HS: Anyone who hadn’t carefully  checked the full-season schedule was likely surprised that no Rodgers & Hammerstein hits were on this concert program. But that fact was neither an oversight nor a slight--- an April pops concert would contain only R&H songs.) Soprano Jan Horvath, tenor Michael Maguire and baritone Keith Butterbaugh were guest soloists. Mr. Shimada certainly immediately grabbed the audience’s attention at both of these February Pops Concerts when he signaled for the dramatic drum roll start to the Overture to “Gypsy”, by Jule Stein. This was followed by two more numbers from that show, All I Need is the Girl and then Together Wherever We Go. Cole Porter’s Begin the Beguine was next. George Gershwin’s ‘S Wonderful, and then I Got Rhythm....... led into performances of two Leonard Bernstein works—the Overture to “Candide” and from “West Side Story”, the Balcony Scene (-Tonight-). Justifiably, Steven Sondheim was well represented, with Send in the Clowns, from “A Little Night Music”; Broadway Baby, from “Follies”; and Comedy Tonight, from his hit show with the always too-long-a-full-name-to-fit-on-the-marquee “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum”. Leading to intermission was the great Marvin Hamlish hit that contained the familiar melodic vamp certain to have sent the audience almost dancing into the lobby for an intermission----- One, from “A Chorus Line”.

These two fun “BRAVO Broadway!” Pops Concerts continued after breaks, with Willkommen, from “Cabaret” and then All That Jazz, from “Chicago”..... both by the songwriting team of John Kander and Fred Ebb. Claude-Michel Schönberg’s Bring Him Home, from “Les Miserables” was next, followed by This is the Moment, from “Jekyll & Hyde”, by Frank Wildhorn. The concert wouldn’t have been complete without a work by Andrew Lloyd Webber, and the Orchestra fully complied, performing “Evita” Suite/Don’t Cry for Me Argentina; then All I Ask of You, from “Phantom of the Opera”; and also from that operetta, the grandiose Music of the Night. The evening concluded with the title song from the ever-poignant, but nonetheless immensely-entertaining Kander & Ebb blockbuster, “Cabaret”. What a NEAT CONCERT this must have been!

Leap-Year Day for many Portlanders ended with a Classical Concert at Merrill Auditorium. This February 29 performance opened with a 1984 work that Belfast’s John Duffy composed for the PBS-miniseries, “Heritage Civilization and the Jews”, his Heritage Fanfare and Chorale for Brass and Percussion (1984). Next the Symphony played Mozart’s Symphony No. 28 in C Major, K. 200 (189k; 173e) (1774). Maurice Ravel’s dreamy La Valse; Choreographic Poem for Orchestra (1920) led to the intermission. P-H reviewer Christopher Hyde rated the Symphony musicians’ playing a “virtuoso performance”. The second half of the evening began with Antonín Dvořák’s Slavonic Dances, Op. 72, No. 2 in e-minor. This short work was followed by the nine movements of Leonard Bernstein’s classic West Side Story: Symphonic Dances (1957).

The third “Mozart & More” chamber concert was performed in early March at Merrill Auditorium, on Sunday the 5th. Actually, two performances of this program were conducted by Toshi Shimada this weekend, as the day prior the PSO chamber ensemble traveled to perform at the Camden Opera House (HS: A scan-copy of a concert program from that Camden appearance is available for viewing in the Performances section of Thanks to Debby Hammond for lending her personal copy to Sue for scanning, and thanks to Sue for scanning it... AND MANY OTHERS!). The Sunday afternoon audience was first treated to Beethoven’s Coriolan Overture, Op. 62 (1807). Then came a more lengthy work, Mozart’s oft-played 1788 Symphony No. 39 in E-flat Major, K. 543. After the intermission, Maestro Shimada directed George Frideric Handel’s Concerto Grosso No. 7 in C Major (“Alexanderfest”), HWV 75 (1736), a musical ode to St. Cecelia, the patron saint of music. The final composition performed was a familiar and popular work by Sergei Prokofiev, his witty four-movement Classical Symphony, Op. 25 (1916-17). (HS: The “Classical” moniker was “a name given to it by the composer” [so says Mr. Google].)

For a time, tentative run-out rehearsal and concert plans had been set for this chamber concert to also be performed in Machias (HS: Those tentative plans had been communicated to the musicians, for a 1999-2000 rehearsal schedule saved by Cornelia Sawyer that she lent to yours truly lists three tentative service requests [the third being Youth Concert] at UM-Machias.) No record has been spotted that this Machias excursion finally occurred.

On March 17-18-19, it would have been predictable that the concerts performed by the PSO would have had a St. Patrick’s Day, or at least an Irish, theme. However, William Shakespeare had a say (sort-of.... not literally) in the final decision this year, and instead---- a special non-subscription concert was performed titled “Classic Encounter: Romeos & Juliets – (Shakespeare in Love)”. A total of four performances were given, the first aimed at high school students in Merrill Auditorium. The other three were aimed at families, and included two run-out concerts. The first of those three was on Friday at Merrill Auditorium in Portland; the second was on Saturday at Mountain Valley High School in Rumford; and on Sunday, in Lewiston at Middle School Auditorium. The two run-out concerts were part of the PSO’s special 75th Anniversary celebrations this season, made possible by a grant from the Libra Foundation. The program mixed well known music---  some classical, some popular, and some from current composers. Following an introductory 16-measure segment from Sergei Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet No. 2—Montagues and Capulets, featured works were:  Hector Berlioz’ Love Scene from Romeo and Juliet: Prokofiev’s Young Love, and the Death of Tybalt, both from his Romeo and Juliet Suite No. 1; major segments from Tchaikovsky’s Romeo and Juliet Fantasy Overture; and Leonard Bernstein’s musical preface to his “Romeo and Juliet” (HS: However, he chose another name.), “West Side Story” Overture, arranged by Maurice Peress. The world premiere of Portland composer Tom Myron’s O Speak Again Bright Angel was presented, as was Stephen Warbeck’s Shakespeare in Love, from the motion picture. Also performed was Les Toreadors from Carmen Suite No. 1, by George Bizet (HS: For this number, a guest conductor was chosen from each audience.). Prior to the concert at Merrill Auditorium the practice hall was open, enabling concertgoers and musicians to mingle.... and similar arrangements prevailed at both Rumford and Lewiston. (HS:  Somewhere after the initial layout of the program content, two works were eliminated...... for reasons not now known by me. The two were Mozart’s Symphony No. 25 [first movement], and Beethoven’s Egmont: Overture.)

Other than the Merrill Youth Concert for high school students, looking back at the three “Classic Encounter” concerts---  more than 2,600 people in total attended the performances.

Music Director Toshi Shimada and the PSO musicians had a warm-up prior to the first of these three concerts, presenting a shortened version of the program in Merrill Auditorium on the morning of March 17, at a Youth Concert for high school students. A copy of the Teacher’s Guide for the performance is retained in the PSO Archives. At both the adult concerts and the concert for students, the Symphony was complemented by actors Jason Bannister and Danielle Estes, under the direction of Michael Levine of Acorn Productions and also the director of the Acorn School for the Performing Arts.

The Merrill Auditorium stage was extra full for a Classical Concert on Tuesday, March 28, and one work filled the performance. This evening, Robert Russell and the Choral Art Society Masterworks Chorus joined with the Portland Symphony Orchestra. Presented was Beethoven’s five-movement mass Missa Solemnis in D Major, Op. 123, his “most accomplished work” composed over an extended five-year period late in his life, preceding its 1824 premiere in St. Petersburg, Russia. The P-H reported that “It was performed as a whole, without intermission, and in Latin.” The concert program listed each word of the mass. (HS: Music historians credit Beethoven for paying meticulous care to every note and word, and for not being careless in setting any portion of this mass.) Internationally-experienced vocal soloists this evening were soprano Olivia Gorra, mezzo-soprano Jacalyn Kreitzer, tenor Carl Halvorson and baritone Clayton Brainerd. Reviewer Hyde rated the concert a “lackluster performance”, citing difficulties in the ability “of the soloists to compete with the organ and the orchestra.” He was not complimentary toward the Chorus, nor to the orchestra, mentioning that “there appeared to be confusion at several points”, adding “perhaps the absence of Concertmaster Lawrence Golan had something to do with it”. (HS: An interesting item in an operations file-folder regarding this concert, found in the PSO Archives, showed the four soloists scheduled to adjourn to DiMillo’s Restaurant after the performance, for a post-concert dinner. Singing aggressively on a full stomach, were the vocalists to have had dinner at their hotel prior to the concert, was something their professional training and personal experiences had taught them was not recommended.)

The choral Art Society presented a performance of Felix Mendelssohn’s Elijah, Op. 70, MWV A 25, at Merrill Auditorium on Tuesday, March 31. The concert program lists the participation of “members of the Portland Symphony Orchestra”, one of whom was PSO principal violist Laurie Kennedy, who saved a copy of the program. A scan-copy of parts of that program are available for viewing at The Society’s music director, Robert Russell, was in charge at the concert which featured The Choral Art Society Masterworks Chorus. Guest soloists were soprano Lisa Saffer, mezzo soprano Jennifer DeDominici, tenor John McVeigh and bass Philip Cutlip. The two part oratorio was sung In Memoriam as a tribute to Carol Adsit, a 19-year veteran of the Choral Art Society who had passed away two months prior to this concert. Notes in the concert program about Ms. Adsit began with a mention of her Maine license plate – SNG4JOY, which was said to  “aptly describe the driving force that choral singing played in her life.” This CAS performance of Mendelssohn’s Elijah “would have been the tenth time that she had sung this wonderful oratorio. Indeed”, continued the program notes about her, “Carol had performed all of the great choral masterworks of Bach, Beethoven, Brahms, Handel, Mahler, Mozart and Verdi, as well as so much other beautiful choral music”. A pre-concert lecture about the work was presented by Dr. Elliot Schwartz, funded by the Maine Humanities Council.

The PSO next performed at the Camden Opera House the following Saturday evening, April 1, and then on Sunday the 2nd during the afternoon at Merrill Auditorium. These two concerts were the final “Mozart & More” performances of the 1999-2000 season. The announced theme had an intriguing title, “Games and Infatuations”. To begin, Mr. Shimada chose Mozart’s comic Der Schauspieldirektor (The Impresario), K. 486; Overture (1786). Next was Beethoven’s light-hearted Symphony No. 8 in F Major, Op. 93 (1812). After the intermission Dartmouth professor Peter Saccio took a place behind a podium at the Portland concert, with a portfolio containing some Shakespeare dialogue. Eminently qualified to contribute, the stentorian narrator was well up to the task at hand, as the college’s Shakespearean Studies expert had also served as Artistic Director of The Shakespeare Society of New York City. A close reading of Professor Saccio’s performance contract with the PSO indicates that he did not participate as Mendelssohn’s music was performed for the Camden audience  (HS:  Who did narrate has not been spotted in the PSO Archives.). The works on the musicians’ stands for this section of the concert were Felix Mendelssohn’s Midsummernight’s Dream, Op. 21 & Op. 61; Overture and Incidental Music (Scherzo; Intermezzo; Nocturne; and Wedding March segments).

After this concert, P-H reporter Christopher Hyde reversed course after expressing disenchantment with the PSO’s classical concert of the previous Tuesday. This review had him writing,  “The orchestra was in rare form, especially the horns, which could bring tears to your eyes in the Mendelssohn. In the Beethoven Eighth Symphony, they paired with the woodwinds in the Minuet to almost as great effect.” He added, “The tempo of the final movement of the Beethoven was quite fast but effective.” (HS: Poking no ill-tempered fun at either Maestro Shimada or the reviewer, my wise-guy mind suggested that “maybe this post-concert activity for Toshi at DiMillo’s was treating Chris to dinner....)

During the 1999-2000 season, over 3,600 people attended PSO “Mozart & More” concerts.

The PSO announced in early April that Cheryl Losey, 15, of Harpswell, had been awarded the 2000 Martha J. Blood Memorial Scholarship. A harpist with the Portland Youth Symphony Orchestra, she received a $1000 scholarship. The award program had been established in 1992 by family and friends of Ms Blood, a former president of the PSO Women’s Committee and a PSO trustee.

The PSO’s KinderKonzert programs this season continued to bring live music in front of young students in 11 communities throughout Maine and New Hampshire, with aggregate attendance at 101 such performances serving more than 21,000 children. Although this THINGS-PSO does not include regular-and-rigorous continual reporting about KinderKonzerts, the PSO’s long-popular community outreach educational series for young elementary students continues when these pages are being written (2012 & 2013, at which time the PSO has performed KinderKonzerts for 36 consecutive seasons!) to be successful. Over the decades, they have also been important in that they remained economically important as adjunct income for many PSO musicians.

On the first Monday and Tuesday of April the final four Youth Concerts of the PSO’s 1999-2000 season were presented at Merrill Auditorium, two on both the 3rd & 4th. Portland-area third-to-sixth-grade students who were bused to Merrill Auditorium for those respective events heard music composed by a 17-year-old, Felix Mendolssohn. “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” was the theme. Guest artists Jason Bannister and Daneilee Estes acted out key scenes from Shakespeare’s famous play at the youth concert, relating it to excerpts of Mendelssohn’s musical movements, specifically: Overture; Scherzo; Intermezzo; Nocturne; and Wedding March.

The eight PSO Youth Concerts presented this year educated and entertained a total of almost 12,000 students.

At two Pops Concerts, on Saturday and Sunday the 15th and 16th of April, featured was music of Rodgers and Hammerstein, with the USM Chamber Singers joining with the PSO musicians for some numbers. The undoubtedly high-energy concerts began with the Overture to “Carousel” Waltz, followed by It’s a Grand Night for Singing from “State Fair”. Next were four numbers from “The King and I”, starting with I Have Dreamed; then We Kiss in a Shadow; followed by I Whistle a Happy Tune and Hello, Young Lovers. The first half of the program concluded with five numbers from “Carousel”. First were June is Bustin’ Out All Over and If I Loved You. Next came Carrie’s hopeful When I Marry Mister Snow, followed by the always-stirring You’ll Never Walk Alone. The classic Soliloquy by Billy concluded the numbers from the hit show that the composer and librettist had based as taking place in Maine.

Following intermission, Mr. Shimada scheduled an Entr’acte that included Kansas City; then It Might As Well Be Spring; continuing with Ten Minutes Ago; and ending with the grand Shall We Dance. Next came music from “South Pacific”; Younger Than Springtime; to A Wonderful Guy; on with the always-bouncy There is Nothin’ Like a Dame; and the tender Some Enchanted Evening. Numbers from “The Sound of Music” followed: the imagination-invoking My Favorite Things; the emotional Climb Ev’ry Mountain; the always-enchanting Do-Re-Mi; and of course the reprise— the title song The Sound of Music. It is easy to imagine this glorious evening being wonderfully wrapped up, as the combined ensembles performed works from “Oklahoma”, beginning with Oh, What a Beatiful Mornin’, and Out of My Dreams. Youngsters in attendance and their equally-attentive but entranced elders were all likely happily bouncing a’bit in their seats to The Surrey With the Fringe on Top. Toward the end of what had to have been a great evening for all, People Will Say We’re in Love was led into the classic title song--- OKLAHOMA!

Seven vocalists with USM connections were soloists during the two pops concerts, following auditions (HS:  PSO files show that some non-USM local-area vocalists also auditioned, although none were selected.). Of the soloists performing, Martin Lescault was a USM graduate, while the others were then currently enrolled at the university. The students were Jennifer McLeod, Jason Richard Plourde, Allysa Williamson, Kelly Magnuson, Brian Wilson and Jennifer DeDominici.

During the 1999-2000 season, over 11,000 people attended PSO Pops concerts.

The 1999-2000 PSO Season concluded with a Classical Concert on Tuesday, May 2, as Music Director and Conductor Toshi Shimada and the Symphony musicians welcomed Spring in music. Leading off this evening was Mozart’s “Cosi fan tutte” Overture from his comic opera. Next came music for a ballet that swirled around the story of a new bride and her former husband, with Aaron Copland’s Appalachian Spring. P-H reviewer commented favorably, writing “The performance of ‘Appalachian Spring’ was technically flawless and, better still, emotionally moving.” He especially liked the variations on the Shaker Hymn Tis a Gift to Be Simple, describing that section as “awe-inspiring”. He referred to the entire concert as a “spectacular performance”. The grand finale of the concert, and thus also the PSO season, was Igor Stravinsky’s 1913 work, the then-novel and then-controversial 35-minute-long Le Sacre du printemps (The Rite of Spring). Presumably there were no fistfights among members of the Merrill Auditorium audience; however, if there were, -well-  “Ah.... Springtime”. (HS: Originally scheduled for this concert [pre-announced the previous fall and also even printed in the concert-program.] was Bedřich Smetana’s The Bartered Bride; Three Dances (1866). In the end, this work was not performed, as Mr. Shimada wanted to as much as possible concentrate rehearsals on the Copland and Stravinsky works. The music director considered Smetena’s Dance of the Comedians as a possible season-ending encore, but no record has been found to indicate that it was performed as such.)

During the 1999-2000 season, over 12,500 people attended PSO Classical concerts.

By now the PSO Women’s Committee had metamorphosized to become The Friends of the Portland Symphony Orchestra. The group’s various fund-raising activities enabled the PSO to receive more than $42,500 from the “Friends”. A ShowHouse 2000 event was very successful; the new cookbook, “Concert in the Kitchen”, was published; and members of the group engaged in subscription phonathons and manned information tables at various events. All in all..... as the PSO Annual Report stated, it “was a very busy and productive season for our Friends!”. An additional event was the seventh annual PSO Golf Tournament, held in Old Orchard Beach. The tourney grossed $32,000 for the PSO.

The Kotzschmar Memorial Organ received newly-built five-manual state-of-the-art console, financed through the gift of Anita and Charles Stickney.

Karen Foster is elected to what would become two terms as PSO President.

The PSO’s bottom-line financial performance for the 1999-2000 season was not as strong as the prior fiscal year, with revenues of all categories exceeding expenses by only $55,000. Operating revenues increased less than 2 percent, but fortunately contributions and other support jumped a solid 42 percent, to more than $1,200,000, an important achievement since investment gains and other revenue were an aggregate deficit, almost $152,000 in the red. Overall, the Fiscal Year 2000 P&L showed a net loss of more than $24,000. With the “Magic of Christmas” performances in 1999 having been a record-sixteen in number, about 80 percent of capacity, the PSO’s cash cow couldn’t generate enough ticket sales to push the Symphony to a profitable year. This 16-level would prove to be a peak total for the PSO.

Five “Independence Pops” concerts were performed around the Portland area prior to the Fourth of July this year. The first was on Thursday, June 29 at Fort Williams Park, in Cape Elizabeth. Friday the 30th found the PSO indoors at the Thornton Academy gymnasium in Saco at Hill, instead of outside –as scheduled– at the school Stadium,. Saturday evening, the 1st of July found Toshi Shimada and the Symphony outside in Auburn, at Central Maine Technical College. The next venue was Shawnee Park in Bridgton, a Sunday evening concert on July 2. The final event of the series was at Southern Maine Technical College in south Portland. (HS:  Nothing has been spotted in the PSO Archives to indicate that any of the concerts other than the one at Saco was “rained-in”; although such happenings may have occurred. All these concerts had alternate indoor sites set aside.)

A PSO-issued news release from that time noted that the concerts marked the beginning of the PSO’s 76th season, as well as the start of Music Director and Conductor Toshi Shimada’s fifteenth season with the Orchestra. Each included American popular and patriotic songs, marches, Broadway and movie music, and light classics. The release stated that “The orchestra’s observance of the Copland centenary during the upcoming season begins at Independence Pops with Copland’s Lincoln Portrait.” Maine actor Christopher Price narrated at each venue, while the Symphony also performed Mr. Copland’s Music from “The Red Pony” and also his Fanfare for the Common Man. Mr. Price also read excerpts from Thomas Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence during performances of John Williams’ Hymn to the Fallen from the film “Saving Private Ryan”. Other film music on the programs included the Maine Theme from “Gettysburg”. A medley of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s music included My Funny Valentine; Do-Re-Mi; Victory at Sea; It’s a Grand Night for Singing; I Enjoy Being a Girl; and others.

A medley of Songs by George M. Cohan included Grand Old Flag; Give My Regards to Broadway; Over There; and Yankee Doodle Dandy. Percy Grainger’s Colonial Song was augmented with Thomas á Becket’s 1843 Columbia the Gem of the Ocean, Mr. Shimada’s arrangement of Armed Forces Medley, and John Philip Sousa’s Liberty Bell March. Other works on the “Indy-Pops 2000” programs included: Carmen Dragon’s arrangement of Thomas á Becket’s Columbia the Gem of the Ocean; Richard Hayman’s arrangement of Meridith Willson’s 76 Trombones from “The Music Man”; and the Maine Stein Song.

At each concert Mr. Shimada led the audiences in patriotic sing-alongs, including God Bless America; America; and America the Beautiful. Each concert concluded with Tchaikovsky’s “1812”Overture, (HS: As the PSO news release stated.) mixing booming drums, artillery salvos, cathedral bells and the victory hymn synonymous with patriotism and the celebration of independence.”

In a Press Herald article following the opening event at Fort Williams, readers read “It was chilly at Fort Williams Park Thursday night, but that didn’t dampen the enthusiasm of a large crowd for the first Independence Pops concert of the season”. Continuing, “The Portland Symphony Orchestra under Toshiyuki Shimada was in good form, the sound system was better than last year’s, and the fireworks began brilliantly during an encore of The Stars and Stripes Forever. What is now officially our national march featured the best piccolo obligato I have heard so far.” The reporter encouraged Portlanders to consider attending one of the remaining concerts, commenting “It’s worth braving the traffic today at Central Maine Technical College in Lewiston, Sunday at Shawnee Peak or Monday at Southern Maine Technical College.”

An interesting request from Music Director Shimada to PSO Executive Director concluded an April memo regarding various aspects of the then-being-planned “Indy-Pops” concerts. He specifically requested....... “and no flyby.” (HS: I wonder why he was opposed to such added 4th-of-July hoopla. Maybe it was the difficulty in coordinating the respective air-to-ground and ground-to-air flying and conducting precisions?  I’ve always liked it when planes fly over as part of a concert; however I’ve never had to hold a baton aloft to delay a half-dozen or so notes to give the already-late planes a chance to appear as though they showed up on time.)

This summer, Toshi Shimada was busy at music festivals and recording engagements in both Europe and the U.S. In the Czech Republic in June, he recorded an opera with the cast from the Brno State Opera House and the Moravian Philharmonic, as well as conducting the Moravian Philharmonic at the International Vienna Modern Masters Festival. In July he conducted the Saas Fee music Festival Orchestra in Switzerland. And from late July through the first week of August he conducted the Bavarian Music Festival Orchestra in Marktobersdorf, Germany.

On Saturday evening, July 15, the PSO Chamber Orchestra performed at the Great Waters Music Festival in Wolfeboro, New Hampshire. Music Director Shimada conducted rehearsals on both Friday and Saturday afternoons. Once again under a tent on the shore of Lake Winnipesaukee, the 27-piece PSO chamber orchestra performed Antonio Vivaldi’s Concerto Grosso in C Major, RV 113; Johann Pachelbel’s Canon and Gigue; Bach’s Orchestral Suite No. 3 in D Major, BSV 1068; and George Frideric Handel’s complete Water Music, Suite I.

During July, principal PSO clarinetist Thomas Parchman put on another hat while the Portland Opera Repertory Theatre performed its 2000 season. He not only played with the opera company’s orchestra, he managed the group, which was engaged in productions of Giuseppe Verdi’s Rigoletto (July 27, 29 and 31), Gian Carlo Menotti’s “The Medium” and Mozart’s “The Impressario” (presented on double bills on July 28 and 29). A number of PSO musicians were signed up by Mr. Parchmam.

Also during July, on the 27th, 29th, and 31st, PORTopera performed “Rigoletto” by Giuseppe Verdi. Bruce Hangen conducted the performances at Merrill Auditorium.

Notable participants who would participate in the PSO’s popular pre-performance “Concert Conversations” during the 2000-2001 season included Maestro Shimada, Portland composer Tom Myron, Bowdoin music professor and composer Elliott Schwartz, saxophonist Eugene Carinci, PSO principal clarinetist Thomas Parchman, the internationally acclaimed conductor and violinist Joseph Silverstein, the duo of PSO Executive Director Jane Hunter and PSO Orchestra Manager Andrew Kipe, USM choral conductor Robert Russell, and once again- the  former Rhode Island Philharmonic conductor, Francis Madiera. Among the season’s wide range of  “Concert Conversation” topics were ”Life on the Road During the Big Band Era”, to “The Piece That Was Too Difficult for Benny”, to “What Is An Overture?”, to “Verdi: Italian Master”, to “Production: Behind the Scenes with the Portland Symphony Orchestra”, and “Shostakovich: Composing in a Totalitarian Regime”.

Prior to the season Lisa Hennessy was appointed principal flutist for the PSO, while returning violinist Charles Dimmick was named Assistant Concert Master, sharing the first stand with Lawrence Golan. (HS:  In a delightful example of serendipity, the program insert announcing Ms. Hennessy’s appointment was first read by yours truly on a Monday in early February of 2014 [The day earlier, longtime PSO player Stephanie Burk had contributed some concert programs to the PSO Archives, and one included the previously unseen insert.]  The next day in February of 2014, Ms. Hennessy was the featured soloist at a PSO Classical Concert, performing the Jean-Pierre Rampal version of Aram Khachaturian’s Concerto for Flute and Orchestra.)

Although reviews of 2000-2001 PSO concerts in the Orchestra’s Archives were not located, listings of the vast majority of works scheduled to be performed were located. (HS:  Regarding the following paragraphs about this season, it is assumed that works scheduled were the works performed.)

The PSO’s “Opening Night Spectacular” at Merrill Auditorium was on Tuesday evening, October 3. The program included Leopold Stokowski’s transcription of a work originally composed for organ, Bach’s Toccata & Fugue in D minor, BWV 565. Béla Bartók‘s rarely performed Deux Portraits, Op. 5 was also on the program, with PSO Concertmaster Lawrence Golan performing the solo violin part. Gustav Mahler’s Symphony No. 1 (“Titan”) was the evening’s major work performed. An interesting side note to Mr. Shimada’s selection of the Mahler symphony was the fact that for the past four seasons he had guest-conducted the Moravian Philharmonic in the Czech Republic, the orchestra that the composer himself led just prior to composing his First Symphony.

The first two Pops Concerts of the 2000-2001 PSO Season were performed at Merrill Auditorium on Saturday and Sunday, October 21st and 22nd. Five By Design, a vocal swing quintet, joined the Orchestra to recreate the days of live radio broadcasts from the nation’s hottest clubs. This evening the musical revue “Club Swing” chronicled the era from the late 1930s to the mid-1950s, as seen through the acts that performed at a night club of that name at the fictional on-stage Hotel Crosby. The program included the Fats Waller band’s Everybody Loves My Baby -- but My Baby Don’t Love Nobody but Me; It Don’t Mean a Thing If It Ain’t Got That Swing (Duke Ellington); American Patrol and also In the Mood (Glenn Miller); Hoagy Carmichael’s In the Cool, Cool, Cool of the Evening (HS:  With lyrics by Johnny Mercer, written for the 1951 film, “Here Comes the Groom”, this melody  won the Academy Award for Best Original Song.); and Sing, Sing, Sing (Benny Goodman). Also performed was Cocktails for Two, written by Arthur Johnston and Sam Coslow, with  the most famous recording by Mr. Ellington  (HS: BUT ---  THE BEST RECORDING of that  was by Spike Jones; hit your YouTube mouse-button and hav’a fun listen’!). Believe it or not----- THAT hilarious version was the one performed by the PSO this evening!  HEY!!!;

Other old favorites performed were the frenetic Artie Shaw arrangement of Bugle Call Rag, (HS: The jazz standard written by Jack Pettis, Billy Meyers and Elmer Schoebel. It was first recorded by the New Orleans Rhythm Kings in 1922 as “Bugle Call Blues”.); Cole Porter’s Begin the Beguine; Woody Herman’s Woodchopper’s Ball; Leroy Anderson’s Bugler’s Holiday; Jack McVea’s Open the Door Richard; and a rich harmonic Mona Lisa, by Ray Evans and Jay Livingston (HS: Googling turned up the fact that Mona Lisa originally was the B-side of a long forgotten semi-spiritual song called The Greatest Inventor Of Them All, both sung by Nat King Cole. Wow!!!).

Two Pairs of Youth Concerts were performed at Merrill Auditorium for students age 7-13 on Monday and Tuesday, October 30 & 31. The title-theme was “A Halloween Spooktacular”. The assistant conductor of the Utah Symphony, Guest conductor Scott O’Neill, held the baton, with the program featuring Bach’s Tocatta and Fugue in D Minor, BWV 565 (HS: Probably the Stowkoski arrangement, since that was the version performed at the opening-night classical concert.) A news release from the PSO warned that Mussorgsky’s Night on Bald Mountain would “depict ‘legendary revels of Russian witches on a foreboding mountaintop under the black cover of night, and Grieg’s In the Hall of the Mountain King (HS: From Peer Gynt Suite No. 1., Op. 46)... (would portray a) ...wild, unruly, and frightening leader of a band of trolls.” Excerpts from Hector Berlioz’ Symphonie Fantastique, Op. 14 were performed--- March to the Scaffold and Dream of a Witches’ Sabbath. Since the time of year called for scary classics and monster themes, also included in the pair of performances was the Addams Family Theme, written and arranged for the TV program by longtime Hollywood composer Vic Mizzy. Each of the concerts ended with almost 2000 youths at each snapping their fingers in time with that familiar, snappy organ-led tune. (HS: A photo carried by the P-H, sub-titled “Count(ing) time at the symphony”, was that of Mr. O’Neil, dressed as Count Dracula leading the PSO through this Halloween Youth Concert program of “scary classics and monster themes”.)

With the PSO presenting chamber music under the “Mozart & More Series” moniker, this part of the PSO’s complete season opened with “Musical Milestones” on Sunday, November 5 at Merrill Auditorium. PSO principal clarinetist Thomas Parchman was featured in Aaron Copland’s jazzy Clarinet Concerto, debuted by Benny Goodman in 1950. Also on the program was Mozart’s Symphony No. 29 in A major, K. 201, Bach’s swirling Brandenburg Concerto No. 3 in G major, and Giovanni Gabrielli’s brass-filled Canzona per Sonare I (“La Spiritata”) and Canzona per Sonare V. (HS:  Originally, Joachim Rodrigo’s Zarabanda lejana y Villancico had been scheduled to be played during this concert. The PSO Archives have not revealed why the change to the Gabrielli work was made.) This concert was also performed the previous evening in Rockland at the high school. (HS:  At the Concert Conversation lectures prior to both concerts, Mr. Parchman spoke to the topic “The Piece That Was Too Difficult for Benny”, discussing the challenges that the big band leader faced in premiering the concerto some fifty years earlier.)

The “Musical Milestones” concert was also performed in Presque Isle the preceding Friday evening, at the Caribou Performing Arts Center. Instead of the Gabrielli work, Spanish composer Rodrigo’s Zarabanda lejana y Villancico was played, according to a PSO news release issued six weeks prior to the PSO’s excursion to Caribou. This concert was part of a two-day residency at UM-Presque Isle and the community. KinderKonzerts for youngsters, master classes for high school instrumentalists and an open dress rehearsal for high school and college students were also on the Portland Symphony Orchestra musician’s schedules during the trip.

Before the PSO ensemble returned to perform the Sunday afternoon concert in Portland, the total 5-day excursion also included a Saturday-evening performance in Rockland at the high school.

Acclaimed Japanese-born and Julliard-trained violinist Kyoko Takezawa was featured at “Copland’s Centennial”, a PSO concert at Merrill Auditorium on Tuesday, November 14. She performed Johannes Brahms’ Violin Concerto in D major, Op. 77, while the Copland anniversary was acknowledged with the composer’s Symphony No. 3 (HS: Which includes the “Fanfare for the Common Man”). Samuel Barber’s Essay No. 2 rounded out the program. Regarding this concert, P-H reviewer Hyde wrote of Ms. Takezawa’s performance as “eloquent and poetic”, citing “her playing of the high treble theme in the first movement (as) ethereal, and... a ...high point”. He also wrote favorably about the Orchestra’s playing of the Copland symphony, the article’s headline reading, “PSO passes Copland test in breathtaking fashion”.

“Fabulous Forties” was the theme on tap for Saturday and Sunday Pops Concerts on November 18 & 19. Guest conductor Jack Everly, who had shared the stage with everyone from Ella Fitzgerald to Itzhak Perlman led the PSO, joined by guest cabaret singer Anne Runnolfsson (HS: Who the P-H reviewer wrote was “a class act if there ever was one. She has a gorgeous voice and looked gorgeous, too, in a succession of cream colored satin, black and deep burgundy velvet sheath dresses”. <I guess he was paying close attention to more than just the music.). Judy McLane had originally been scheduled to perform (HS: And, in fact, was the singer named in an undated pre-concert printout retained in the PSO Archives. Hm-m-m?), but no confirmation nor explanation has been spotted in those Archives to explain why/when, according to the Press Herald, she was replaced by Ms. Runnolfsson. A “nostalgic romp through the music of the ‘40s included Les Brown’s  Sentimental Journey; The Trolley Song, written by Hugh Martin and Ralph Blane and made famous by Judy Garland in the 1944 film “Meet Me in St. Louis”; I’ll Be Seeing You by Sammy Fain (HS:  The musical he wrote the longtime favorite into was “Right This Way”, which lasted MUCH less than did the song, closing after only fifteen performances.); Jule Styne and Frank Loesser’s I Don’t Want to Walk Without You; and Jule Styne’s (HS; This time.... with  Sammy Kahn.) It’s Been a Long, Long Time (HS:  Googling reveals that a Harry James recording of this number reached No. 1 on the Billboard “Hot 100 chart in 1945.). The P-H article noted that “her vamping of trumpeter John Schnell in their duet” of that work “was a classic”. Demonstrating a singing versatility and a diverse repertoire, the vocalist also captured favor with the audience(s) with some famous numbers:  My Buddy; Bei Mir Bist Du Schoen; and When You Wish Upon a Star. From “Annie Get Your Gun” there was the Overture and also The Girl That I Marry. Lastly, the soprano likely left some in the audience shedding tears, as for her encore Ms. Runnolfsson chose God Bless America;

On its own the Symphony had two numbers that the newspaper review labeled “spectacular”, the Overture to “South Pacific” and the film-title Music to “Yankee Doodle Dandy”. The article also praised the orchestra musicians’ work in a swing version of Nicolai Rimsky-Korsakov’s Song of India, labeling that rendition “a magic carpet ride back to the heyday of Glenn Miller”, during which the saxophone section “outdid itself”. The strings starred in David Rose’s Holiday for Strings. The only sour note-interpretation by the P-H reviewer was one instrumental number “that didn’t come up to the rest of the evening”, Leonard Bernstein’s Times Square dance sequence from “On the Town”. Interestingly, the article seemed to place blame on the composer (HS: Blame Leonard Bernstein?  Horrors!), commenting that the Symphony played the work “with a considerable amount of energy and flair”.

Pre-Season announcements listed fourteen “Magic of Christmas” Concert performances, two fewer than the record number of sixteen the previous year (HS: The sixteenth was added sometime after the original schedule of fifteen performances had been set.) A special guest artist during this year’s run would be Broadway star Christine Noll (HS: Although her Broadway-related career primarily involved appearances in national tours of shows, she had received a Tony Award nomination for a NYC-Broadway performance in “Ragtime”.). Also featured during the “Magic” performances would be twelve-year-old Laura Darrell, the Boy Singers of Maine, the 120-voice Magic of Christmas Chorus (HS: An advance flyer emphasized the group’s then-upcoming “21st consecutive Magic appearance!”.), Portland Municipal Organist Ray Cornils, The Parish Bell Ringers of Brunswick and the PSO Brass Ensemble. The run this holiday season began on Friday, December 8.. Final attendance of more than 23,000 would represent a small decline, about 3 percent, from the record level of the previous year.

Before each “official” concert began, Mr. Cornils performed a recital of holiday music on the Kotzschmar Memorial Organ, for an hour. During the intermission the PSO Brass Ensemble would keep the celebration going by taking the stage to perform a variety of carols and holiday favorites.

The set design was a stage transformed into a “glistening, twinkling winter wonderland, with snow covered trees, snow banks, and an old-fashioned sleigh.

Ms. Noll opened the concert with Charles Gounod’s Ave Maria and Mel Tormé’s The Christmas Song (HS:  You know---- “Chestnuts roasting on an Open Fire, etc.”). She also gave a reading of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s poem, “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day”. Ms. Darrell sang the music that  César Franck wrote applied to the penultimate stanza of the hymn “Sacris solemniis”, written by Saint Thomas Aquinas for the Feast of Corpus Christi, Panis Angelicus (“bread of angels”). She also joined Ms. Noll for the holiday favorites White Christmas; Let It Snow; and I’ll Be Home for Christmas. The Parish Ringers, under the direction of Mr. Cornils, performed the musical version of the Longfellow verse, I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day. The talented group also performed Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas (from “Mame”) and also Silver Bells. The Boy Singers were featured in two selections from Benjamin Britten’s “A Ceremony of Carols”, Procession and also This Little Babe (HS: Which also featured PSO harpist Jara Goodrich.). The ensemble backed up Ms. Darrell, and also sang Follow the Light, written by Margaret Kirk and arranged by Michael Braz.

The chorus sang Hodie (“This Day”); A Welsh Lullaby (based on) Sleep My Baby; and The Twelve Days of Christmas. This ensemble’s voices soared in Handel’s Hallelujah Chorus and backed up the two lead vocalists on the number from the Broadway show that featured Angela Lansbury and Beatrice Arthur.

Orchestral numbers performed by the Symphony musicians, who were led by Toshi Shimada, included Selections from Tchaikovsky’s “Nutcracker Suite(HS: Waltz of the Flowers; Dance of the Toy Flutes; The Clown; and the delicately romantic Pas de Deux.) Other works performed by the PSO were Leroy Anderson’s A Christmas Festival; Georges Bizet’s Farandole from L’Arlésienne Suite No. 2; Sergei Prokofiev’s Troika from “Lieutenant Kijé”, and (HS: You thought I was going to forget to mention this..... didn’t you”) Mr. Anderson’s Sleigh Ride.

The traditional “Magic of Christmas” Sing-Along of carols ranged from Joy to the World; Silent Night; O come all Ye Faithful; to We Wish You A Merry Christmas....... which concluded each concert.

(HS:  I admit to taking generous plagiaristic liberties with the details of this “Magic of Christmas” concert, heavily stealing from Debby Hammond’s news release of October 4, 2000. Thanks, Debby. As I drafted most of the above well before finally finding some newspaper reviews about this year’s “Magic” concerts..... so you saved me. Note:  Press Herald reviewer Christopher Hyde wrote favorably about the performance he attended; the headline read “Bravo! PSO’s Christmas concert is again a crowd-pleaser”.)

After the previous paragraph was written, a complete copy of the 2000 “Magic of Christmas” concerts’ program  was located. It is planned that a digital PDF-scan of that program listing will be uploaded to the PSO website sometime in the future (HS: post mid-2013, when this paragraph is being written), along with copies of portions of hundreds of other concert programs currently being collected, assembled and scanned. People wanting copies of parts of respective PSO concert programs beyond the scanned pages available at are welcome to contact me directly for assistance; I will do my best to provide help.

Three performances of the “Victorian Nutcracker” were presented at Merrill Auditorium on Friday and Saturday, December 22 and 23 (HS:  The Portland Ballet Company had not performed its special adaptation of the Tchaikovsky work at Merrill a year earlier, nor had it elsewhere in the region presented the event in 1999 to live orchestra music.) Both a matinee and an evening show were performed on the 23rd. Lawrence Golan conducted the Portland Ballet Orchestra, which consisted of some two-dozen musicians with connections to the PSO who he respected as fellow members of the Portland Symphony Orchestra where he served as concert master. Once again, Mr. Golan directed from a score adaptation he had arranged for a medium-size ensemble. (HS:  One source indicated that a fourth production, on New Year’s Day, was presented a week later; however a concert program from that season does not make mention of any such event.)


2001       The first PSO Classical Concert of the calendar year was presented on Tuesday, January 9 at Merrill Auditorium. The theme this evening was “Myths and Legends”. Internationally renowned contemporary Chinese composer Tan Dan (HS:  In 1999 the PSO had performed his Death and Fire to great acclaim.) was represented on the program with another new work, Dragon and Phoenix, based on an ancient legend. Also performed this evening were Beethoven’s Symphony No. 3 (“Eroica”) and Albert Roussel’s Bacchus et Ariane Suite No. 2, Op. 43. The P-H’s review of the concert was generally favorable, with special praise for the Tan Dan work, including kind words regarding PSO principal cellist James Kennedy’s story-teller role. He wrote that the Roussel composition was “brilliantly performed”.

Sunday afternoon, January 21, found Maestro Shimada conducting another “Mozart & More” concert at Merrill Auditorium. PSO harpist Jara Goodrich was featured in a program entitled “Sacred and Profane”, notably appropriate since she played Claude Debussy’s Danses sacrée et profane. Also on the program were Arvo Pärt’s Festina Lente; Mozart’s Serenade for Orchestra No. 9 in D major K. 320 <(“Posthorn”); and Jeremy Beck’s Sparks and Flame (Ash). Mr. Beck had composed the piece for Rebecca Burkhardt and the Northern Iowa Symphony Orchestra before its 1997 tour of Russia, and was on hand for the Portland concert, giving a pre-concert talk for interested concertgoers.

Former longtime concertmaster of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, Joseph Silverstein, was guest conductor on February 6. (HS:  The preceding Saturday morning he had given a violin masterclass at USM that was presented in conjunction with his Tuesday-evening appearance with the PSO.) There were no guest soloists featured this evening. Works performed by the Symphony musicians were Antonín Dvořák’s Symphony No. 7 in D minor, Op. 70, B. 141, Beethoven’s Symphony No. 2 in D major Op. 36, and Hector Berlioz’s Benvenuto Cellini Overture, Op. 23. The theme this evening was “An Orchestral Showcase”. The Press Herald review of the concert reported about Mr. Silverstein, that at the end of the concluding Dvořák work, “The orchestra members applauded him, and the audience gave him a real standing ovation on the third curtain call.” The P-H also reported that at this point in time Mr. Shimada was in the Czech Republic to conduct the Moravian Philharmonic Orchestra.

Pops Concerts on the Saturday-Sunday weekend of February 24 & 25 presented “Broadway Gold” hits to Portland concertgoers. Soprano Katherine Terrell and baritone Lewis Dahle van Schlanbusch performed memorable music from the previous three decades of Broadway. Included were songs from “Man of La Mancha”; “Jesus Christ Superstar”; “Les Misérables”; “Cats”; “Evita”; “A Little Night Music”; “A Chorus Line”; and “Phantom of the Opera”. All the biggies from those shows were played and sung...... and some numbers from those shows that were not as well known. No review of this concert has been spotted in the PSO Archives.

The Classical Concert on Tuesday, March 6 at Merrill Auditorium was to be a celebration of the 100th anniversary year of a great composer, with a concert titled “Verdi’s Anniversary”. As usual, the Choral Art Society had many rehearsals to be on stage with the orchestra for a performance of the great composer’s Four Sacred Pieces. Gia Comolli’s Flight of Icarus was also to be performed; the composer was a resident of Bath, Maine. Richard Strauss’ tone poem, Don Juan, Op. 20, was scheduled to round out the program. If by now you might be curious as to “why?” tentative use of verbs about the above-mentioned numbers were used, you are “on to something” significant. Spotted in a file-copy of a letter written later in the month by PSO Executive Director Jane Hunter was a telling reference about a significant development on March 6. She wrote that “The concert (had been) cancelled because of a major snowstorm,” adding  “This is the first time in the orchestra’s 76-year history that it has had to cancel a Classical Series concert.” Since the concert was not going to be rescheduled, ticket holders were offered the opportunity to exchange their March 6th tickets for any other PSO concert this season. For a while, therefore, it appeared that all the rehearsal time and effort put forth by Choral Art Society director Robert Russell and the members of the chorus had been for naught. However, in the end that was not the final situation (HS:  See information in this THINGS-PSO about the PSO’s April, 2003 concert.).

A “Mozart & More” concert titled “A Winter’s Dream” was performed at Merrill Auditorium on Sunday afternoon, March 18. The program included Antonio Vivaldi’s Concerto Grosso in G minor, RV. 578; Mozart’s Symphony No. 25 in G minor, K. 183/173dB; Richard Wagner’s Siegfried Idyll; and Antonín Dvořák’s Serenade for Wind Instruments, Op.44.

Two run-out “Mozart & More” concerts, originally scheduled the previous Friday and Saturday, had been canceled in advance of the 3/18 Merrill concert. An explanation as to why the events (HS:  At UM-Machias and Rockport, respectively) were not performed has so far (late-2013) not been spotted in the PSO Archives, although it may have been related to anticipated NEA grant funds ending up insufficient in size to support a hoped-for late-week PSO residency project in Machias from which the PSO entourage would have returned via Rockland. Had the Rockland concert been performed the program content would have been the same as the works played in Portland on March 18.

Brigette Engerer was guest soloist at the PSO’s Classical Concert on Tuesday, April 10. She performed Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 1 in B-flat minor, Op. 23. Press Herald reviewer Hyde lauded her performance, writing “She has the strength, velocity and brilliance of Horowitz, and she takes the music seriously, while Horowitz was always fooling around with it. The result is not just astonishing pyrotechnics, of which there were plenty, but also revelations of some real beauties, even in a piece as seemingly familiar as this one. A dialog somewhere between the first violins and the piano was positively eerie, leading one to thoughts of the supernatural. There were many such passages, which can only be heard in a live performance.” The Orchestra also performed Johannes Brahms’ Symphony No. 3 in F major, Op. 90, and Sergei Prokofiev’s Lieutenant Kijé Suite.

The season’s “Mozart & More” series ended with a pair of concerts during the weekend of April 21 and 22, the former in Rockland and the latter at Merrill Auditorium. The concert theme was the same, “Young and Exceptional”. Featured was 14-year-old prodigy Sandra Meei Cameron, who performed Mozart’s Violin Concerto No. 4 (HS:  Well prior to the official announcement of works to be performed this season, Mozart’s Violin Concerto No. 5 [“Turkish”] had been listed. A conversational misunderstanding between Jane Hunter and the Bowdoin Summer Music Festival’s Lewis Kaplan, en early mentor for the young artist, led to the change. A copy of an internal email in the PSO Archives refers to a letter received by the PSO about the matter, from Ms. Cameron’s father. The email refers to him as being a “lawyer”; so...... Ms. Hunter likely wisely chose to agree to her playing #4. Fortunately for all involved, Music Director Shimada didn’t seem to mind the change.). So how did the young Ms. Cameron perform?  Late in 2013, I have yet to spot a review, but I’ve still got my fingers crossed. (HS:   Googling revealed that she enrolled as a music major at Harvard in the fall of 2005, later graduating with honors from that university’s prestigious joint-degree program with the New England Conservatory. As an active –primarily international, it appears– artist in 2013, while completing her masters degree work at NEC, her performing name is now Sandy Cameron.) Writing for the Phoenix at the time, Doug Hubley labeled the young phenom as “jaw dropping”, and noted that she was heralded by both the Juilliard-faculty-member Mr. Kaplan and also Russian conductor Valery Gergiev, who had invited Ms. Cameron to perform with him twice the upcoming summer, “once at the hoity-toity Salzburg Music Festival and once at Gergiev’s White Nights Festival, a major do in St. Petersburg”. (HS: While I’ve not heard Ms. Cameron perform [it’s now late-2013], maybe the $4K the PSO paid for her to appear back in 2001 was worth it.)

Reports found while Googling about the then-young 14 year-old revealed that the only child of Michael Cameron, a lawyer for the U.S. Justice Department, and Sammeei Cameron, a Korean native who ran the family’s household in Maryland,  at one point in time added “Wolf” to her name because she loves wolves. By now (2014) a Harvard graduate, she currently is often shown billed as Sandra Wolf-Meei Cameron.

At this event, concertgoers also heard Jacques Ibert’s Hommage à Mozart; Arthur Honegger’s short symphonic poem Pastorale d’été, H. 31 (Summer Pastoral); and Haydn’s Symphony No. 103 in E-flat major, Hoboken 1/103 (“Drum Roll”).

Several days prior to this concert, 11-season PSO Concertmaster Lawrence Golan announced that he had accepted a teaching/conducting position at the University of Denver. Quoted in a P-H article regarding his decision to leave Maine, Mr. Golan said, “I felt I’d been spreading myself a little too thin... ...This job will allow me to focus my energy in one direction. It will allow me to do a lot more conducting in the U.S. and abroad.” Denver was an opportunity he couldn’t resist. The university then had 200 music majors and was building a $65 million music center just for students on campus. But, the article continued, “Maine classical music fans still will have the opportunity to see Golan three times a year when he returns to conduct the Atlantic Chamber Orchestra, the innovative group he helped found two years ago. ‘That’s my baby. I’m not going to desert it,’ said Golan of his decision to stay on as conductor of the orchestra”. His final concert as a member of the PSO would be at the Independence Pops Concert that would close out the Symphony’s season, July 3. He also relinquished his position as conductor of the University of Southern Maine Symphony Orchestra.

The Season’s Pops Concert finale was on Saturday and Sunday, April 28 and 29, with a “Tin Pan Alley Pops” theme. Featured was swinging jazz singer Banu Gibson and her group The New Orleans Hot Jazz (HS: Ms. Gibson, along with her combo, would make a return appearance to Merrill Auditorium in 2012.). A PSO operations file found in the PSO Archives included an advance list showing the PSO starting the concert with a first half of classical pops favorites:  Dmitri Kabalevsky’s Comedians’ Galop (No. 2) from “The Comedians”; Gioacchino Rossini’s William Tell Overture; Sir Edward Elgar’s Salut d’amour; Leroy Anderson’s Fiddle Faddle; Don Rose’s arrangement of George Gershwin’s Overture to “Girl Crazy”; and as a first-half encore, Jacques Offenbach’s Can Can from “Orpheus in the Underworld”.

Ms. Gibson’s set was what a news release at the time mentioned as a “fresh mix of standards and jewels of the ‘20s”. The PSO files show that the vibrant guest artist sang: George Gershwin’s Swanee; I’d Rather Lead A Band by Irving Berlin; the Hill/Williams arrangement of Claude Hopkins’ I Would Do Anything For You; Do You Know What It Means To Miss New Orleans by Louis Alter; What A Little Moonlight Can Do, by Harry Woods; I Gotta Right To Sing The Blues by Harold Arlen; Rube Brown’s Truckin’; Mr. Berlin’s Heat Wave; Slap That Bass by George Gershwin; Pete Johnson’s Roll Em’ Pete; Charlie Chaplin’s Smile; and Get Happy by Mr. Arlen.

The second pairs of PSO Youth Concerts for the 2000-2001 season were performed the mornings of April 30 and May 1 (HS: The musicians and Mr. Shimada rehearsed on Sunday evening, after a dinner break following the afternoon Pops Concert with Banu Gibson. Obviously, the PSO’s late-April performance and rehearsal schedule was a jam-packed calendar.) The theme of the Youth Concerts was “The Magic of Mime”, based on the name of a the sub-title of the 1988 A Comedy Concerto of the same name by Dan Kamin. The arranger/composer, who was also the mimist, was on hand for these Monday and Tuesday performances. His musical work was described in a PSO news release as “depict(ing) an imaginary battle of wits between the conductor and a mimist. The two duel for control of the orchestra in a comedic struggle, while the orchestra perform(ed) some of the world’s most recognized (and usually serious) orchestral works.” Maine native Guy Durichek was set to “narrate as the battle and the music unfold upon stage” before an audience of 3rd to 6th grade students.

The musical selections were from: Dmitri Kabelevsky’s Galop from “The Comedians”; Igor Stravinsky’s Polka from “Suite #2”; Benjamin Britton’s Frolicsome Finale from “Simple Symphony”; Mr. Stravinsky’s Marche, and also Galop and the Valse from his suite; Sergei Prokofiev’s Peter’s Walking Theme from “Peter and the Wolf”; Edvard Greig’s In the Hall of the Mountain King from “Peer Gynt”; Erik Satie’s Gymnopédie No. 2 (with harp); excerpts from Gioacchino Rossini’s William Tell Overture; the Minuetto from Symphony No. 1 by Beethoven; and concluding with excerpts from Emperor Waltz by Johan Strauss, Jr..

A copy of the program list and the narration text is retained among the Youth Concert files of the PSO. Thus, a digital scan of the music from this performance is included within the extensive collection of program scans available to internet visitors on the Performances page.

The PSO’s 2000-2001 Classical Series concluded with “A Monumental Finale” concert on Tuesday, May 8. The Symphony’s principal horn John Boden was featured in Richard Strauss’s Horn Concerto No. 2 in E flat major, TrV 283. The Phoenix’s Doug Hubley described the Strauss composition as “a seldom-heard work that melds ‘Mozartean’ form with Strauss’ distinctive bold sense of color and harmony”. This program also included Felix Mendelssohn’s The Hebrides (Fingal’s Cave) Overture, Op. 26,  and Dmitri Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 11, in G minor, Opus 103 (subtitled “The Year 1905”).

Writing after the concert about the Shostakovich work, P-H reviewer Hyde reported that “The Portland Symphony Orchestra, under Toshiyuki Shimada, gave it an outstanding and heartfelt performance at Merrill Auditorium”. He added that “the percussion section should receive a medal for performance above and beyond the call of duty. There was also an ethereal English horn solo in the ‘Tocsin’ (HS: Googling reveals that the finale, Tocsin, represents an alarm or warning bell.) by Julianne Verret.” Mr. Hyde praised the PSO music director for not yielding to the temptation to play a conventional “crowd pleaser” for the final concert of the season. The reporter noted that Mr. Shimada earned “a long standing ovation from a capacity crowd (after the Russian composer’s symphony). They also cheered concertmaster Lawrence Golan, who is leaving the orchestra... accept a new teaching position.” In addition, the article referred to “a fine performance” of Fingals Cave and “some virtuoso work on the French horn by principal John Boden” in the Strauss concerto.

Karen Foster is re-elected as PSO President.

The PSO’s Fiscal Year 2001 P&L was a net loss of close to $175,000. The Portland-area community was the beneficiary of many concerts which did not generate high enough ticket sales.

Five “Independence Pops” concerts were scheduled for this 4th-of-July weekend. The opener was a Friday-evening gig on June 29 in Cape Elizabeth at Fort Williams. The PSO musicians’ calendars for the next four nights read: Auburn, at Central Maine Technical College; Bridgton, Shawnee Peak; Saco, at Thornton Academy; and finally, South Portland, at the SMTC campus. The guest vocalist at the respective venues would be Bethann Renaud.

The programs included a mix of American popular and patriotic songs, marches, Broadway and movie music, and light classics. Ms. Renaud was set to sing George Gershwin’s Summertime from “Porgy and Bess”; Can’t Help Lovin’ Dat Man from “Showboat”, by Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein; and Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart’s Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered from “Pal Joey”. Narrations during the performances would include the reading of excerpts of the Declaration of Independence over Aaron Copland’s Choral Nocturne from “Rodeo”, directly leading into his Fanfare for the Common Man. The patriotic numbers included The Star-Spangled Banner; Katharine Lee Bates and Samuel A. Ward’s America the Beautiful; Irving Berlin’s God Bless America; and John Philip Sousa’s Washington Post March. A George M. Cohan Medley included the familiar tunes Grand Old Flag; Give My Regards to Broadway; Over There; and Yankee Doodle Boy. Film Music from “Independence Day” and sing-along Themes from “Sesame Street” , offered additional fun for concertgoers. The former was composed by David Arnold and the latter was an arrangement by Lee Norris. Other works on the program(s) were: William Schuman’s Chester from “New England Triptych”; Gershwin’s Overture from “Of Thee I Sing”; Morton Gould’s American Salute; and Kern/Hammerstein’s Smoke Gets in Your Eyes from “Roberta”; the Maine Stein Song; and Sousa’s The Stars and Stripes Forever. The shows concluded with Tchaikovsky’s “1812” Overture.

Following the opening Cape Elizabeth concert, the next-evening’s event in Auburn faced questionable weather conditions that were looming at 2:30 in the afternoon. However, the meteorologist who consulted for the PSO gave the green light to go ahead (HS:  They didn’t just listen to the radio or TV; they really did contract this summer with a meteorologist, for a reasonable sum [I saw a copy of his contract in an old file folder]). So the orchestra staff decided not to move the concert indoors. However, he was wrong with his forecast, and as the Sun Journal reported the next day, “At about 4:30 gusting winds blew down the expansive white tent that protects the orchestra from rain. Sound equipment was doused and would have had to be tested for damage.” There simply wasn’t enough time to move the concert indoors to the gymnasium of the Lewiston High School. Symphony officials notified the media sponsor, KISS radio, about the cancellation; however that station’s transmitter had been knocked out by the storm (the three local network TV stations did pass along the word to viewers). Unfortunately, not everyone got the news, and when thirty or so cars showed up before the scheduled concert time, the drivers were told about the cancellation.

The third scheduled concert, at Shawnee Peak near Bridgton, also had to be cancelled due to storms (HS: However, no article detailing why it wasn’t moved indoors has been spotted in the PSO Archives.) The Monday, July 2, Saco concert was moved indoors due to the PSO’s large tent being torn during strong winds earlier in the day. It was performed at the Thornton Academy gymnasium. This was the third consecutive Saco “Indy-Pops” concert forced inside. No newspaper clippings were found regarding any venue changes or cancelled concert at the fifth and final concert at the SMTC campus in South Portland, it appears as if this event did take place as scheduled.

An advertisement for the 2001 “Indy-Pops” concerts mentioned that tickets would include a discount coupon for a ticket to the later 2001-“ Magic of Christmas” concerts.

Also during July, on the 26th, 28th, and 30th, PORTopera performed Mozart’s “Le Nozze di Figaro”. Bruce Hangen conducted the performances at Merrill Auditorium, with many PSO musicians joining him in the pit.

A later-to-be-published P-H article by Christopher Hyde discussed a PSO situation that happened at about this point in time. The late-October report began, “As concert-goers may have realized, the Portland Symphony Orchestra has a new Interim Concertmaster, Charles Dimmick, the assistant concertmaster who is filling in for Lawrence Golan until a new permanent replacement is chosen. Auditions are expected to take place in January.” He continued by quoting PSO Musical Director and Conductor Toshiyuki Shimada, “He or she should be the best violinist available, able to stand up in front of the orchestra and play a major concerto very well.” Mr. Shimada also mentioned the importance of a selectee “to lead the violins and to develop good relations with the principals of other sections in the orchestra. Finally, he should have a musical philosophy similar to that of the conductor, so as to be able to serve as a translator (or expositor) of musical ideas.”

The newspaper report said that Mr. “Shimada will also be seeking a person who will become part of the Portland community, as Lawrence Golan did, helping young musicians and advancing the cause of music in general. A tall order, but Shimada is confident that it can be filled. There has already been a great deal of interest expressed in the position, including queries from some very accomplished violinists”, he reported Mr. Shimada as saying.

Prior to the 2001-2002 PSO Season, an endowment campaign titled “Securing the Legacy” was established, with a $6.25 million goal set to build reserves for three specific funds and the upcoming three annual fund drives. The first specific cache would be a $2 million Fund for Artistic Excellence. A brochure from that era informs that income from the fund would support the following activities: Assure outstanding artistic leadership for the Orchestra; Augment financial support for the Orchestra members; Increase (the number of) stringed instrument players; and Explore new directions, allowing the PSO to present new programs, contemporary music concerts, and festival projects.

The second cache planned was a $1.5 million Fund for Access to Live Orchestral Music. This was designed to: increase the number of KinderKonzerts; Provide more Youth Concerts; Increase access to and studies with the Professionals for high school and college students; Expand opportunities for distribution of tickets to PSO concerts; and to Develop new audiences by increasing the PSO’s offerings in Maine’s more rural regions.

The third planned cache was a $50,000 Fund for Innovations Through Technology, designed to: Enhance and expand the PSO’s Web site and to Produce new recordings. The final portion of the campaign was to gain pledges equivalent to produce $750,000 for the Annual Fund drives of 2001-2002, 2002-2003 and 2003-2004.

Eight new musicians joined the PSO this season.

A pre-season rehearsal schedule for the 2001-2002 season, saved by one of the musicians and lent to me for review, listed two early-in-the-season concerts that were not performed. Those were a Saturday evening Chamber Concert in a “Mid-Coast Site TBD”, followed by a repeat Sunday-afternoon performance at Merrill Auditorium. Debby Hammond, longtime “everything” with the PSO, reviewed her personal calendar for 2001, and reported that she could spot original “PSO” markings that had been erased for September 22 and 23. The likelihood is that the pair of concerts were postponed in the aftermath of the 9/11 World Trade Center terrorist attacks. (HS:  Since both a Haydn symphony and a Mozart symphony were listed on the rehearsal schedule for the two not-performed September dates...... works that the following April ended up being performed in  Rockland------, it’s my guess that the April gigs eventually replaced the originally-scheduled concerts.)

An article in the Press Herald reported that “On Sept. 29, the PSO led a line-up of some of the area’s top musical talent in a Concert for Remembrance and Healing, a benefit concert for (World Trade Center) terrorism victims and their families held at the Cumberland County Civic Center. The concert brought together the PSO and a chorus including the Choral Art Society and the University of Southern Maine Chorale and Chamber Singers. The event was attended by more than 4,000 people and raised $13,000 in voluntary donations for the United Way.” The newspaper added comments from the PSO music director, “”Most of the music we play. . . is written by great masters, is deep-felt music coming from their hearts,” PSO Music Director Shimada said. “At a time like this I think this music is more needed and I’m really happy we could offer it.” During the event, both Portland Mayor Cheryl Leeman and PSO President Karen Foster welcomed everyone to the concert, alternately speaking from the stage.

Works performed at this concert were: The Star-Spangled Banner; Aaron Copland’s Fanfare for the Common Man; Samuel Barber’s Adagio for Strings; Ralph Vaughan Williams’ O How Amiable, sung by the members of the Choral Art Society who were assisted by the USM and Chamber ensembles; Jeff Tyzik’s arrangement of Amazing Grace; Antonín Dvořák’s Psalm 23, sung by mezzo-soprano Margaret Yauger; Mr. Copland’s At the River from “Old American Songs”, sung by bass Malcolm Smith; the traditional Let there be Peace on Earth, sung by Laura Darrell; William Steffe’s Battle Hymn of the Republic,  a rendition involving the chorus; and Sir Edward Elgar’s orchestral work Nimrod from “Enigma Variations”. The emotion-filled concert concluded with the audience rising, and with voices raised, everyone in Merrill Auditorium combining during a medley of patriotic songs long familiar to all. The full ensemble then assisted concertgoers during the traditional My Country Tis of Thee, Irving Berlin’s God Bless America and Samuel Ward’s America the Beautiful.

A notable exchange of correspondence retained in PSO Archive files was between the PSO and officials of the charitable September 11th Fund in New York City established to aid victims and families of people killed in the World Trade Center terrorism attacks. The “9/11” organization positively cited the PSO for a $13,107 check, funds raised through voluntary contributions at the quickly-organized concert. The NYC officials expressed extra appreciation that the PSO “was one of the first organizations to make a major contribution” to the aid effort.

The PSO musicians, their colleagues at IATSE Local #114, A/V supplier Moonlighting Productions, and the staff at the Civic Center made gifts of their time to present this concert. The extraordinary aggregate gesture showed recognition of how the entire nation was feeling following the 9/11 attacks. WGME-TV broadcast the concert live, its efforts supported by area companies that contributed to cover the station’s programming costs.

The PSO’s 2001-2002 Season formally began on Tuesday, October 2, with a Classical Concert at Merrill Auditorium. The P-H reported that “this concert opened with The Star-Spangled Banner and the Aria from the Bach Suite No. 1, in memory of the great violinist and advocate of the arts, Isaac Stern”, who had died the previous month. “German Romantics” was the theme this evening, as the program called for Maestro Shimada to first bring down his baton with the Symphony performing Richard Wagner’s exultant Overture to Tannhäuser (Dresden Version), WWV 70, 1845. In his program notes for this concert, Mark Rohr noted that this overture “is a microcosm of the opera’s plot”, with –quoting Wagner’s words– “at the end ‘a rapturous torrent of sublime ecstasy’ “. The major work during the first half of the concert featured PSO principal bassoonist Janet Polk, performing Carl Maria von Weber’s highly melodic Concerto for Bassoon and Orchestra in F-Major, Op. 75, J 127. In addition to the Mozart Bassoon Concerto, this is one of the two concertos most often played in the bassoon repertoire. After the intermission the Orchestra played Arnold Schoenberg’s 1937 arrangement of Johannes Brahms’ romantic Piano Quartet in G minor, Op. 25, 1861. The PSO’s pre-season promotional brochure reminded subscribers about a “touch of Hungarian gypsy music” in this work. Janet Reeves was the PSO’s experienced keyboard principal during this era; however, no mention of her or any other pianist was made in the newspaper article. An extensive pre-concert treatise article about the bassoon alerted P-H readers to the then-upcoming concert. After the event, reviewer Christopher Hyde wrote that the Weber concerto was “charmingly played by principal bassoonist Janet Polk. She made the most of its tremendous range and was at ease in the rapid passage work Weber uses to show off its flexibility in the hands of a master. The orchestra supported Polk admirably.” Regarding the arrangement by the mind and pen of the oft-dreaded Schoenberg, the reporter wrote “I loved it, and so did a capacity audience which, after recovering from the stunning final movement, gave it a standing ovation.”

On Sunday afternoon, October 14, at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, Robert Russell conducted the Choral Art Singers with an orchestra comprised of more than a dozen PSO musicians. The theme of the event was “Eighteenth-Century Masters”, and works by Hans Leo Hassler, Johann Sebastian Bach, and Franz Joseph Haydn were performed. Seven soloists were featured, with the post-intermission segment of the concert totally comprised of a performance of Haydn’s Missa Cellensis in C. Earlier, the concert had begun with Ein Feste Burg ist Unser Gott works by the other two composers (the hymn setting by Hassler; and Beethoven’s motet – followed by cantata).

The season’s “Mozart & More” series got underway with a pair of concerts on Saturday and Sunday, October 20 & 21, the first of which was performed in Rockland at the high school auditorium (HS: The other, of course, at Merrill Auditorium.). On hand as guests were the members of the Daponte String Quartet, formed in Philadelphia in 1991, comprised of Julliard and Peabody artists who had originally come to Maine on a three year Rural Residency grant. The quartet, which moved to Maine in 1996, was named for the librettist Lorenzo da Ponte. The Daponte’s first violinist and a co-founder, Dean Stein, while researching scores at the renowned Mitchell Library in Glasgow, Scotland, had come across a concerto composed by prolific Czech composer Bohuslav Martinu. Years later (1915) he spoke of “instantly falling in love with the work ... I mentioned it to Toshi and he said ‘let’s do it’”, which led to the concerto and the quartet being included in the PSO’s 2001-2002 schedule. This season Mr. Shimada decided to feature women composers who although not always well known, he nonetheless considered “distinguished and important figures in the contemporary musical world. I hope you will enjoy them, and get to know them through their music”, he penned for his concert program feature, “From The Podium”. These two concerts were performed under the theme “Mozart and Daponte”, although presumably by unintentional oversight -- the concert program listing of works to be performed failed to specifically detail that the Daponte String Quartet would be accompanied by the PSO.

First up was Mozart’s Overture to “The Marriage of Figaro”, K. 492, 1786, the great master’s comic opera. Next was from the opera Mozart composed the following year, the Overture to “Don Giovanni”, K 527, 1787. Cuban-born Tania León’s Batá, 1985, was then featured, a work the program notes described as “refer(ing) to religious drums often used to accompany songs and dances of traditional Afro-Cuban festivals and rituals”. (HS: Googling reveals that the composer and conductor, Ms. León, was a founding member of the Dance Theatre of Harlem.) The Daponte String Quartet then performed with the PSO, undoubtedly pleasing the audiences with Martinů’s Concerto for String Quartet and Orchestra, 1931.

Following intermission, the chamber orchestra performed Mozart’s Overture to “Così fan tutte”, K. 588, 1790. The world premiere of Betty Beath’s Adagio for Strings, (Lament for Kosovo) was next up on the musicians’ stands. This work, originally written by the Australian for mandolin and later for piano, was changed by the composer since she “believed  the work needed the warmth and voice of strings to communicate the Lament for Kosovo but also for the suffering of those in the East Timor conflict”, wrote her publisher. The two “Mozart & More” programs concluded with Mozart’s Symphony No. 35 in D Major, K. 385 (“Haffner”), 1782.

Michigander Richard Ridenour, who Mr. Shimada referred to as “a piano man” specializing in ragtime, boogie, and blues, returned to Portland for the season’s opening Pops Concerts (HS: He had appeared at the Cumberland County Civic Center in 1996, and had been promised a return-engagement by the PSO maestro, so that his talents could be displayed at Merrill Auditorium.). His “bit” included displays of both musical and comedic talents, (HS: Press notices at the time referred to him as “The next Victor Borge”; his current [2013] website includes no such reference.) The program for a pair of week-end concerts, on  both Saturday and Sunday, October 27 & 28, included a broad array of piano-friendly pieces including works by Stravinsky, Shostakovich, Gershwin and Billy Joel, according to an advance article in the Press Herald (HS: Unfortunately, no post-concert article has been spotted.). The guest artist lent his musical and comedic talents to the Portland Symphony Orchestra this weekend as he joined  them in two performances of performances titled “Piano Pops”. The concert program listed Sir Edward Elgar’s Pomp and Circumstance, March No. 1 in D Major as the opening work. Although the program is not specific, it is likely that Mr. Ridenour then joined the Symphony for Igor Stravinsky’s Berceuse and Finale (from “The Firebird”). Piano works that followed were Eddy Duchin’s Brazil; the Edgar Winter Group’s rock instrumental, Frankenstein; Zez Confrey’s Rip-Roaring-Twenties hit, Nickel in the Slot; and George Gershwin’s Second Rhapsody (HS: Googling reveals that it is sometimes referred to by its original title, Rhapsody in Rivets.). During the first half of each concert, the PSO also performed Mr. Ridenour’s full-orchestra arrangement of Elton John’s Funeral for a Friend.

Following intermission, Mr. Ridenour and the Orchestra played the first movement of the Piano Concerto No. 2 in F major, Op. 102, by Dmitri Shostakovich. (HS: Googling reveals that this piece is considered somewhat “jovial”, likely a relative use of the word considering the composer’s penchant for somber and harsh compositions.) The guest artist then performed what the concert program listed as “Top 10 Piano Hits For Piano, as voted by a recent audience”. It’s likely a pretty sure bet that the specific “recent audience” was, in fact, the respective “two audiences” in attendance at the pair of concerts, and that Mr. Ridenour polled the crowd for suggestions...... and then displayed some amazing talents by performing on-the-spot medleys based on those surveys. The concerts concluded with excerpts from George Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue.

Two pairs of Youth Concerts were presented on the mornings of Monday and Tuesday, the 29th & 30th of October. The program is known, however the rehearsal-schedule information sheet retained in the PSO Archives does not indicate who conducted these four performances. Since Mr. Shimada was likely away during the just-prior weekend when Mr. Ridenour conducted and performed, it is logical to assume that the guest remained to oversee the youth events (HS: Also, the Youth Concert programs included several works performed at the weekend Pops concerts.). With a theme of “An Orchestral Time Machine”, segments of works performed included: Sir Edward Elgar’s Pomp and Circumstance, March No. 1 in D Major; Igor Stravinsky’s Berceuse and Finale (from “The Firebird”); Eddy Duchin’s Brazil; Elton John’s Funeral for a Friend; Dmitri Shostakovich’s Piano Concerto No. 2 (1st Movement); and Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5 (1st Movement).

The season’s next Classical Concert was on Tuesday evening, November 13. French pianist Jean-Phillipe Collard was guest soloist, performing Maurice Ravel’s 1931 Concerto for Piano and Orchestra in G Major, a dazzling composition infused with jazz idioms and harmonies. A Press Herald advance article about the concert (HS: No post-concert article has been located.) stated that “after the events of Sept. 11, Portland Symphony Orchestra maestro Toshi Shimada made a change to the program”. One of two works was deleted in remembrance of the September tragedy, replaced with Antonín Dvořák’s Symphony No. 9 in E minor, Op. 95, B. 178, popularly known as the New World Symphony which the Czech master composed on two visits to New York City. Often acerbic P-H reviewer Christopher Hyde wrote favorably, “It has been 10 years since the Portland Symphony last played Dvořák’s New World Symphony... ...but Tuesday’s performance at Merrill Auditorium sounded as if the orchestra had known every note since childhood.” He added, “The performance was virtually flawless from beginning to end... ...with the prize going to (soloist) Julianne Verret for her statement of the melody on the English horn. Both Ottorino Respighi’s majestic Fontane di Roma (Fountains of Rome) and also Ravel’s Rhapsodie espagnole were originally scheduled, with neither included when the Dvořák symphony was added. Shulamit Ran’s contemporary, and appropriately-titled, Vessels of Courage and Hope, already listed in the concert program, was performed.

The following weekend, two  concerts were performed, both PSO Pops!   The shows were at Merrill Auditorium, on Saturday and Sunday the 17th and 18th of November. The Manhattan Rhythm Kings were guests, noted as “legendary” by Mr. Shimada in his “From The Podium” column in the concert program. The trio was known for their polished performances of American popular music from the ‘20’s, ‘30’s and ‘40’s. The concerts’ theme was “Singin’ With The Manhattan Rhythm Kings”, and both opened with first halfs featuring the PSO. Josef Suk’s Toward A New Life, Op 35c, was the starter, followed by David Matthews’ arrangement of Hoagey Carmichael’s Stardust. Two extended medleys led to the intermission, this first titled Here Come the Bands, arranged by Lee Norris. It was comprised of the big-band numbers:  April in Paris ; Tangerine; Marie; Flying Home; Woodchoppers Ball and I Had The Craziest Dream. Sending everyone to the lobby for a break was Robert Wendel’s creative arrangement of When TV Was Young, featuring themes from Dragnet; Alfred Hitchcock Presents; The Honeymooners; The Lone Ranger; I Love Lucy; and wrapping up with a number titled N-B-C.

The Manhattan Rhythm Kings joined with the PSO for the entire second half of both of these Pops concerts, starting off with original trio member Michael Reeder’s The Rhythm King. A 1920s medley was next, consisting of Yes Sir, That’s My Baby; Five Foot Two; and Bye Bye Blues. Mr. Reeder’s arrangement of H. Eugene Gifford’s Smoke Rings then shifted into the old Matty Malneck classic, Snug as a Bug in a Rug. A Reeder arrangement of Harold Arlen’s The Jitterbug set up an arrangement of George Gershwin numbers, the Crazy For You Medley, consisting of Nice Work if You Can Get It; Shall We Dance; Bidin’ My Time; Slap That Bass; Embraceable You; Real American Folk Song; and I Got Rhythm. The old Harry Warren tune, Nagasaki, set up another old hit, The Glow Worm, originally by Germany’s Paul Linke (HS: The original 1902 title, Das Glühwürmchen, is a lot more fun to try to pronounce. If only I could do it without laughing at myself for always getting my tongue tied.). Fred Astaire’s The Afterbeat likely produced some entertaining “hoofing” by the trio, as also probably did the Shane/Sturrock arrangement of Me and Myself. The concert program listed Harry Warren’s Shanghai Lil as the final number, from the 1933 film “Footlight Parade”,  starring James Cagney, Joan Blondell, Ruby Keeler, Dick Powell (HS:  WOW!  What a cast of Big Names!!). While certainly largely just entertainment for entertainment’s sake, this pair of concerts likely was fun for Portland audiences in attendance.

Three Choral Art Society Christmas at the Cathedral Concerts were performed on Saturday (evening) and Sunday (2:30 and 7pm) at Portland’s Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception. The Portland Brass Quintet, comprised of five PSO members, participated in each of these concerts. The quintet and the chorus combined to perform the world premiere of the festive Christus natus hodie, a work commissioned by the Society as part of the group’s 30th-anniversary celebrations that year. USM Associate Professor of Music, Scott Harris, was the composer.

The PSO’s concerts for calendar 2001 once-again concluded with 14 “Magic of Christmas” performances. Portland Municipal Organist Ray Cornils treated those arriving early to programs consisting of Hark, The Herald Angels; Gerald Near’s arrangement of the traditional Welsh lullaby, Suo Gân; Marcel Dupre’s arrangement of In dulci Jubilo; J. Wayne Kerr’s The Shepherd’s Noel; Timothy Albrecht’s arrangement of Angels We Have Heard on High; David Lasky’s A Suite of Carols; Dennis Janzer’s Fanfare and Toccata on Joy to the World, and Adophe Adam’s O Holy Night. In addition to the majestic tones from the Kotzschmar Memorial Organ, also helping concertgoers slip into a comfortable mood for each concert was a harp prelude by sisters Megan and Meridith Bolton, ages 18 and 15, from Kennebunk.

Music Director Shimada brought audiences to attention with Leroy Anderson’s A Christmas Festival. Broadway star George Merritt, guest bass soloist, then sang Immanuel by Michael Card, followed by a violin duet of Kelsey Blumenthal and Angela Doxsey,  playing Franz Schubert’s Ave Maria. Experienced Broadway notable Rebecca Judd, who began her career with the Maine State Music Theater, used her mezzo-soprano voice and theatrical talents in a rendition of Richard Rodgers’ My Favorite Things, from ‘The Sound of Music”. While a P-H review of the concerts failed to mention any specific dancers in the show, the Symphony musicians helped stimulate thoughts of imaginary dancers with Selections from “The Nutcracker”, by Tchaikovsky. Played were Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy; Trepak; Dance of the Reed Flutes; and Waltz of the Flowers. Press Herald reviewer Hyde reported that during the last movement  “the orchestra was conducted with great elan by a little blonde girl in dark green velvet known only as ‘Elizabeth’. Her bow to the audience was so deep that she almost rolled off the podium, and she was rewarded by Shimada with a conductor’s baton.” Ms. Judd and Mr. Merritt then combined to sing the traditional  Angels We Have Heard on High, from a 1952 arrangement by Steven Rosenhaus. After the PSO performed Nicolai Rimsky-Korsakov’s Polonaise, from the Christmas Eve,  director Judith Quimby’s Magic of Christmas Chorus sang Handel’s Hallelujah, from “The Messiah”, arranged by Ebenezer Prout.

A pre-season PSO promotional brochure included mention of a “PSO Brass Ensemble” at this year’s “Magic of Christmas” concerts. The program-listing page handed to concertgoers did not credit any such-named group insofar as any of the works to be performed. Likely the ensemble was a group of PSO regulars who were combined for a particular segment of a number, or most likely a small trio or quartet who serenaded audiences in the lobby before, during intermissions, and after the respective concert performances.

Following intermission, the two soloists and the chorus sang David Schwoebel’s arrangement of Felix Mendelssohn’s Hark, The Herald Angels Sing. The soloists joined in a rendition of Rudolph, the Red Nosed Reindeer, accompanied by the audience in a sing-a-long, after which the Symphony played the Evening Prayer and Dream Pantomime “Hansel and Gretel”, by Engelbert Humperdinck. The chorus, aided by Mr. Cornils at the organ, sang a Javier Busto arrangement of Ave Maria, which Mr. Hyde unfavorably compared to the earlier version performed by the violin soloists, preferring the work played by the youngsters. Ms. Judd very much pleased the ear of the reviewer in a Robert Sadin-arranged rendition of John Jacob Niles I Wonder as I Wander, which he rated “outstanding”. Mr. Merritt, assisted by the chorus, sang a Jack Schrader arrangement of the spiritual, Go Tell It!   It was the Symphony’s turn this year to treat the audience to Irving Berlin’s White Christmas, playing the Carman Dragon version. Jerry Herman’s The Best Christmas of All was performed by the two Broadway soloists, supported by both the PSO and the chorus. This led to the traditional “Magic of Christmas” Sing-A-Long, featuring Joy to the World; Silent Night; Jingle Bells; Deck the Halls; and O Come All Ye Faithful.

The concerts approached respective conclusions with a work by the same composer who wrote the opening number, Leroy Anderson. The PSO’s traditional seasonal hit, Sleigh Ride, was the near-finale, during which (the P-H reported) the orchestra  members were “in funny hats playing a jazzed-up version.” The audience joined the PSO and the full ensemble in a closing of We Wish You a Merry Christmas. The newspaper article also closed with a warm positive, “This is the kind of event that demonstrates how indispensable live music is for two senses – hearing and the sense of community.”

The P-H article also favorably commented that “The decorations this year were beautifully understated, with fabric angels on high and a shimmering backdrop that was either gold or a leafy forest out of a painting by Gustav Klimt, depending on the lighting.” Final total attendance at all the “Magic” performances once again declined from the level of the previous season, off about 3 percent.

With Lawrence Golan absent from the Portland area and busily engaged in his new teaching duties in Colorado, the Portland Ballet Company this year did not rent Merrill Auditorium for productions of its annual holiday ballet spectacular. Instead of at least one performance with a live orchestra, the PBC relied on recorded music of Tchaikovsky’s great work and performed a series of “Victorian Nutcracker” events at The Maine Dance Center.


2002       On Tuesday evening, January 15, the PSO’s 2001-2002 Classical Season resumed. On hand as soloist during a concert with the theme, “Over Scotland’s Highlands”, was local Portland bagpiper Michael Crosby. Franz von Suppé’s 1844 Morning, Noon and Night in Vienna Overture put everyone in a Scotland-related mood (HS: Sure it did...... but never-you-mind, for that work opened the concert.). Aaron Jay Kernis’ Musica Celestis, composed in 1990, was next. The notes in the concert program advised that this work was “an expansion of the second movement of his String Quartet, composed for the Lark Quartet.” Mark Rohr’s notes also stated that “This slow movement was inspired by the medieval notion of the angels in heaven singing in praise of God without end”. Mr. Crosby then joined with Mr. Shimada at center stage of Merrill Auditorium, for a performance of Peter Maxwell Davies’ An Orkney Wedding, with Sunrise, composed in 1984 for John Williams and the Boston Pops. P-H reviewer Hyde thought this “a modern piece that is easy for a traditional audience to enjoy”. He described a section of the work that musically portrays “wedding musicians having drunk too much whisky”, reporting that “The orchestra had fun with the tipsy scenes and even drew a few laughs from the audience.” It was during this work that Mr. Crosby marched into Merrill Auditorium from a side door, playing his pipes with “great dignity and elan”, said the reviewer. At the conclusion of the piece, he obliged the audience with some traditional encores. (HS:  A peek at the PSO’s service  with the piper shows that he was compensated $350 for his performance. While nice, that’s “little-league” pay versus the $11,000 fee paid to pianist French pianist Jean-Phillipe Collard for his November appearance [yep, I peeked at his deal, too]. Ah, well....... the French always seem to win out in the end.)

There can be no argument with the authenticity, Scotland-wise, of the work comprising the entire second half of the concert. Music Director Toshi Shimada led the Portland Symphony Orchestra in Felix Mendelssohn’s 1842 Symphony No. 3 (“Scottish”) in A minor, Op. 56. The newspaper critic criticized some of the PSO’s performance of this work, writing “The orchestra sounded a little ‘thin’ in the opening movements... ...but the finale more than made up for any deficiencies.”

“Mozart & More”, this time “At The Keyboard” (HS: That was the theme title.) was back in both Rockland and Portland during the weekend of January 26 & 27 (HS: A second source listed Crosby Auditorium in Belfast instead of Rockland.). A short pre-concert Press Herald article hit the highlights. “A 40-piece orchestra – a subset of the 80-piece Portland Symphony Orchestra – will join music director and conductor Toshiyuki Shimada on Sunday afternoon as he leads them in ‘Mozart at the Keyboard,’ a program of works written for the smaller orchestra. Joining them will be guest piano soloist Michiko Otaki, born in Japan and a resident of the United States since 1977. Otaki will be featured in one of Mozart’s more celebrated works, Piano Concerto No. 25 in C Major, K. 503, which makes great dramatic use of the minor keys. Also on the program are La Novella D’inverno (‘Winter’s Tale’) for Strings by Marta Ptaszynska and (Johannes) Brahms’ Serenade No. 2 in A minor, Op. 16.” (HS:  Mark the Brahms work as being in A Major........ [although the P-H didn’t do so].)

Leonid Grin, Music Director of the San Jose Symphony Orchestra in California, was guest conductor at the February 5 Classical Concert. (HS:  The PSO’s pre-season brochure had heralded that Uruguayan Carlos Kalmar, the music director of the Vienna Tonkünstler-Orchester, “hailed as sensitive and expressive”, would guest-conduct at this performance. When Mr. Kalmar became a finalist for the music director’s chair at the Oregon Symphony and was asked to perform there this evening [He got the job!], Mr. Shimada had less than nine weeks to find a replacement, quickly inviting Mr. Grin to appear in his stead.) Mr. Grin conducted a program with the theme “Journeys Of The Mind” that was considerably altered from the one set earlier by Mr. Kalmar, retaining only Robert Schumann’s challenging Symphony No. 2 in C Major, Op. 61. A performance of Josef Haydn’s Symphony No. 49 in F minor (“La Passione”), Hoboken 1/49 began the concert (HS: Haydn’s Symphony No. 48 had been set by Mr. Kalmar.). Finnish composer Einojuhani Rautavaara’s three-movement Cantus Arcticus (subtitled Concerto for Birds and Orchestra) concluded the first half of the program. Googling reveals that it “incorporates tape recordings of birdsong recorded near the Arctic Circle and on the bogs of Liminka in northern Finland. (HS: The pre-season PSO brochure had listed 29-year-old Michael Hersch’ Ashes of Memory, which the Rautavaara work replaced. Researching the PSO Archives does not indicate that it was later performed by the PSO.) P-H reviewer Christopher Hyde wrote that a “truly exciting rendition of the final allegro (of the Schumann symphony) drew a standing ovation from the near capacity audience”. The headline above his article read, “Guest conductor elicits boffo performance from PSO”. -----A fun aside: in a short pre-concert article about this concert, the P-H’s Elizabeth Brogan challenged readers to, “ten times fast”, say “Einojuhani Rautavaara”.

An interesting aspect about the “orchestra business” was spotted in the PSO Archive files pertaining to this concert. When Mr. Kalmar pulled out of his agreement to conduct and Mr. Grin stepped in, the program was changed. As a result, the PSO required 8 fewer musicians, each of whom had been contracted to play. All eight were excused, but still paid in full. Were this to occur now (2013), the cost hit to the PSO would be in excess of $4000. (HS: Ouch.)

The Press Herald published a pre-concert article prior to a pair of Pops Concerts on Saturday and Sunday, February 9 & 10. The newspaper reported that “The Portland Symphony Orchestra has nabbed a big name to lead the season’s third Pops concert, ‘Giants of Broadway,’ with performances this weekend. Musical director of New York’s Radio City Music Hall, Donald Pippin is a well-known Broadway conductor and pianist. Joined by Broadway star Christiane Noll, Pippin and the PSO will present show tunes by George Gershwin, Leonard Bernstein, Duke Ellington, Andrew Lloyd Webber and other Broadway greats.” The PSO pre-season promotional brochure listed works planned to be performed at this concert. That list consisted of: Marvin Hamlisch’s “A Chorus Line” Overture; Lionel Bart’s As Long As He Needs Me from “Oliver”; Jule Styne’s Suite from “The Red Shoes”; Jerry Herman’s Song on the Sand from “La Cage aux Folles”; The Duke Ellington Suite; Bernstein on Broadway; George Gershwin’s S’Wonderful; Jerome Kern Fantasy; Alan Menken’s Beauty and the Beast; Claude-Michel Schönberg’s Bring Him Home from “Les Misérables”; Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Suite from “Phantom of the Opera”; and Mr. Herman’s International Dolly from “Hello Dolly”. While no newspaper review of this concert has been located, it is hard to imagine that these two Pops concerts left concertgoers with anything but delight!

The next PSO Classical Concert was performed on Tuesday, February 26. Two “Unfinished Masterworks” (HS: The theme title for the concert.) comprised the entire program. Franz Schubert’s Symphony No. 7 in B minor, D. 759 (“Unfinished”) was performed during the first half of the evening. After intermission, Maestro Shimada conducted the Portland Symphony Orchestra in Deryck Cooke’s reconstruction of Gustav Mahler’s unfinished five movement Symphony No. 10 in F-sharp Major. The PSO’s pre-season brochure noted this work as “Seen as the only accurate expression of the composer’s intentions by Mahler’s widow.” The Press Herald’s Christopher Hyde after the concert wrote that the Symphony did “a good job” playing the Schubert work, and “performed brilliantly up to and beyond the limits of endurance” with the Mahler. He concluded his article by adding that Maestro “Shimada was given a standing ovation by the myriad of Mahler fans in the audience.” (HS:  Frankly, I am  not sure what he intended using such phrasing, but I think it was complimentary.)

In early March the Boston Pops appointed former PSO music director and conductor Bruce Hangen that group’s first-ever principal pops guest conductor in the ensemble’s 117-year history.

“Mozart & More” concerts in both Rockland at Camden Hills High School high school auditorium and also at Merrill Auditorium, were performed on Saturday and Sunday, March 9 & 10 (HS: A second source lists Camden Hills High School Auditorium instead of in Rockland.) The theme was “Mozart and Masonic Music”, reflecting the fact that the great composer was a dedicated Freemason, composing his Masonic Funeral Music (performed at these concerts) for the Viennese lodge where he and Josef Haydn were members. Hillary Tann’s Water’s Edge was performed, a musical descriptive metaphor of light reflecting off and through the water’s surface. Another woman composer’s work was also played at these concerts, Nancy Van de Vate’s Gema Jawa (“Echoes of Java”), a meditation on the pentatonic sounds of folk music from Indonesia, where she lived for several years. The other Mozart composition on these two programs was his Serenade No. 7 in D Major (“Haffner”), celebrating the wedding of the Salzburg burgermeister’s sister in 1776. (HS: Much of the foregoing is taken from the PSO’s pre-season promotional brochure.)

“Sail Forth” was the theme chosen by Mr. Shimada for the PSO’s Classical Concert on Tuesday, March 19. Featured at the season’s sixth classical concert were just two works, Beethoven’s Symphony No. 7 in A Major, Op. 92, and Ralph Vaughan Williams’ Symphony No. 1 (“A Sea Symphony”). Guest soloists this evening were soprano Ellen Chickering and baritone Leon Williams, formerly of the Boys Choir of Harlem. Merrill Auditorium’s acoustics were also tested by the more-than-100-voice Choral Art Masterworks Chorus directed by Robert Russell. The PSO’s pre-season promotional brochure described Beethoven’s “magnificent Seventh, infused with powerful emotional vitality and sweeping waves of relentless rhythms, (as a work that) will exhilarate the listener”. As for the Vaughan Williams work, the brochure referred to this “haunting, evocative setting of Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass” as describing “the moods and images of the sea”. Press Herald reviewer Christopher Hyde, however, while liking “the symphony very much” wrote that it was “a bit too overwhelming, in terms of both length and grandiosity”. He cited too much repetition of sections of the work, obviously not a criticism of the soloists or Dr. Russell’s chorus. Nonetheless, the performance of the Sea Symphony was followed by a standing ovation. Mr. Hyde found the concert-opening presentation of the Beethoven symphony to be a “rousing performance” by the PSO.

At a pair of Pops Concerts on Saturday and Sunday, April 6th & 7th, a special full-length concert performance of Stephen Sondheim’s “A Little Night Music” gave Portlanders a chance to enjoy a top-hit show that had won six Tony Awards. Included among those awards were Best Musical and Best Score. Its title is a literal translation of the German name for Mozart’s Serenade No. 13 for strings in G major, Eine kleine Nachtmusik. The two concerts featured Broadway legend Mark Jacoby, who had played the role of “Phantom” in NYC for more than two years, and had previously teamed with the PSO in concert productions of “Brigadoon”, “West Side Story” and “The Sound of Music”. (HS: In an advance article, the P-H reminded readers that he was “an alum of the Maine State Music Theatre”.) Another nationally-experienced vocalist in the cast was Florence Lacey, who had performed as “Evita” more than 3000 times. Several local performers also had prominent roles at these Pops concerts, including Laura Darrell, who sang in the year 2000’s “Magic of Christmas” performances. Also well known by Maine audiences were contralto Jocelyn Pollard, baritone Tony Correia, mezzo Marie Auger Dittmer, tenor Joshua Graves, soprano Jaye Churchill, mezzo Bethann Renaud, soprano Karen Stickney, mezzo Jennifer Manzi, soprano Susan Beem, baritone Peter Allen, Timothy Bate young Paul Drinan, who had often played the role of Oliver. The Portland effort was directed by Brian P. Allen, who had previously directed four other productions with the PSO.

Mr. Sondheim’s “Night Music” is considered a masterpiece of melody, with all of its lush, romantic songs in waltz tempo. The Symphony first performed the show’s Overture and also Night Waltz. During the remainder of the first half, the soloists rotated through presentations of Now; Later; Soon; The Glamourous Life; Remember; You Must Meet My Wife; Liaisons; In Praise of Women; Every Day a Little Death; and A Weekend in the Country. After intermission the show resumed with singing of The Sun Won’t Set; It Would Have Been Wonderful; Perpetual Anticipation; Send in the Clowns; and The Miller’s Son. The entire company joined in the show’s Finale.

Office files retained in the PSO Archives reveal that production and performance of these two concerts was a major financial undertaking for the organization, with final costs coming in substantially above early estimates. Compounding the cost issue was the discovery, less than two months before the performances, that the instrumentation required for the rented score was “much smaller than originally expected, resulting in dismissal-from-contracted-services-with-pay notices being sent to 12 PSO musicians. This expense, alone, probably cost the PSO close to $7000. (HS: Ouch#2!) A memo indicates that involvement of a theatrical director was done with the hope that, if “Night Music” was successful then additional concert musicals could be presented in coming seasons.

The following two mornings, Monday  on Tuesday, April 8 & 9, were busy for Mr. Shimada and the Symphony musicians. Pairs of Youth Concerts for students bused to Merrill Auditorium were performed each day. Benjamin Britten’s 1946 composition, Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra, Op. 34, was the featured work. Laura Darnell narrated. Also on the program were: Franz von Suppé’s Light Cavalry Overture; Charles Gounod’s Petite Symphony, Op. 216; Leo Arnaud’s Bugler’s Dream from “The Charge Suite”, (HS: Used as the theme by television networks presenting the Olympic Games in the United States.); and Henry Purcell’s 1695 Rondeau from Abdelazer (“The Moor’s Revenge”) Suite II, Z. 570 (HS: It is likely that excerpts from some or all of these works were played, due to available time restrictions.). In addition, as often occurred at the student concerts, four respective sectional “demonstrations” were also on the program. Since he was conducting other PSO concerts near these two dates, Mr. Shimada likely conducted these concerts for students.

An interesting memo from about this time was spotted in an office file retained in the PSO Archives. It informed the musicians that although local schools and media sources would continue to be told that the start-times of Youth concerts were 9:30 and 11:10. However, due to the fact that continual occurrences of  “up to 1000 children trying to get into the hall after concerts had begun is disruptive both for the students and the orchestra.”. As a result, as far as the musicians were concerned, in the future they should plan on respective start times of 9:35 and 11:15. From that point onward, the musicians’ “service calls” going forward would be 9:35 to 12:05, including a break between the two concerts.

The final “Mozart & More” concerts of the PSO’s  2001-2002 season, title-themed “Mozart and Haydn”, were presented on the weekend of Saturday and Sunday, April 13th and 14th. The orchestra’s pre-season promotional brochure listed Rockland as the venue for the first performance, and a September “Mid-Coast Site TBD” was also included in the pre-season schedule sent to musicians. (HS:  Various sources had indicated that similarly-set earlier M&M concerts in the region had been in both Camden and Belfast..... so this concert may also have been re-set elsewhere.). The Sunday performance was at Merrill Auditorium. (HS:  The pre-season promotional brochure had listed one of the works to be performed as Condordanza by Sofia Gubaidulina, born in the Soviet Union’s Tatar Republic. The brochure credited the award-winning composer as often exploring and improvising her works to employ Russian, Caucasian and Asian folk instruments, stimulating “powerful, rhythmic compositions. However, later left-unexplained events resulted in this work not being performed.) On the programs instead, was Jean Sibelius’ 1903 delightfully-gentle, lilting Valse Triste (“Sad Waltz”) from Kuolema, Op. 44, No. 1. (HS:  A second originally-scheduled work that also was not performed at this concert was Alfred Schnittke’s Moz-Art à la Haydn, a “comic duel between the two friends.) Completing the first half of the pair of concerts was Josef Haydn’s Symphony No. 100 in G Major (“Military”), Hoboken I/100. After intermission Maestro Shimada led the PSO’s M&M chamber musicians in a performance of Mozart’s vigorous and cheerful Symphony No. 39 in E-flat Major, K. 543. If any newspaper review of these concerts is located, some quotations may be added to this paragraph.

The final Classical Concert of the season was performed on Tuesday, April 30. The pre-season brochure had listed a theme, “Slavic Passions”. However, whereas most concert programs would normally include theme titles on program-contents pages, no title was displayed this evening. The concert was scheduled to begin with 1993 Pulitzer Prize-winning Christopher Rouse’s 2000 “unabashedly joyful” composition, Rapture. A pre-season PSO brochure had described the work as “Beginning slowly, the music gradually increases in tempo, ending in a whirl of prestissimo sound.” (HS:  Notations on a program saved by Elise Straus-Bowers reveal that this work was not performed, a fact hinted at since a pre-concert P-H article stated that “On the program Tuesday evening is the Colas Breugnon Overture by Kabalevsky”.) A  work confirmed as performed by several sources  as completing the first half was Antonín Dvořák’s popular Violin Concerto in A minor, Op. 53 (B.108), featuring soloist William Preucil, concertmaster of the Cleveland Orchestra. The concert, as well as the PSO’s full 2001-2002 season, concluded with Music Director Shimada conducting a performance of Tchaikovsky’s five-movement Symphony No. 3 in D Major (“Polish”), Op. 29. (HS:  Once again, no newspaper articles about these concerts have been located in the PSO Archives.)

This year, the display case beneath the bust of Hermann Kotzschmar in Merrill Auditorium was restored with another baton and manuscript, during the 90th anniversary celebrations for the Kotzschmar Memorial Organ.

Peter Haynes is elected to what would become two terms as PSO President.

The PSO’s Fiscal Year 2002 P&L reports showed a net loss of more than $140,000. With the Symphony organization once again unable to achieve sufficient contributions and generate ticket sales high enough to offset total costs, the effect was that Greater-Portland community benefitted from the fact that these losses partially subsidized each regular-season and summer-series concert. Obviously, such “generosity” couldn’t continue indefinitely, for at some point total costs would need to be matched or exceeded by total revenues--- or else accumulated deficits would exhaust the financial equity of the PSO.

For a long time during the drafting of this THINGS-PSO, the PSO Archives yielded no information regarding 4th-of-July “Independence Pops” concerts this summer. All that time a framed award-winning poster advertising three such events hung on a wall of the Portland Symphony Orchestra’s Monument Square offices. It spectacularly lists music-and-pyrotechnic celebrations, respectively at Thornton Academy in Saco on the 1st, Fort Williams Park in Cape Elizabeth on the 2nd, and at Bridgton’s Shawnee Peak on Wednesday evening the 3rd. The theme was “Let Freedom Ring”, featuring patriotic tunes. Shown as included on the concerts were, Aaron Copland’s Lincoln Portrait, and Tchaikovsky’s “1812” Overture. The Chorus of the Portland Opera Repertory Theatre was also credited to be on hand to perform some numbers (HS: Later info revealed that they were on hand to promote productions of their own, scheduled for later in the summer, and the topic of a paragraph following the next several that are also about the “Indy Pops” concerts.) and to give encouragement to concertgoers during an audience sing-along that included America, the Beautiful and This Land is Your Land. The later information revealed that the Chorus sang Make My Garden Grow from “Candide”, and the Battle Hymn of the Republic – with the original words.

Eventually a handwritten list of works set to be performed turned up in an operations file, showing that the following were likely also performed:  Mr. Copland’s Fanfare for the Common Man; John Philip Sousa’s The  Stars and Stripes Forever; John Williams’ Music from “Superman” and also Music from “State Fair”, the latter written by Rogers and Hammerstein; Leonard Bernstein’s Overture to “Candide”; Rogers and Hammerstein’s You’ll Never Walk Alone from “Carousel”; and a traditional Military Medley of the official songs of the respective U.S. armed services.

In that same file was a Press Herald article about the Saco concert, by Christopher Hyde. The report referred to John Williams’ Song of World Peace, over which actor Michael Kimball would read the Declaration of Independence (he was also to narrate the work about Abraham Lincoln). The reviewer wrote that Saco Mayor Bill Johnson was pressed into service and handled the readings there since Mr. Kimball became ill. (HS: It is not clear if his illness prevented only a Saco appearance, nor if other notables did the narrations in the other venues.) He also reported that the PSO under Mr. Shimada “really hit its stride” in the Copland fanfare. He described “The 1812” as “stirring as usual”.

The audience in Saco this year had a “special treat” from the weatherman. After three years of their “Indy Pops” being rained indoors, this 2002 event was performed at the Thornton Academy stadium and the fireworks display was set off as planned!

Also during this month were the two PORTopera performances, of  Charles Gounod’s “Faust”, on the 25th & 27th, conducted at Merrill Auditorium by Bruce Hangen. This would mark Mr. Hangen’s 8th-and-final  summer conducting PORTopera productions, an organization for which he had also served as Artistic Director (HS:  He left the company to pursue his many interests in Boston and elsewhere.). Dona D. Vaughn, PORTopera’s stage director from the start in 1995,  was named Artistic Director in his place. She had directed every mainstage production for the company and continues (2013) to fill the role of Stage Director.

Six violinists joined the PSO at the beginning of the 2002-2003 season, including Sasha Callahan – who currently (2014) continues to be a PSO-er as Assistant Principal second violin. At the time of her joining the Symphony, she had recently completed her masters degree in violin performance at Boston University. Among the others becoming PSO-ers at the start of the 2002-2003 season, Elena Hirsu, who does not currently continue with the PSO, was named assistant concertmaster, filling the position vacated by Charles Dimmick who then had recently been promoted to concertmaster.

Beginning with the traditional drumroll of The Star-Spangled Banner, the Portland Symphony Orchestra opened its 2002-2003 season on Saturday evening, September 21, with a special concert at Merrill Auditorium celebrating universal brotherhood. The musicians were joined by The Portland Symphony Orchestra Chorus, Portland municipal organist Ray Cornils, and four vocalists in a performance of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 in D Minor (“The Choral”), Op. 125. The vocal soloists were soprano Sarah Griffith, mezzo-soprano Margaret Yauger, tenor Ray Bauwens, and bass Malcolm Smith. The other work on the program was Samuel Barber’s Toccata Festiva, written in 1960 for the inauguration of a new organ at the Academy of Music in Philadelphia. A musicologist in Los Angeles wrote that “it is not only vividly festive for the organ, but powerfully soulful with its simple Americana-like melodies in the strings and winds.” Including this composition on the program, Music Director Shimada provided chances for both the Kotzschmar Memorial Organ and Mr. Cornils to shine.

Immediately following the concert, many PSO patrons joined together at a Champagne ”Founder’s Night” Gala to celebrate the announcement of the first two endowed orchestra chairs, respectively principal oboe and principal cello, to commemorate the longtime services of Clinton Graffam, Jr. and Katherine Graffam, to the Portland Symphony Orchestra. Tickets for both the concert and the Gala were $100 per person.

One source in the PSO Archives referenced a “PSO Open House” on Saturday, October 5. (HS: At this moment [August, 2013] as the drafting of THINGS-PSO is underway, I have zero recollection of where this reference was spotted; -- sorry.) No specifics about exactly what it was, whether a concert or a Showcase fund-raiser, have been located. However, an internet-search of the Portland Library articles-data-base connected to a server at the University of Maine, using the key words “October 5 PSO 2002” returned 29 so-called “results”, none of which were useful in providing information about any such concert. (HS:  One “result” was titled “Performance of Some Metaheuristic Algorithms for Multiuser Detection in TTCM-Assisted Rank-Deficient SDMA-OFDM System”. I assure you that I read every word....... and understood none.)

The PSO’s formal Classical Series season opener was on Tuesday, October 8. Illustrious and acclaimed international pianist Misha Dichter was the guest soloist. Before he came on stage, a composition by Bowdoin College Professor Elliott Schwartz was premiered. (HS: The following summer, with the Moravian Philharmonic Orchestra in the Czech Republic, Mr. Shimada would record this work.) Later in the season the PSO would also premiere works by two other nationally-recognized Maine composers. Titled Voyager, this evening’s premiere was a musical impression of places Mr. Schwartz had lived or visited. The prize-winning Mr. Dichter, whose four-decade-long career had him performing with all the world’s major orchestras, joined the Orchestra for a performance of Sergei Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 2 in C Minor, Op. 18. After intermission, the Symphony was led by maestro Shimada in a performance of Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 4 in F minor, Op. 36.

The first of three Sunday Classical Concerts to be performed this season was presented on October 20 (HS: The well-worn “Mozart & More” title had been put to rest, as in earlier years so had the chamber-series titles “Cathedral”, “Candlelight”, and “Symphony at the State”.). This afternoon’s Merrill soirée involved a chamber orchestra, and opened with Henry Purcell’s Incidental Music from “The Old Bachelor”, Z. 607 (HS:  All segments of the nine-movement composition were performed.). Mozart’s festive Symphony No. 34 in C Major, K. 338, then preceded the intermission. In the second half, the audience returned to enjoy a performance of Richard Strauss’ Serenade in E-flat Major, Op. 7, composed when the prodigy was only 17 years old. Melodic and lyrical, the work is in sonata-form. Concluding the concert was Tchaikovsky’s Suite No. 4 in G Major, Op. 61 (“Mozartiana”), composed as a tribute to Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart on the 100th anniversary of that composer’s opera “Don Giovanni”.

A pre-concert Press Herald article about this concert stated that “Featured during the program is the new orchestra concertmaster, Charles Dimmick”, who had been selected to succeed Lawrence Golan.

The season’s first pair of PSO Pops! Concerts were performed on Saturday and Sunday, October 26 & 27, at Merrill Auditorium. Celebrated was the 100th Anniversary of the birth of Richard Rodgers. Five popular area vocalists were on hand to sing the lyrics of the two noted collaborators with whom the legendary composer had worked, Lorenz Hart and Oscar Hammerstein II. The singers were Timothy Bate, Susan Beem, Kelly Caufield, Jaye Churchill and Bethann Renaud. The ensemble was directed by Brian P. Allen. (HS: Some wandering/Googling by yours truly about Richard Rodgers revealed that the son of a prominent physician in NYC’s Borough of Queens, he spent his early teenage summers in Camp Wigwam, in Waterford, where he composed some of his first songs.. Hey! How’bout-that!!)

The Symphony, under Toshi Shimada, opened the program with the Overture from “On Your Toes”. Then the hits began to flow. The first group was from Rodgers & Hart’s “Babes in Arms”:  My Funny Valentine; The Lady is a Tramp; Johnny One Note; and Where or When. The Symphony then played the Overture from “Pal Joey”. Next, from “The Boys from Syracuse”, the vocalists sang:  What Can You Do With a Man?; Fallin in Love with Love; This Can’t Be Love; and Sing for Your Supper. The Orchestra concluded the first half with Slaughter on Tenth Avenue from “On Your Toes”.

After intermission, the PSO kicked things off with a Suite from “State Fair”. This was followed with two numbers from “Oklahoma”--,  I Can’t Say No and then Kansas City. Mr. Shimada then led the Symphony in a grand orchestral work from Mr. Rodgers’ neighborhood of winners, Guadalcanal March from “Victory at Sea”. Next were I Enjoy Being a Girl from “Flower Drum Song”; Step Sister Lament from “Cinderella”; and My Girl Back Home from “South Pacific”. Three numbers from “The King and I” were March of the Siamese ChildrenSomething Wonderful and the always-happy Getting to Know You. The entire company joined in singing There is Nothing Like a Dame from “South Pacific”, with the Symphony concluding each of the two concerts with Symphonic Portrait from “The Sound of Music”. It’s likely that everyone in the audiences went home thinking that everything was O K !!

On Tuesday, November 12, PSO Tuesday-Classical subscribers returned to Merrill Auditorium to enjoy music featuring Curtis and NEC-trained violinist Lara St. John. (HS:  The PSO must have been onto a  good thing, for several years later a Los Angeles Times review said, Ms. St. John “happens to be a volcanic violinist with a huge, fabulous tone that pours out of her like molten lava. She has technique to burn and plays at a constant high heat.”) Violin Concerto in E minor, Op. 64. This was the great composer’s last large orchestral work, and it forms an important part of the violin repertoire--  one of the most popular and most frequently performed violin concertos of all time. Earlier, the Symphony had opened the concert with Mozart’s Symphony No. 38 in D Major, K. 504 (“Prague”). Following the intermission, the entire second half of the program was comprised of the Symphony performing Vasily Kalinnkikov’s 1895 Symphony No. 1 in G Minor.

Portland Symphony Orchestra Pops Concert subscribers were ready for a blockbuster pair of concerts at Merrill Auditorium on Saturday and Sunday, November 16 and 17. Compositions by a blockbuster composer written for a host of blockbuster films were the musical menu this weekend, as “Movie Music from John Williams” was set to be performed. Madhorse Theatre Company veteran Michael Kimball was cast as narrator when the backstage manager called out “Quiet on the Set”. Members of the audiences had already set down their buttered-popcorn boxes and Good & Plenty Licorice candy wrappers when Toshi Shimada strode onto the stage carrying a baton that even “Jaws” couldn’t have chomped.

The programs began with the Raiders March from “Raiders of the Lost Ark”, followed by Adventures on Earth from E.T. (“The Extra-Terrestrial”). Next the Symphony played the Theme from “Schindler’s List”. Then came Excerpts from “Close Encounters of the Third Kind”, with the March from “Superman” closing out the first half of each performance. The concerts resumed after intermission with the Theme from “Jaws”. Four numbers from the Harry Potter Suite from “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” included Hedwig’s Flight; Quidditch; Diagon Alley; and Harry’s Wondrous World. Scheduled to conclude the concerts was the Star Wars Suite from “Star Wars”, consisting of Princess Leia’s Theme; The Imperial March (Darth Vader’s Theme); Yoda’s Theme and finally Throne Room & End Title. Late in the concert a thank-you recording from Mr. Williams was played for the audience, during which he said “Hi” to all the concertgoers in attendance. Since no review has been spotted of these concerts, there is no information about any encores...... however--   I bet the audience insisted on at least one.

Portland-area students bused to Merrill Auditorium the immediately-following Monday and Tuesday mornings, November 18 & 19, had a chance to also enjoy some of the John Williams’ movie themes performed at the week-end Pops concerts. The concerts’ theme was “John Williams  --  ‘Lights, Camera, Actions!’ ”. Historic concert-program Excel file listings retained by the PSO staff show that selections performed at pairs of concerts on these dates were music from the movies “E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial”; “Jurassic Park”; “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” (HS:  The Harry Potter series’ second film, “Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets”, had opened the previous weekend.); and “Star Wars”. Michael Kimball also narrated at these concerts for students.

This holiday season the PSO again scheduled 14 “Magic of Christmas” concerts at Merrill Auditorium, its 23rd holiday run. On hand to assist the Symphony and Maestro Shimada were Portland Municipal Organist Ray Cornils and also the Magic of Christmas Chorus, Judith Quimby directing. The entire production was once again directed by Brian P. Allen. Portlanders knew that the Symphony and the ensemble would go all out to dazzle  audiences with contemporary holiday tunes and the opportunity to sing along, now a second-generation family tradition for some.

Stephanie Bouchard, in an advance article in the Press Herald, wrote that “Broadway performers and husband and wife, Kip Wilborn and Teri Hansen, are the symphony’s special guest vocalists this season. Wilborn, who has played the characters of the ‘Phantom’ and ‘Raoul’ in ‘The Phantom of the Opera’ as well as leading operatic roles in ‘The Barber of Seville’, ‘Rigoletto’ and ‘The Magic Flute’, will sing The Christmas Song, and will join his wife on Winter Wonderland.” Ms. Bouchard might also have added that shortly after the start of each concert, Mr. Wilborn sang Franz Schubert’s Mille Cherubini in Coro with the chorus. The reporter did add that, “Teri Hansen, who made her Broadway debut last summer in ‘The Boys from Syracuse’ and received international kudos for her role as ‘Magnolia’ in ‘Show Boat’, will sing O Holy Night and Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.”

Of course, to start off each concert there was a holiday music recital performed by municipal organist Ray Cornils on the thundering and vibrating Kotzschmar Memorial Organ.

The P-H article informed that, “to start off the performances, the orchestra and chorus jumps into a resounding rendition of John Williams’ Exultate Justi and follows up with a selection of pieces including Carol of the Bells; Fantasia on Greensleeves; also the March and then the Pas de deux of Tchaikovsky’s ‘Nutcracker’.” The newspaper advised that the Orchestra, soloists and the chorus could be depended upon to combine talents for various standards such as Handel’s Hallelujah Chorus from “The Messiah” and Leroy Anderson’s Sleigh Ride.

Besides helping to start off the program, and later performing Henryk Górecki’s Totus Tuus and also Gloria Shayne Baker’s Do You Hear What I Hear?, the Magic of Christmas Chorus and the soloists were set to lead the audience in sing-alongs for such holiday favorites as Santa Claus is Coming to Town; Frosty the Snowman; and a medley of other songs including Joy to the World; Silent Night; and God Rest You Merry Gentlemen. The chorus was also assigned the wonderful task of performing ‘Twas The Night Before Christmas.

Orchestral works performed by the Symphony (HS: Hopefully by now you realize that all these pieces did not get performed in the order laid out in these paragraphs.) during these 2002 “Magic of Christmas” concerts were: two Carmen Dragon arrangements, Jingle Bells Fantasie and also O Tannenbaum; Victor Herbert’s March of the Toys from “Babes in Toyland”; and Mr. Anderson’s medley, A Christmas Fesitval. Each time it was performed, the latter was quickly turned into an audience sing-along, and included Deck the Halls; Good King Wenceslas; Hark! The Herald Angels Sing; and a reprise of Jingle Bells. (HS: Q-Did I leave something out?  A-It’s likely I did; Q-Did the PSO leave anything out?  A-No Way!) Each performance ended with everyone in attendance (musicians, choristers, soloists and concertgoers, all alike) extending to all others in the Auditorium..... hopes for a “Merry Christmas”, in the traditional “We Wish You!  We Wish You!....” way.

Total “Magic” attendance this year increased narrowly from the level of the prior season, up a slight 93 people to about 22,500. PSO honchos must have taken some satisfaction that, at least, the downward trend of the two previous year-to-year slides did not continue.

Midway through the PSO’s “Magic of Christmas” run this season, Lawrence Golan returned to Portland for a gig directing some three dozen-plus musicians who were normally members of the PSO. His visit to the area was not to perform as a violinist, but to conduct a medium-size orchestra ensemble borrowed by Portland Ballet for a December 18 production of “Victorian Nutcracker” at Merrill Auditorium (HS:  After no PBC live-music performance of the Tchaikovsky ballet a year earlier, this 2002 event restarted what would become a future unbroken annual string [....through 2013 at least, when this paragraph was drafted] of years when Portlanders could enjoy the PBC’s popular ballet interpretation of the heralded seasonal favorite.). Years later--  Joanne Woodward, a violinist in the pit for that production, contributed a  copy of the concert program for this 2002 event to the PSO Archives that she had saved. Thus PDF-scans of the cover, program content and list of musicians are now available for viewing on the Performances page.


2003       It was “back to business” for Toshi Shimada and the musicians of the Portland Symphony Orchestra on January 14, with the first classical concert of the new year at Merrill Auditorium. The PSO’s pre-season promotional brochure heralded this concert with the title “Best of Britain”. Royal Fireworks Music, composed in London by George Frideric Handel in 1749. (HS: Googling reveals that the work was “a wind band suite... ...under contract of George II of Great Britain for the fireworks in London’s Green Park on 27 April 1749. It was to celebrate the end of the War of the Austrian Succession and the signing of the Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle in 1748.” The suite “ was scored for a large wind band ensemble consisting of 24 oboes, 12 bassoons (and a contrabassoon), nine natural trumpets, nine natural horns, three pairs of kettledrums, and an unspecified number of snare drums.” After the first performance “Handel re-scored the suite for full orchestra. Handel wrote notices in the score: the violins to play the oboe parts, the cellos and double basses the bassoon part, and the violas either a lower wind or bass part.” I was particularly amused by one particular reference when reading Mark Rohr’s program notes: “King George hoped there would be no ‘fiddles’ “, he told the celebration’s sponsor, the Duke of Montague. So...... when you next enjoy the strings playing Handel’s “Fireworks” music, you’ll realize that while in the end George II didn’t get his way on this one, his son experienced a much bigger loss when the American Revolution was over.)

The other two works on the program, both composed by born-and-bred Brits, were Benjamin Britten’s 1946 Variations and Fugue on a Theme of Purcell, Op. 34, and Sir Edward Elgar’s 1907-08 Symphony No. 1 in A flat, Op. 55. Whether any newspaper reviews contained any interesting insights is information still (maybe) to be found among the PSO Archives.

Tony Award winner Debbie Gravitte was the Broadway star featured during a pair of PSO Pops Concerts at Merrill Auditorium on Valentine’s weekend. In a program directed by Brian P. Allen, she was joined by supporting vocalists Jeff Croteau and Lynne McGhee. The Saturday & Sunday shows, on the 15th and 16th of February, were titled “A Debbie Gravitte Valentine”. The PSO opened each concert with Jule Styne’s Overture from “Gypsy”, and then Ms. Gravitte took the spotlight. She opened with Mr. Styne’s Let Me Entertain You from “Gypsy”, and then swung into I Got Rhythm from “Girl Crazy” by George Gershwin. John Kander’s All That Jazz from “Chicago” was next, then the old standard – Blues in the Night by Harold Arlen and Johnny Mercer. The Symphony gave the guest soloist’s voice a break, performing Mr. Gershwin’s American in Paris. Ms. Gravitte closed the first half of each concert with three hits: Some People from “Gypsy”; Irving Berlin’s Mr. Monotony from “Jerome Robbins’ Broadway”; and Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Don’t Cry For Me Argentina from “Evita”.

After intermission Maestro Shimada led the Symphony in the Overture from “Singin’ in the Rain”, music composed by Hollywood legend Nacio Herb Brown. Ms. Gravitte kicked off her next set with the bouncy I Want to Be a Rockette from “Kicks – The Showgirl Musical”, by Alan Menken. She next sang another Menken hit, Suddenly Seymor from “Little Shop of Horrors”, followed by his Growin’ Boy from “Babe”. The Symphony then played Selections from “Berlin in Hollywood”, the film score. Mr. Berlin’s show-stopper, Anything You Can Do from “Annie Get Your Gun” was then belted out by Ms. Gravitte, followed by Cole Porter’s Friendship from “Anything Goes”. The Broadway star closed out the scheduled part of the programs with Jerry Herman’s If He Walked Into My Life from “Mame”, followed by Cold Porter’s From This Moment On from “Out of This World”. There had to be some encores, however the PSO Archives are yet to produce info regarding that topic.

The second PSO Classical Concert of the year, the fifth of the 2002-2003 season, was at Merrill Auditorium on Sunday afternoon, March 2. The program handed to concertgoers reflected a change versus the works listed in the pre-season brochure, with Arvo Pärt’s Fratres for Strings and Percussion replacing the originally-scheduled Toru Takemitsu chamber composition, Rain Coming (HS: A search through the PSO Archives indicates that this work was never performed by the PSO. No reason for the change from the original program for this concert has been uncovered.). The concert opened with Arcangelo Corelli’s Concerto Grosso No. 4 in D Major, Op. 6 ,one of twelve baroque-style concerti he composed in the early 1700s. After the intermission, the ensemble performed Ottorino Respighi’s descriptive and sensual three-movement Trittico Botticelliano, composed in 1926 and inspired by three well known Boticelli paintings in the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, Italy. The concert concluded with Beethoven’s reserved Symphony No. 4 in B-flat Major, Op. 60.

Nine days later, on Tuesday the 11th of March, concertgoers returned to Merrill Auditorium for another Classical Concert. This evening mezzo-soprano Margaret Yauger, the leading mezzo-soprano of the Deutsche Oper am Rhein (Dusseldorf) for ten years where she performed in over eighteen productions, was guest soloist. She was then (HS: And remains, in 2013) on the USM music faculty, having started there in 1999. Ms. Yauger joined with the Symphony for the closing work of the first half of the concert, Gustav Mahler’s Rückert-Lieder, the song cycle of five Lieder based on poems written by Friedrich Rückert. Earlier the PSO had opened with J. Mark Scare’s 1996 composition, Urban Primitive, the second of three Maine composers whose work the PSO featured this season. Pronounced “scarce”, Mark was then also on the USM faculty, in 2006 later becoming head of the music department at North Carolina State University. Second on the program was Claude Debussy’s classic, Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune. The concert concluded with William Schumann’s Symphony No. 3 “Rhenish” in E flat major, Op. 97.

While Maestro Shimada was in Germany for a guest-conducting stint of his own, Uriel Segal guest-conducted the PSO on April 1 at a Tuesday Classical Concert. He had first become acquainted with Toshi Shimada when guest-conducting the Houston Symphony, then impressing Toshi with his “dynamic conducting and emotional music making”. Now music director of the Louisville Orchestra and the Chautauqua Festival and conductor laureate of the Century Orchestra in Japan, Mr. Segal conducted a program in Portland led off by Beethoven’s Symphony No. 1 in C major, Op. 21 (HS:  A unique work for its time.). This was the third of Beethoven’s total of nine symphonies performed by the PSO this season (HS:  No. 9 had been on September 21, and No. 4 on March 2.). The concert concluded with Dmitri Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 9 in E flat major, Op. 70. In contrast to many Shostakovich works, this composition is notable in that it evokes feelings of brightness.

The other piece on this PSO program was Polish conductor and composer Wihold Lutoslawski’s 1968 Livre pour Orchestre. In an earlier “from the Podium” concert-program column this season, the PSO maestro had expressed “delight” that this work would be performed under Mr. Segal’s baton, pointedly requesting that subscribers “Please keep your ears – and mind – open.” No post-concert newspaper review about this concert has been spotted..... so one can now only wonder what the audience reaction may have been.

The third and final Sunday Classical Concert of the 2002-2003 season was performed at Merrill Auditorium on April 6. The full Portland Symphony Orchestra was on hand at this concert, for a “biggie” would conclude the program. But first things first: Maestro Shimada selected Josef Haydn’s 1789 Symphony No. 92 in G major (“Oxford”), Hoboken 1/92, to begin. Next, PSO principal Laurie Kennedy was soloist during a performance of Paul Hindemith’s 1935 Der Schwanendreher (“The Swan turner”) Concerto for Viola and Small Orchestra, a composition that experts universally agree “occupies a place at the core of the viola concerto repertoire”. The major work on this early-April afternoon, comprising the entire second half of the program, was Johannes Brahms’ Symphony No. 2 in D major, Op. 73, noted for its cheery and almost pastoral mood.

The final pair of Pops Concerts of the 2002-2003 season were on Saturday and Sunday, April 12 & 13. A pre-concert Press Herald article heralded the then-upcoming “Great American Piano” concert with John McDaniel and the Portland Symphony Pops. The PSO’s pre-season promotional brochure had titled the shows “John McDaniel’s Great American Songbook”. Whichever, John McDaniel well knew the power of fame and mass-media recognition, being quoted in the article, “Having your face on TV on a really popular show for six years does wonders for getting yourself out there. I would not be doing the concerts I do if not for that.” The pianist-conductor was the former band leader on “The Rosie O’Donnell Show.” The P-H reported that “He was coming to Portland to present a fun, spirited and fast-paced evening of music from Broadway, Hollywood and more this weekend.” The shows would celebrate America’s musical heritage with songs from George Gershwin, Irving Berlin, Scott Joplin and Henry Mancini, as well as show tunes from “On the Town” and “Sunday in the Park with George” and a variety of material from the movies.

So.... let’s take a look at what the concert program from that week-end listed. First off was an Irving Berlin arrangement, Patriotic Overture. Next was Stephen Foster’s Beautiful Dreamer, followed by Scott Joplin’s syncopated classic, Maple Leaf Rag. For a change of pace, the guest-artist then led the Symphony in Aaron Copland’s Variations on a Shaker Melody from “Appalachian Spring”. Bernard Herrmann’s “Psycho” Suite preceded Leonard Bernstein’s Three Dance Episodes from “On the Town”, which preceded the concertgoers’ intermission-march to the Merrill Auditorium lobby.

The second half of the popular entertaining concerts was comprised of Calvin Custer’s A Tribute to Henry Mancini, followed by Steven Sondheim’s Finishing the Hat from “Sunday in the Park with George”. Jerry Herman’s “La Cage Aux Folles” Suite was next. Then came Amanda McBroom’s The Rose. Mr. McDaniel closed out the program, probably conducting from the Steinway keyboard, performing George Gershwin’s An American in Paris with the PSO.

While many of their parents were busily completing completion of income tax returns, or maybe lined up at post offices to get them postmarked, some 7500 Portland-area students were treated to one of four Youth Concerts at Merrill Auditorium, on the mornings of Monday and Tuesday, April 14 & 15. For these performances, PSO maestro Toshi Shimada chose two works that were mentioned in the PSO Archives (HS: Was there more?  My guess is “Maybe.... but probably this was enough.”). The first was Sergei Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf, Op. 67. (HS: Unfortunately, no mention in PSO Archives has been spotted indicating who might have been narrator.) The other composition was especially timely,  considering the  springtime season. It was Frank Proto’s fun-filled An American Folk Tale for Narrator and Orchestra. Oh, yes............ the rest of the official title is: Casey at the Bat. (HS: Hey!  I wonder what would have happened to narrator Randy Judkins if the kids thought he didn’t get this one right?  Maybe they’d have all stood up with forefingers pointed straight forward and, in unison, yelled “Y-O-U’re O-U-T!!”)

Contrary to the information in the previous paragraph, historic concert-program Excel file listings retained by the PSO staff show different compositions performed at pairs of Youth concerts on these dates. Those were: segments from Beethoven’s Symphony No. 6, (“Pastorale”), Op. 68; Antonio Vivaldi’s Spring from “The Four Seasons”; and Im Krapfenwald 1 Polka, Op. 366, by Johan Strauss II. (HS: While not certain which PSO Archive info source is correct, as a sports fan I prefer to think that music about Casey (--and Peter, too..... of course) were performed for the students.)

The PSO’s 2002-2003 Season closed with a concert titled “A Choral Finale”, on Tuesday evening, April 29. For this performance the Symphony was joined by the Masterwork Chorus of the Choral Art Society, Robert Russell, director. Originally, bass-baritone Dean Elzringa was to be guest soloist; .......but more about that in the next paragraph. After The Star-Spangled Banner (HS: The Iraq War was underway, thus the unusual [for a late-season concert] inclusion of The National Anthem.), the program began with Richard Wagner’s Prelude to Act I from “Lohengrin”. Next was the season’s final work written by a Maine composer, this time Gia Comolli; her 1989 composition The Flight of Icarus, a work previously performed by the PSO, in 2001. An earlier-written article in the Portland Phoenix by Doug Hubley, pertinently addressed this work and included a comment by the composer: “Comolli, whose take on the contemporary art music idiom falls on the melodious side, follows the action (of the high-flying Icarus) closely. She paints the labyrinth with pizzicato strings, depicts the flight with an insistent lofty theme, and uses a bit of piano to mark the start of Icarus’ troubles. “Finally he falls,” Comolli says, “and you’ll hear that for sure.” The first half of the concert ended with Richard Strauss’ difficult-to-perform 1888 tone poem Don Juan, Op. 20.

After intermission, the Symphony had originally been set to be joined by Mr. Elzringa and the Chorus in a performance of William Walton’s powerful, celebrated nine-movement cantata, Belshazzar’s Feast, written when the composer was just 29 years old. However, due to the Iraq battles then underway involving American armed forces, and disquieting implications that could be taken regarding the end of that work going on and on too much about the “fall of Babylon, Hallelujah, etc.” (HS: Specific potential uncomfortable words including, “For Babylon the Great is fallen, fallen”; “Alleluia!”.), Music Director Shimada (HS:  Who Jane Hunter years later respectfully recalled as being a “Citizen of the World”) and the chorus did not feel comfortable about performing that composition with an enlarged war in Iraq looming so close. (HS:  CAS Director Robert Russell tells of first becoming aware of the possible cross-meaning regarding the then-happening battles in Iraq when a chorus member brought the issue to his attention. In an email, he passed along that chorus member’s concerns to Mr. Shimada..... with Mr. Shimada ultimately making the change-decision on his own with no direct conversations with Mr. Russell.) Thus the major work on the program was changed to Giuseppe Verdi’s Four Sacred Songs, which the chorus had prepared for a 2002 concert that was snowed out. That work did not require a soloist, and an agreement was reached with Mr. Elzringa to have him keep some of the originally-negotiated fee and to also return the following January to sing in another concert. (HS: The PSO office files regarding an angry soloist, his agent, and the orchestra staff are “loaded” with back-and-forth memos. Yikes—who would have wanted to be in charge of that one!.)

A concert conversation led by Ms. Comolli and Professor Russell was attended by interested concertgoers prior to the performance this evening.

Peter Haynes is re-elected as PSO President.

The PSO organization was undoubtedly relieved that during Fiscal Year 2003 the net loss of the prior year was substantially narrowed, to a level near $35,000. Nonetheless, an indefinite number of years with the Symphony continuing to experience consecutive losses would be a trend that portended a coming serious financial squeeze eventually influencing operations.

The PSO this year set “Independence Pops” concerts for July 1-2-3. Tuesday the first kicked off the series, at Shawnee Peak in Bridgton; then Wednesday at Highland Green in Topsham (A new venue for the annual symphony concert and skyrocket celebrations.); and July 3 at Fort Williams Park, Cape Elizabeth. Respective rain locations listed in an advance Press Herald article were: Lake Region High School, Naples; Mt. Ararat Middle School, Topsham; Cumberland County Civic Center, Portland. The P-H’s Bob Keyes mentioned that the musical programs would feature such numbers as Oh, Susanna, Songs from “West Side Story”, a Medley of Beach Boys Hits and Tchaikovosky’s “1812” Overture. Vocalist Laura Harris joined the orchestra for several numbers. (HS: No other information about these concerts has been spotted in the PSO Archives, so it is possible that one or more events were moved indoors due to inclement weather.)

Also during July, PORTopera presented two performances of  “Lucia di Lammermoor” by Gaetano Donizetti. A new conductor was holding the baton in Merrill Auditorium, Steven Lord. The productions were on July 24 & 26.

More than a year-earlier, the PSO had contracted with legendary Spanish pianist Alicia de Larrocha to open the orchestra’s 2003-2004 season. However, during that interim timeframe she announced her retirement, and it was back to square #1 for the PSO artistic staff. So.... how’d they do?  Read on, for the solution turned out to be an A-OK success.

Seven string players joined the PSO prior to the season-- four violinists, two violists and a cellist.

The Portland Symphony Orchestra’s 2003-2004 Season began with a double-header of attractions, on Saturday evening, September 20. A concert titled “A Festive Overture” featured esteemed superstar pianist André Watts as soloist, and a “Centerstage Celebration” gala provided subscribers with both before-concert and after-concert receptions, premium concert seating, and a chance to meet the guest star of the evening. Mr. Watts performed Johannes Brahms’ Piano Concerto No. 2 in B-flat major, Op. 83. Critiquing for the Portland Phoenix, then-USM professor and resident composer Mark Scearce was less than enthusiastic about the experienced soloist’s performance, but did reveal some envy with a “But what hands!” utterance. The PSO’s pre-season promotional brochure announced that this concert would open with the “world premiere of Maine composer Tom Myron’s Music from the movie “Katahdin, (Greatest Mountain)” and that the “dazzling” start to the season would conclude with Béla Bartók’s five-movement Concerto for Orchestra, Sz. 116, BB 123, “a masterwork that seamlessly blends Eastern European folk music and Western art music in a vibrant celebration of life.” Mr. Scearce’s take on the performance of the work was semi-positive, arguing that it would have been better placed in a Pops concert program lineup.

Less than a week later, a special so-called “Super Pops” concert featuring Three Dog Night and the PSO Pops was performed at the Cumberland County Civic Center, on Friday, September 26. A local band opened this event, followed by thirty minutes of music by a slimmed down Portland Symphony Orchestra. The 36-musician PSO ensemble appears to have played Music from the Television Series “Star Trek”, followed by familiar TV Themes from other programs. Music from the “70s” and well known Movie Music was also performed (HS:  Files found in the PSO Archives only dealt with pre-concert contracts and other arrangements. Details regarding specific works to be performed by the PSO were not included in those advance files.). An interesting contract requirement of the rock band was that microphones had to be attached to string-players’ instruments. Larry Baird, orchestrator and conductor for Three Dog Night’s orchestral performances, was on the CCCC podium. A list of songs to be performed that was retained in the PSO files was extensive, with an Overture performed by the Orchestra opening the main part of the concert, after which the band came on stage. The popular six-member group (HS: PSO files show that a 6-member support team was also booked at a Portland hotel.) sang and played: Family of Man; Black & White; Chest Fever; Never Been to Spain; Shambala; Out in the Country; Easy to be Hard; and Sault Saint Marie.

About then, an intermission was likely scheduled. The remainder of Three Dog Night’s songs were: One; Old Fashion Love Song; Overground; Liar; Brickyard Blues; Mama Told Me; and Celebrate. Two encores were set to be performed, and presumably were:  Eli’s Coming and then Joy to the World. A Google-check of the Civic Center’s past-attendance log reveals that only 2361 tickets were sold for a total take of about $72,000, far less than a capacity crowd and well below budget projections. The evening was  a money-loser for the PSO, since POS Archive files detail the cost of securing and presenting “Three Dog” for this gig as exceeding $100,000. (HS Simple math shows the loss-per-ticket-ratio cost as about $12..... Wow!)

The “official” opening of the PSO’s Tuesday Classical Concert Series for 2003-2004 was on October 7. Concertgoers first heard Ceremonial, a 1999 work by Augusta Read Thomas who was by this time (2003) on the music faculty at Northwestern university. Her composition was first performed by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, which had commissioned the piece. The PSO concert program informed that Daniel Barenboim had conducted the premiere. Mark Rohr’s program notes added, “This short work proceeds from the simplicity of a single clarinet note to the building of intense climaxes, ‘like a wave gaining momentum’.” Music from a major work filled Merrill Auditorium for the remainder of the first half of the concert, Antonín Dvořák’s Cello Concerto in B minor Op 104, B. 191, the composer’s last solo concerto, composed in 1894-5. Guest soloist was Gustav Rivinius, 1990 Gold Medal-winner of the Tchaikovsky International Competition in Moscow, the first German to do so. The PSO’s concert program profile of the prolific gifted young (HS: then 38) artist listed more than twenty major orchestras around the world with whom he had appeared. After intermission, Maestro Shimada conducted the Symphony in a performance of Maurice Ravel’s Daphnis et Chloé suite (HS: Sans the “Lever du jour” segment from Part 3, for reasons not explained in the concert program.). The work was described by the composer as a “symphonie choréographique” that was drafted from movements of music he had composed for an early-dismissed Fokine ballet of the same name.

This season’s four Sunday Classical Series concerts would respectively “offer musical tours of European capitals with works by composers who reflected the great artistry of their homelands, and those whose visits to those remarkable cities inspired entire new works” (HS: so read the PSO’s pre-season promotional  brochure). Thus, the October 19 chamber concert focused on Paris. Tomaso Albinoni’s Adagio in G minor led off the program. Although the concert program listing credited the work to Albinoni, Mark Rohr’s notes attributed it to 20th-century musicologist and Albinoni biographer Remo Giazotto who developed the piece  based on the purported discovery of a manuscript fragment from Albinoni. Certainly, a certain famous composer’s “Paris Symphony” deserved a place in this concert, which Maestro Shimada made sure happened. The PSO next performed Mozart’s Symphony No. 31 in D major, K. 297/300a. The first half concluded with PSO principal flutist Lisa Hennessy solo-ing in Jacques Ibert’s 1930s Concerto for Flute and Orchestra, Op. 37. A warm work from legendary French composer Maurice Ravel filled the post-intermission segment of this concert, his Suite from Ma mère l’oye (Mother Goose), five crystalline miniatures for orchestra transcribed from an original four-hand piano suite about children’s favorite fairy tales.

The first of three so-called Music Camps this season, for children aged nine and up, was introduced prior to this “Paris-themed” concert. The sessions were designed to introduce the music that would be played that afternoon and give kids a behind-the-scenes look at the orchestra. The sessions were conducted at the same time that parents could attend Concert Conversations where they could learn more about the music and musicians on the program. Similar Music Camp sessions would be presented prior to the February 8 and April 4 concerts.

The first pair of PSO Pops Concerts of the 2003-2004 season were performed at Merrill Auditorium on Saturday and Sunday, October 25 & 26. Eileen Ivers, the original fiery violinist star of “Riverdance”, and hailed as one of the great innovators and pioneers in the Celtic and World Music genres brought her band “Immigrant Soul” to join with Maestro Shimada and the Portland Symphony Orchestra. The PSO’s pre-season promotional brochure stated that her “unique Irish-fusion style lights up the stage in an evening celebrating the Emerald Isle’s heritage. (She) maintains the essence of her Celtic roots while allowing the sounds to blossom into a colorful array of settings ranging from Ireland to the Caribbean, Africa, Cuba and into the blues.” The program handed to audiences that weekend stated that details about the concert would be announced from the stage.

An internet bio about her described the touring production “she created to present the music that now encompasses ‘Eileen Ivers & Immigrant Soul’ (which) treats concertgoers to blends (of) her fiddling with instruments from around the world including the accordion, Bouzouki, congas and harmonica.” Descriptions went on to include more perspectives: “ Hailed as one of the great innovators and pioneers in the Celtic and World music genres, the daughter of Irish immigrants, Ms. Ivers grew up in the culturally diverse neighborhood of the Bronx, New York. She spent summers in Ireland and took up the fiddle at the age of nine. Rooted in Irish traditional music since the age of eight, Eileen proceeded to win nine All-Ireland fiddle championships, a tenth on tenor banjo and over 30 championship medals, making her one of the most awarded persons ever to compete in these prestigious competitions. She graduated magna cum laude from Iona College in New York and has done post-graduate work in mathematics.”

A Harrisburg newspaper article snippet that referred to her as “fresh from appearance with the Portland Symphony” provided insights that “her ensemble consisted of singer Tommy McDonnell, piper and whistle player Ivan Goff, and guitarist James Riley. They made up the Irish-rooted section of Immigrant Soul, while bassist Emanuel Gatewood and percussionist Emedin Rivera provided Latin/African/hip-hop influences to the mix.”

Ms. Ivers would return to the Merrill Stage for a 2010 PSO Pops engagement. Works performed at this second pair of concerts are detailed later in this THINGS-PSO.

The season’s second PSO Tuesday Classical Concert was presented on November 11. To start the program, Maestro Shimada chose Bach’s well-known Suite No. 3 in D major, BWV 1068. The remainder of the first half of the concert was comprised of music from the pen of Igor Stravinsky, his Symphony in Three Movements, written from 1942–45 on commission by the Philharmonic Symphony Society of New York and then premièred by the New York Philharmonic Orchestra under Stravinsky on January 24, 1946. This symphony is considered as Stravinsky’s first major composition after emigrating to the United States. After the intermission, the Symphony performed Ludwig van Beethoven’s most well-known work, Symphony No.5 In C Minor Op. 67. No newspaper review of this concert has yet (mid-2013) been found.

The second pair of PSO Pops Concerts were presented on the weekend of Saturday and Sunday, November 15 & 16. A wandering trio of NYC guys showed up in Portland to perform concerts boldly named “OH! THOSE VOICES!” with the Symphony. The three were baritones Keith Butterbaugh, George Merritt and Merwin Foard (HS: The PSO’s pre-season promotional brochure had not listed Mr. Butterbaugh, instead listing Rob Evan. So.... what happened?  I haven’t spotted any details about that in the PSO Archives.). An advance P-H article by Bob Keyes mentioned that the “shows... ...will have a generous complement of Broadway songs performed by three baritones who boast more than two dozen Broadway roles among them.” The article went on to quote local co-producer Brian P. Allen, best known locally for producing the Symphony’s recent years’ “Magic of Christmas” concerts. “There is much more to it than that”, he said. “We are covering the roots of Broadway to classical to a musical inspiration section and a Rat Pack medley.” He said. He was working on the show with Bobbie Merritt of New York, wife of baritone George Merritt. The newspaper reported that “If the show succeeds in Portland, Allen and Merritt hope to take it on the road, sending it across North America to symphonies searching for something just a little bit different.”

As for what was performed..... fasten your seat belt and read on. The shows were divided up into three sections, the first of which was titled “The Voices”. Numbers performed were; Oh! Those Voices! Overture, an instrumental number by the Symphony. Next came Without a Song, from “Good Day”; then Raise the Roof from “The Wild Party”; and Wheels of a Dream from “Ragtime”. Next, Muddy Water from “Big River” led to Oh What a Beautiful Morning from “Oklahoma”; This is the Moment from “Jekyll & Hyde”; and finally Into The Fire from “Scarlet Pimpernal”.

The next segment, titled “The Classical Voices”, began with the PSO playing Overture to “Die Fledermaus”; then vocal solos by the respective baritones – Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring; Toreador Song from “Carmen”; and Nessun dorma from “Turandot”. Leading into intermission was a segment titled “We Sing With One Voice”, consisting of God Bless America; Father How Long from “The Civil War”; Free at Last from “Big River”; and Anthem from “Chess” (HS:  Hey!  Sue & I saw that show, which is something very few folks can say—since the Broadway production survived for only two months.).

The second half of the program for the weekend began with a segment titled “Three Voices”, which started off with Salute to Our Favorite Trios. Next came Favorites from the 50’s, 60’s & 70’s; followed by Betcha’ By Golly Wow; You’ve Lost that Lovin’ Feelin’; and Eleanor Rigby. The segment concluded with Blue Suede Shoes and then We Do It Our Way.

The shows’ final segment was titled “The Voices On Broadway”, which the PSO began by playing an arrangement of Take the “A” Train and New York, New York. The singers returned to the stage with Optimistic Voices / Lullaby of Broadway from “42nd Street”; then Where is the Life that Late I led from “Kiss Me Kate”. Bring Him Home from “Les Misérables” preceded Big Time. Fats Waller’s Your Feets Too Big from “Ain’t Misbehavin’” was followed by the scheduled finale, Without A Song from “Good Day”. Encores undoubtedly followed, but PSO Archive items and other researching hasn’t turned up any details. (HS:  I apologize for not listing composers and arrangers responsible for writing most of the numbers performed during the Three New York Baritones’ show..... but I’m tired. That info is available in the PSO’s concert-program inventory, which hopefully someday can be accessed on the internet.)

Internet sleuthing turned up some super-positive reactions to these PSO Concert presentations of “Oh! Those Voices!”. After the concerts, Toshi Shimada was quoted as saying, “The Portland Symphony Orchestra is very proud to have hosted ‘OH! THOSE VOICES!’ in their World Premiere. They performed with the dynamics and nuances of a group who has sung together for many years. All three are outstanding vocalists. They were spellbinding in their individual numbers and dazzling in their trio arrangements.

“The audiences were on their feet, cheering, even before the sound of the last number faded away. Their orchestrations were wonderful and the members of the orchestra have continued to tell us how much they enjoyed playing this concert. OH! THOSE VOICES! Is definitely one of the best Pops concerts we have ever produced.”

Equally excited, the PSO’s Director of Operations and Artistic Planning, Andrew Kipe, was quoted, “ ‘OH! THOSE VOICES!’ was one of our best received Pops concerts in recent memory. The energy in the concert hall was infectious!  The audiences loved the show!  The musicians appreciated playing their music!  We ‘re still getting calls and emails of congratulations for hosting this World Premiere. These are exceptionally versatile performers with amazing voices. These three Broadway stars on one bill make for an impressive musical event that is a definite winner.”

And.... even often-hard-to-impress Press Herald reviewer Christopher Hyde wrote, “...’OH! THOSE VOICES!’ provided a well-received evening of their World Premiere...with the Portland Symphony Orchestra....All three were effective soloists... The trios where they could play characters against each other.. .[like] the clowning in Your Feet’s Too Big from ‘Ain’t Misbehavin’ was infectious. In the “Rat Pack” medley... they transformed into Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and Sammy Davis, Jr. like the seasoned Broadway veterans they are. The a cappella trio on ‘Without a Song’...showed that they could sing as well as act together.

“The evening was divided into acts and scenes as if’ OH! THOSE VOICES!’ were a Broadway production, which it might become after its Portland debut. Many of the arrangements and medleys were original... {their} rousing chorus of “Joy to the World”... ...was... ...exciting.”

Following the two world premiere performances in Portland, the show experienced some success touring nationally, according to later-published PSO program notes regarding director Brian P. Allen.

Two pairs of Youth Concerts were performed at Merrill Auditorium for elementary school students, on Monday and Tuesday, November 17 & 18. Early-on in the planning stages, the working title theme for these performances was “And the Winner Is..... Academy Award Winning Music”. However, by the time they were presented the theme had become “Music and Dance Around the World”. While no final program listing has been located in the PSO Archives, what appears to be a close-to-final grouping includes excerpts from the following works:  Johannes Brahms’ Hungarian Dance No. 5 (HS: The list in the files designates that as “Hungary/European Gypsy”); Peter Maxwell Davies’ Finale from an Orkney Wedding, with Sunrise (Scotland   Bagpipe); The Beautiful Blue Danube by Johann Strauss II (Austrian); Tchaikovsky’s Russian Dance (Trepak) from “The Nutcracker”; Camille Saint-Saëns’ Finale – Bacchanale from “Samson and Delilah” (Israel / Palestine); Yuzo Toyama’s Oiwake-bushi and Yagi-bushi from Rhapsody for Orchestra (Japan); the traditional Australian song, Waltzing Matilda; Alberto Ginastera’s Malambo, from Estancia (Argentina); Robert Wendel’s Fiesta Mexicana (The Mexican Hat Dance, La Cucaracha and La Bamba); and from the USA, Aaron Copland’s Hoedown from Rodeo. A segment of a number with a nearer-to-home Maine flavor, Tom Myron’s Katahdin (“Greatest Mountain”), was also performed.

Over eight days, the PSO performed 15 “Magic of Christmas” performances this year, the 24th season for the holiday concert series. Reflecting demand for matinee tickets, on two of those days, three separate shows were done (HS:  And the musicians would be exhausted afterward!  ---  although the 3-in-one-day drills would be reinstituted for several more years in the future, a practice ending in both 2006--  before the musicians mutinied!). Adding the Magic of Christmas Chorus to the Symphony’s ranks, the full ensemble blossomed to more than 200 performers. Guest performers included 16-year-old soprano and Freeport native Margaret Plouffe and Broadway performers mezzo-soprano Joy Lynn Matthews and tenor Robert Bartley. The objective was certainly to reverse softening audience numbers versus the immediately-previous several seasons.

Setting a positive tone before Maestro Shimada brought down his baton, in a pre-concert article, the P-H’s Bob Keyes enthusiastically wrote:  “Years ago, when the Portland Symphony Orchestra’s ‘Magic of Christmas’ concerts were a new idea, Jean Alvord had to sneak on stage wearing red socks. At the time, orchestra management looked down on such festive expressions. This was serious stuff, after all – a dignified event that commanded the highest level of respect and proper decorum.

“Phooey on that. Now, 24 years later, orchestra members show up on stage wearing Santa hats and snowmen suits, and they deck their bows with peacock feathers, tinsel and mistletoe. One year, the trombone players wrapped their instrument slides with tiny lights – so many, in fact, that they blew a circuit on stage and left members of the orchestra to play in the dark. It’s all in fun and all part of the season of celebration that rewards friendships and camaraderie.

“ ‘We’ve had to educate management a bit,’ says Alvord, a violist who is among a dozen or so members of the orchestra to perform ‘Magic of Christmas’ each year. ‘At first it was very dignified, but they know how much we enjoy it and how much the audience enjoys it. They’ve relaxed a bit.’

“Indeed they have. The annual concerts at Merrill Auditorium now are so popular they represent the single most anticipated event of the holiday season in Portland.”

Mr. Keyes continued, “Orchestra member Nina Allen Miller thinks she knows why. ‘It sets the tone for the holiday season, the non-commercial part of Christmas. It is what Christmas is all about – people together, family together,’ says Miller, who plays French horn and hasn’t missed a Magic of Christmas season since the beginning. ‘People come because they know this makes it feel like Christmas. And when they leave, they’re happy. Everything about it is so positive. As musicians, we like to make people happy. That is our job.’ “

The reporter’s article concluded, “For many fans and their families, a trip to Merrill at the holidays has become a family tradition because of the sheer spectacle of the auditorium at the holidays. The stage is draped in seasonal elegance, a splendor of red and green with lights, flowers and decorated trees.”

Years later, before she retired from the PSO in 2013, Jean was interviewed about her “Magic” memories and her recollections included the comment that way-back-when, a-then-astonished someone had cried out, “Joanne’s got on red socks!” Yours truly guesses that someone was Joane Schnell (HS: Who was Joanne Woodward when she eventually retired from the PSO.), and that given her keen sense of humor--- was probably wearing “Red-Sox-type red socks!

Looking over an old PSO program, some of the not-always-played “Magic” numbers this year included: Gustav Holst’s In the Bleak Midwinter, arranged by Robert Smith; Émile Waldteufel’s Skater’s Waltz; an arrangement of William Howard Neidlinger’s The Birthday of a King; Irving Berlin’s Count your Blessings; Robert Wendel’s arrangement of Little Bolero Boy (HS: Think if Maurice Ravel had written THE LITTLE DRUMMER BOY instead of his famous BOLERO); and Frank Leoesser’s Baby, It’s Cold Outside. Of course, White Christmas, the Hallelujah Chorus from “Messiah”, Leroy Anderson’s Sleigh Ride and other “Magic” standards were performed, as was the traditional PSO “Magic of Christmas” Sing-Along. For a complete view of the works played, search for a copy of a concert program on website.

Total attendance at this season’s “Magic” performances was 7 percent below the level of the prior year. This caused an almost-$50,000 hit to the final P&L for the 2003 production, and reversing that decline would be an issue receiving lots of “upstairs” attention in the PSO offices.

This year’s “Magic of Christmas” concert program center did not list the name of Brian P. Allen, who had directed the previous several productions and whose name had each time been given prominent posting in the concert programs. A Press Herald article about this 2003 show, however, did refer to the experienced Good Theater co-founder and artistic director as director, so his string of key involvement with the PSO’s seasonal blockbuster seemingly continued.

Midway through the two weeks when “Magic” performances were on Portlander’s calendars, on Wednesday, December 17 at Merrill Auditorium, a score of PSO musicians were enlisted to perform in a medium-sized orchestra led by Dennis G. Assaf, co-founder and longtime Executive Artistic Director and conductor of the Jefferson Performing Arts Society in Louisiana. A busy schedule in the west did not permit Lawrence Golan, the regular music director and conductor of the Portland Ballet Orchestra, to return to Maine for this Wednesday-evening performance of the ballet company’s annual production of “Victorian Nutcracker”, the popular annual PBC production. The orchestra manager was Joanne Schnell. Four days earlier, on Saturday, the 13th, another performance of the seasonal Tchaikovsky/Golan work was presented at Lewiston Middle School. (HS: Apparently with the orchestra participating, although concert-program information about that event is not 100% conclusive as to whether the Lewiston audience heard live or recorded music.)


2004       The third Tuesday Classical Concert of the 2003-2004 PSO season was performed on January 13. Robert Russell had prepared the Masterwork Chorus of the Choral Art Society to perform Hector Berlioz’ large-scale choral symphony, Roméo et Juliette (Symphonie Dramatique), Op. 17. The composition is regarded as one of Berlioz’s finest works. With the Chorus combined on stage with the Portland Symphony Orchestra, the work comprised the entire concert program this evening. Guest soloists were mezzo-soprano Janice Edwards, tenor Mark Nemeskal, and bass-baritone Dean Elzinga.

A week and one-half later, the season’s PSO Pops series continued, with “A Broadway Tribute to Cole Porter and Stephen Sondheim”. The PSO’s pre-season brochure promised a “concert filled with melodies ranging from the touching and tuneful to the festive and fun.” The promotional circular heralded “two generations of music from Broadway’s greatest legends”. Julliard-trained Broadway vocalist, Tony-nominee Nancy Opel was guest soloist for the pair of concerts, on Saturday and Sunday, January 24 & 25. Local singing favorites Lynne McGhee, Timothy Bate, Paul Stickney and Anthony Correia also performed important small-ensemble roles. Samantha Fitschen was choreographer for the shows, with Brian P. Allen directing from the wings of Merrill Auditorium. Mr. Allen’s services were considered valuable, for a contract retained in the PSO Archive files shows that he was paid a fee that made him well-compensated for the events.

The Symphony opened each of the pair of concerts with Stephen Sondheim’s Symphonic Suite from “Sweeney Todd”. Other Sondheim hits performed were Broadway Baby from “Follies”; Not a Day Goes By from “Merrily We Roll Along”; March to the Treaty House from “Pacific Overtures”, as were Someone in a Tree, and Next; Comedy Tonight from “A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum”; Send in the Clowns from “A Little Night Music”; Take Me To The World from “Evening Primrose”; Agony from “Into the Woods”; and The Ladies Who Lunch from “Company”.

Mid-way during the first half, Ms. Opel sang a duo-arrangement of Mr. Porter’s Laziest Gal in Town and Mr. Sondheim’s Sooner or Later. The former was from the film “Stage Fright”, and the latter from “Dick Tracy”, the movie.

At one point in the second half of both concerts, the PSO performed the orchestral Porter Overture, arranged by Richard Rodney Bennett. The Cole Porter hits during which the vocalists were at stage front were:  from “Anything Goes”, I Get A Kick Out Of You, then You’re the Top, also Anything Goes, and finally, Blow Gabriel Blow; So In Love, then Too Darn Hot, and also Brush Up Your Shakespeare from “Kiss Me Kate”; Be A Clown from “The Pirate”; Well Did You Evah from “DuBarry Was a Lady”; and Let’s Do It, Let’s Fall In Love” from “Paris”.

While no reviews have yet (mid-2013) surfaced in the PSO Archives, my hunch is that this was a Super Show.

On February 8 at Merrill Auditorium, the second Sunday Classical concert of the PSO season was performed. Following on the Paris-based theme of the earlier concert in the series (HS: The season-long tour of European capitals would later take concertgoers to Rome), this afternoon the theme was connections with the city of London. Writing for the Portland Phoenix, reviewer J. Mark Scearce described the mood and laid out the concert-program details:  “Ice-encrusted windshields were made unyielding by more of the same single-digit temperatures Sunday, but the sun was out, both inside and outside of Merrill Auditorium, when Portland transformed herself into London for the afternoon. Portland Symphony Orchestra Music Director Toshiyuki Shimada came up with a gem of an idea for this one of his Sunday forays into the chamber orchestra literature: music of or inspired by a single city — here London.”

Mr. Scearce continued, first setting out the works performed: “A movement of Handel’s oratorio Solomon (HS: HWV 67, Entrance of the Queen of Sheba); the Fourth Symphony (HS: D major, Op. 18) of the youngest son (HS: J.C.) of J.S. Bach; Mozart’s Fifth Symphony (HS: B-flat major, K. 22), written at the age of nine; Haydn’s 104th (HS:  his “London” Symphony in D major [Hoboken 1/104]); and, odd man out, Jeffrey Jacob’s 20-year-old Symphony Winter Lightning (HS: with a loose Eliot, Maine, connection — the ‘lighting without thunder’ is his very own description). It was an inspired idea.” Describing the logic of these works vs. the “London” theme, the reporter offered: “ George Frederic is probably British music’s first most-famous son (albeit adopted), Johann Christian lived his life there, Wolfgang Amadeus hung there for a year with J.C., Jacob’s muse T.S. escaped St. Louis to be an ex-pat there, and Franz Joseph’s 104th adopted as its subtitle the name of the city which welcomed him so warmly and paid him handsomely for 12 symphonies — this one, the last of the dozen.” Mr. Jacobs was guest soloist at this afternoon’s performance, the composer-pianist at the Steinway for his symphony.

So.... did the reviewer enjoy the afternoon?  Yes..... his summary reveals: “Happily, for the 45 years from 1749 to ’94 that comprised four-fifths of the concert, it was a joy to hear the baton fall on those crisp, clean, Baroque figurations. And having the Handel and Haydn as bookends was a brilliant way to contain all the loose associations the concert held.

American singer, songwriter, musician, actor, and record producer, Josh Groban appeared at Merrill Auditorium on February 25. At this Wednesday evening performance, not a PSO event, 16 members of the orchestra were contracted with to support the artist. Befitting a high-class mood, they were dressed in tuxedoes or black, full-length dresses, skirts or ankle-length dress pants with black tops. Before the concert the PSO musicians rehearsed with Mr. Groban, in the afternoon.

On Tuesday evening, March 2, Julliard-trained Philippe Quint, who in 1991 had defected from the Soviet Union,  was guest soloist with the PSO. Before the violinist came on stage, the Press Herald’s Christopher Hyde reported, “Maestro Shimada began the program with the ‘School for Scandal’ Overture of Samuel Barber. He dedicated the fine performance to one of his teachers, Lawrence Christianson, who died this week.” In his review, the reporter rated Mr. Quint “a phenomenal violinist”, whose performance of Erich Korngold’s 1945 Concerto for Violin & Orchestra in D Major, Op. 35, led to the headline “Quint casts his brilliant light on Korngold”. The PH article described the Barber work as starting off “sounding like the music to ‘Gone with the Wind’, with the violin doing character sketches. When the cadenza occurs, however, the movie music takes a back seat to some much more modern-sounding harmonies and explorations of timbre.” Mr. Quint received a standing ovation. After intermission, the Symphony performed Jean Sibelius’ turn-of-the-century Symphony No. 1 in E Minor, Op. 39. The reviewer mentioned that this work “gave many of the orchestra’s principals a chance to shine”. He especially praised the brilliance displayed by clarinetist Thomas Parchman. (HS: Sometime following the release of the 2003-2004 PSO Season Brochure, the originally-scheduled Elegy for Orchestra, by John Corigliano, was excised from the performance list. By coincidence, while Googling for info about this 1965 work, I came across a YouTube performance of this gentle work by the Yale Symphony, Toshiyuki Shimada conducting.)

Carl Orff’s “Carmina Burana” was performed at Merrill Auditorium on Saturday, March 20. The Portland Ballet Company and The Choral Art Society joined to present the opera. The PBC’s Eugenia O’Brien was Artistic Director, with Andrei Bossev serving as choreographer. CAS Music Director Robert Russell served the same role for this production. Of the orchestra that Dr. Russell conducted, the large majority was comprised of musicians who normally were PSO’ers. Violinist Joanne Schnell served as orchestra manager, conscripting for the event a score of her fellow players with whom she was normally associated in the Portland Symphony Orchestra.

The season’s fifth Tuesday Classical Concert was performed at Merrill Auditorium by the Portland Symphony Orchestra on March 23. This evening, German-born guest conductor Klauspeter Seibel, Music Director of the Louisiana Philharmonic in New Orleans, and a regular guest-conductor of the Frankfurt and Dresden operas, was on the Merrill podium. He directed an all-German program, starting with Beethoven’s Overture: “Egmont”. Next on the musicians’ stands was Paul Hindemith’s emotion-filled Symphony, Mathis der Maler (Mathias the Painter). Following intermission, Johannes Brahms’ final symphony, his Symphony No. 4 in E minor, Op. 98, was performed by the Symphony. In his Program Notes, Mark Rohr described the work as a “stunning celebration of craft” by the composer, who wrote as “a giant”. No newspaper review of this concert has yet (mid-2013) been located in the PSO Archives.

Four days later, with a title-theme “BRAVO BIG BAND!”, possibly to lure in folks without tickets who were strolling near Merrill, the PSO’s 2003-2004 Pops Concert Series concluded with its fourth and final pair of performances. The Sun-Journal told of the shows in an advance article, mentioning the auditorium would “swing to the sounds of the swing era when Music Director Toshiyuki Shimada and the Portland Symphony Pops... (would be) ...joined by singers Michael Maguire and Lynn Roberts” on Saturday and Sunday, March 27 & 28. “The PSO will re-create the Big Band era, performing compositions that span a century of music. Featured will be classics made famous by Duke Ellington, Glenn Miller, Frank Sinatra and the Dorsey brothers.

“Saxophone, flute and clarinet player Bill Holcombe’s jazzy arrangements include sparkling and fresh renditions of such classics as In the MoodNew York, New York, The Lady is a Tramp and String of Pearls. Roberts has performed throughout the United States, Europe, Japan and Israel, with the distinction of being the only female singer to have sung with all these superstar band leaders.” Meanwhile, “Maguire played ‘Enjolras’ in the original Broadway company of ‘Les Misérables’ for which he won a Tony Award, Drama Desk Award and Theater World Award, and was featured on the cover of Newsweek. He repeated that performance at the Royal Albert Hall in London as a member of the cast celebrating the 10th anniversary of ‘Les Misérables’. He has sung with more than 120 symphony orchestras nationwide, and has starred nationally in musicals such as ‘Carousel’, ‘Brigadoon’, ‘Kismet’, ‘Annie Get Your Gun’ and ‘Showboat’.”

Other works on the program (HS: Once again, names of composers and arrangers have been omitted, with the reminder that that information can be gained once the PSO’s program collection is uploaded to an internet site.) during the first half were: American Patrol and Moonlight Serenade, performed by the Symphony – enlarged by a full saxophone section to round out the PSO’s “Big Band”; You Make Me Feel So Young; Big Band Singer; You Made Me Love You; Begin The Beguine; I’m Getting Sentimental; Night and Day; Oh Look At Me Now; Contrast; and Unforgettable.

After intermission, the Symphony rocked with Rock This Town, and also played Hoagy Carmichael’s gentle Stardust. More hits came along: Chattanooga Choo-Choo; Serenade In Blue; The Song Is You; All Or Nothing At All; Take The ‘A’ Train; Over The Rainbow; a Sinatra Medley; and finally – Sing, Sing, Sing!  If you have information about any encore numbers, please speak out.

The next two mornings, on Monday and Tuesday, March 29 & 30, two pairs of Youth Concerts were performed for students. The theme was “Musical Works Inspired by Art”, and while a final complete listing of works performed has not yet (late-2013) been spotted in the PSO Archives, known to have been featured were sections from Maurice Ravel’s suite based on Modest Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition. Pre-concert notes written during the development stages prior to the concerts refer to an Overture to also be performed, although no specific reference is noted. The pre-concert notations mention that projections were planned to be shown on a screen above the orchestra.

On Sunday afternoon, April 4, PSO chamber music musicians and Maestro Shimada were ready to take concertgoers to Rome, musically speaking. Earlier musical journeys to Paris and London had gone well, so the audience was likely optimistic that some wonderful, perhaps coliseum-sized, musical treasures would be heard. Mr. Shimada chose Gioacchino Rossini’s Overture to “The Barber of Seville” to begin the concert, followed by Giuseppe Verdi’s Prelude to Act III of “La Traviata”. Next, the PSO chamber orchestra played Pietro Mascagni’s Intermezzo from “Cavalleria Rusticana”. PSO principal oboist Neil Boyer then performed Richard Strauss’ 1945 Concerto for Oboe and Small Orchestra. After intermission, everyone resumed their places for a playing of the Symphony No. 4 in A major (“Italian”), Op.90, written by German composer Felix Mendelssohn. (HS:  I’m “OK” with Roma or other Italian connections with the first four works of this concert. But I’m scratching my head how Strauss’ oboe concerto could have a connection?)

The final concert of the PSO’s 2003-2004 season was on Tuesday, April 27. The theme title this evening was “Russian Masters”. For what would be Mr. Shimada’s final concert before he made an important public announcement, to start he chose to conduct Tchaikovsky’s fantasy for orchestra, Capriccio Italien, Op. 45.

Next, Concertmaster Charles Dimmick, for his solo debut with the Portland Symphony Orchestra, chose a violin concerto that he fell in love with when he was in junior high school. He told P-H reporter Bob Keyes that he wanted a piece that challenged him, but highlighted his strengths – something the audience would recognize, but not something that is performed so much it has become routine. The newspaper article stated that “For his solo debut, it’s fitting that Dimmick chose a piece that he first came to know when he was a youngster. Those who know him best say Dimmick’s life has always been about music, and that he was born to play the violin. ‘With Charles, there is absolutely no separation between his musical life and his life,’ says his fiancée and fellow orchestra member Rachel Braude. ‘With everything we do, there is music.’ “

He selected Prokofiev’s lyrical Violin Concerto No. 2, which Mr. Keyes stated was “a technically challenging piece of music with melodic rewards for audience and musician alike.” The reporter added, “the concert mostly will serve as a stage for Dimmick. At 25, he is among the youngest concertmasters in the orchestra’s history, filling a critical role as conductor Toshiyuki Shimada’s most trusted assistant while helping the 78-member orchestra form its musical identity.

The article reminded PSO supporters that “He’s been on the job as concertmaster for two years, although he served as acting concertmaster since 2000 before getting the full- time appointment early in 2002. He joined the orchestra in fall 1999.” It added, “In addition to his job in Portland, he performs as a member of the Rhode Island Philharmonic and the principal second violin of the Boston Modern Orchestra Project. He also is an active free-lance musician and teacher. Dimmick models his job as concertmaster after Joseph Silverstein, his teacher who performed the duty for the Boston Symphony.”

Mr. Keyes quoted Mr. Dimmick, “The most important role of the concertmaster is to give a uniform identity to the orchestra,” he was reported as saying. “That’s something you can’t do by talking. It’s something you do by always trying to play your best.”

Dimmick grew up in Fargo, N.D., the son of musical parents who played in the local symphony. His mother played clarinet, his father the trumpet. His parents arranged lessons with a Suzuki violin teacher when Dimmick was 5. “I took to it immediately, and it was always the `thing’ I did – and what I used to define myself,” he told the P-H. “It wasn’t until the seventh grade or so that I developed a passion for music. On the way home from a family vacation, I found a tape in the car of Jascha Heifetz playing the Tchaikovsky concerto with Reiner and the Chicago Symphony. I hadn’t realized anyone played that way, and before long I had worn through the tape, found a CD of the same and started collecting everything he played. From then on I was an absolute violin geek.” The article continued, “In high school, after the family moved to Ohio, Dimmick began his professional career. He never considered another line of work.”

Mr. Shimada told the P-H that he hired Dimmick as concertmaster because he was impressed with the musician’s ascent through the ranks of the orchestra, beginning as a member of the second violin section. Dimmick has terrific intonation, wide academic knowledge and intuitiveness that meshes with Shimada’s taste and style. “Perhaps because he is the son of wind players, Dimmick’s musical sensibilities extend beyond his string section,” Shimada was reported as saying. “He’s earned the respect of his peers while growing into the role of leader”, the conductor added. “What attracted me was his expressiveness. He is sincere about making music and not copying anybody’s style. When he plays, he himself comes through the violin, very naturally. For me, he’s my right hand. I need somebody who can sense what I want from the orchestra and be able to translate my ideas into actual playing, and communicate that with the rest of the section. A concertmaster is kind of an interpreter of my concept. He has to understand my concept, take in my concept without reservation and be able to communicate it to the rest of the section.”

The newspaper reported that “Aside from his very public task of leading the orchestra in tuning prior to a performance, much of Dimmick’s work occurs behind the scenes in the days and weeks leading up to a performance. Working with Shimada, Dimmick is responsible for determining what the music should sound like and then make it happen. At the same time, he must also consider feedback from other members.”

Joanne Schnell, a 30-year member of the orchestra who plays in Dimmick’s section, was said to have described  Mr. “Dimmick as a thoughtful, confident leader. He is not shy about expressing himself and his opinions. He doesn’t talk a lot, but when he does he’s very polite about it. He turns around and makes suggestions when he hears things that aren’t going the way he thinks they should be going,” she was quoted as saying. “Part of his job is to interpret the conductor’s desire into how we produce the sound. He’s fairly good at that. He challenges us with bowings that we might not have picked ourselves. Sometimes they work, and sometimes we disagree with him. But he is the leader, and we respect him.”

Reporter Keyes wrote that Mr. “Dimmick anticipates performances occasionally with nervousness, but more often with a clear-headed confidence and energy. A well-prepared orchestra has no excuse for a substandard performance, he says, and his job is ensure the orchestra’s preparedness. When that happens, the Portland Symphony Orchestra flourishes, satisfying the players on stage as well as members of the audience.

“The Portland orchestra has strong camaraderie, Dimmick says. Because so many players commute to Portland – most are from Massachusetts or elsewhere in New England – they tend to form strong social bonds, staying in the same hotel and eating out in large groups. The orchestra also does a good job retaining its players while mixing veterans with newcomers. It’s a good place to learn and to thrive, Dimmick says.”

Unfortunately, so far (August, 2013) no post-concert review of Mr. Dimmick’s solo debut with the PSO has been located in the PSO Archives. (HS: But keep your fingers crossed that one will turn up that can be added to the Archives.)

Back to this April 27 concert.......: The final work of this Sunday afternoon was Modest Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition, a suite orchestrated by Maurice Ravel.

A few other sections of Mr. Keyes P-H feature about Charles Dimmick bear inclusion in this THINGS-PSO. Referring to the PSO ensemble as being a good place to learn and to thrive, he added, “It’s also a good place to fall in love.

“Dimmick and Braude joined the orchestra five years ago. They didn’t know each other, but were seated relatively close to each other. He was a member of the second violin section, and she played piccolo. She ignored Dimmick’s initial advances, and the two didn’t date until they had been friends for many years.

“Braude describes Dimmick as a hopeless romantic. One year, for her January birthday, Dimmick announced he had a surprise waiting, but she would have to dress warmly. He drove her out to Cape Elizabeth to a point overlooking the ocean and unwrapped a picnic of toasty warm food. ‘We had this wonderful spread in the snow,’ she says. When he proposed, he sent her on a scavenger hunt. At each stop, Braude picked up items for a party: A bottle of champagne, champagne flutes, a fondue pot. Then she came home to flowers and candles.

“After their marriage on June 12, the couple will travel to Italy for their honeymoon. They’re taking lessons to learn to speak Italian, and Dimmick is far ahead of her in his studies, she says. ‘He’s kicking my butt.’  For entertainment, the two cook together often, with Dimmick taking the lead as head chef. ‘He’s a great, great cook,’ Braude says.

“Besides music, Dimmick’s other passion is baseball. He calls himself a die-hard fan of the Red Sox. My schedule is pretty good for baseball until September and October, when orchestra seasons resume, and I make a point to go to Fenway at least three or four times a season if at all possible. Last summer was very tough, because I played a show in Boston eight times a week, with only Mondays off. I always listened to games on the way to and from the show, but it was a frustration to miss seeing so much of the season.

“It’s not a perfect analogy, but Dimmick sees similarities between an orchestra and a baseball team. Both require refined motor skills, accuracy of motion and precise repetition of that motion. Both must be consistent under pressure. But that’s where the similarities end. ‘You won’t find any pep talks or meetings with the conductor during the break. And although there is an obvious team element to playing, I usually don’t feel that way when I play,’ he says.

“What he feels, instead, is pure and unbridled passion, the likes of which have fueled him for as long as he can remember. ‘When things are going well, the violin gives quite a rush. It feels wonderful to play, as though electricity is flowing through your fingers. Good performances, too, produce a completely euphoric feeling. I think it’s not so different from experiences athletes describe, where time stands still and you feel as if you’re not really in charge of your own actions, but that something from outside is acting on you.”

So now...... you know a LOT MORE about Charles Dimmick.

Following the completion of the PSO’s 2003-2004 Season, on May 6 Toshi Shimada announced that at the end of the 2005-2006 season he would relinquish his positions  --  when he would then be completing 20 years as Music Director and Conductor. After his departure, plans called for Mr. Shimada to be retained as “director laureate” for two years as a new conductor settled in.

A PSO news release at that time quoted President Peter Haynes as “expressing strong support for Mr. Shimada and the work he has done to develop audiences while building an artistically stronger orchestra.” Mr. Haynes said that “Toshi has been loved by all his constituents. His sense of humor combined with his humility made him a delight for audiences. We are permanently indebted to Toshi for his hard work in building this wonderful orchestra.” The PSO president also praised Mr. Shimada as having had “the quality of being able to work well with the administrative staff of the PSO, a rare and valued attribute of Music Directors.”

In a letter mailed to members of the Orchestra, the PSO musicians were advised that “A nine member Search Committee is being formed and we will be asking the orchestra to provide four members to serve on the Committee.

The four PSO musicians, named later, turned out to be: violinists Charles Dimmick and Joanne Woodward, flutist Lisa Hennessey, and oboist Neil Boyer. (HS:  French horn player Neil Deland had originally been named to the committee, but Mr. Boyer replaced him when he departed for Toronto in 2006 to become principal horn with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra.) Individuals from the PSO board who were named to the Search Committee  were Gordon Gayer, Carlyle Voss, Phyllis Givertz and Jeffrey Kane. The PSO’s then-Director of Artistic Operations, Carolyn Nishon, was a non-voting member of the Search Committee.

A Memorial Concert for the Maine Cancer Community Center was performed by the PSO at Merrill Auditorium on Thursday, May 27. The event was titled, “Celebrating the Human Spirit”. While no concert program has been located, a Portland Phoenix article by Becca DeWan turned up during some deep Googling. She described a program featuring one movement each from a number of symphonies or large orchestral works, a “best-of concert” approach she called it. Ms. DeWan’s report said that Mr. Shimada would begin by conducting “Bach’s contemplative ‘Air’ from Suite No. 3.” She continued, “we then jump to the 20th century for Ives’s The Unanswered Question”, which she expressed was “a cool piece — both musically and programmatically.” Margaret Plouffe, a return performer from the previous December’s “Magic of Christmas” performances then sang the wordless, soaring Vocalise, the last of Sergei Rachmaninoff’s collection, 14 Songs, Opus 34,   Next came the last two movements from the original ballet, The Firebird, by Igor Stravinsky. These were followed by the Allegro from the “Unfinished Symphony” of Franz Schubert.

The benefit concert continued with Jupiter, the Bringer of Jollity, from “The Planets”, from the large scale orchestral suite by Gustav Holst. The PSO then performed Nimrod from “Enigma Variations” by Sir Edward Elgar, followed by the Eighth movement from Slavonic Dances, Op. 46, by Antonín Dvořák. The Phoenix article listed two other works on the program: Brahms’s Hungarian Dance, No. 1, and from Beethoven, the “Larghetto” movement from Symphony No. 2. Subsequent to the foregoing being written, additional information about this concert was located in the PSO Archives, citing other works performed this evening: Gustav Mahler’s Blumine; the traditional Amazing Grace; Aaron Copland’s Variations on a Shaker Melody; and Gustav Holst’s Time to Say Goodbye.

Jeffrey Kane is elected to what would become two terms as PSO President.

The PSO organization registered a Fiscal Year 2004 net loss of more than $240,000. This was a substantial deficit, and realizations prevailed that while subsidies of this level benefitted the Greater-Portland concertgoer community, total costs and total revenues needed to be much more in balance with each other. Adding an additional “Magic of Christmas” concert date versus the prior season had not worked as hoped for--  while total “Magic” seating capacity had increased seven percent, final year-to-year ticket sales had declined seven percent. Neither of these “sevens” was a lucky number for the PSO; in fact, the combination effected a double negative on the organizations financial results. Contribution levels were not sufficient to overcome the now ever-problemsome P&L issue.

The PORTopera website lists two operas presented this summer, “Pagliacci” by Ruggiero Leoncavallo and
“Cavalleria Rusticana” by Pietro Mascagni, on July 29 & 31. Giovanni Reggioli conducted, with some PSO musicians also in the Merrill Auditorium pit.

At about this time in the Portland Symphony Orchestra’s history, stimulated by growing discontent about the handling of many individual labor-related issues (HS:  Specifically, work rules and what are technically referred to as “grievance matters”.) led to the musicians for the first time hiring a lawyer during negotiations for a new contract. What has been described by one former PSO staff executive as a “very hostile” environment existed, making for a difficult situation. Changes were certain to occur, with or without better mutual understanding about pay and rules, between the PSO and the musicians. Fortunately, on the employer side, board involvement was determined a sensible course of action to take. A new contract was eventually established, but in aggregate all this was a watershed event, which would lead to another significant negotiation four years later,  when the union musicians would vote to join the American Federation of Musicians Union, operating within the Boston AFM Local.

During this period, PSO board member Lyle Voss chaired the Orchestra Personnel Committee. His role was to become a more and more important one, since some influential members of the Symphony had become less and less enchanted with Mr. Shimada’s seeming reduced levels of intensity to his job. Also, labor grievances had become a significant issue. Understandably-concerned musicians’ fears that P&L losses at the PSO would lead to dramatic cuts in the numbers of concerts performed was another issue that would be the focus of many conversations with players that the board member would have. Over time, Mr. Voss ended up fielding many questions and received many constructive comments from orchestra members, eventually leading to various café-like meetings and also to some suppers involving board members and musicians, usually between two-a-day rehearsals. Later, an exhaustive survey among PSO musicians and considerable feedback from the group was a giant step forward to building an atmosphere of open and welcome communications between the board and the musicians.

The first three evenings of July, three “Independence Pops” concerts were performed, although due to what that morning’s Press Herald referred to as “iffy” weather, the first was rained-indoors on Friday at Highland Green in Topsham. Concerts the next two evenings were performed outdoors and accompanied by fireworks displays, at Fort Williams Park in Cape Elizabeth and at Shawnee Peak in Bridgton. Sponsored by the PSO, tickets at each venue were $22 at the gate for adults, $18 for students and children younger than 18. The P-H told readers that Mr. “Shimada has designed the orchestra’s ‘Independence Pops’ program around a spirited finale that begins with Tchaikovsky’s masterpiece and includes America the Beautiful and The Stars and Stripes Forever. This year, the orchestra also will perform music from Hollywood movies.” Works to be performed listed in the newspaper article were: John Philip Sousa’s Washington Post March; Music from “The Patriot”; the Suite from “Titanic”; Tara from “Gone with the Wind”; Music from “Out of Africa”; The Raiders’ March from “Indiana Jones”; Music from “Spiderman”; Theme from “Star Wars”; Sousa’s march Hands Across the Sea; Armed Forces Medley; the “1812” Overture; America the Beautiful; the University of Maine’s longtime fight-song standard, Stein Song; and of course, the PSO’s traditional 4th-of-July concert-closer, “Stars and Stripes”. (HS: So far [mid-2013] nothing in the PSO Archives has surfaced regarding a PSO profit or loss report related to these concerts. However, this annual enterprise was expensive and projections of attendance were “iffy” [to quote the P-H], as weather often affected attendance.)

The PSO concert-program pamphlet, then in the final stages of development, added some interesting information about Mr. Shimada. “This summer (he) began a series of collaborations with the Prague Chamber Orchestra, making CDs of the Baroque and the Classical periods. Principal Conductor of Vienna Modern Masters, a recording enterprise in the Czech Republic, Shimada maintains an active recording schedule with the Moravian Philharmonic.”

In the spring, when the PSO published its 2004-2005 schedule, it also announced that the works of Ludwig van Beethoven would be emphasized, a “festival” focused on “Beethoven and the Age of the Enlightenment”. At three of the Classical Concerts, the great composer’s Third, Sixth and Ninth Symphonies would be performed. These performances were thus set to fall on the heels of recent performances of Beethoven’s Fourth and First symphonies in the PSO’s 2002-2003 season, which was followed by a 2003-2004 season performance of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony. Four other Beethoven works were also on the PSO’s 2004-2005 Season.

This season the PSO announced the names of 10 new musicians, all string players. The additions to the violin section were Antoaneta Anguelova, Abigail Karr, Félix Petit, Benjamin Russell, Jennifer Schiller, and Kristopher Tong. Joining the viola section were Jessica Bodner, Bradley Ottesen, Ethan Pernela, and Wendy Richman (assistant principal viola). Currently (2012-2013 season), Ms. Anguelova and Mr. Russell, who is now Principal violin II, remain with the Symphony.

As the 2004-2005 PSO season was about to begin, a Press Herald article written by Bob Keyes got right to the point in reporting about the PSO’s financial situation. While early in the report citing that “The orchestral season seems better than ever, with hopeful attendance trends and a roster of concerts that promises both traditional and contemporary excellence”, it immediately took a sharp turn. Mr. Keyes wrote. “Behind the scenes, though, all is not well. The symphony struggles financially, and there are no ready solutions at hand. The orchestra closed the books on its latest fiscal year with a deficit for the third time in four years.” Results of a $300,000 loss for the preceding 2003-2004 season were compared to breakeven results in 2002-2003; a $67,000 deficit for 2001-2002; and a $125,000 deficit for 2000-2001. The P-H article claimed, likely correctly, that “Symphony supporters worry.”

In September, the orchestra’s board had assembled what it called its Renaissance Group – a 15-member committee of trustees, community members, musicians and staff members – to examine the finances and suggest solutions. The PSO president was quoted as saying, “We feel we have already cut to the bone in terms of staff and expenses. We can’t cut anymore, unless you change the fundamental nature of the symphony itself, and I don’t think this community wants a community orchestra. They want a professional orchestra.”

In a widely-distributed letter the previous June, PSO President Jeffrey Kane advised Symphony supporters that “the Renaissance Group would assist the Board in developing a PSO turnaround plan”, adding that “this is a group of stakeholders that care deeply about the PSO that goes beyond the trustees... ...a group that will ultimately make recommendations to the Board of Trustees about future actions that need to be taken to preserve the PSO for the foreseeable future.” The Group would be charged to “review information provided by survey results, industry data and other relevant information and to conduct a competitive assessment about the PSO to... ...(to determine what is needed for) a viable and sustainable symphony orchestra in the City of Portland.” Mr. Kane appointed five trustees to the committee, five public figures, two staff members and three orchestra members. The latter two groups consisted of Jane Hunter and Andy Kipe, along with cellist Debby Dabczynski, English horn/oboist Julie Verret and timpanist John Tanzer. A facilitator, Steve Shult, was retained as a facilitator for the group.

The Annual Board Meeting and Retreat had also occurred in June, at which Jane Hunter gave an in-depth report about the “New Realities:  The Changing Environment”, that was followed by a presentation by John Boden, Principal French horn player. He spoke about the “Changing Realities from the Musician’s Perspective”.

Former Executive Director Jane Hunter recalled for me during a 2013 telephone conversation that “a Renaissance Group was formed to take a good hard look at everything”. She added that after announcement of Toshi’s decision to move on, she also decided to do likewise, diplomatically adding--  “How can you have a ‘Renaissance’ without new people?” Proudly, and justifiably, recognizing many good things that had happened during her tenure, the former PSO staff director added that both she and Mr. Shimada had been “there longer than they ever expected.”

Contract negotiations with musicians had just begun, and the orchestra was embarking on an intensive search to replace conductor and music director Shimada, who was set to leave the orchestra after the 2005-2006 season. The musicians were working with a one-year contract set to expire the next August. A leader among the players said that relations between the musicians and management historically had been exceptionally cordial – so much so, the musicians had never felt the need to approach the American Federation of Musicians for representation. However, “recent financial stress has cooled that goodwill, reported the P-H. At the PSO staff and board level, most of the focus appeared to be on additional fund-raising as a key, along with trying to reach a larger audience. The BIG question remained..... would that approach be enough to reverse the red numbers?

PSO President Jeffrey Kane somewhat vaguely publicly-addressed the issue in a “welcome from the President” column in the orchestra’s Concert Programs this year. He wrote  that “the ‘Renaissance Group’... ...have come together to create a special strategic road map for the PSO’s future. A series of recommendations to the Board will focus on both a legacy goal— how to strengthen community connections to the PSO, and a financial goal— how to sustain the orchestra. Secondly, we are increasing communications among all stakeholders.” The column also referred to, “Third, a planned giving effort, the ‘Legacy Society’, is now underway. Fourth, the Trustees have increased their individual giving levels and encourage you and others to join them in doing so.”

Again this season, an “Opening Night Spectacular” concert event kicked off the PSO’s 2004-2005 series of performances, on Tuesday, October 19. (HS: This start was a full month later than the previous season.) Reporter Becca DeWan in the Portland Phoenix intoned that “This day marks the beginning of the last paragraph in a chapter of the PSO’s history.” Concertgoers were well aware, of course, that this season would be Maestro Shimada’s final full season on the Merrill Auditorium podium (HS: He would conduct some concerts in the 2005-2006 season, but by the second half of that period candidate-guest-conductors would be auditioning to succeed Mr. Shimada as PSO music director. At this stage the PSO had already received 200 applications for the position).

This concert began with a performance of Gabriel Fauré’s Libera me from “Requiem”, Op. 48, played in memory of Meg Gillette, violist with the PSO for 28 years who had passed away in August after nobly dealing with a debilitative syndrome disease for a dozen years. The Eastman School of Music graduate had been on the music faculty at Waynflete School, having been born in Brooklyn, NY, and grown up in Chattanooga, TN. Maestro Shimada then conducted the Symphony in a performance of Richard Wagner’s bold Overture to “The Flying Dutchman” (HS: Wonderfully, the “Phoenix” article listed it authentically— Overture to Der fliegende Holländer.). Next, Ignat Solzhenitsyn was welcomed to stage center. The music director and conductor of the Chamber Orchestra of Philadelphia performed Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 25 in C Major, K. 503. Son of the Nobel-Prize-winning writer Alexander Solzhenitsyn, the well-traveled international soloist was also on the faculty of the Curtis Institute. Ms. Dewan wrote, “A performance by Ignat Solzhenitsyn is not one to be missed.” It is presumed that her anticipations were met; however, so far (2013) no post-concert review of the concert has been located in the PSO Archives to render confirmation.

Currently (2014), Meg Gillette’s longtime viola stand partner, Pam Doughty, still uses the bow with which Meg had made music with the PSO for so long. Each and every concert now, Pam’s music-making keeps the memory of her friend alive and on stage with the Symphony.

The concert concluded with a performance of Nicolai Rimsky-Korsakov’s emotional symphonic suite Sheherazade, Op. 35. Important violin solo passages in this work certainly gave PSO Concertmaster Charles Dimmick an opportunity to shine, as well as several other PSO principals.

As the “official” PSO season-opening Pops and Classical Series concerts approached, The P-H’s Bob Keyes opined that “The orchestra begins a two-year farewell to longtime conductor and music director Toshiyuki Shimada, who will leave the orchestra following the 2005-06 season. The upcoming season – the symphony’s 80th – will be Shimada’s final full season on the podium, with his duties reduced to part time during the search for his replacement the following year. Shimada will have logged 20 years with the orchestra when he departs in the spring of 2006, making him among the most revered and loyal symphonic leaders in city history.

The reporter went on to observe, “Shimada has much work to accomplish before he goes. This year, he has assembled a program that continues his effort to feature masterworks and new pieces together. Several rising stars of the classical world will appear with the orchestra this season, alongside works by Mozart, Tchaikovsky, Beethoven, Haydn, Brahms and Schubert.” Thus, the PSO’s 80th year of performances was underway.

A unique fundraising project during 2004 had concluded late the previous June. A committee chaired by Penny Parson and Harper Lee Collins had organized the Portland Symphony Orchestra’s “Variations on a Violin” project, with twelve of Maine’s leading artists creating unique works of art using a violin as their canvas. A determined-in-advance ancillary aim was to meld Maine’s visual and performing arts communities, which the project accomplished. The dozen prominent local artists put their impressions onto violins that were donated by Starbird Music Store. Each was given complete freedom to do anything with the violin they were provided, with an intentional lack of ground rules set. The violins were raffled off at The Portland Public Market on Saturday, June 26. A total of 10,000 tickets were printed, sold for $10 apiece (HS: To promote sales, blocks of fifteen tickets were priced at $100.). The Committee set a conservative budget, and when the raffle was completed – both the PSO and a dozen lucky ticket-buyers were winners alike.

The artists’ collection had first been unveiled to the public at a March 4 reception hosted by the Jameson Gallery on Commercial Street. Many beautiful colorful patterns were on display, many with pastoral Maine scenes...... some others showing vines and floral patterns. Through the June drawing, seventeen other showings were held at various galleries and cultural venues in the Southern Maine region, extending from Bath to Kennebunkport. The novel “Variations on a Violin“ display was also at Merrill Auditorium during PSO performances.

The weekend of October 23 & 24 brought Brunswick pianist Martin Perry to Merrill Auditorium for a pair of Pops Concerts with the PSO. The programs had the theme “Gershwin’s Greatest”, and consisted of a long list of compositions by the great American composer who the PSO’s pre-season promotional brochure credited with “making a lady out of jazz”. Soprano Jodi Benson and tenor Doug LaBrecque were on hand to lend their vocal talents to the shows. The first half works performed consisted of:  Symphonic Picture from “Porgy and Bess” performed by the Symphony; Strike Up The Band from “Strike Up the Band”, with Ms. Bensen and  Mr. Labrecque; Love Walked In from “Goldwyn Follies” – Labrecque; Fascinating Rhythm – Labrecque and The Man I Love – Benson, both from “Lady Be Good!”; then  Someone to Watch Over Me from “Oh, Kay!” – Bensen; and ‘S Wonderful from “Funny Face” – duet. After intermission the PSO re-opened with the Overture from “Girl Crazy”. Next Ms Benson sang the Gershwin hits Kickin’ the Clouds Away from “Tell Me More” and I Can’t Be Bothered Now’ from “Girl Crazy”; followed by duets of Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off and They All Laughed from “Shall We Dance”. Ms. Benson’s final solo was Treat Me Rough from “Girl Crazy”, which led into a duet with Mr. Lebrecque of I Got Rhythm from the same show. The two pops concerts concluded with Mr. Perry performing the great Gershwin classic, Rhapsody in Blue.

A week later the first Sunday Classical concert featuring PSO chamber musicians was presented, on October 31. In keeping with the spirit of Hallowe’en, one newspaper article reported that the theme would be “Mysterious Inspirations”, with mysteriously inspired works by famous composers. The PSO’s pre-season brochure listed the  performance opening  with Beethoven’s Overture to “The Creatures of Prometheus, Op. 43. Ottorino Respighi’s Ancient Airs and Dances; Set I, was set next. Then Maestro Shimada was scheduled to lead the ensemble in Maurice Ravel’s wonderful (HS: I’ve always thought so, anyway.) Le Tombeau de Couperin (The Tomb of Couperin), composed between 1914 and 1917. In his program notes, Mark Rohr eloquently wrote that the arrangement of four of Ravel’s original six piano movements was done so “deftly that it sounds as if the piece was conceived for orchestra from the start”. Before intermission, set to close out the first half of the concert was another work originally composed for piano (HS: Four hands, this time.), the first three movements (HS: There are ten in all.) of Antonín Dvořák’s Legends, Op. 59. (HS:  The above list of works may not have been performed as originally set forth, for a hand-marked rehearsal schedule in the PSO Archives shows both the Beethoven and Dvorak works crossed out, with Mozart’s Symphony No. 36 [“Linz”] listed to be rehearsed.) Since it was listed on the program (HS: And also rehearsed.), certainly no one should have been ‘surprised’ when Franz Joseph  Haydn’s Symphony No. 94 in G Major, (Hoboken 1/94), was performed, comprising the entire second half of the concert.

Portland classical music enthusiasts next gathered for a PSO concert on Tuesday, November 9. This program, titled “Power and Passion”, began with Toshi Shimada conducting Gioacchino Rossini’s always-exciting Overture to “William Tell”. Then PSO principal English horn player, Julianne Verret, made her way to stage center and performed the five short-but-challenging, melodic-but-sometimes-haunting, movements of Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Ned Rorem’s then 12-year-old Concerto for English Horn and Orchestra. This 1991-1992 composition had been premiered by the New York Philharmonic at Avery Fisher Hall in 1994. Mr. Rorem was one of several living composers whose works the orchestra would perform this season. During the second half of the program Portland Municipal Organist Ray Cornils was soloist during a performance of Camille Saint-Saëns’ “sonic spectacular” (HS: Thank you for that too-the-point description, Mark Rohr.) 1886 Symphony No. 3 in C minor, “Organ Symphony”, Op. 78. In a pre-concert article the Sun-Journal told readers “The “Organ Symphony” is a work that demonstrates the Kotzschmar Memorial Organ’s abilities by putting it to the test through quiet movements and a gloriously loud finale.” Certainly, Mr. Cornils’ talents more than allowed him to meet that test.

PSO-Pops enthusiasts were back at Merrill Auditorium for a pair of Pops Concerts on Saturday and Sunday, November 13 & 14. The PSO’s pre-season promotional brochure listed the theme title as “Swing, Swing, Swing!”. By the time the concert program was published, the title had been altered to use a newly-minted word: “Swingsational”. And the advance article in the Press Herald was titled “A show with sax appeal”. So by now, it’s easy to get the idea--- “FUN” was gonna’ happen, and a group of guests called the Capitol Quartet was going to be at the center of the action.

The saxophone players of the Capitol Quartet all had advanced degrees in music and had spent time as members of elite U.S. military bands in Washington, D.C. The members then ranged in age from 33 to 42 and all taught college-level saxophone courses in addition to touring and recording. Their publicity flyers said that “They love classical and they love jazz and most of all, they love sharing music with people.” (HS: The group is still in existence [2013], although a recent photo of the four guys shows some “hair loss” over the past decade. For a musical treat, check out some of their YouTube videos.)

The Symphony opened the concerts this weekend, starting with the world premiere of Tom Myron’s short Shining Sails. (HS: This song went on to become the Theme for MaineWatch, Maine Public Television’s flagship public affairs program. The recording was performed by the Moravian Philharmonic, Toshiyuki Shimada conducting.) The Symphony next played a Lee Norris Salute to Ray Charles, which included Georgia on My Mind; I Got a Woman; Ain’t That Love; Hit the Road, Jack; and I Can’t Stop Lovin’ You. This was followed by two more Norris arrangements, the first of which was Chuck Mangione’s Chase the Clouds Away. The other, and the closer for the first half of the concert, was A Flavor of New Orleans, which included both Way Down Yonder in New Orleans and the rollicking South Rampart St. Parade.

After intermission Maestro Shimada led the PSO in Leonard Bernstein’s Candide Overture. Then the Capitol Quartet came on for eight numbers, some of which may have also been arranged so the group could be supported by an orchestra (HS: The details about this concert seen so far have been a bit contradictory about whether or not the group had a quartet-gig for this segment.) The concert program listed six of the eight as arranged by members of the group, either David Stambler or Vince Norman. Sweet Georgia Brown and then Fugue Well-Tempered were penned by the former. The latter laid out charts for Capitol Quartet Opener; Duke Ellington’s It Don’t Mean A Thing, If It Ain’t Got That Swing; Ned Washington’s Stella By Starlight; and My Foolish Heart, also by Mr. Washington. Longtime Stan Kenton arranger Lennie Niehaus’ version of George Gershwin’s Fascinatin’ Rhythm was played by the saxophonists, as was Alan Baylock’s arrangement of Cole Porter’s Night and Day.

The PSO and the quartet finished up with a medley arranged by group member Vince Norman, Swing, Swing, Swing!  And....... it’s a sure bet that number did just that!  It included In the Mood; Take the ‘A’ Train; Moonlight Serenade; Four Brothers; and Jumpin’ at the Woodside.

The Capitol Quartet also performed at four Youth Concerts with the PSO for local school students, on Monday and Tuesday, November 15 & 16. For a long time during development of this THINGS-PSO, details about specific works played had not been spotted in the PSO Archives (HS:  All that was known was that an advance flyer suggested that the group’s “Swing, Swing, Swing!” number would be played.). Later it became known from a newspaper article that “the quartet perform(ed) swing music with and without the orchestra and (that) the orchestra contributed with the Salute to Ray Charles. Finally, in 2014, the PSO’s Director of Marketing & Communications, Marjorie Gallant, came through with a PDF copy of an advance flyer about the season’s youth concerts that had been sent to teachers the previous summer. It turns out that lots of the fun stuff played at the weekend Pops concerts was also enjoyed by the students.

With Mr. Shimada on the podium at Merrill Auditorium, the Symphony again accompanied the saxophonists during renditions of It Don’t Mean a Thing; Mr. Norman’s “Swing, Swing, Swing!” medley; and Stella by Starlight. On its own the quartet played Sweet Georgia Brown; Fascinatin’ Rhythm; the Stambler arrangement of Bach’s Fugue Well-Tempered; Night and Day; and Variations on I Got Rhythm. (HS:  It’s my guess that this last Gershwin hit might have been an encore played at the weekend concerts.)

The Portland Ballet Company presented two Merrill Auditorium performances of its “Victorian Nutcracker” on Saturday, December 4. Lawrence Golan’s professional website lists him as conducting. The matinee and evening included a contingent of more than a dozen musicians who normally were PSO regulars -- players enlisted for a medium-size ensemble during the popular PBC shows. At about that time, WCSH reported that four performances were to be presented in total, also listing events on Friday, December 3 and Sunday, December 5.

This year’s “Magic of Christmas” concerts again totaled fifteen. The big news was that the PSO hired a trio of theater professionals from Massachusetts to make this year’s concerts “more magical than ever”, reported the Press Herald. (HS: Brian P. Allen was no longer director of the PSO’s holiday-season spectacles. The theater pros set Rick Lombardo to direct, while PSO general manager Andrew Kipe took on Producer responsibilities.) “Whenever you celebrate a tradition in life, you want it to be familiar, but also truly special,” said Jane Hunter, the orchestra’s executive director. With music director Toshiyuki Shimada at the podium, the orchestra will perform music that will be familiar... ...but this year’s concert will look different”.

Largely quoting from the P-H article, “The orchestra brought in a new stage director, scenic designer and lighting designer for the concert. Their task was to reinvent ‘Magic’ without losing its heart and soul. ‘The sound is going to be spectacular, as it always has been. The PSO is a very, very fine institution, and we’re not making alterations to what people will hear,’ says stage director Rick Lombardo, who is artistic director at New Repertory Theatre in Newton Highlands, MA. Instead, what we are really trying to create is a much more interesting, colorful visual element to give the audience a little more than they have had before...”

The newspaper reported that the concert would tell a story, and the stage would be set with scenery to help propel it. The plot revolved around a family of singers, played by guest vocalists Leigh Barrett, Fred Inkley and Laura Darrell, a young singer and student at North Yarmouth Academy. “Their story begins on Christmas Eve and moves forward through Christmas night. I think of them as an American family moving through this Christmas journey,” said Mr. Lombardo.

It was also reported that “Scenic designer Richard Chambers, a colleague of Lombardo’s in Massachusetts, decided to break up the stage by using risers to elevate the orchestra and chorus and flying scenery and scrims to add texture and context to the musical story. Also involved in the redesign is lighting specialist Dan Meeker, also associated with New Repertory Theatre. Chambers’ goal was to create a stage set that enhances and advances the music. He’s hopeful and confident that audience members who have attended past concerts will embrace the changes.”

Going this route was an expensive undertaking for the PSO. The costs of designing, building, shipping, installing,  and afterwards breaking everything down and taking away the sets from the Merrill Auditorium stage..... later was recalled by one person then on the scene as well north of $50,000. And unfortunately, very few of the materials would be used again by the PSO. More than two dozen IATSE-union stagehands were on hand the morning everything was to be delivered; however although the time clock was running the trucks arrived late. Some of the sections didn’t fit properly with others, causing further delays. And..... “the paint was still wet” on some panels at the time of the unloading it has been recounted.

So.... what about the music?  Once again, the names of most composers and arrangers for this year’s concert are being omitted from this program description. Those details will be easily obtained once digital scans of the PSO Concert Program Collection have been uploaded onto a public website. The sequential order of the works performed follows in the following paragraph.

A Christmas Festival – played by the Symphony; Merry Christmas, Merry Christmas from “Home Alone” – Ensemble; I’ll be Home for Christmas – Mr. Inkley; It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas – Ms. Barrett, Ms. Darrell & Mr. Inkley; Silver Bells – Barrett & Inkley; O Tannenbaum – Magic of Christmas Chorus; March of the Toys from “Babes in Toyland” – Symphony; Christmas Pops Sing-A-Long – Ensemble; Charlie Brown Christmas – Darrell; Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas from “Meet Me in St. Louis” – Ensemble; The Night Before Christmas – Inkley; Sleigh Ride – Symphony; Winter Wonderland, with Let it Snow! – Ensemble; The Christmas Song (“Chestnuts Roasting....”) – Barrett & Inkley; Carol of the Bells – Symphony; Pas de deux from “The Nutcracker” – Symphony; O Come All Ye Faithful – Ensemble; Silent Night – Children’s Chorus; Candlelight Carol – Chorus; O Holy Night! – Barrett & Ensemble.

When I looked over this list I thought that “something was missing; no—look again, more closely”. But, upon closer examination, I confirmed that a Christmastime singing tradition long important to Portland audiences was, indeed, not performed this year (HS: It was BACK, however, the next year!). So...... Q- did you notice what was missing?  The answer is the Hallelujah Chorus from “The Messiah” by Handel. Someday I’ll get up enough nerve to ask a PSO staff person from that era, “how many letters of complaint did you get?”.

Despite all the expensive set and design changes made by the theater professionals in “reinventing” this season’s “Magic” spectacle, total attendance declined a further 2 percent from the disappointing level of the prior year. Total attendance for the run was now almost 14 percent below the peak achieved in 1999. That represented more than a $100,000 “P&L opportunity” hit that further exacerbated the PSO’s long-deteriorating bottom line.

Some take-a-chance Google-journeying turned up interesting information about the December-2004 activities of Bryan Allen, the now-displaced former director of many PSO “Magic of Christmas” shows. An old Press Herald article by Bob Keyes reported on three concert fund-raisers for Mr. Allen’s Good Theater company and the St. Lawrence Arts and Community Center on Munjoy Hill. Billed as “Broadway at the St. Lawrence,” Mr. Allen’s holiday shows featured, besides himself, Broadway stars George Merritt and Michelle Blakeley and more than a dozen Portland performers. The local group included Good Theater regulars Kelly Caufield, Richard Gammon, Jennifer McLeod, Lynne McGhee, Margaret Plouffe, Karen Stickney and Stephen Underwood. Some of that group had participated in PSO “Magic” performances in years past, as had Mr. Merritt. The Good Theater ensemble was set to sing popular Broadway show tunes and holiday classics.

Two of the Good Theater shows were presented on Saturday the 18th, and the third was on Sunday, December 19. All three were scheduled to directly compete against “Magic of Christmas” performances during the PSO spectacle’s final weekend.

The P-H article quoted the Good Theater co-founder and artistic director as promising “a unique program among all the other holiday programs out there, because it’s not just holiday music.... ...Our first act is very eclectic. We have traditional Broadway, some opera, some comedy and some really serious singing going on. For the second act, we’re all going to gather ‘round the piano and Christmas tree and sing a variety of music – Winter Wonderland, O Holy Night, Baby It’s Cold Outside and some others.”

No follow-up article was located containing reports of whatever box-office success Mr. Allen’s competing 2004  holiday-season shows enjoyed, nor were any articles found referencing the direct competition these performances represented versus the PSO’s final weekend productions of “Magic of Christmas”. However, it is likely that the concerts to benefit the Good Theater somewhat dampened ticket demand for the expensive-to-produce “Magic” extravaganzas. That impact must certainly have somewhat rankled the PSO staff and Board of Trustees.


2005       Six weeks after the PSO’s final “Magic of Christmas” concert of 2004, concertgoers once again gathered at Merrill Auditorium for the third of this season’s Tuesday Classical Concert, on February 1. The theme this evening was titled, “Theme and Variations”. The P-H reported that “Guest conductor Christopher Wilkins – an accomplished conductor and performer with international credentials, as well as family ties to Maine – will spell Shimada for this performance.” Reporter Bob Keyes wrote that his grandmother lived in Kennebunkport, and he had an uncle and cousins scattered along the coast. Mr. Wilkins had recently been named Music Director Emeritus of the San Antonio Symphony, after 10 years as music director and two seasons as an adviser. Later in 2005 he would be appointed Music Director of the Orlando Philharmonic, a position which he currently (mid-2013) still holds.

The concert began with Franz Joseph Haydn’s 1971 Symphony No. 93 in D Major, Hoboken I/93, the first of the composer’s twelve so-called “London symphonies”. This was followed by Johannes Brahms 1973 Variations on a Theme by Haydn, Op. 56a, sometimes called the Saint Anthony Variations (HS: Thus..... the “Variations” segment of the concert theme.).

After intermission the concert resumed with Mr. Wilkins leading the Symphony in Jennifer Higdon’s blue cathedral (HS: 100% smaller-case-form is the composer’s preference.). According to the American Symphony Orchestra League at that time, “blue cathedral” was then the most-performed contemporary work in America. Reporter Keyes stated, “It’s easy to see why. Among the instruments required are Chinese meditation bells and a dozen crystal wine glasses. Musicians will rub the rims of the glasses to elicit high-pitched sounds that will cascade over the Merrill Auditorium audience.” Continuing, he wrote, “Higdon wrote blue cathedral in 1999, in part as a tribute to a deceased younger brother. It evokes a sense of elevated sacredness, suggesting light emanating from above through stained glass.” He then reflected thoughts of the composer, “ ‘It’s an extraordinary journey, and it ends with magical sounds created by Chinese meditation bells, which a great many members of the orchestra play,’ says Wilkins, who was born in Boston and lives in Ohio. ‘The effect on the audience is unearthly and gorgeous.’ “ In an interview, Higdon told the P-H reviewer, “the Chinese bells represent stars at night, and the intent of the crystal is to create an ethereal experience for people who hear it. I wrote this piece thinking about a glass cathedral in the sky, and imagined a journey someone might make through the cathedral and how they might fly up toward the ceiling and that there would be millions of stars.” She added, “The piece provides a nice entry for those not familiar with classical music. You don’t need to know anything about classical music to understand it. It can be listened to either for details, such as the interaction between the flute and the clarinet and the journey that occurs through the music. Or you can just let the sounds wash over you, with no thought whatsoever. It’s a work with a tremendous amount of melody and color, and very easy to understand.”

Mr. Wilkins concluded the concert by conducting Sir Edward Elgar’s best-known large-scale composition Enigma Variations, Op. 36. No post-concert review has been located in the PSO Archives.

The third of four pairs of PSO Pops Concerts this 2004-2005 season were presented on Saturday and Sunday, February 12 & 13. Prominent Broadway vocalist Liz Callaway was guest soloist with Maestro Shimada and the Symphony. The names of songs performed were announced from the stage, and no complete list has been found in the PSO Archives. A pre-season PSO promotional brochure encouraged subscribers that “You’ll hear songs culled from the hits of Sonny Bono, Burt Bacharach, and Hal David and made famous by the hottest bands of the era, including the Beatles, The Beach Boys, and Simon & Garfunkel. Don’t miss... ...Where Have All The Flowers Gone?

Fortunately, however, an advance article in the Sun-Journal provided some helpful specific info:  “The Portland Symphony Pops will take audiences down memory lane with the (theme) ‘Sounds of the Sixties’ ... Merrill Auditorium.” The article said that 1960s hits would include songs from “Hair” and “Mary Poppins”. It added that Ms. Callaway was “possibly best known as the voice of Anastasia in the Disney animated film ‘Anastasia’, but also has extensive Broadway, TV and symphony experience.” Andrew Kipe, PSO director of artistic planning and operations, told the newspaper, “One of her solo recordings, ‘The Beat Goes On’, features the music of the ‘60s, making her a perfect fit for the (PSO) Pops concert.” He was reported as adding, “We were looking for something a little different from the jazz and Broadway standards that we’ve presented rather consistently in past Pops concerts. This concert will be filled with songs that audience members grew up with and I think they will really enjoy Liz’s special take on these classic songs.” The S-J reported that “Callaway will sing a variety of popular tunes, including Where Have All the Flowers Gone?, a Medley of The Beat Goes On/Feelin’ Groovy, and ‘MacArthur Park’s’ Didn’t We.

The Tony-Award nominee must have been a big hit with the Portland Pops audiences that weekend, for she accepted an invitation to return later this year as the lead vocalist at the 2005 “Magic of Christmas” concerts.

On the evening of March 1, the season’s next Tuesday Classical Concert was performed. Virtuoso violinist Stephanie Chase returned to Portland as guest soloist. She had three-times earlier performed with the PSO, twice in 1987 and again in 1990. By now (2013) her professional biography lists that she has performed in 25 countries. At the 2005 concert Maestro Shimada and the Symphony accompanied Ms. Chase in a performance of Beethoven’s 1806 Concerto for Violin and Orchestra in D Major, Op. 61. A website source referenced a post-concert review in the Press Herald the was full of praise for the artist (HS: Although Googling by me failed to locate the complete newspaper article. I’ve still got some more PSO Archives to check out, so hopefully more reviewer insights will turn up.). The P-H reviewer was quoted as having written, “Chase’s interpretation of Beethoven’s Violin Concerto was one of the best I have ever heard, live or recorded. ..She is like a great actress, with such presence that by speaking softly, she can make the audience hang on every syllable...The cadenzas were simply stupendous, both in composition and execution”.

This All-Beethoven concert was titled “Beethoven the Revolutionary”, and began with the great composer’s 1814 Overture to “Fidelio”, Op. 72. After intermission the 1804 Symphony No. 3 in D-flat Major, Op. 55 (“Eroica”) was performed by the Symphony.

The Portland Ballet Company celebrated their 25th year with a Gala Anniversary Performance on Friday, March 4. The commemoration was titled "Studies in Variation". Lawrence Golan conducted an orchestra that included more than two-dozen musicians who normally were PSO regulars. The presence and artistry of ballet dancers from the PBC doubly beautified the Merrill Auditorium stage during four productions. Initially, “Degas”, first premiered by the PBC in 1988, featured music by Adolphe Adam. Next, “HBTY” (Happy Birthday to You), first premiered by the Company in 1997, featured Franz Schubert’s Sonatina in G Minor, D. 408, Allegro Moderato., with Mr. Golan and Martin Perry respectively playing the violin and piano. “Swan Lake - Act III” was next, in a Male Variation, with music by Tchaikovsky. The gala concluded with a ballet set to Maurice Ravel’s “Bolero”, first premiered by the Portland Ballet Company in 1992.

Longtime PSO stalwart, Katherine Graffam, passed away in early March. Upon her retirement from the orchestra in 1987, she was named Cellist Emeritus and Honorary Trustee. In 2002, the orchestra’s principal cello chair had been endowed as the Katherine H. Graffam Chair. Although active in many facets of music, Mrs. Graffam often said that it was her teaching of hundreds of hundreds of students throughout her life that brought her the greatest joy. She began a 72 year teaching career at the age of 16 with ten students. She continued to teach until health issues forced her to stop at the age of 88. While no record has been located of a memorial musical tribute to Mrs. Graffam by the Portland Symphony Orchestra, it is a virtual certainty that a special work honoring her life and contributions to the Symphony was performed at the PSO’s March 13 Classical Concert.

Many years later during an interview as this THINGS-PSO was being drafted, longtime PSO cellist Deborah Dabczynski spoke about the fond memories she had regarding Mrs. Graffam, instantly expressing the comment that “She was one of the treasures of my lifetime. She played well, was an outstanding teacher, and had a great sense of humor.” Deb spoke about how she and the other cellists watched over her stand partner in Katherine’s later years, sometimes  assuring that she avoid bumping her cellos against anything when she came onstage. “But.... she always played well”, escaping any signs of mental deterioration as she aged. “She lived for the color purple”, was another observation from Deb (HS:  That causes me to wonder if she wore purple dresses when a featured soloist in the PSO’s early years?). Ms. Dabczynski also reminisced about the many “cello dinners” that Katherine hosted at her home for the section, commenting that “she was a good cook, and they were great”, certainly also referring to the good times enjoyed by everyone.

In an advance article about that March 13 Sunday Classical Concert, the Sun Journal reported, “the orchestra is presenting a concert on the ‘Pastorale Symphony’. It will invite the audience to hear works by Beethoven’s contemporaries: the elegance of Mendelssohn, the romance of Schubert and Beethoven’s own musical depiction of country life. The pieces include Mendelssohn’s (Overture to) The Tales from Fair Melusina (Op. 32); Schubert’s Mass No. 2 in G major (D167); and Beethoven’s Symphony No. 6 (in F Major, Op. 68), the ‘Pastorale’. Singers Ellen Chickering (soprano) and Mark Nemeskal (tenor) will be special guests, along with the USM and Bowdoin chamber choirs. A Concert Conversation at 1:15 p.m. will be led by Mary K. Hunter, professor of music and department chair at Bowdoin. The orchestra’s Music Camp (for children age 9 and older) will also focus on Beethoven and will be at 1:15 p.m., led by orchestra musician Julie Verret.” The chosen theme for this performance was “Beethoven’s Generation”.

The Classical Concert on Tuesday, March 22, was originally set to premiere a new work between two Beethoven masterworks. The Portland Symphony Orchestra had commissioned Bowdoin music professor Vineet Shende to compose Three Longfellow Poems, a piece to provide a Maine perspective on Beethoven’s career. Longfellow was a contemporary of Beethoven’s. Though they lived an ocean apart, the two shared time on earth together, and PSO’s music director thought it would be interesting to place the work of both side by side. The Masterwork Chorus of the Choral Art Society was to have performed the work along with the Orchestra.

A combination of events occurred that caused Mr. Shimada to delay premiering the work, at least until the following season. A P-H article quoted the maestro, “The composer made the piece very demanding, and rightly so. There wasn’t enough time to rehearse the piece... ...We want to present (it) in the best shape possible. To be fair to the composer and to the audience, we needed to make a change. This is purely about artistic integrity. I took the responsibility to say, `Not yet.’ “ Besides the added difficulties required of the Chorus to prepare, further complications were that the snowy winter caused some rehearsals to be canceled and postponed. Some musicians were out for rehearsals because they were sick with a cold or flu. When asked to comment by Press Herald reporter Bob Keyes, professor Shende was quoted as saying, “”C’est la vie”. (HS: The work would ultimately be premiered by the PSO in April of 2008)

Substituted between the two Beethoven compositions on this program in place of the Shende work, was Pulitzer Prize-winning composer John Corigliano’s Elegy for Orchestra. Beethoven’s  Leonore Overture No. 3 in C major, Op. 72b opened the concert, and the great composer’s Symphony No. 9 in D minor, Op. 125 (“Choral”),  completed the concert. (HS:  This was the fourth time during his 20-year career with the PSO that Mr. Shimada directed the Symphony in a performance of Beethoven’s Choral Symphony.) The Masterwork Chorus of the Choral Art Society joined with the Symphony and several soloists for the Beethoven Symphony. The soloists were soprano Elizabeth Weigle, mezzo-soprano Janice Edwards, tenor Ray Bauwens and baritone James Kleyla. The theme of this concert, another in the PSO’s Beethoven Series this 2004-2005  was “Beethoven The Innovator”.

The PSO’s final pair of Pops Concerts of the 2004-2005 Season were on Saturday and Sunday, April 2 & 3. Once again, the group Five Cylinder Jazz joined with the PSO for another pair of fun gigs. The quintet had celebrated music of Duke Ellington with the Symphony in 1999, and this weekend would combine in a program titled “Count Basie Big Band Bash”. This year would have been the 100th birthday of the legendary bandleader. The program  included individual performances by both the orchestra and Five Cylinder Jazz. A concert program in the PSO Archives stated that all the selections were announced from the stage. Fortunately, a memo located in the PSO Archives listed some of the works performed. The Symphony opened with Claude Debussy’s Fêtes from “Nocturnes”, L. 91, followed by Scott Joplin’s The Entertainer. The quintet then played two selections alone, which that memo unfortunately did not detail. After the intermission the group played with the PSO. A pair of pre-concert newspaper articles have been located, which together with the PSO’s pre-season promotional brochure  and memos tell a lot about what was played at these concerts.

The Sun Journal reported that the PSO had commissioned special arrangements of six Basie hits from Richard DeRosa, the director of jazz composition and arranging at William Paterson University in New Jersey. Three of those mentioned were April in Paris; Shiny Stockings; and Moten Swing. The Press Herald also listed those three, plus Li’l Darling; Whirlybird; and One O’Clock Jump.

Here’s stuff gleaned from the two articles about Five Cylinder Jazz:  It had always been an ensemble of friends. In 1983, PSO trombonist Mark Manduca realized that his busy playing and teaching schedules were preventing him from getting together with some of his closest colleagues in the music business. So he formed a new ensemble which brought these people together as often as possible. By 2005, the group was made up of Mr. Manduca, saxophonist David Demsey and drummer Ron Bouffard, bassist John Hunter, and PSO pianist and singer Janet Reeves. The group strove to exhibit musicianship and sheer enjoyment at each performance. The P-H article quoted Mr. Manduca, “Even though Basie was a fine pianist, he is best known as being among the elite big band leaders. His band was the epitome of ensemble (swing) playing.” The Press Herald also stated that “With songs like Jumpin’ at the Woodside (and) Taxi War Dance... ...Basie’s orchestra became synonymous with the big band sound.” (HS:  A memo found in the PSO Archives mentioned that the group “would play two selections alone” so my bet is both “Jumpin’ at“ and “Taxi” were the two referenced.)

Two pair of Youth Concerts were conducted by Maestro Shimada at Merrill Auditorium on the mornings of Monday and Tuesday, April 4 & 5. The theme was “Beethoven Lives Here”. Notes found in the PSO Archives indicated that this program was a “theatrical presentation designed to introduce children to the life and music of Ludwig van Beethoven. This Symphony concert features more than 30 excerpts of Beethoven’s best-loved works. The production involves two actors who perform downstage of the orchestra and includes lighting effects, simple pieces and props.” A Conductor’s Book, complete with full-score and dialogue cues, along with a reference script was sent to local-area teachers in advance of the concert.

The PSO’s Season had two performances to go when a Merrill audience gathered for the final Sunday Classical Concert on April 10, theme-titled “Waltz Into Spring” when the pre-season promotional brochure was published. Eight chamber music selections were on the musical menu laid out by Maestro Shimada. The afternoon was led off with Antonio Vivaldi’s Concerto for Strings in B-flat Major, RV 167. Next the Symphony played Mozart’s 1781 Overture to “Idomeneo”, K 366. The first half concluded with Franz Joseph Haydn’s Symphony No. 44, (“Trauer”), in E minor, Hoboken 1/44. After intermission, concertgoers returned to hear Joseph F.K. Lanner’s Die Schoenbrunner Waltz, before two favorites by Johann Strauss, Jr. were performed. Those were Frühlingsstimmen (“Voices of Spring”), Op. 410, and then Pizzicato Polka, Op. 449. Franz Lehár’s The Merry Widow Waltz set up the final work, another by Strauss, his Emperor Waltz, Op. 437. No advance article, nor any review, about this concert has yet (mid-2013) been found.

On Tuesday, May 3, at the final Classical Concert of the 2004-2005 season, Toshi Shimada ascended the PSO podium in Merrill Auditorium. However, this ascent was somewhat different for him. He had likely just confirmed details of a career change he had set in motion a year earlier when he announced that he would retire from the PSO after the next (2005-2006) season. However, nothing has been found to indicate that he had yet shared that decision with anyone involved with the Portland Symphony Orchestra. Thus, this concert likely was extra special to the PSO maestro, with satisfying private thoughts entering his mind about many successes over the years with the Portland Symphony Orchestra. The program began with the third of  Franz Liszt’s thirteen symphonic poems, the popular Les Préludes. PSO principal trumpet, John Schnell, then came stage front to perform Alexander Arutunian’s 1950 virtuoso showpiece, his Trumpet Concerto in A-flat major. Prior to the concert the P-H’s Bob Keyes reported that Mr. Schnell would put “ hundreds of hours of rehearsal time into his relatively brief solo. But he’s a perfectionist, and he respects both the symphony audience and his fellow musicians. Anything less than perfect would be disappointing, he says.:  After the intermission the PSO music director led the Symphony musicians in a performance of Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s heralded Symphony No. 5 in E minor, Op. 64.

A Memorial Concert for the Maine Cancer Community Center was performed at Merrill Auditorium by the PSO on Tuesday, May 17. It is known that the following works were proposed as the concert program:  Aaron Copland’s Fanfare for the Common Man; Johann Pachelbel’s Canon in D major; Sir Edward Elgar’s Nimrod from “Enigma Variations”; Pietro Macagni’s Intermezzo from Cavalleria Rusticana; Into the West from “Lord of the Rings”, by Fran Walsh and Howard Shore; Tchaikovsky’s Suite No. 4 – Movement three (“Mozartiana”); and Richard Wagner’s Siegfried’s Rhine Journey. Also proposed were: Jean Sibelius’ Finlandia; Stephen Schwartz’ For Good from “Wicked Duet with piano”; Jack Mason’s arrangement of Leonard Bernstein’s Medley from “West Side Story”, also Mr. Bernstein’s There’s a Place for Us; Carousel Waltz, and You’ll Never Walk Alone, both from “Carousel” by Richard Rodgers; and finally, Elgar’s Pomp and Circumstance March No. 1 in D op. 39.

At the PSO Annual Meeting in May, Toshi Shimada announced his appointment as music director of the Yale Symphony Orchestra, where he would also teach music. Planning to begin the new job the next fall, it was announced that he would complete his duties in Portland while beginning his job. The P-H quoted Jane Hunter, the PSO’s executive director, “It is common for music directors and conductors to juggle jobs in different cities... ...I don’t think this will affect us at all. He will still produce and he will still be here to conduct the concerts he is scheduled to conduct. There are many orchestras that have nonresident music directors,” she said, adding “it’s almost the norm as opposed to the exception for music directors to have several major areas of responsibility.”

Jeffrey Kane was re-elected as PSO President.

The PSO’s Fiscal Year 2005 net loss was less than $40,000, a comparison significantly lessened from the greater-than-$240,000 net loss a year earlier. While this result was most certainly an improvement, the string of annual net losses this decade now stood at six. The need for fundamental changes, be they associated with costs, contributions or ticket sales  –if not all three–  was becoming a paramount matter.

Sometime earlier this year, then moving into her 18th season as administrative, head PSO Executive Director Jane Hunter decided to retire. Without exception among many people interviewed in connection with this THINGS-PSO, compliments about her service, demeanor and tenure with the PSO were complimentary. One criticism heard from some musicians was that she remained “too distant” from the playing personnel (HS:  One musician said that she had never been in the PSO’s general offices throughout more than a dozen years coinciding with much of Ms. Hunter’s career, adding “we were never invited”.). However, there were numerous not-so-subtle undertones of displeasure expressed at how poorly had been the PSO’s financial stewardship under her direction, especially during her later years in the position as executive director.

More than just several people that I interviewed reluctantly agreed to answer whether they felt that the near-simultaneous leave-takings of both Ms. Hunter and Mr. Shimada were at least somewhat the result of career fatigue, and also reflections of joint set-in-their-way habits, a natural human trait, that had caused the PSO’s business-related and artistic functions to languish. I found many in agreement with that description. One longtime PSO musician offered that “Toshi did not express his emotions very much... and ...he wasn’t always that clear about what he wanted.” Another offered that “many in the orchestra decided that it was time for the PSO to go to a higher level.” A third person summed up the opinion of many regarding the PSO’s music director, saying “Toshi made a good impression at first...... but it began to fade after a few years. He stayed for 25 ....... much too long.” (HS: Actually, his total in Portland was 20.)

Whenever I would ask pointed questions as to whether musicians or board members felt that either Ms. Hunter or Mr. Shimada “coasted” through the last several years of their respective PSO tenures...... only seldom did I receive spoken “yes” answers. Most “answers” were uncomfortable shoulder shrugs, with respondents’ eyes focused on the floor. Phrases such as “it was good that the PSO could move to a higher level” left unsaid possible other phrases knocking at my brain.

Toshi Shimada conducted four “Independence Pops” concerts with the PSO over the Thur/Fri/Sat/Sun Fourth-of-July weekend. The first was at the Salvation Army Pavilion in Old Orchard Beach, on June 30. The second, on Friday evening, ended up being “rained in” from Highland Green in Topsham. The next evening, Representative Tom Alban narrated Aaron Copland’s Lincoln Portrait at Fort Williams in Cape Elizabeth. An advance-article in the Press Herald mentioned that the programs would include The Star-Spangled Banner; Rossini’s William Tell Overture; the Main Theme from “Star Wars”; Tchaikovsky’s “1812” Overture; Ward’s America the Beautiful; and Irving Berlin’s God Bless America. Complete and final program-specific information about the concerts found in the PSO Archives listed other numbers for a rehearsal, consisting of John Philip Sousa’s Washington Post March; an Armed Forces Medley; Ferde Grofé’s On the Trail from “Grand Canyon Suite”; Hoe Down from “Rodeo”; Waltzes by Richard Rodgers; Hermann’s Duke Ellington Fantasy; the Maine Stein Song; and Sousa’s Stars and Stripes Forever. It is also known that a professional actor narrated the Copland work at the other venues.

In late July, on the 27th, 29th and 31st, PORTopera reprised the first opera ever presented by the company (in 1995), once again presenting “Carmen” by Georges Bizet, with Steven Lord returning to conduct (HS: He had not conducted PORTopera’s productions the previous summer, but had held the baton in 2003.).

During the summer, Toshi Shimada and his family moved to Connecticut with his wife and son where he took up a teaching position and also Music Director of the Yale Symphony Orchestra. He also was by then the Chief Creative Officer and Music Director of the Trinity Music Partners, LLD, which had secured the worldwide rights to produce musical recordings for The Vatican Library Collection. He also was accepting guest-conducting opportunities with other orchestras.

Paraphrasing a lead caption in an “Audience” section of a Maine Sunday Telegram issue, “This fall, Toshi Shimada took up his baton and embarked on his 20th and final season as the face of classical music in Maine.” Embarking on a “farewell tour”, he would conduct PSO concerts at both the beginning and the end of the 2005-2006 Season, as well as “Magic of Christmas” concerts. A search committee, made up of board members, Symphony musicians, PSO Executive Director Jane Hunter (HS: Her as-yet unselected successor would assume her seat on that committee a year later.) and some members of the community, was headed by PSO Trustee Gordon Gayer. After reviewing resumes, conducting phone interviews and watching videos of candidates, various committee members traveled to see some of the candidates perform in other cities and conduct face-to-face interviews.

With the PSO being the third-largest orchestra in New England, after Boston and Hartford, trustees had reason to be optimistic that the soon-to-be-open position would attract many qualified and experienced conductors who had demonstrated abilities to communicate with the public and educators. The fact that some musicians sat on the board as non-voting members was considered a positive feature of the PSO, demonstrating a desire to achieve a “we’re all in this together” atmosphere.

Ultimately, considerably more than 200 applications would be received and reviewed (HS: One was from former PSO Concertmaster Lawrence Golan, by then a conductor in the western U.S. He was not interviewed for the PSO opening.) It was decided that the new person would not necessarily be required to reside in Portland year-round, although a commitment to a strong presence in the community and schools would be required. The Committee’s original intent was to announce the appointment of a new Music Director in early summer of 2007, with the selectee’s first season to be 2007-2008 (HS:  The reality was that the new Music Director would be virtually fully on board around the beginning of the 2008-2009 season, although long-term commitments elsewhere would also necessitate guest conductors appearing with the PSO that season.). Finalists were invited to guest conduct the PSO at concerts during both the 2005-2006 and 2006-2007 seasons. Those announced at that time as scheduled for podium guest appearances during the two seasons were:

Edwin Outwater

David Alan Miller

Alexander Mickelthwate

Peter Rubardt

Robert Moody

Randall Craig Fleischer

Leslie Dunner

Daniel Meyer

Emil de Cou

Lawrence Loh

Markand Thakar

Arie Lipsky

Jonathan McPhee

Events would turn out that guest conductors beyond this list would also be scheduled during the next three seasons, although the non-candidates had podium assignments simply because they were the best fit for respective programs. In addition, the 2005-2006 season program was already being scheduled when the search was announced.

Mr. Gayer was quoted in the Press Herald as saying that “This is an extraordinarily exciting time for the city of Portland and the surrounding communities. We have a lineup of wonderful guest conductors... ...and whether or not the conductor is a candidate, we have an opportunity to work with some of the best in the world while developing relationships for future programming.”

The Portland Symphony Orchestra’s director of operations and artistic planning at this point in time was Andrew Kipe. Googling reveals that he was then in his fourth year as General Manager of the PSO,  The following July he would return to his native state after being named Executive Director of the Maryland Symphony Orchestra. (HS:  Subsequently, at the beginning of 2011 he resigned his MSO position to become General Manager of The Phoenix Symphony, and by late 2013 became Executive Director of the Louisville Orchestra.)

In mid September Mr. Shimada was interviewed by Press Herald reporter Bob Keyes. His later article contained, “During an interview two weeks ago, the conductor and music director described a wave of mixed emotions as he approached his final season. On one hand, he is energized by his new position at Yale, thrilled to be working with eager young players and enthusiastic about his future. On the other, he feels sad that his time in Portland is drawing to a close. Even that sadness is tempered somewhat by what he expects will be a rewarding concert season.

Mr. Keyes wrote, “ ‘I am quite excited about the season. But it’s my last one, and I don’t have many concerts,’ said Shimada. ‘Now that I am leaving, I feel proud. It’s a happy, happy, happy feeling. I have a feeling of certain accomplishment.’  Shy and somewhat self-conscious, Shimada has been the public face of the PSO for two decades. While working behind the scenes to improve the quality of the orchestra, Shimada accepted his role as figurehead. He put down roots in the community, and took pride in being accessible. From the get-go, he asked people not to address him as Maestro Shimada, but to call him Toshi.”

Former PSO president Peter Plumb told the reporter, “The orchestra had progressed a long way under Bruce Hangen, but it still had a long way to go. There needed to be a fairly serious weeding-out process, where the symphony would transform itself into a fully professional orchestra.” Mr. Keyes further quoted Mr. Plumb, saying that he “believes Shimada accomplished his goals. The orchestra today is a marvelous playing instrument. It isn’t that far away from (being) a really classy orchestra that you would hear in a much bigger city. We are very fortunate in that respect, and that is largely due to Toshi.” Mr. Plumb also said that “Toshi is identified clearly and with a great deal of affection as the leader of the band.” He added, “I do not think there is anybody in the greater Portland area who doesn’t immediately understand who Toshi Shimada is. You just say the name.”

The lengthy article, titled “Toshi’s Farewell Tour”, also reflected on the thoughts of PSO principal clarinetist Tom Parchman, who would solo on October 23. He had been a young player when Shimada arrived, with just one season with the orchestra. The reporter wrote that “Shimada gave Parchman direction without a heavy hand. ‘The thing I tell everybody is that Toshi gives me lots of latitude to be musical,’ said Parchman. As a principal player, I am responsible to bring more than just the notes to a rehearsal or concert. I am bringing some of myself. He has to referee that a little bit, because there are a lot of selves on stage. But he allows me to be expressive, and that’s not always true. Many conductors are micromanagers. They decide how they want a piece to sound. But that’s not how Toshi does it,’ Parchman said.”

A notable comment about the genuineness and humility of the man was contained in a Maine Sunday Telegram article. When Toshiyuki Shimada had first come to Portland, “From the get-go, he asked people not to address him as Maestro Shimada, but to call him Toshi.. It had been “important to him that he be recognized at the local barbershop as well as at the conductor’s podium. While his high-profile personality threw occasional hurdles in his path, he never shied away from his public role as orchestra ambassador. His goal was for the community at large to feel a sense of ownership of the orchestra, and he felt personally responsible for making that happen.” Toshi had said, “They might not come to the performances, but my wish was that they would say ‘Oh yes, this is my orchestra’.”

On Saturday, October 1, New York City-based composer-conductor Jim Papoulis, who was then engaged in a nationwide series of concerts to promote himself, contracted with the PSO to conduct the Portland Symphony Orchestra in a concert at Merrill Auditorium. His 18-city tour, and this concert, were titled “Making Music Visible – Symphonic Eurythmy Tour 2005”. The concert program listed the official presenters as Lemnicate Arts & Eurythmy Spring Valley ----Symphonic Eurythmy Tour 2005. The concert program advised that before the performance, there was a one-hour-long  “Introduction and eurythmy demonstration with members of the Symphony”, presumably illustrations of a self-description of Eurythmy contained in the concert program, “Visible Music and Word in Movement and Gesture”. Following a 3 p.m. rehearsal with 57 PSO musicians, the 8 p.m. concert lasted 90 minutes, with no intermission. The orchestra was in the pit for both the rehearsal and performance. Nothing has been found in the PSO Archives to indicate how large the audience attending was, or how those attending the demonstration understood what “eurythmy” was all about. (HS:  In 2013, the website of Mr. Papoulis states that “His compositions are known for exploring new modes of musical communication by honoring and connecting classical and traditional forms with non-Western sounds. Jim’s distinct and ever-evolving approach unites classical with contemporary sounds, world rhythms, R&B, and voices, while combining live instruments with current composing and recording technology. So there..... I guess you have it--- or maybe not...)

The concert began with a composition by Mr. Papoulis, History’s Doorstep. Next listed on the concert program --  spoken words from “A Word is Dead”, was attributed to Emily Dickenson, presumably with some musical and/or dance accompaniment. Then speakers recited some or all of “And Death Shall Have No Dominion”, by Dylan Thomas, with the notation on the program that also involved were, “Eurythmy:  Members of the cast”. Sections from Piano Trio in E-minor, Op. 90 “Dumky”, by Antonín Dvořák, preceded the great composer’s (HS:  Dvořák .... not Papolis, that is. Sorry — I don’t wish to appear as a wise guy.... but this whole deal seems strange to me. Presumably it was legit, and hopefully the PSO achieved some profit for making the Symphony available for this promotion.) Symphony No. 9 in E Minor, Op. 95, “From the New World”. The concert program notes that “Members of the cast” from Eurythmy participated during all but the first movement of the symphony.

The kick-off of Maestro Shimada’s final season as music director of the Portland Symphony Orchestra (HS: He would become the PSO’s Music Director Laureate before officially departing the Portland music scene.) was on Tuesday, October 11. Pianist Eva Virsik was the guest soloist that evening, in a performance of Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 1, in C major, op. 15. The music director’s wife was making her fourth City Hall appearance with the Symphony on this occasion, having previously performed in 1988, 1994 and 1997. Finnish contemporary classical composer Aulis Sallinen’s medium-length (12 minutes-long) mystical  Solemn Overture (King Lear), Op. 75, completed in 1997, opened both the concert and the 2005-2006 PSO season, followed by the Beethoven work. After the intermission, the “Big Work” of this concert was Richard Strauss’ bold and heroic late-Romantic landmark tone poem, Ein Heldenleben, Op. 40. Writing about the concerto, Press Herald reporter Christopher Hyde wrote that Ms. “Virsik’s playing has a crystalline character that lent itself to this interpretation. It wasn’t clear whether he thought that to be good , or bad”. The reporter thought “the tempos should have been faster. They were agonizingly slow in the first two movements”, he felt. He took a “dig” at what he felt was the bass seeming “muted from a location under the balcony on the far right side of the hall.” (HS: I’d have expected an experienced concert attendee to have long ago been aware of less-than-ideal acoustic conditions in that area of Merrill, and thus made sure not to sit there.) Nevertheless, he did report on standing ovations following Ms. Virsik’s playing and also at the conclusion of the Strauss masterpiece. Mr. Hyde complimented the Symphony regarding the latter work, writing that “the Portland Symphony played it better than many of the recordings I have heard by well-known ensembles.”

The celebration of Mr. Shimada’s role in the orchestra and the community would continue throughout the season, as he would conduct the opening and closing concerts for the Classical and the Pops series, both the fall and spring pairs of Youth Concerts for students, as well as all “Magic of Christmas” concerts. Prior to the opening classical concert the PSO music director had told reporters that “This program is like my autobiography, with my wife Eva Virsik as a soloist, and I can relate as an artist to all the events in the Strauss.”

Responding to questions before the concert about possible butterflies before the concert featuring his wife, the PSO music director had said, “Performing music is a very private thing, and performing together on stage like that is a private moment in public.” He added, “Any time your close one performs on stage, you tend to get nervous. But I consider her a better musician than I am, really, so I have total confidence. My job is to accompany her well.” To that comment, the Maine Sunday Telegram’s Bob Keyes offered praise, “That the leader of the band sees himself as an accompanist is a distinguishing trait of Shimada’s time in Portland.”

The first Sunday Classical series concert, under the baton of Mr. Shimada, was an event on October 23. Each Sunday Classical event this 2005-2006 season would include a work by Mozart in honor of the 250th anniversary of his birth. The 1788 Symphony No. 41 (“Jupiter”), in C major, K. 551, by the great composer was performed at this concert in Merrill Auditorium, the final work listed on the program. Also on the program was Joseph Haydn’s 1771 Symphony No. 43 (“Mercury) in E-flat major, Hoboken I/43. The combination of “Mercury” and “Jupiter” in the names of these two compositions naturally led to the theme chosen for the afternoon, “The Classical Planets”. The soloist featured during the performance of another work was the PSO’s principal clarinetist, Thomas Parchman. He played Johannes Brahms’ Opus 120 No. 1 Sonata for Clarinet and Orchestra in F Minor, arranged by Luciano Berio.

Four Youth Concerts were performed at Merrill Auditorium for 8-to-13 year-old students the next two days, on Monday and Tuesday, the 24th and 25th of October. Toshi Shimada was on the podium, with the programs theme set as “Boo!  Symphonic Thrillers”. Works performed focused on “spooky” music, including excerpts “from Peer Gynt to Harry Potter”. The Grieg number regarding the former was from the Peer Gynt Suite No. 1, Op. 4, In the Hall of the Mountain King, with John Williams’ works from Harry Potter – Hedwig’s Theme; Quidditch; Voldemort; and finally Harry’s Wondrous World. Kids were forewarned in a promotional flyer to be ready to “Shiver and shake to the sounds of Mussorgsky’s Night on Bald Mountain and Saint-Saëns’ Danse Macabre ...(and)... Thrill to Bach’s Tocatta and Fugue played on the mighty Kotzschmar organ, and let your imagination run wild”. The latter was, of course, played by Ray Cornils. Likely a finger-snapping bonus, Vic Mizzy’s Music from “The Addams Family” haunted the young concertgoers.

The following weekend two pops concerts were presented, respectively on Saturday and Sunday, October 29 & 30. Toshi Shimada stood stop the podium. A pre-season PSO brochure promised “spine-chilling style” at these performances, both titled “Halloween Pops”. The brochure offered that concertgoers could “Enter the Hall of the Mountain King, spend a Night on Bald Mountain, and shiver in (their) seat(s) at many other famous Halloween-inspired works”. Writing for The Phoenix, Becca DeWan said, “This kid-friendly Halloween Pops concert will feature spooky music from a variety of genres and eras.”

In addition to the just-mentioned famous final piece of Peer Gynt, Suite No. 1, Op. 46, by Edvard Grieg, and the equally-famous portrayal of witches’ Sabbath rites composed by Modest Mussorgsky, the mighty Kotzschmar Memorial Organ was ready to shake Merrill’s rafters. This it did when Municipal Organist Ray Cornils performed “#565”, Johann Sebastian Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D minor, BWV 565. Other highlights of these two pops concerts were the Waltz from the “Masquerade Suite” by Aram Khachaturian; Charles-François Gounod’s Funeral March for a Marionette (HS: The theme popularized by Alfred Hitchcock’s long-running TV mystery-suspense series); Camille Saint-Saëns’ Danse Macabre; Bernard Herrmann’s classic ethereal Theme from Twilight Zone (HS:  Who can ever forget the “Fifth Dimension”-mystique voice of Rod Serling?); and the piece that composer Paul Dukas subtitled, “Scherzo after a ballad by Goethe” --- top-line titled The Sorcerer’s Apprentice. Hector Berlioz’ March to the Scaffold from “Symphonie Fantastique”, Op. 14, was played midway through the first half. Post-intermission music that haunted Merrill Auditorium involved some themes from movies. The film scores were Mr. Herrmann’s for “Psycho”; Lalo Schifrin’s for “Amityville Horror”; Jerry Goldsmith’s for “Poltergeist”; and Max Steiner’s for “King Kong”. John Williams’ Harry Potter Suite and that composer’s music The Battle of the Heroes from “The Revenge of the Sith” certainly pleased movie fans in the two crowds. Some other works performed included those played earlier in the week at the Youth Concerts. Lots of kids were in costume, as were some adults...... a dress code encouraged by the PSO and an added way to be sure everyone had an extra-good-time.

The public phase of the search to replace outgoing Portland Symphony Orchestra conductor Toshiyuki Shimada began two weeks later. The Press Herald reported, “On Tuesday, Edwin Outwater will be the first of seven guest conductors who appear with the PSO this season. The orchestra has said that all candidates to replace Shimada will perform as guests, but not all guests should be considered candidates. In an interview, Outwater said he was a candidate for the position. A California native who did his undergraduate work at Harvard University, Outwater is familiar with the PSO because many of his friends have performed here, though he’s never heard the orchestra in concert. ‘But I’ve known about it for many years. When I was an undergrad at Harvard, a lot of my friends drove up to Portland to do concerts. I remember how much they enjoyed it, he said.”

Continuing to quote Mr. Outwater, the article went on, “ ‘Portland does have that reputation as being a very good orchestra. Enough musicians from the Boston area have played there that the orchestra is known around the country and is known as being good,’ he said. Outwater, 34, is resident conductor of the San Francisco Symphony and music director of the San Francisco Symphony Youth Orchestra. He’s appeared as guest conductor with the Indianapolis Symphony, the Brooklyn Philharmonic, San Diego Symphony, Phoenix Symphony and the New Mexico Symphony, among others. In 2004, his education programs won the Leonard Bernstein award for excellence, and he’s also won honors for community engagement. Outwater’s community outreach and educational programming are areas of personal commitment, he said.

“A product of the public school system of Santa Monica, Calif., Outwater said he received excellent musical training as a youngster that led directly to his career in music. ‘It was a wonderful musical place and an amazing high school orchestra. It was a magical, musical environment. We had great teachers, great people, and it was that environment that got me passionate about classical music,’ he said.”

Mr. Outwater told the newspaper that he liked the program he would conduct “because of its playfulness. Every program has a personality, and this one definitely has a fun side. I think classical music concerts can be a lot more fun than they often are. I would love to go to a concert like this.”

Violinist Soovin Kim was guest soloist for the Tuesday, November 15 concert, one with a French tilt. The 29-year-old Curtis graduate (HS:  He is now [2013] on the faculty of rival Peabody Institute.) performed Camille Saint-Saëns’ demanding 1880 Violin Concerto No. 3 in B minor, Op. 61. On the podium was Mr. Outwater (HS: Before the two-year competition would conclude, he would return to make three more appearances before adult PSO audiences and also conduct several Youth Concerts at Merrill Auditorium.). The evening’s musical selections earlier began with another Saint-Saëns’ work, his processional masterpiece Marche Militaire Française from “Suite Algérienne”, Op. 60. Glorious works by another of France’s prodigal sons, Claude Debussy filled the rest of the program this evening. Maurice Ravel’s brilliant 6-minute orchestral arrangement of Debussy’s Danse “Tarentelle styrienne” was accompanied by the epitome of orchestral impressionism, a delicious 23 minutes of listening to La Mer. (HS:  As long-ago Metropolitan New Yorkers, Sue and I fondly recall frequently hearing the opening theme of the former work back then, as its French horn call segment always introduced the start of one of classical WQXR’s afternoon radio programs.) Prior to this concert, writing in the Portland Phoenix, Becca DeWan praised the educational outreach efforts of the PSO. She wrote, “The Portland Symphony Orchestra seems to be making a concerted effort to give audience members opportunities to be more educated listeners. Pre-concert lectures and the PSO’s ‘Musically Speaking’ talks, held at the Portland Public Library to preview their performances, allow listeners to be more informed about the music they’ll hear at a concert.” Hopefully, the pre-concert sessions favorably impacted her experiences at the concert; however, no post-concert review was spotted in the PSO Archives. (HS: From my personal experiences, those sessions are always eye-openers, filled with useful new perspectives. My bet is that she enjoyed and benefitted from what those “conversations” included.)

The 34-year old Mr. Outwater, a Harvard and UC Santa Barbara graduate, had then-recently been appointed Music Director of the Kitchener Waterloo Symphony in Ontario, Canada. Presumably he hoped to combine K-W duties with PSO responsibilities. From 2001-2006 he had served as resident conductor of the San Francisco Symphony, tutoring under the charismatic Michael Tilson Thomas. His SF endeavors involved holding the baton at SFSO Family Concerts and  also directing the San Francisco Symphony Youth Orchestra. His work in music education and community outreach were acclaimed, an important resume item undoubtedly impressive to the PSO search committee.

Fifteen “Magic of Christmas” concerts were scheduled for this holiday season, all under the baton of Toshi Shimada. However, the series got off to an unfortunate start; actually—the series got off to a “no-start” start. The Friday, December 9, evening kick-off was cancelled due to a severe storm. Two concerts the next Friday were held, but the aftermaths of yet-another storm also adversely affected attendance at those. Since only Saturday and Sunday events then remained, and not everyone could rearrange schedules, a considerable number of people complained about not getting refunds. Altogether, total “Magic of Christmas” ticket sales were $55,000 below the amount budgeted, a severe hit to the PSO’s bottom-line P&L. The ’05 “Magic” performances were Toshi Shimada’s last set as PSO Music Director and Conductor.

The theme of the 2005 “Magic of Christmas” Concerts was “Christmas Through a Child’s Eyes”. Several months prior to the premiere, a call went out to local voice teachers that the PSO was looking for talented kids to perform in this year’s “Magic”. After hearing the 25 young people invited to interview and audition, Mr. Shimada chose what a local newspaper called “the cream of the crop”. Headlining the five selected was a then-16-year-old local vocalist with high career aspirations, Greely High School’s Shannon Selig. (HS: Still seeking her goal, the now-24-year-old since has moved on from Berklee College of Music and is now [in 2013]a recording artist in Nashville.) The other young singers were Falmouth resident Alina Grimshaw, age 11; thirteen-year-old Logan Leavitt, a student at Lyman Moore Middle School in Portland; Dori Maringione, also 11, and attending Lyman Moore Middle School in Portland; and his sister, Jenna Maringione, age 8, a student at Lyseth Elementary School in Portland who had debuted the previous spring in the role of Molly in “Annie” at the Portland Players.

Broadway vocalist Liz Callaway returned to again join the PSO this holiday season. The featured soloist had “dazzled audiences with her ‘Sounds of the Sixties’ concert at Merrill in February”, reported a local newspaper. An experienced trouper, she had 5000 performances of “Cats” on her resume!  She had also provided the singing voice for the title character in the 1997 animated epic “Anastasia”. A Sun Journal article about this year’s “Magic” concerts contained a fun interview with the star, who said “‘When they called, I thought ... why not?’ says Callaway. ‘I love to sing Christmas music and it sounds like such a wonderful tradition in Portland; and since I haven’t done any Christmas shopping, I’ll even be able to contribute to the local economy in Maine as well.’ “ She amplified her thoughts somewhat for the Press Herald, saying “”I would love to come back and spend time when it is not freezing,” said Callaway, who lives in New York and has studied up on Portland’s best restaurants.”

The P-H’s Bob Keyes was surprised to learn something about the guest vocalist, writing “It’s hard to imagine, but Callaway has never sung White Christmas or In the Manger in public before”.

 The Magic of Christmas Chorus this year was directed by Robert Westerberg, the director of the Portland Community Chorus and choral director at York High School. The P-H reported that “Richard Chambers designed a simple but effective set. Because of the sheer enormity of staging some 200 performers, he has limited space, but makes economic use of it by dropping in snow-covered window fronts, lighted wreaths and hanging garland.” When all the ticket-stub counting was done, attendance at the 2005 series of “Magic” concerts would be reported to have increased 3percent versus the prior season.

As for what the list shows.... here goes. Following the traditional organ preludes by Portland Municipal Organist Ray Cornils, Music Director Shimada led the Symphony musicians in Carmen Dragon’s arrangement of Deck the Halls. After that opening, the seasonal theme continued, with Bruce Chase’s Christmas Favorites, a 6-minute medley of It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas; Silver Bells; and The Christmas Song (HS: Why don’t they just say “Chestnuts Roasting, etc.”?). Ms. Callaway then sang Jule Styne & Sammy Kahn’s Christmas Waltz (“It’s That Time of Year..... etc.”), arranged by Mr. Dragon (HS: Hey!  A Google-check about that revealed that singer Toni Tennille is the daughter-in-law of Carmen Dragon. Oh—the magic of Google; hoo-ray for that tidbit!). John Rutter’s The Very Best Time of the Year was next, featuring the Chorus. The Broadway star returned to sing Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas, the longtime Hugh Martin hit introduced by Judy Garland in the 1944 MGM musical “Meet Me in St. Louis”. The Symphony then played Mark Hayes’ arrangement (HS: Or.... maybe it was arranged by Todd Heyen..... I have incomplete info on this one.) of O Come, O Come, Emmanuel!  Next, what the musicians privately called “the kids’ quartet” sang the Carmen Dragon arrangement of Gloria Shayne Baker’s Do You Hear What I Hear?

After the Symphony performed Georges Bizet’s Farnandole from L’Arlésienne Suite No. 2, Ms. Selig was soloist for  I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day. Leading to the intermission was what was listed as Tchaikovsky’s Pas de deux from “The Nutcracker”. (HS: I wonder whether a ballet duo was on stage?)

Happy audiences were likely “lit up” when they returned to their seats, since sometimes the Symphony musicians literally turn on blinking red lights for “Magic” performances of Leroy Anderson’s Sleigh Ride, which opened the second half. The ensemble then joined in what likely was a rousing rendition of Jerry Herman’s hit from “Mame”, We Need a Little Christmas. Ms. Callaway followed with Irving Berlin’s classic, White Christmas, arranged by Roger Bennett. A youngster chosen from the audience then conducted the Orchestra in Victor Herbert’s March of the Toys. If concertgoers expected more “The Nutcracker”, now was the time; the musicians played Chinese DanceDance of the Sugar Plum Fairy and Trepak.

And...... back came the “the kids’ quartet”, this time singing Once in Royal David’s City, by John Gauntlett and arranged by Arthur Henry Mann (HS: Hey!  Sometimes it’s important to include guy’s middle names...... and always when it is Henry!). Maestro Shimada then led the Symphony musicians in Todd Hayen’s Good King Wenceslas Medley, which consisted of Angels We Have Heard on HighThe Holly and the Ivy, and Good King Wenceslas. The Magic of Christmas Chorus then performed the David Willcocks arrangement of Ding Dong Merrily on High. Robert Wendel’s arrangement of In the Manger was sung by the ensemble, setting up the audience for a beloved PSO “Magic of Christmas” tradition.... the Sing-A-Long. The full cast led the way for concertgoers, as almost 2000 voices sang The First Noel; Joy to the World; Silent Night; and O Come All Ye Faithful.

The end of each concert was approaching when the chorus sang Felix Mendelssohn’s Hark! The Herald Angels Sing, arranged by Robert Shaw. Then the ensemble was certainly joined by concertgoers when they all sang George Frideric Handel’s Hallelujah! From “Messiah”. Concluding.......  the full cast (which traditionally always also includes voices of many PSO musicians) filled Merrill Auditorium with the joyous sixteenth-century carol from the West Country of England that (Googling says...) relates to the Olde English tradition wherein wealthy people of the community gave Christmas treats to carolers on Christmas Eve, such as figgy puddings. Surely you know the words........ to We Wish You a Merry Christmas!

One more tidbit related to this year’s “Magic”:  During the fall, a Press Herald article reported that “For Toshi Shimada’s final ‘Magic of Christmas’ concerts, the Portland Symphony Orchestra commissioned a composition from composer, arranger and musician James Stephenson. Stephenson’s new composition will open the concerts.” Examination of what appears to be a late-but-maybe-not-final concert list nowhere lists any composer named Stepenson (HS: It’s possible that he did not complete the composition in time.) But Wait! --  Hold the presses; breaking news—A Portland Phoenix article Google-ed after the previous sentences were written reveals: “Florida composer James Stephenson was commissioned to write a piece to be performed... honor of Shimada, who will leave in the spring after 20 years with the PSO baton. Stephenson had to evacuate his home in the face of this fall’s hurricanes, and couldn’t finish in time.” So.... there you have it—case closed.

Two performances of the Portland Ballet Company’s “Victorian Nutcracker” were presented on Friday, December 23. The matinee and evening events found Lawrence Golan once again returned to Portland. He conducted a medium-sized Portland Ballet Orchestra drawn from the PSO that supported the PBC’s professional-dance troupe and students on stage for each of these performances. The orchestra played in the Merrill Auditorium pit.

Sometime this year, the Marquee finally went up at Merrill Auditorium’s Myrtle Street entrance (HS: a belated “exclamation point” to the restoration!)


2006       Tuesday, January 24, marked the first Classical Concert of the new year for the PSO. David Alan Miller, Music Director of the Albany Symphony Orchestra, made a one-time-only guest-conducting appearance with the Portland Symphony Orchestra this evening, the third such conductor seeking the available PSO baton-holder slot. (HS:  Looking through Archive files, it appears that the precise list of candidate guest-conductors for the PSO Music Director position may never have been released to the public, since one reference found regarded guest-conductors being invited who were “suitable to the requirements of respective concerts” [or something similar, delicately-toned along those lines]. If this was what happened, it certainly was a polite and diplomatic way to avoid publicly-dismissing candidates from remaining on “the official candidate list”.)

The concert program under Mr. Miller opened with Mozart’s Overture to “Don Giovanni”, K. 527. Next was a performance of Mirologhia, a Concerto for Percussion and Orchestra composed in 2001 by American composer George Tsontakis. (HS: Googling revealed that Mr. Tsontakis frequently draws on his Greek heritage in his compositions. Mirologhia has connections to Greek language, culture, and spiritual heritage. A Mirologhia is a Greek woman’s mourning song.) The PSO’s pre-season brochure said that this work “is full of emotional sweep and subtle harmonies, Byzantine chants and birdsong”. (HS: A file print-out copy of an email exchange with SMCC music/philosophy professor Richard Petre regarding an a cappella “New Camerata Singers” group [with Greek Orthodox affiliations]  that he had founded in 1995, suggested [before the below-mentioned newspaper article was read] that a guest-choral ensemble might also have participated when Mr. Tsontakis’ work was performed.). Soprano Eleni Calenos was also on hand for Mirologhia, as was the featured guest-soloist percussionist Colin Currie (HS: From Scotland, and now [2013] a Visiting Professor of Solo-Percussion at both  the Royal Academy of Music in London and the Royal Conservatoire in The Hague.). Two years after this PSO concert, in 2008, Mr. Currie would again join with Mr. Miller when the Albany Symphony recorded Mirologhia for commercial release.

A pre-concert P-H feature told more about Mr. Tsontakis’ composition, which Mr. Miller had a role in choosing for the program (HS: Maybe a bold move on the candidate’s part?). “A featured instrument in the concerto is a crowbar – 13 of them, in fact, ranging from 12 to 36 inches, all purchased in New Hampshire, Tsontakis notes, and chromatically tuned to sound somewhere between church bells and chimes. He was seeking a sound more powerful and celestial than a chime, and found it only on the crowbar. So he created this instrument, the only one of its kind. He lugs the heavy, suspended set of crowbars from his home in upstate New York to wherever his piece is performed.

“That’s not all that’s different about Tuesday’s concert. Featured soloist Colin Currie will set up downstage among a spread of instruments, including the crowbar carillon. A dozen singers will be sprinkled among the musicians to provide mournful chants.”

Mirologhia was described in the newspaper as “a funereal work that tells the story of a Greek soldier killed at war. The heavy percussion – military drums, tom toms and other drums from bass to bongos – relate his tale. Toward the end of the piece, his widow sings of her loss.” In addition to the crowbar carillon, the orchestra had to provide two low chimes that are not standard orchestra chimes, reported the P-H. “They were hard to find. A percussionist in Boston is cutting two new bells just for this, that he will keep in his collection,” said a PSO official.

During the second half of this concert, Mr. Miller conducted the Symphony in a performance of Dmitri Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 5 in D minor, Op. 47, No post-concert review has been located in the PSO Archives. That is unfortunate, for it would be interesting to read about audience reaction to the work.

On the week-end of Saturday-Sunday, January 28 & 29, Portland audiences had a chance to see the third music-director-candidate for the open Portland Symphony Orchestra post. Robert Moody was on hand to conduct a pair of Pops Concerts. Two years earlier, Mr. Moody had started “throwing his hat in the ring” and was naturally gratified and encouraged by ending up being in the running for more than a half-dozen music director positions. The previous September he had become Music Director of the Winston-Salem Symphony, following an eight-year tenure with the Phoenix Symphony, where he had risen from Associate Conductor to Resident Conductor. He had also served as Chorus Master for the Phoenix Symphony, and for six years had been Music Director of the Phoenix Symphony Guild Youth Orchestra. In 2005 he had also been appointed Artistic Director of Arizona Musicfest, a five-week winter festival in Arizona’s Desert Foothills region. He had guest-conducted a number of other symphonies around the U.S., and had conducting experience with some great classical and pops artists, including Yo-Yo Ma, Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg, Evelyn Glennie, and also Doc Severinson and Celine Dion. He was a native of South Carolina, earning a bachelor’s degree in music from Furman University and then a master’s degree in conducting from the Eastman School of Music.

Regarding the PSO opening, he much later said that he first came to Portland “considering himself a dark horse” for this job, especially inasmuch as he had only been offered a pops concert to conduct. “I was relaxed and felt that I had nothing to lose”, he recounted in a 2014 conversation with me. PSO executive director Jane Hunter, a member of the search committee, wasn’t even in Portland during the weekend that he guest-conducted, reinforcing the pre-conceived notion that Mr. Moody had that he indeed was a long shot to get the job. Ms. Hunter did check in with the candidate conductor by phone, from Indiana where she was visiting her mother (HS:  Later events would reveal that at the time she was then also interviewing for the top executive position with the South Bend Symphony Orchestra.).

Obviously wanting to make a solid first impression in Portland, Mr. Moody arranged these Pops programs such that several of the first half numbers were pieces that had “a proven track record” at an earlier trio of Valentine’s Weekend Pops Concerts that he had previously guest-conducted with the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra. (HS: That’s SMART!  Certainly he’d have been foolish not to consider going with known winners.) In an interview with the Press Herald’s Bob Keyes, it was reported that “As guest conductor in Portland, Moody had some say into the makeup of the pops program the orchestra will play on Saturday night and Sunday afternoon.” However, “With the theme ‘Pops Goes to the Movies’, his choices were limited to Hollywood blockbusters. So he chose wisely: songs from ‘West Side Story’ by Leonard Bernstein, the theme from ‘Schindler’s List’ by John Williams and selections by Rachmaninoff, Gershwin and others.”

With a PSO theme of “HOORAY FOR HOLLYWOOD! (A Salute to great Hollywood Films and Film Scores)”, the Portland concerts started off with Bill Holcombe’s arrangement of Hooray for Hollywood!  Next was F. Campbell-Watson’s arrangement of Max Steiner’s Tara’s Theme from “Gone with the Wind”,  followed by the Gold/Bennett arrangement of Exodus: A Tone Poem. The first half wrapped up with the two proven Indy-winners: Jack Mason’s arrangement of Leonard Bernstein hits, Selections from “West Side Story”; and from Sergei Rachmaninoff’s Rhapsody on a theme of Paganini, Variation 18 to the end (HS: This included the theme used in the move “Somewhere in Time”.).

After the intermission, the personable Mr. Moody led off with a short two-minute arrangement of his own called Also sprach the Blue Danube. The clever ditty intertwines two works by different composers named Strauss, with Strauss/Richard the basis for “Also sprach” stuff and Strauss-II/Johann the basis for some waltz-y theme-doing. (HS: I’d love to hear it sometime, since we weren’t living in Portland in 2006 when Mr. Moody showed it off at these Pops concerts.). Bill Conti’s Theme from “Rocky” was next, followed by a 70’s Movie Medley that included John Williams opening two minutes from “Jaws”; Philip Fink’s arrangement of Marvin Hamlisch’s “Ice Castles”; Jim Riley’s arrangement of Vangelis’ “Chariots of Fire”:  and the first two minutes from Mr. Williams’ Main Title Music to “Star Wars”. Concertmaster Charles Dimmick solo-ed during the Theme from Schindler’s List, also by John Williams. The concerts concluded with George Gershwin’s An American in Paris. So far no immediate post-concert review has appeared in the PSO Archives; however, over the following year whenever newspaper reporters attempted to handicap the race for the PSO music-director slot, references back to this concert were universally Very Positive.

In an article published significantly later, P-H reporter Bob Keyes reported that “After the pops concerts, two orchestra members knocked on the door of his small backstage dressing room to thank him and wish him well. He stepped out into the hall to finish the conversation, and noticed a line of nearly two dozen musicians waiting to greet him.” The newspaper also later reported that that within 48 hours of these Pops concerts, Mr. Moody’s agent called to tell him that PSO management wanted him back for a classical concert later in the year, signaling his status as a serious candidate (HS:  Originally the PSO did not have him on any “semi-short” list, so another candidate-conductor would have to be bumped to schedule him for a mid-November concert later in the year.). More than a year later Mr. Moody would reflect back on his first experience in Portland, saying “You can tell when the chemistry is just ‘right’ between conductor, orchestra, audience, community... ...And that was overwhelmingly clear to me” then. Obviously, his pops-concert audition resulted in the “dark horse” now being among the “front runners” in the race.

The fourth PSO-music-director candidate was Alexander Mickelthwate, then the newly appointed Music Director of the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra, and also the Associate Conductor of the Los Angeles Philharmonic. He conducted the PSO in a Classical Concert on Tuesday, February 14. This would turn out to be the only PSO concert he conducted. In an advance article the Sun Journal labeled the upcoming concert as a “ program of passion and enlightenment”. The program began with Polish classical and film music composer Wojciech Kilar’s nine-minute-long 1988 Orawa, for String Orchestra. Listening to a YouTube recording, the work turns out to be a somewhat-frenetic highly-repetitive piece, not exactly one to set a couples’ hearts lovingly beating on Valentine’s Day. However, the other two works on the program were more passionate. Canadian violinist Karen Gomyo was the solo performer during a performance of Tchaikovsky’s soulful Violin Concerto in D Major, Op. 35. The Symphony then played what PSO promotional literature listed as “one of the greatest late-Romantic orchestral masterpieces of all time”, Jean Sibelius’ 1919 Symphony No. 5 in E-flat major, Op. 82.

Details in the PSO Archives reveal that originally Christopher Theofanidis’ Rainbow Body was scheduled to be performed at this concert, with subsequent information showing Mason Bates’ Ode replacing “Rainbow”. However, in the end it appears that neither of those two works was presented. Presumably “Orawa” won the final vote as the contemporary work conducted by Mr. Mickelthwate.

Another pair of Pops Concerts, with a fifth candidate-conductor this time holding the baton, were performed on Saturday and Sunday, March 4 & 5. Randall Craig Fleischer, then the music director of three symphony orchestras (Hudson Valley Philharmonic in Poughkeepsie, NY; the Anchorage Symphony in Alaska; and the Flagstaff Symphony in Arizona) was on hand for concerts titled “From Hollywood to Broadway”. Mr. Fleischer was joined by the outstanding “Broadway Bravo!” vocal trio of Andrea McArdle (HS: Do you remember her as the first “Annie”?), Anne Runolfsson (HS: The next year she would begin a 2-year run on Broadway as the tempestuous diva, Carlotta Giudacelli in “Phantom of the Opera”.) and Michael Maguire (HS: He was Enjolras in the original Broadway production of the musical “Les Misérables”.). The concerts were kicked off with Bill Holcombe’s arrangement of Hooray for Hollywood, composed in 1937 by Richard Whiting. The trio then strutted Irving Berlin’s Top Hat, White Tie and Tails and Steppin’Out With My Baby. Ms. McArdle sang Harold Arlen’s “Wizard of Oz” hit, Over the Rainbow; followed by various  renditions of Mr. Berlin’s Mr. Monotony; Johnny Mercer’s Moon River; Nacio Herb Brown’s Singin’ In the Rain; and Brazilian Zequinha de Abreu’s bouncy Tico Tico. (HS: A newspaper wrote that Berlin’s Puttin’ On The Ritz would be sung by Mr. Maguire, but that never made the concert program handed out to audiences.) Ms. Runolfsson sang the soulful My Heart Will Go On by James Horner, after which the Symphony played John Williams’ Superman March.

Ms. McArdle returned for a rendition of Cabaret, a’la Sally Bowles, the headlining singer at the Broadway show’s  Kit Kat Klub. The trio performed Amanda McBroom’s The Rose, which Bette Midler sang in the film of the same name. Mr. Maguire then warned everyone in the audience that You Got Trouble!, from Meredith Willson’s huge hit – “76 Trombones”. Ms. Runolfsson then sang another Arlen favorite, the “Oz” Munchkins’ unforgettable celebratory Ding Dong the Witch Is Dead. The Symphony musicians boosted the trio for the first-half finale, Jeanine Tesori’s bouncing flapper-era-style hit, Thoroughly Modern Millie.

A rehearsal list found in the PSO Archives disagreed with the final program, so since I went with the program in listing first-half songs, I’ll now go with the rehearsal list for the second half. (HS: I doubt if anyone now remembers what all was performed, especially since copyright rules essentially rule out unauthorized recordings of these types of concerts.)

Concertgoers returned to the Overture and All That Jazz from “Chicago” by John Kander and Fred Ebb, joined by Ms. McArdle and Ms. Runolfsson. The latter then belted out ‘Le Jazz Hot by Henry Mancini, from “Victor / Victoria”. Ms. McArdle countered with Jerome Kern’s tender and optimistic classic, Look for the Silver Lining. The trio combined with a rendition of Alan Menken’s rollicking “Little Shop of Horrors” Medley. The Symphony then performed Leonard Bernstein’s Overture to “West Side Story”, before Ms. McArdle wrapped her solo-ing  with Don’t Cry For Me Argentina from Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “Evita”. Three Lloyd Webber “Phantom of the Opera” favorites closed out the concerts: Ms. Runolfsson first singing Think of Me; then All I Ask Of You, where she was joined by Mr. Maguire; and finally – Mr. Maguire echoing forth with Music of the Night. For an encore, the trio and the Symphony (HS: And probably most of the concertgoers, too.... for that matter.) “let the sun shine in”-to Merrill Auditorium with Galt MacDermot’s haunting Aquarius.

As a side-comment, the PSO’s pre-season brochure listed three different soloists early-on expected to perform at this concert. The three “winners” who did perform were represented by the same NYC artist-management company that represented the original three cabaret singers mentioned in the brochure.

Mr. Fleischer did not return for a subsequent conducting audition with the PSO. (HS:  Coming only five weeks after Mr. Moody’s impressive “at the movies” guest-conducting triumph of late January, it’s natural to wonder if Mr. Fleisher had much of a chance with two seemingly-similar pops concerts?)

With four years under his belt as Music Director and Principal Conductor of the Joffrey Ballet, Leslie B. Dunner was the next PSO-music-director candidate to guest-conduct (HS: The sixth, so far, to attempt a leap to the final round of auditions.). Graduated from the Eastman School of Music, Mr. Dunner was previously Resident Conductor of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, and had also served as Assistant Conductor of the New York Philharmonic and Cover Conductor of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. He came to Portland for a Classical Concert on Sunday, March 12. First performed this afternoon under his direction was Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s 1791 Overture to “The Magic Flute”, K.620. Adolphus Hailstork’s festive and lyrical (HS: So-described by a Google source) 1988 Symphony No. 1 was written for a summer music festival in Ocean Grove, New Jersey. The Fulbright Fellowship-winning composer is currently (2013) a professor of music and Composer-in-Residence at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Virginia. The major work conducted by Mr. Dunner was Franz Schubert’s 1840  Symphony No. 9 in C Major (“The Great”), D944. No post-concert newspaper review has yet (mid-2013) been located, although that is now largely a moot point since Mr. Dunner did not return to conduct a second PSO concert.

Edwin Outwater returned to Portland to conduct a pair of Youth Concerts on Thursday, March 23. According to historical concert-program listings provided by the PSO staff, parts of compositions by eight composers were performed, certainly an extensive selection for the students gathered at Merrill Auditorium to hear. The compositions from which sections appear to have been selected were: Mozart’s Overture to “Marriage of Figaro”, K. 492; music based on Wallace Stevens poetry, Credences of Summer by Augusta Read Thomas; Antonín Dvořák’s Symphony No. 9 in E Minor (“From the New World”), Op. 95; Maurice Ravel’s Mother Goose Suite; the Marimba Concerto of Robert Kurka; Felix Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto in E minor, Op. 64; Jacques Offenbach’s Overture to “Orpheus in the Underworld”; and Gioacchino Rossini’s Overture to “William Tell”.

If he was superstitious, PSO-music-director candidate Peter Rubardt may been encouraged by being (lucky?) #7 to audition at a concert in Merrill Auditorium. The Music Director of the Pensacola Symphony undoubtedly knew the PSO’s prospective executive director, Ari Solotoff, who for two years had held a similar position with the Pensacola ensemble before accepting a bigger assignment in Louisville. Mr. Rubardt was at this point in his tenth season at the helm in Florida. According to information found in PSO files, he was credited with “significantly raising the orchestra’s artistic level, as well as nearly doubling its performance schedule. By initiating a Pops series and adding a series of Sunday matinees, the (Florida) PSO had greatly increased its audience base”. For this Tuesday Classical Concert, on March 28, Mr. Rubardt led off with Remembering Gatsby, a fun foxtrot work by Pulitzer Prize-winning John Harbison that had twice before been performed by the Symphony under Toshi Shimada, in both 1991 and 1999. (HS: This is a delightful piece, that interspersed with frequent dissonant passages--  role in and out of a neat-and-haunting theme. If you try listening to it on YouTube---- don’t quit too early. You’ll be sorry.)

Mr. Rubardt then welcomed pianist Van-Cliburn-Award winner John Nakamatsu to the stage, for a performance of Edvard Grieg’s unforgettable (HS: So claimed the PSO’s pre-season promotional brochure.) Piano Concerto in A minor, Op. 16, completed in 1868. The major work conducted by Peter Rubardt was Sergei Rachmaninoff’s Symphony No. 2 in E minor, Op. 27, composed in 1906–07, with its beautiful and unending flow of melodies” (HS:  Again.... this info is from the 2005-2006 season brochure.). So far, no review of this concert has been located by yours truly, so comments about Mr. Nakamatsu’s playing can’t be included. However the important news is that despite no newspaper comments about  Mr. Rubardt....... events turned out that “lucky candidate #7” was invited back for another guest-conducting gig (HS: That would occur in March of 2007.).

The next time that PSO subscribers gathered at Merrill Auditorium was the weekend of April 8 & 9, for Pops Concerts on Saturday evening and Sunday afternoon. Toshi Shimada returned after being away for almost four months..... since the conclusion of the previous December’s “Magic of Christmas” series. “Photochoreographer” James Portland also returned to Portland, having last appeared here with the PSO at the State Theatre in 1996. This time his “Music With Vision” program featured choreographed photographs displayed on a huge screen, accompanying music performed by the Symphony. The theme for this pair of concerts was  “An American Portrait”, with the PSO possibly playing works exclusively by Aaron Copland. That repertoire included the great American composer’s Tender Land Suite; Red Pony Suite; and Appalachian Spring Suite. An early PSO 2005-2006 list of then-still-tentative works to be played at this concert also included Susan Cohn Lackman’s short-2-minute Festive Overture; Tom Myron’s Katahdin (Greatest Mountain); Samuel Barber’s Adagio for Strings; and Leonard Bernstein’s “Candide” Overture. It is possible that these, too, were performed (HS: My guess is that they were.)..... but not accompanied by “Photochoreography”. (HS: I have not read any review of this concert, but nonetheless hope that was “Darn Good!”, for I have seen an internal PSO report detailing what Mr. Westwater’s fees were....... and they were not small. In fact, the budgeted aggregate fees for all guest conductors and all soloists through the 2005-2006 PSO Season mounted up to what my grandmother used to call “a pretty penny”.)

In its Spring – 2006 issue, Eastman School of Music “Class Notes” mentioned that 1995 graduate “Katherine Winterstein is assistant concertmaster with the Portland (Maine) Symphony Orchestra and is concertmaster with the Vermont Symphony Orchestra. She also is a violinist with the Rhode Island Philharmonic and a faculty member at Middlebury College in Vermont.” Ms. Winterstein’s name had first appeared in a PSO concert program at the start of the 2005-2006 season, ceasing to appear at the beginning of the 2013-2014 season.

On Monday and Tuesday, April 10 & 11, Portland-area students age 8-13 gathered in Merrill Auditorium for the season’s final pair of PSO Youth Concerts. Mr. Shimada conducted these concerts. The theme was “Let’s Play Copland”, and excerpts of his music played by the Symphony were supplemented by Mr. Westwater’s photographic portrayals. Performed were portions of the “An American Portrait” concerts enjoyed by Pops concertgoers over the weekend (HS: From both the Tender Land Suite and Red Pony Suite.). Other highlights for the students included all or segments from Mr. Copland’s  Appalachian Spring; Fanfare for the Common Man; Variations on a Shaker Theme; Our Town; and the toe-tapping dances of Hoe-Down from Rodeo.

Two weeks later, Mr. Shimada again returned to the Merrill Auditorium stage for a Sunday-afternoon Classical Concert on April 23. An early “working title” for this concert spotted in a PSO file was “Bohemia to Maine”,  although the pre-season brochure listed it as “Tales From The East”. The first work performed was Mozart’s Symphony No. 38 (“Prague”), in D Major, followed by Tom Myron’s Symphony No. 2. The second half of the concert began with Alan Hovhaness’ tender, short-5-minute Prayer of St. Gregory , arranged for chamber orchestra and solo trumpet concert. The afternoon’s music concluded with Antonín Dvořák’s Czech Suite in D major, Op. 39. The brochure commented that each work was a “dazzling musical portrait inspired by the spirit and melodies” of the composers’ feelings about their home countries.

Earlier in the 2006-2007 PSO Season, Maestro Shimada had commented on what he hoped to lead the audience through at the final Classical Concert of his long career with the Portland Symphony Orchestra. “As I conclude my duty as music director and conductor of this beloved orchestra, I have chosen one of the most spiritual works in the classical repertoire, Verdi’s Requiem. It is my heartfelt thank you to my audience for the past 20 years,” he had said in a statement.

Portland Symphony Orchestra Music Director and Conductor Toshi Shimada took the Merrill Auditorium podium for the last time on Tuesday, May 2. The performance was the major public event in a weeklong celebration of Mr. Shimada’s time in Portland, with all the activities referred to in the PSO offices as “Toshi Week”. A tribute article to Mr. Shimada led off a 2005-2006 premiere issue of Portland Arts Guide magazine that contained a farewell and salute to The Maestro:  “For 20 years he has delighted audiences with his tributes to the classics, his appreciation for the pops and his irrepressible personality.”

A pre-season marketing brochure that listed all the 2005-2006 concerts carried an extra notation regarding this event: “Please note: The Grand Tier is sold out for this performance” (HS: It was completely sold out just shortly after tickets first went on sale.). The Classical Concert this evening was his farewell appearance with the PSO. The 20-year PSO maestro chose to conduct Giuseppe Verdi’s masterpiece, Requiem, a performance that included the Masterwork Chorus of the Choral Art Society which was under the direction of Robert Russell. The actual name of the grand work, The Messa da Requiem, a musical setting of the Roman Catholic funeral mass for four soloists, double choir and orchestra, was composed in memory of Alessandro Manzoni, an Italian poet and novelist much admired by Verdi. The four guest soloists this evening were soprano Indra Thomas, mezzo-soprano Gale Fuller, tenor Kip Wilborn and bass Timothy Jones. The PSO’s pre-season brochure credited the evening’s sole work as “the most enduring and inspiring of 19th< century choral masterpieces”, describing it as “Sincere, honest and powerful... ...a mirror of the fiery and majestic experience of faith”. The work was performed with an intermission.

Years later, Choral Art Society Director Robert Russell recalled that “Toshi’s last concert was ’stunning!’ ”, adding that soprano Ms. Fuller was “top drawer” and the chorus “enthused”.

A Press Herald post-concert review began, “Toshiyuki Shimada took a long and bittersweet final bow Tuesday night at Merrill Auditorium. The beloved maestro, who is credited with elevating the Portland Symphony Orchestra to one of the nation’s top regional orchestras, ended his 20-year tenure before an effusive audience of 1,908 friends, music lovers and admirers”. It also mentioned that, “A deeply religious man, Shimada said he chose the operatic piece as a statement of his faith and as a way to show his appreciation to the orchestra and the city”, commenting that the concert “was the penultimate event in a week of celebrations in Shimada’s honor”.

The newspaper reported that at the conclusion of the work, the “crowd filled the hall with applause and roars of approval. Audience members, whom Shimada always has viewed as an extended family, stood and cheered for nearly 10 minutes. ‘Thank you,’ he mouthed, covering his heart with his hand and blowing kisses. ‘Thank you.’  He repeatedly saluted the orchestra and soloists, shaking the hands of principal musicians, hugging others and acknowledging musicians in each section”.

The reporter’s general observation was that “although the night was very much about Mr. Shimada, he tried his best to make it about the music. He never spoke directly to the crowd and acknowledged the significance of his final concert only at the end, when he accepted a bouquet of roses and a hug from symphony manager Andrew Kipe. To the end... ...(he) maintained his role as music ambassador. He conducted with a smile throughout, determined to make the high- art experience accessible and fun without compromising artistic integrity.”

PSO Concertmaster Charles Dimmick was reported to have “described the atmosphere surrounding the orchestra this week as emotionally charged. ‘It’s a special concert, especially for those who have been playing for the entire 20 years of his tenure. That’s a long time to be working with one person. It’s going to be weird letting him go. It’s going to be unusual,’ Dimmick said. ‘Everybody in the orchestra has mixed feelings about what’s going on. Everybody loves Toshi. He has been terrific.’ “

Following the concert, Maestro Shimada and PSO donors met at a private reception in City Hall. Two days later, on Thursday, he was guest of honor at a fundraising gala at the Holiday Inn by the Bay, during which members of the Portland Symphony Orchestra performed during a scheduled “Musical Interlude” segment. A copy of the program for that event, titled “A Maestro’s Farewell”, was contributed to the PSO Archives by Joanne Woodward simultaneous with her donation of three-plus decades of concert programs to the PSO’s Permanent Program Collection (HS:  A contribution which filled in many missing-program holes of the Symphony’s previous inventory in the PSO Archives. Hoo-Ray for Joanne!!).

Maine Sunday Telegram reporter Bob Keyes had earlier written of Mr. Shimada, “After some rough early years in which he was criticized for not challenging the orchestra with adventurous musical fare, Shimada’s legacy likely will be his insistence on shaping the orchestra by encouraging the musicians to express themselves musically.” His article quoted the maestro, “I never tell a player to play a note this way or that way. I just give them a gesture and help bring it out. I give them the motivation and the space.” Mr. Keyes went on, “In doing so, he helped transform the PSO into a small-city orchestra with big-city talent – albeit one whose performance schedule has thinned considerably over the years.”

Further paraphrasing the Maine Sunday Telegram writer, another major accomplishment of Toshi Shimada was helping shape and “use the orchestra’s goodwill to marshal (the) campaign to renovate and restore Merrill Auditorium to grandeur, and he (was) viewed as a master fundraiser.”

Wrapping up his duties with the PSO, Mr. Shimada told a reporter that he was energized by his new position at Yale, but on the other hand he admitted feeling sad that his time in Portland had drawn to a close. It was said that “while working behind the scenes to improve the quality of the orchestra” as the new-conductor search wore on, he “accepted his role as figurehead”. Having put down roots in Portland, he took pride in being accessible.

The final Classical Concert of the 2005-2006 Season also marked the close of PSO executive director Jane Hunter’s tenure with the orchestra, before she left for her new  job in Michigan. On Monday, orchestra management had held a lunch in her honor. A scanned copy of Ms. Hunter’s complete final column is included with the other program information pertaining to the May 2 concert that has been uploaded to

Ms. Hunter left the PSO at the end of the 2005-2006 season, moving on to Indiana to become executive director of the South Bend Symphony. At the time her resignation became publicized the preceding February, the Press Herald reported that the symphony wanted to raise by 50 percent the $1 million portion of its $2.9 million budget. At that time, PSO president Jeffrey Kane was reported as saying, “I think Jane looked at that (challenge) and said, `I have done a lot here, but to go to the next level, maybe it’s better if we start with a fresh face at the head of the staff.’ “ It was also reported that he added, “She saw the wisdom of that, and the board is endorsing it.”

At the 2006 Annual Meeting, former PSO President and now interim Executive Director Karen Foster was on hand to field questions and give reports. A permanent replacement would be on board in August of 2006. The board recruited and hired Ari Solotoff, the Chief Operating Officer of the Louisville Symphony, a position he took over earlier in the year after having served for a time as the LSO’s Director of Marketing and Development. (HS:  Earlier he had served as the Executive Director of the Pensacola Symphony Orchestra in Florida, where he oversaw the completion of its $1.7 million capital campaign.) A graduate of the University of California-Berkeley, where he managed the University Symphony Orchestra, the New York native was an oboist by training and had performed with the San Francisco Symphony Youth Orchestra. Mr. Solotoff had received his bachelor’s degree in Classical Languages. He began his career as the Communications Department Special Projects Intern at the San Francisco Symphony. The son of a longtime music educator father, growing up, he had attended Julliard Preparatory. At the time of his appointment to the PSO top staff role, his wife was completing her second year at the University of Kentucky Law School. The young (HS: then 26) Mr. Solotoff’s hiring was the result of a national search conducted by a board committee headed by Jeff Kane.

MaineBIZ newspaper’s Whit Richardson interviewed the then-26-year-old graduate from the American Symphony Orchestra League’s prestigious Orchestra Management Fellowship Program at about this time (HS:  The 2003 graduate of the League Program, Mr. Solotoff’s year included residencies at the Aspen Music Festival & School, Orange County’s Pacific Symphony, Dayton Philharmonic, and the Pittsburgh Symphony.). The reporter wrote that “since the PSO is searching for a new musical director, he (Mr. Solotoff) saw an opportunity to help shape the symphony’s artistic vision. ‘In my mind there’s really no more exciting event for an orchestra than to choose its new artistic leadership’, Solotoff says. ‘The musical director in many ways is the face for the arts in a community and that individual becomes a spokesperson, becomes the embodiment of our aspirations’.” Continuing, the article added, “Solotoff sees his position of executive director, on the other hand, as more of a support position, making sure the artistic vision of the musical director can happen. To do that, he says, requires ‘as much business savvy and financially sound practices as possible’.” (HS:  His “business savvy”-ness, and also his “people savvy”-ness would end up being put to a Severe Test during what would [fortunately] be his successful four-year tenure at the administrative helm of the PSO.)

At about this point in time the PSO’s director of operations and artistic planning, Andrew Kipe, took another position, in Maryland. When this paragraph was first written by yours truly (mid-2013) he had been general manager of the Phoenix Symphony for two and one-half years and even more currently (late-2013) he was appointed Executive Director of the Louisville Orchestra.

During this period, the PSO’s staff offices were in the Time and Temperature Building on Congress Street.

PSO files reveal that this year a series of information-exchange meetings between PSO Board members and virtually all musicians wanting to exchange thoughts and ideas were held. The objective was unquestionably to obtain musicians’ input and buy-in to boost morale and stave off above-normal turnover.

Search-related costs associated with both the Music Director position and the Executive Director slot this year hit the budget for about $100,000.

Those extraordinary costs were a meaningful factor in the Fiscal Year 2006 net loss exceeding $295,000. Nonetheless, as in effect providing subsidies allowing Greater-Portland area audiences to enjoy more than 40 concerts during the year, the PSO was making a valuable contribution to the community. However, with consecutive annual net losses for the organization now standing at the number-seven, severe consequential financial storm clouds were dangerously close. Board plans to significantly increase the PSO’s artistic operating budget would soon be shelved, and severe attention to cost-cutting would instead prove to be the primary necessary mission.

Deborah Galarneau is elected to the first of what would become two terms as PSO President.

About this point in time, in a newspaper article regarding the PSO’s operations and finances, the P-H reported that “For the first time in at least two decades, Galarneau and other members of the symphony board assumed additional day-to-day responsibilities to help the orchestra through this transitional phase.” The first order of business, of course, was to move forward on a music-director search. A second was to continue aggressive fundraising to help erase a deficit of between $100,000 and $150,000 that Galarneau attributed to “transitional expenses” related to national searches to replace both Shimada and Hunter. Additionally, the board members helped as the new PSO office team got up to speed, employing a new culture, or “develop(ing) a new, compelling vision,” PSO President Galarneau said to the P-H reporter.

Sometime this year, restoration work began on the ever-deteriorating City Hall clock tower. Fortunately, potential noises from daytime workmen would not possibly disturb evening or Sunday-afternoon PSO concerts down in Merrill Auditorium.

This year, both Heather Klenow (later Sumner) and Joseph Boucher joined the PSO offstage team. Mr. Boucher remains a key member of the current (2015) staff. Heather, a talented clarinetist raised in Michigan, attended both the  Cincinnati Conservatory of Music and The University of Tennessee, earning a  Bachelor’s degree in Music Education and a Masters degree in Clarinet Performance. With the PSO she began as personnel manager and quickly gravitated to manage the PSO’s Youth Education activities. With the title of Education & Community Engagement Manager, her PSO assignment evolved to coordinating all KinderKonzerts and Youth Concerts. (In mid-2013 Mrs. Sumner would decide on a career change, and thus leave her employment with the PSO to seek a full-time teaching job. Julliard grad Rose Kue took over the PSO’s Education & Community Engagement Manager duties.)

With substantial stagehand and theatrical experience starting in the mid-90’s, lifelong Mainer Joe Boucher had in 2004 previously been privately engaged by the PSO as an independent contractor. In 2004 he was hired to be Production Stage Manager for that season’s  PSO’s “Magic of Christmas” concerts. He handled that complicated production assignment so well that in the fall of 2006 he would be hired as assistant stage manager, and took on running the second half of the season on his own when the previous manager left after Magic-2006. After running the Indy-Pops run the previous summer, in September of 2007 he would be invited to become a full time employee, in the newly-created position of PSO Concert Manager. He is always on hand before and during PSO concerts and rehearsals (HS:  Usually at Merrill Auditorium, but also elsewhere when away events are scheduled.). His voice is well known to PSO audiences, as he always announces legally-required safety practices prior to Merrill events involving the PSO (HS:  Yep.... he is the guy who reminds you that “now would be a good time to open any candy or cough drop packages” before conductors come on stage to start concerts.).

Four “Independence Pops” concerts were set for this year, each conducted by Paul Polivnick, the music director of the New Hampshire Music Festival. In the end, only three were performed since the event at Shawnee Peak in Bridgton was cancelled (HS: Presumably due to weather, although no specific info has been located in the PSO Archives to verify that supposition.). Thursday, June 29, found the PSO performing before a crowd in Old Orchard Beach, at the Salvation Army Pavilion. The next night it was out to Fort Williams in Cape Elizabeth. Saturday was the no-concert at Bridgton, and Monday –instead of a show at Highland Green, there was a “rain-in” at Topsham (HS: The third year in a row for such a re-scheduling.). For a long time, detailed information about specific works performed wasn’t spotted in the PSO Archives, but then PSO librarian Jon Poupore, who searched through old lists saved in computer files, came through with the list. After The Star-Spangled Banner came John Philip Sousa’s Semper Fidelis March. Morton Gould’s American Salute was followed by Antonín Dvořák’s Slavonic Dance No. 1, Op. 46, then Percy Grainger’s Irish Tune From County Derry, based on Danny Boy. A work named Promenade and then James A. Beckel’s lengthy patriotic Liberty for All very naturally led to Bob Lowden’s Armed Forces Medley..... and then intermission.

The second of half of each of these Indy-Pops concerts was led off with Tim Rumsey’s powerful Freedom Fanfare, featuring the PSO’s brasses and timpani. Leroy Anderson was then saluted, as Mr. Polovnick led the Symphony in three of his always-popular works, the titles of which began with the letter “B”---  Blue Tango; Belle of the Ball; and Bugler’s Holiday. The “West Side Story” Medley from the pen and brilliant imagination of Leonard Bernstein was followed by Tchaikovsky’s “1812” Overture, then America the Beautiful, wonderfully set to lyrics from Katherine Lee Bates. Irving Berlin’s God Bless America led to the finale, Sousa’s Stars and Stripes Forever.

This series of Indy-Pops concerts proved to be a substantial money-loser for the Portland Symphony Orchestra. Post-concert audits spotted in the PSO Archives indicate expenses of producing the series exceeded ticket sales and other revenue by more than $50,000. Whether a loss of this magnitude was planned from the beginning is unsure; if so, it’s virtually a sure thing that the ramifications from these and other losses was not planned---- times were approaching when significant changes in summer scheduling by the PSO would need to be made.

This summer PORTopera presented two productions of Mozart’s “Don Giovanni” at Merrill Auditorium. Giovanni Reggioli, who had conducted PORTopera performances two summers earlier, was again holding the baton. Many PSO musicians were also in the pit with him.

Looking ahead to the post-Shimada era, about this time, longtime Boston Symphony concertmaster (HS: By this point in time then retired from the BSO, and residing in Utah.) Joseph Silverstein was contracted to conduct up to four Tuesday Classical concerts during the 2007-2008 PSO season. He would also then become Artistic Director for that season, part of the plan to make the transition period leading to the next PSO music director a smooth and musically-credible one. A Maine Sunday Telegram article stated that he would “consult with the PSO on programming, performers and artistic policy as the orchestra conclude(d) its search for a music director”. Mr. Silverstein was quoted as saying “I hope to develop a repertoire for next season that will give the orchestra a lot of stimulation and will be attractive to the audience”. The Telegram reported that PSO Executive Director Solotoff said that the goal was to provide stability during the search and hiring of a new director and conductor. “This is a pivotal time in the history of the Portland symphony, and artistic leadership and continuity are critical ingredients”.

Sometime during the summer of 2006 a web breach occurred at the PortTix site, when unknown information related to yet-not-fulfilled web orders was possibly purloined. PSO patrons were advised by letter of the situation in early September. Fortunately, 95 percent of PSO patrons made their purchases via mail, in person, or over the phone---, so the impact of the breach was thought to be minimal.

By the fall of 2006, substantial turnover of the PSO office staff had occurred. (HS:  Reports have it that one staffer had moved to Chicago, but commuted back to Portland for concerts—with airfares and hotel room reimbursement. It’s likely that deciding to end such unnecessary expenses didn’t take much time.) Hired to reset the functions, attitudes and accomplishments of the “upstairs part” of the PSO, Mr. Solotoff was undoubtedly a very busy person. Some of his hires would not remain long-term, but several are still (HS; In 2013) on board and making significant contributions to both the Symphony’s musical and financial-management activities.

The first concert program of the 2006-2007 season contained Ari Solotoff’s first program-communication to the greater PSO audience. He appropriately began with kudos to the Symphony’s musicians. In the next paragraph he referenced the need to operate with a balanced budget, stating the commitment of the Board to “work diligently and thoughtfully to insure the continuation of this (the PSO organization’s role in the community) important musical tradition”.

The opening-night concert of the PSO’s 82nd< Season also resumed the chase to determine the Portland  Symphony Orchestra’s next Music Director and Conductor. Daniel Meyer had the reins (and the Merrill Auditorium baton) this Tuesday evening, October 10. The Resident Conductor of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra and Music Director of the Pittsburgh Youth Symphony, he had just recently been appointed Music Director of the Asheville Symphony Orchestra. The concert program listed Leonard Bernstein’s 11-minute Three Dance Episodes from “On the Town” as the season’s first work to be performed. The segments were The Great Lover (HS: based on the musical’s hit song “New York, New York”); Lonely Town (Pas de deux); and Times Square: 1944. (HS: The musical “On the Town” was written shortly after his first symphony [“Jeremiah”], when he was 26 years old.).

The soloist for the evening was violinist Jennifer Frautschi, a young rising star whose potential had led to a private foundation loaning her a rare 1722 Stradivarius (HS: Which she still [2013] plays.), called the “ex-Cadiz”. Ms. Frautchi performed Max Bruch’s Violin Concerto No. 1 No. 1 in G minor, Op. 26, one of the most popular violin concertos in the repertory. After intermission, the other work performed at this concert was  Johannes Brahms cheery and almost pastoral 1877 Symphony No. 2 in D major, Op. 73.

The 2006-2007 season’s first pair of Pops Concerts were performed at Merrill Auditorium on Saturday and Sunday, October 21 & 22. Edwin Outwater, who had led off the music-director-search auditions the previous November at a classical concert, was guest conductor this weekend. The theme of these Pops events was “Masters of Swing; Fall Into Pops!”, featuring works largely by George Gershwin and a medley of hits composed by Duke Ellington. A Richard Rodgers’ jazz-ballet composition was also on the program. Soprano Kishna Davis was on deck to sing some of the numbers (HS: A PSO pre-season promotional brochure had listed Lisa Vroman as soloist.). She and Mr. Outwater announced some well-known numbers of other great American composer/leaders (HS: Although no list of those has yet been uncovered in the PSO Archives.). Guest piano soloist was John Novacek (HS: A very talented pianist-composer who Sue and I have several times driven moderately-long distances to see perform; obviously we like him a lot.).

These Pops concerts kicked off with Hermann’s Duke Ellington Medley, followed by Richard Rodgers’ Slaughter on 10th Avenue from “On Your Toes”. Five numbers by George Gershwin were next, led off by the talented Mr. Novacek performing Rhapsody in Blue. The Symphony then played American in Paris. Three popular Gershwin numbers were also on the program, led off with By Strauss. (HS: I’ve always liked this piece, so I Googled...... and discovered some stuff new to me:  It was a number performed by the Gershwins at private parties, and frequent-attendee Vincente Minnelli decided to include it in his 1936 revue “The Show is On”. Fifteen years later, it was then performed by Gene Kelly and Oscar Levant in Minnelli’s 1951 film An American in Paris. ----I found all that fascinating.) Summertime from “Porgy and Bess” preceded Man I Love (HS: Which..... Googling revealed, was originally part of the 1924 score composed for the Gershwin government satire “Lady, Be Good” as The Girl I Love. The song was deleted from the Broadway show, but has survived to have a long life as a popular number.).

The remainder of the Pops programs this weekend were the jazz standard Duke Ellington’s Don’t Get Around Much Any More; Bobby Troup’s Route 66 (HS: Like--- “”Get Your Kicks on....”); and Harry Warren’s always-catchy big-band swing tune recorded by Glenn Miller, Chattanooga Choo-choo. There must have been some encores, but the PSO Archives are keeping any info about that a secret.

Sometime before these concerts, the PSO’s Stage Manager, Chris Sims, made the decision to begin using a new piano technician. Wanting assurance that his tuning-abilities were high enough, before these Gershwin-Pops concerts they enlisted soloist John Novacek to “find all kinds of nitty-gritty problems with the piano that needed correction” when the new technician arrived before the dress rehearsal. Essentially, the “test” would be to see if the piano could be taken from 98%-adjusted to a near-perfect 99.9%. Working on this, then that, then another “that”, etc., the new technician over and over satisfied Mr. Novacek’s criticisms of the instrument............. and in the process satisfied Mr. Sims that he was the right guy for the job. Today (2014), that piano technician, Matt Guggenheim, continues to be the expert who the PSO calls on before every performance that involves its majestic 9-foot Steinway Model D Concert Grand.

A week after the Gershwin-Pops concert, on Sunday the 29th< of October, the still-visiting Mr. Outwater put on his tails for another Classical Concert at Merrill Auditorium. Joining him at the front of the stage for two works was Northwestern graduate Eric Ruske (HS: Now [2013] he directs the Horn Seminar at the Boston University Tanglewood Institute and is Professor of Horn at Boston University.). First Mr. Ruske performed Mozart’s 1756 Horn Concerto No. 4 in E Flat Major, K. 495, followed by Paul Dukas’ 1906 Villanelle for Horn and Orchestra. The other work on the program this afternoon was Johannes Brahms’ 1858 Serenade No. 1, Op 11 in D major.

On Monday and Tuesday, October 30 & 31, pairs of Youth Concerts were conducted by Edwin Outwater at Merrill Auditorium. Titled “The Four Elements of A Concert”, the programs explained the fundamental basics of classical concert. Excerpts from Mozart’s Overture to “The Marriage of Figaro” and also from Jacques Offenbach’s Overture to “Orpheous in the Underworld” (Allegro to the end) were performed, as also was the Allegro Vivace to the end of the Overture to “William Tell” by Gioacchino Rossini. Another example for the students was the Polonaise Brillante No. 1 in D major, Op.4 for violin, by Henryk Wieniaswski, a piece for violin and piano. A remote snippet of information spotted revealed that a guest performer at these concerts was violinist Kelsy Blumenthal, daughter of PSO violinist Holly Ovenden. While nothing in that source indicated what she played, it likely was the Wieniaswski work. Also in attendance at the concerts was composer Vineet Shende, on the music faculty at Bowdoin College. On the youth programs was his 2003 composition, Razzle, commissioned by National Symphony Orchestra and premiered in 2003 by the NSO under Leonard Slatkin. The other works conducted by Mr. Outwater were Maurice Ravel’s The Enchanted Garden from “Mother Goose Suite” and the (HS: Familiar to their parents) Allegro con fuoco from Symphony No. 9 in E minor, From the New World, Op. 95, B. 178, by Antonín Dvořák.

With his conducting stints at two Pops concerts, a Classical concert and two pairs of Youth concerts over an 11-day late-October period (HS: In addition to his classical-concert appearance in 2005), it appears that Mr. Outwater was high on the radar of the PSO search committee.

The cost of bringing in many out-of-town baton slingers during the search/tryouts was substantial. Edwin Outwater’s employment contract for all his Portland appearances is retained in the PSO records. While it would be inappropriate to reveal what he was paid, suffice it to say that had he for a full year been able to maintain that daily-average rate of compensation...... well------ it would have accumulated to a tidy 6-figure sum.

On Tuesday evening, November 14, affable music-director-candidate Robert Moody returned to conduct a Classical Concert (HS:  He had been enthusiastically received at a pair of Pops concerts in January, and now---  pending a satisfactory classical concert appearance [possibly along with Mr. Outwater] ---yours truly believes that Mr. Moody likely had become the front-runner in the minds of the search committee. Earlier, another guest conductor candidate, Dorian Wilson had been “penciled in“ to conduct on this date, but notified the PSO that he needed to cancel due to a family situation. Thus, there was an open date to schedule Mr. Moody, certainly a most-opportune development. Ultimately, the other candidate’s withdrawal and Mr. Moody’s classical-concert appearance would have far-reaching effects on the PSO.) Documents found in the PSO Archives indicate that Dorian Wilson had initially been scheduled to conduct the concert this evening. One of Leonard Bernstein’s last students, his Oberlin-Indiana-Michigan university training had been followed by 15 years of conducting assignments, primarily in Europe. PSO conductor-search files do not make it clear whether he was a finalist-candidate, although he likely was high on any “back-up” list. In any event, after being replaced by Mr. Moody for the 11/14/06 conducting date in Portland, Mr. Wilson never did appear with the PSO.

At this performance, the opening work was Danzón No. 2 for Orchestra, by prominent Mexican composer Arturo Márquez. Premiered in 1994, it is one of the most popular and significant frequently played Mexican contemporary classical music compositions performed by orchestras. (HS: Googling reveals that Mr. Márquez’ work expresses and reflects on a dance style called Danzón, which has its origins in Cuba but is a very important part of the folklore of the Mexican state of Veracruz. The composer reportedly got his inspiration while visiting a ballroom in that city.)

This classical concert was supposed to have continued with a performance of Mozart’s 1784 Piano Concerto No. 19 in F major, KV 459, with Horacio Gutiérrez, guest soloist. However, the guest artist became ill and at the last minute a substitute, Orion Weiss, was quickly enlisted as a substitute. Fortunately, as the concerto was already in his repertoire, Mr. Weiss was up to performing the scheduled Mozart work. The Portland Press Herald called Weiss “a technically flawless pianist...” and referred to his performance as seeming “...both improvised on the spur of the moment and well thought-out, as if the composer himself were at the piano.” While not having the chance to adequately rehearse with Mr. Gutiérrez was a problem for Mr. Moody, how he handled the last-minute disruptions and conducted the PSO with Mr. Weiss instead proved to be an opportunity. His already-ascending star likely rose even higher in the eyes of the PSO search committee.

Perhaps not surprisingly, Orien Weiss had previous experience stepping in at the last moment to replace a scheduled pianist who had become ill. In 1999, when not yet 25 years old, with less than 24 hours’ notice, Mr. Weiss agreed to replace André Watts for a performance of Shostakovich’s Piano Concerto No. 2 with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra. Googling reveals that he made his New York recital debut at Alice Tully Hall in April 2005. Also in 2005, he made his European debut in a recital at the Musée du Louvre in Paris. In 2005, he toured Israel with the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Itzhak Perlman.

The major orchestral work conducted by Mr. Moody this evening was Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s joyful Symphony No. 2 in C Minor, (“Little Russian”), Op. 17, composed in 1872 and based on several Ukrainian folk songs.

As for the highly-talented Mr. Moody, after his second appearance the P-H glowingly wrote, “Guest Conductor Robert Moody starts by getting the tiniest details right and then builds a monumental structure on that foundation. He is an energetic and engaging conductor who seems well liked by the orchestra, which gave him their best performance in many months.”

Reportedly, there were "messages" sent by PSO musicians following this concert, when chants of "Moody - Moody - Moody" were heard coming from the green room. His second conducting appearance in Portland had been met with good receptions from all concerned parties---  an enthusiastic audience, a Search Committee and board of trustees thinking that "Robert could do it!", and the musicians who had now twice both rehearsed under his direction and performed under his baton. It’s not now known for certain whether any committee members might have been strolling past when the chants emanated from the green room...... but it is fairly certain that at the least, Ari Solotoff soon after learned of such a cappella lobbying. At this time, it seems likely that the search committee must have been thinking, “Can any other candidate knock Robert Moody out of first place?” What smiles members of the committee likely were sporting.

Fourteen “Magic of Christmas” concerts were scheduled for 2006, all under the direction of Robert Lehmann, Director of String Studies and Assistant Professor of Music at the University of Southern Maine School of Music (HS: Among his other career duties was Conductor of the Portland Youth Symphony Orchestra, which continues until now [late-2013].). The theme this year was “Home for the Holidays”. Singers Kelly Caulfield and George Merritt were featured soloists. (HS: Had there been any hard feelings by the PSO toward Mr. Merritt back in 2004 when his Good Theater holiday season appearances competed with that year’s PSO “Magic”, his participation in this 2006 “Magic” series shows that all was well between the Symphony and the baritone singer.) The concerts began with George Chadwick’s Jubilee, from Symphonic Sketches, followed by Carmen Dragon’s arrangement of The Twelve Days of Christmas, also sung by the Magic of Christmas Choir. Writing in the Press Herald, April Boyle expressed enchantment when “more than 100 voices filled the auditorium as the PSO showcased pipers piping and drummers drumming”.

A Christmas Medley  was next, consisting of Home for the Holidays; I’ll be Home for Christmas; The Christmas Waltz and Let it Snow. The vocalists were featured in these numbers. The concert program then listed Mr. Merritt as narrator of J. Mark Scearce’s A Christmas Memory with the Symphony. As events turned out however, after the first preview performance, this number was removed due to insufficient time, a change necessitated by the musicians’ union contract requiring that “Magic” concerts be contained within two hours on days with multiple concerts. Friday’s preview performance, which included A Christmas Memory, was seven minutes over — the same length as the selection. Thus, Mr. Scearce’s work that includes two dozen Christmas melodies hit the cutting room floor for the duration of the remaining “Magic of Christmas” concerts, according to published comments in the Portland Phoenix attributed to the PSO’s communications director, Alice Kornhauser.

Continuing with a “Christmas”-theme number that was performed, the PSO played Leroy Anderson’s A Christmas Festival. The choir, the PSO brasses and percussion, and the Kotzschmar Memorial Organ were featured in a performance of British composer John Rutter’s Gloria. Leading to intermission was Sandman’s Aria and also Evening Prayer, from Engelbert Humperdinck’s 1881 opera “Hansel and Gretel”.

The second half opened with the PSO performing Suite from “The Polar Express”, by Alan Silvestri. John Knowles Paine’s Sanctus (“Grave”) from Mass in D followed. Principal dancers from the Portland Ballet and Maine State Ballet then performed Tchaikovsky’s ‘Pas de Deux’ from “The Nutcracker”, accompanied by the Symphony. (HS:  A private reference contained in a board report referred to the Pas de deux as “outstanding”.) Ms. Caulfield and Mr. Merritt then returned to the stage to sing another medley with the musicians: It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas; Sweet Little Jesus Boy; Silver Bells; How Blessed We Are; and Go Tell It on the Mountain. Of course, no PSO “Magic” concert would be complete without the traditional audience  Sing-along of Jingle Bells; Joy to the World; It Came Upon a Midnight Clear; Silent Night; Away in a Manger; Deck the Halls; and O Come All Ye Faithful. Leading to the conclusion of the evening, Mr. Lehmann led the Symphony in Leroy Anderson’s Sleigh Ride.... then Handel’s Hallelujah! From “Messiah”. Each concert ended with We Wish You a Merry Christmas.

Shortly after the “Magic of Christmas” performances, Jessica Tomlinson, a longtime arts activist who then served as director of public relations for the Maine College of Art, gave significant public credit to an artistic-management role played by the PSO executive director, Ari Solotoff. Her comments to a Down East magazine reporter regarded how dancers from the Maine State Ballet pirouetted onstage for half the performances..... and for the rest of the shows the dancers were  members of the Portland Ballet Company. Admitting that to the public this arrangement might not have seemed momentous, she said it was big news within the cozy confines of Portland’s arts community. “That Ari was able to get the dueling ballet companies to participate in ‘The Magic of Christmas’ was nothing short of hell freezing over.”

Unfortunately, total attendance for the PSO’s 2006 “Magic of Christmasconcerts fell 10 percent versus the 2005 series. (HS:  Even more unfortunately, it would turn out that two more years of further “Magic” attendance declines were in the PSO’s immediate future.)

On the two Saturdays, December 9 and 16, three performances were performed each day. Anecdotal reports have it that the effort such scheduling required for the PSO musicians was simply too much. Conversations among exhausted players about this issue turned to grumblings, and resolution was that a two-concert-per-day limit was agreed upon for future Christmas seasons.

Although so far (2014), no review of the 2006 Portland Ballet Company productions of “Victorian Nutcracker” have been located, spotted early-on during the drafting of this THINGS-PSO was a notice of auditions that mentioned performances scheduled for Friday evening, December 22, and a Saturday matinee on the 23rd. Also, conductor Lawrence Golan’s involvement on those dates are confirmed on his website log of past concerts. Later reviewed was a large collection of PBC concert programs lent to us for scanning by the ballet company’s founder, Genie O’Brien, including one from this pair of 2006 performances. A core of instrumental musicians under Mr. Golan’s baton at Merrill Auditorium for this PBC-sponsored event, named the Portland Ballet Orchestra, consisted of 25-30 regulars with the PSO. Pages from the concert program have been uploaded to

Earlier this year, former PSO Concertmaster Lawrence Golan, retaining his professorial assignments at the University of Denver, was appointed Resident Conductor of the Phoenix Symphony (HS: Although.... not Music Director.), a position in which he would serve for four seasons---, later then switching to be part-time Music Director of the Yakima Symphony Orchestra.


2007       On Saturday and Sunday, January 20 & 21, music-director-candidate Emil de Cou made his first appearance at Merrill Auditorium, guest-conducting the PSO at a pair of Pops Concerts (HS:  Mr. de Cou would return in early May to conduct a Classical Concert.). He had become associate conductor of the National Symphony Orchestra in Washington, D.C., in the fall of 2003, having debuted with that ensemble at Wolf Trap three years earlier. In the summer of 2005 he took up a newly-created position as NSO @ Wolf Trap Festival Conductor, which included conducting concerts in the NSO’s Wolf Trap summer season. For his PSO debut, he conducted  Pops programs titled “Tonight”, A Tribute to Leonard Bernstein”. Five guest vocalists were also on the stage for these two performances: sopranos Kate Baldwin and Monique French, tenor John McVeigh, and baritones Graham Rowat and Brian Davis.

As the concerts began, instant-and-punchy notes from the Orchestra announced the start-off of the Overture to “Candide”. The three men then launched into New York, New York from “On the Town”, followed by Mr. Rowat singing a wistful baritone solo, Lonely Town, from that Broadway show. Staying with the same show, Ms. French responded with the declaratory I Can Cook number from Mr. Bernstein’s early musical hit. Ohio from “Wonderful Town” was sung by the two sopranos, followed by a solo by Ms. Baldwin--  Take Care of This House from “1600 Pennsylvania Avenue”. Miss French then taught the lament, 100 Easy Ways to Lose a Man from “Wonderful Town”, before all the vocalists combined in Make Our Garden Grow from “Candide”.

After intermission, a rehearsal schedule had  the Symphony starting with the Prologue to Symphonic Dances from “West Side Story”, followed by the “West Side Story” Symphonic Suite No. 1, which included participation by some of the vocalists. The numbers in the suite were Maria; One Hand, One Heart; Somewhere; and Balcony Scene. Following Mr. Bernstein’s Mombo from the hit show, some of the vocalists also sang during the PSO’s performance of Concert Suite 2. The songs were I Feel Pretty; Jet Song; America; and Tonight Quintet. An encore number not printed in the program feature all five vocalists, Make our garden grow, from “Candide”. (HS: For the second half, all the concert program listed was “Selections from West Side Story”.)

The first classical concert of the new year was on Tuesday, January 30, at Merrill Auditorium. Music-Director-candidate Lawrence Loh was on the podium as guest conductor. After two seasons as Associate Conductor of the Dallas Symphony, the year before he had taken on double duties in Pennsylvania, as Music Director of the Northeastern Pennsylvania Philharmonic (HS: Based in Wilkes-Barre) and also Assistant Conductor of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra. This concert program opened with Samuel Barber’s 1942 Second Essay For Orchestra, Op. 17, a work of contrasting moods that had been composed on commission from Bruno Walter marking the centennial of the New York Philharmonic. Guest soloist Kirill Gerstein next performed with the Symphony, playing Beethoven’s lengthy Piano Concerto No. 5 in E-flat major, Op. 73 (“Emperor”). In 2001 he had taken the First Prize at that year’s Arthur Rubinstein< Piano Competition in Tel Aviv. The final work of this concert was Sergei Prokofiev’s 1944 Symphony No. 5 in B-flat major (Op. 100). No review of this concert has been located in the PSO Archives.

Afterward, in the Portland Phoenix, reporter Ben Meiklejohn was especially enthusiastic about Mr. Loh’s conducting during this concert, although he was not especially impressed with the playing of pianist Gerstein. Regarding the guest conductor, the reporter wrote, “Those who missed last week’s Portland Symphony Orchestra performance should hope guest conductor Lawrence Loh is a finalist in the symphony’s search for a new music director. He held the orchestra’s attention, exacting precision and confidence with communicative gestures absent excessive showmanship.” Nonetheless, the search committee must have viewed things differently, for Mr. Loh would make no further appearances with the PSO.

The weekend of February 10 & 11 found PSO Pops Concert subscribers back for the season’s third set of concerts. Three of Broadway’s leading ladies were ready to enter the Merrill Auditorium stage and “light it up” with show-stopping renditions of hits from “A Chorus Line”, “Les Miserables”, “Evita”, “Gypsy” and other great shows. The vocalists were Christine Noll, Jan Horvath and Debbie Gravitte. With a theme “The Three Broadway Divas”, audience members were ready to be dazzled. The MusicalWorld website lists itself as “the ultimate promotion and networking service for artists, musicians, managers and presenters worldwide” (HS: Thus.... it’s opinions are totally objective; ......sure they are.) The site gushingly refers to 3 Broadway Divas: “Separately they’re magnificent. Together they’re triumphant.” Since each of the gals indeed performed many legitimate roles in both Broadway and off-Broadway and touring productions, it’s likely that they presented two great shows in Portland (HS:  I wish we’d have lived in this area in 2007 and had seen a performance.).

On the podium was Markand Thakar, the music director of the Duluth Superior Symphony Orchestra; he was also then serving his second season as music director of the Baltimore Chamber Orchestra (HS:  A brief bio provided by the PSO said that “he had made a New York Philharmonic debut ten years earlier, ‘stepping in for Leonard Slatkin on short notice and with no rehearsal’ ”.) The PSO opened the programs with an instrumental work to set a “happy---let’s get going!” tone, Jule Styne’s “Gypsy” Overture. A list of the numbers “The 3” then performed with the Orchestra, sometimes as duets or trios, but most of the time as individual soloists, reads like a Who’s-Who of top Broadway hits: Let Me Entertain You (“Gypsy”) and Don’t Rain On My Parade (“Funny Girl”), both by Mr. Styne; Meridith Willson’s Till There Was You (“76 Trombones”); Stephen Sondheim’s Broadway Baby (“Follies”); Marvin Hamilsch’s At The Ballet (“A Chorus Line”); Leonard Bernstein’s Glitter and Be Gay (“Candide”); Jerry Herman’s If He Walked Into My Life (“Mame”); and Sing For Your Supper (“The Boys From Syracuse”) by Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart. THAT was just the FIRST half.

After intermission the audience enjoyed: Big Spender (“Sweet Charity”) by Cy Coleman; Lerner & Loewe’s I Could Have Danced All Night (“My Fair Lady”); Mr. Herman’s (again, from “Mame”) Bosom Buddies; Mama Mia by Anderson/Andersson & Ulvaeus; In His Eyes (“Jekyll & Hyde”) by Frank Wildhorn; A Chorus Line by Mr. Hamlisch; Defying Gravity (“Wicked”) by Stephen Schwartz; Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Don’t Cry For Me Argentina (“Evita”), also a trio of Webber Love Songs; and....... concluding with the trio singing an encore, Ain’t No Mountain High Enough, the R&B/soul song written by Nickolas Ashford & Valerie Simpson in 1966 for the Tamla Motown label.

The guest conductor on Tuesday, February 20, was the Music Director and conductor of the Ann Arbor Symphony, Arie Lipsky. This, his one and only appearance on the PSO podium, was a Classical Concert. Also on hand were violinist Mikhail Kopelman (HS: Former concertmaster of the Moscow Philharmonic Orchestra) and cellist Steven Doane (HS: On the faculty of the Eastman School of Music), who together performed Johannes Brahms’ 1887 Double Concerto in A minor, Op. 102, for violin, cello and orchestra. Also on the program this night was Hector Berlioz’ orchestration of Carl Maria von Weber’s 1819 piano composition, Invitation to the Dance, Op. 65, J. 260, originally a piano piece in rondo form. Sergei Rachmaninoff’s three-movement 1940 orchestral suite, Symphonic Dances, Op. 45, completed the works played at this concert. (HS:  Curiously, the PSO Archive copy of the concert program for this evening bears the bold autograph of Mr. Lipsky. No other programs from this era are autographed, by either conductors or guest soloists.)

On Sunday, March 4, Markand Thakar returned to Portland to again demonstrate his conducting talents for the PSO search committee. This afternoon the event was a classical concert, and he was joined at the front of the stage by PSO Concertmaster Charles Dimmick, in a performance of Antonio Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons. (HS:  An internet-look back at historical weather conditions reveals that Portland’s temperatures ranged between 40 and 28 on that date, so maybe Mr. Dimmick “leaned in a little harder than normal” during the Concerto No. 1 in E major, Op. 8, RV 269, “La primavera” (Spring) movement, urging Mother Nature to take an early leave of winter.) The other work on this Classical Concert was Beethoven’s Symphony No. 2 in D major, Op. 36. Since internet-checking “maybe it’s a review” after review after review, is more time consuming than I’m willing to take on, no post-concert articles about either this concert or Mr. Thakar’s conducting prowess have been found.

Prior to the PSO’s 2006-2007 Season, Arthur Post, the music director of the San Juan Symphony, was listed as guest-conductor for a Classical Concert on Tuesday, March 20. For reasons not yet found in the PSO Archives, he withdrew from this assignment and Peter Rubardt returned almost precisely a year after he had first guest-conducted and auditioned for the vacant PSO music director post. The concert program listed before the season was not changed, and still began with Mozart’s Overture to “Marriage of Figaro”, K. 492. Leonard Bernstein’s Symphony No. 2, “The Age of Anxiety” was next, with frequent PSO guest-piano-soloist Martin Perry at the Steinway. This program’s major work was Ludwig van Beethoven’s instantly-successful 1812 composition, his Symphony 7 in A Major, Opus 92. Press Herald columnist Christopher Hyde found that “Perry gave Bernstein’s portrait variations all the life they could possibly have, ranging from the wistful and resigned to the ferocious”. He found that in some of the jazz piano sections, Mr. Perry was “simply astounding”. The reporter, usually not prone to compliment the Symphony, was “in form” regarding views he expressed about the Mozart and Beethoven works performed at the concert, writing that the former was “understated” and that the latter “lacked the drive and articulation that make listening to this symphony a peak experience”. The audience performed two standing ovations this evening, an indication that a large number of folks who paid for their own tickets were pleased. Surprisingly, the article contained no pro or con reference to the work of Mr. Rubardt.

The PSO hosted a public forum on Thursday, March 22, at 5:30 p.m., in the Rehearsal Hall at Merrill Auditorium to announce the 2007-2008 season. Executive Director Ari Solotoff, and  Joseph Silverstein, who would be introduced as the Symphony’s artistic advisor for the 2007-2008 season conducted the meeting..

At this session the head of the search committee told the Press Herald that it was close to naming a new music director and conductor, but the paper advised that “orchestra management cautioned supporters... be patient for at least two more months. Mr. Gayer told reporter Bob Keyes that an announcement would be made no later than June. (HS: In the end, only five more weeks would pass by before the selection would be made.). The newspaper article continued, “ ‘We really are coming to the end of this process, I promise,’ said Gordon Gayer, chairman of the orchestra’s search committee, which is charged with recommending the PSO’s next music director to its board. ‘If this were a football game in the National Football League, we’re way into the fourth quarter. We’re in the two-minute drill.’ “

“It’s not unusual for a search to last over two concert seasons”, Mr. Solotoff was quoted in the article. “Typically, music directors and conductors commit to a schedule two or three years in advance. It was important for the PSO to bring all candidates to the city so they could get a sense of the community, meet with musicians and staff, and conduct at least one concert. Several candidates conducted two concerts.” Mr. Solotoff told Mr. Keyes “that the person selected likely wouldn’t begin his formal duties until the 2008-09 season. It is hoped the new music director can conduct in Portland next season as a way of introduction to the orchestra community”, he was reported as saying.

At this meeting it was officially announced that the Portland Symphony Orchestra had hired the Massachusetts musician and conductor Joseph Silverstein to serve as artistic advisor. Reported by the P-H were comments that since already-in-place conducting dates would prevent any new music director from being available to “assume full-time control of the orchestra and its musical repertoire until the 2008-09 season... ...(with) that in mind, orchestra management turned to a familiar face to program the (upcoming) season...” The newspaper included a humorous quote from the former Boston Symphony Orchestra concertmaster and assistant conductor, “Silverstein, who has performed with the orchestra and conducted it several times over the past 40 years, dubbed himself ‘the designated in-betweener. I’ve got to keep the artistic momentum going forward.’“

Press Herald reporter Bob Keyes added that Mr. Silverstein “will conduct at least four concerts in 2007-08, including the season-opening Tuesday Classical concert on Oct. 16. He also will perform as a soloist in a Stravinsky celebration in November.” It was noted that the PSO artistic advisor programmed the upcoming season to include a heavy dose of serious, challenging fare, adding the quote “I really tried to balance the programming so it is stimulating for the orchestra and for the audience.”

A PSO news release from this time noted that Mr. Silverstein was much sought after as a consultant to orchestras, having served as artistic advisor to the Hartford, Kansas City, Louisville, Baltimore, Toledo, Virginia, Florida, Alabama, Winnipeg and Oakland symphonies. Portland was now added to that list.

Praising the PSO musicians, at about this same time, PSO’s executive director Ari Solotoff told the Portland Phoenix, “It’s been a tumultuous time without a music director, but we’ve come to recognize the superior quality of the orchestra. They have taken the best from, and given their best to, the guest conductors.” Further commenting about the advent of Mr. Silverstein’s involvement, the newspaper’s Ben Meiklejohn added, “As the orchestra transitions, sit back and enjoy the music in Merrill Auditorium next year. ‘Nothing is more exciting than a new music director,’ reminds Solotoff, ‘except a new music hall, and we’ve got that covered.’ ”

Over the three-day March 23-25 period, the talents of Quebecois music and dance ensemble Le Vent du Nord were showcased in Portland (HS: And in Freeport, too; ....keep reading). The PSO’s pre-season promotional brochure said that “They’ll provide foot-stomping rhythms and the irresistible, joyous pull of Celtic-inflected tunes, rooted in European tradition with a whimsical New World flair. Allez!” Two weekend Pops Concerts featured the Canadian folk music quartet. For these performances, Daniel Meyer (HS: Who had opened the 2006-2007 PSO Season at a concert the previous October) returned to the Merrill podium to guest-conduct.

The concert featured the PSO in the first half performing Irish medleys and Scottish tunes. Le Vent du Nord, billed as an award-winning Quebecois folk ensemble of four musicians focused on bringing traditional music to a modern audience,  joined the Symphony for the second half, playing traditional Quebecois songs and dances. The  concert was sponsored by the Canadian Consulate General, with additional support from the National Endowment for the Arts.

Plenty of rousing music was performed. The pair of concerts, with a title theme of “Celtic Color and Canadian Clippers”, opened with Ralph Hermann’s Irish Medley, followed by John Williams’ Suite from “Far and Away”. Three works by Percy Grainger were next: Mock Morris; Irish Tune from County Derry; and Handel in the Strand. Malcolm Arnold’s Four Scottish Dances (Op. 59),  a set of light music pieces composed in 1957 for the BBC Light Music Festival, sent concertgoers off to try some intermission-jigging (HS: And maybe, also...... to investigate any still-lingering bagpipe-like echoes in Merrill’s lobby areas.). A segment of Sir Charles Villiers Stanford’s Irish Rhapsody No. 1 in D minor, Op. 78, opened the second half. Then,  the five-year-old Le Vent du Nord  troupe starred, first performing three bouncy Tom Myron arrangements of traditional songs: Les Amants du Saint-Laurent; Gigue à trois; and Marguerite. Vive l’amour and then De la chamber à la cuisine followed. Various members of the quartet soloed during some of these numbers. These Saturday-evening and Sunday-afternoon pops events concluded with band-member Nicolas Boulerice’s arrangement of Cré Mardi / La Turlette Du Rang Des Sloans. It’s likely that the group performed at least one encore; however the PSO Archives have so far (2013) yielded no specifics.

Preceding their Merrill performances, the Quebec-based ensemble had presented a Friday program at L’École Française du Maine (EFDM or French School of Maine), the bilingual co-education Pre-K through 6th grade, private school in Freeport. During their stay the ensemble also later returned to Freeport, to appear at the PSO’s Wine Dinner at the Haraseeket Inn, on Monday evening the 26th of March.

Earlier on Monday in Merrill Auditorium, the PSO presented a pair of Youth Concerts at which the featured soloist was PSO Concertmaster Charles Dimmick. His violin talents were displayed to encourage the students, as he solo-ed with the Symphony during a performance of two portions of the heralded Antonio Vivaldi masterpiece, Winter, from The Four Seasons. The theme of this concert was “Weather Patterns and Storms”. Also in keeping with weather-related musical interpretations, guest conductor Danel Meyer also led the Orchestra in segments from Richard Wagner’s Overture to “The Flying Dutchman”; Claude Debussy’s ethereal Nuages (“Clouds”); and Thunder and Lightning Polka by Johann Strauss II. Before segments of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 6 in F major, Op. 68, (“Pastoral”), a meteorologist made a guest appearance to talk about weather, focusing on the relationship of the next-to-be-played “Thunderstorm and Thanksgiving” segment from that masterwork. A second pair of Youth Concerts reprised the weather theme the next morning, Tuesday the 27th.

On both Saturday evening, March 31, and Sunday afternoon, April 1, an instrumental ensemble that included 18 PSO’ers performed with the Choral Art Society Masterworks Chorus at Merrill Auditorium. This CAS concert was under the direction of Music Director Robert Russell. Carl Orff’s Carmina Burana was performed, also involving the University of Southern Maine Singers and a dozen members from the Portland Ballet Company. Soloists were soprano Andrea Matthews, tenor Rockland Osgood, and baritone Philip Lima. The Orchestra Manager was Joanne Woodward, who also played the Violin 2 music. A PDF-scan copy of this program resides in the PSO Archives, courtesy of bass clarinetist John Korajczyk.

Later review of an early-October memo from Executive Director Ari Solotoff to the PSO Executive Committee outlined the basic parameters that the PSO would seek when negotiating with the new Music Director choice. The individual would serve as the Music Director Designate during the 2007-2008 Season, providing guidance and artistic planning for his next-year inaugural 2008-2009 debut season. The individual would also be expected to be available for special events, board meetings, participate in promotional and public relations activities, and assist in the cultivation and solicitation of key donors. Negotiable duties and responsibilities would include presence in the community for a specified number of days, as well as conducting duties for a specified number of 2007-2008 concerts. Of course, increased similar responsibilities would need to be specified for the new music director’s inaugural 20008-2009 PSO season. Included among the duties, it would be specified that the new MD, who would agree to maintain at least a part-time rental residence in the Greater Portland geographic area, and be available to “consult with and assist the Executive Director in  items related to labor negotiations.” The new MD would report to the President of the Board of Trustees.

PSO principal flutist Lisa Hennessy was guest soloist with the PSO on Sunday afternoon, April 22. On the podium was Jonathan McPhee, the music director and conductor of the Boston Ballet, where Ms. Hennessy was a regular (HS:  At this point in time, Mr. McPhee also served as music director of the annual half-dozen Symphony By The Sea series of classical small-orchestra concerts performed in Marblehead and Salem, MA. He had conducted this ensemble since 2001.). The PSO’s pre-season promotional brochure stated that “They are thrilled to be performing together”. Benjamin Britten’s Four Sea Interludes from the opera “Peter Grimes” was the first work performed by the Symphony. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s 1778 Flute Concerto No. 1 in G major (K. 313) then provided Ms. Hennessy an opportunity to shine. This concert concluded with Igor Stravinsky’s 1945 orchestral concert work, Firebird Suite, from the ballet “The Firebird”.

Coincidentally, this season the Portland Youth Symphony Orchestra was also rehearsing The Firebird Suite for a performance. (HS: Although the student group was working up the 1919 arrangement for a concert, while the PSO performed the 1945 arrangement.). A special side-by-side rehearsal was set  where the two groups combined, with the PYSO  student musicians undoubtedly greatly benefitting from mentoring by their respective PSO counterparts. Both Mssrs. Jonathan McPhee and Robert Lehmann participated.

The next-to-last chapter in the music-director-candidate race leading to selection of the Portland Symphony Orchestra’s 12th conductor was on Tuesday evening, May 1, when Emil de Cou returned to Merrill Auditorium to guest-conduct the PSO’s final Classical Concert of the 2006-2007 season. The program opened with prolific composer Jennifer Higdon’s bright 1995 work, Shine (HS: Currently [2013], Dr. Higdon is professor of music theory at the Curtis Institute of Music.). Next, guest soloist Vadim Gluzman joined the Symphony for Samuel Barber’s frequently-performed Violin Concerto, Op. 14. Mr. Guzman, whose talents early-on were supported by an encouraging Isaac Stern, was then performing on the “ex-Leopold Auer” Stradivarius violin, still on extended loan (in 2013) to him from the Stradivari Society. Completing the program were two solid standards always popular with audiences, Ottorino Respighi’s descriptive symphonic poem Fountains of Rome and the majestic symphonic portrayal, Pines of Rome.

Based on readings of various Press Herald accounts, following this concert  the PSO Board of Directors voted that night to formally extend a contract offer to Robert Moody, wrapping up a search that had lasted nearly three years and involved 13 serious candidates. Mr. Solotoff talked to Mr. Moody the next day, telling him that he was the PSO’s top choice and would receive an offer. A P-H article reported, “That happened to be Moody’s 40th birthday. ‘Any worries I had about a mid-life crisis were taken care of with that call,’ Moody said.” Later that day he flew to Boston, where a PSO staffer met him and drove him to Portland. The P-H said, “He arrived at the Merrill at 3 p.m., greeted by a member of the orchestra’s management team, who handed him a copy of the new guide book ‘Insiders’ Guide to Portland, Maine’... ...Around 6 p.m., he signed the contract on the Merrill stage, in front of a few dozen orchestra board members, arts leaders and PSO supporters.” The contract was for a three year term beginning in the 2008-09 season.

According to reporter Keyes, “Joanne Woodward, an orchestra member and member of the search committee that recommended Moody’s hiring, said she was impressed with his communication skills. ‘He was just so dynamic and knowledgeable and communicative. It was wonderful to work with him as a musician... ...She e-mailed several musicians with the news of Moody’s hiring early Wednesday, and the responses were unanimously positive. ‘One of them told me she was dancing in her driveway,’ Woodward said.”

Responding to reporters’ questions later in the month, Mr. Moody, who was then already holding the title of music director of the Winston-Salem (N.C.) Symphony, said that he had no intention of relinquishing that post in favor of Portland, nor was he asked to. (HS:  At the time, search-committee head Galarneau said that establishing full-time residency in Portland was not a requirement of the PSO search committee, emphasizing that more important was that Mr. Moody “establish a presence in the community.”) Numerous examples existed across the country of music directors who held multiple jobs. The new PSO music director said that he would balance responsibilities in Winston-Salem and Portland, just as he balanced Winston-Salem and the Phoenix Symphony before. He was quoted as saying that he “believes both orchestras will benefit. They are similar in size and can share ideas, strategies and guests.” As for the issue of residency, P-H reporter Bob Keyes wrote that “time will tell how much of his life Moody spends in Portland. He doesn’t begin his duties for another year, so it’s unfair to expect him to commit moving to Portland right away. Moody plans to live in both North Carolina and Maine, with homes in each state.”

Trained as a cellist (HS: although a “deep, dark, secret” not known by many folks is that he can also play the trombone), Mr. Moody was a native of the South Carolina hamlet of Possum Kingdom. It’s possible that some Portland Symphony Orchestra subscribers, wanting to be able to start off on the good side of the new maestro and show off that they knew where he was raised, went to their PC’s and Google-ed “Possum Kingdom”. Had maybe the good-natured Mr. Moody been pulling a late April-fool trick on the Portland newspaper reporter?  Nope..... when one looks it up---- there it is. While small and maybe not incorporated, such a label exists for a very small place near the city of Anderson, which itself has a population around 27,000. A fun quote found Googling for the small hamlet was from a blogging bicyclist, “Getting there was actually the result of missing a turn.” So... the next time you’re out riding your bike in rural South Carolina..... look for a big old red barn with a tin roof; the one with large white letters that spell out, “Possum Kingdom  S C”.

Looking way ahead for a moment, Mr. Moody would end up remaining music director and conductor of the Portland Symphony Orchestra for a full decade, announcing in 2015 that he would step down after the 2017-2018 season. At the time of that announcement, he would say that “I just turned 48 on Saturday ... I am not thinking about retirement, but I am thinking about a life-simplification plan. I want to spend more quality time with my partner. Life becomes more than just about constantly climbing the career ladder. I would like to explore other avenues for making music that are difficult to explore when I have three music director jobs to juggle.” He added, “I have said since I first got here, 10 years seemed about the appropriate length of tenure.” He would also then comment that in recent years he had received many offers to guest-conduct at orchestras around the world and that he wanted more time to pursue those opportunities. During his final 2017-2018 season at the helm of the Portland Symphony Orchestra, Robert Moody would hold the title of Music Advisor, a period of time when the PSO would be most actively engaged in interviews and auditions to determine his successor.

Regarding his comment about 10 years being the appropriate length of tenure, an observation entered the minds of more than a few Portlanders -- “Maybe he found our winters here as being too tough, since before he joined the PSO in 2008 he was already with the Winston-Salem orchestra and the Arizona Musicfest -- and he hasn’t announced leaving either of those warm-weather locales.” (HS: Hey! He’s originally a South Carolina guy, and who couldn’t understand his wanting to be away from snow and cold if given the chance.) And regarding his stated desire to be able to accept more guest-conducting requests from around the world... only several months after announcing his plans to depart the Portland scene news came that seemed to contradict that statement by significantly filling his 2016-17 and 2017-18 calendars; for those seasons, Mr. Moody accepted the position of Principal Conductor for the Memphis Symphony.

Anyway, back to 2006: If you are interested in what career-paths the other conductor candidates had subsequent to their 2005-2006 appearances atop the PSO podium, that information is presented in the Anecdote section of this THINGS-PSO, titled “Where Are They Now?”.

At the time of Mr. Moody’s appointment in May, the P-H’s Mr. Keyes also wrote of a gracious communication sent by former Portland Symphony Orchestra Music Director Toshi Shimada. He reported, “In an e-mail, Shimada wished Moody well. ‘It is a happy occasion for the PSO,’ Shimada wrote. ‘(Moody) is a wonderful musician, and a nice person.’ “

At a meeting with Portland media on Tuesday, May 30, Mr. Moody summed up his job as conductor. During an interview in Merrill Auditorium, he said that his role “is to try and create the very best environment so the musicians can make music at the highest possible level – even higher than they knew possible – so that the sum is greater than the parts.” He added that “my job as music director is to be an ambassador for a great orchestra and for great orchestral music in the community.”

Quite a few years later, in 2014, in response to my questions, Mr. Moody said that he “absolutely was having as much fun on the podium” as it looks to audiences at PSO concerts. “Conducting!  I still can’t believe that I’m being paid for it!”, he smilingly added. Another question dealt with the biggest downside of his job, to which he answered, “making decisions that are not always popular”, referring to his human-relations responsibilities when they involved matters of personnel tenure. There must be a balance between what he said were “moving the artistic vision forward as a sort-of dictator” while also being somewhat like a “French radical”.

Prompted by my final question, “Looking way ahead, what would you like your legacy with the PSO to be?”, he said that eventually he would hope that his part of the many PSO chapters would be that during his span, “the PSO would have become the classic 21st-century orchestra; speaking artistically, regarding community outreach, and also with financial strength & stability”. In turn, I quietly thought to myself that certainly achieving that trio of goals would mean that the Portland community indeed would have greatly benefitted from his tenure atop the PSO podium.

Earlier in the year, Suzanne Rousso had started working for the PSO staff as Director of Operations and Education, coming on board in January. Since 1999 she had been Director of Education for the North Carolina Symphony. Events turned out that she remained with the PSO only about a year. (HS: An accomplished violist trained at Curtis, Eastman, and the New England Conservatory, in the summer of 2008 she would return from Maine to North Carolina to become the Artistic Director of the Mallarmé Chamber Players, in Durham, where she also performs as a violist.) Certainly Mr. Solotoff had been hoping to secure a solid member of his team who would remain long-term with the PSO and become part of a new upstairs culture.

Also earlier in the year, Claire Hammen had joined the PSO staff as Director of Development. Previously she was Director of Corporate Giving for the Arts Council of Winston-Salem and Forsyth County, and Director of Major Gifts at the Mint Museums in Charlotte, NC. Shortly thereafter she completed and earned her Master’s degree in the History of Art and Architecture from Harvard University. Immediately impressive with an outgoing personality, her talents were such that two years later she would be hired away by Bates College to become Leadership Gifts Officer, College Advancement.

To honor the artistic contributions of departing Maestro Shimada for his twenty years of service to the PSO,  the board established the Toshi Shimada Guest Artist Fund to ensure that the Symphony could continue to feature outstanding guest artists at its concerts. The fund was deemed a “fitting tribute to Toshi’s legacy of creating outstanding music with some of the world’s finest soloists”. The noble and ambitious goal was to “raise $500,000 over a three-year period...”, with income from the fund allowing for the “increase in available funds for classical guest artists by almost 70%”. Chaired by Ronald and Sally Bancroft, when the baton came down at the end of the campaign, despite adverse pressures from the severe ’08 stock market decline--- contributors had come forth with funds that were close to matching the goal, thus creating a legacy to Maestro Shimada that consisted not only of meaningful capital assets, but also permanent tributes to –and warm  memories of–Maestro Shimada.

Seemingly curiously (HS: In 2013, anyway, that was my initial impression. Then I think I figured out what happened, and why.), glossy pre-season brochures in the PSO Archives were several and varied for the 2006-2007 season and also for the 2007-2008 season. Those multiple printing jobs, while likely lucrative for the printer, resulted in extra expense for the PSO. Since time couldn’t be wasted before soliciting subscription renewals, an attractive full-color 6x11-inch glossy 12-page first edition needed to be mailed out before the search process for the new music director could be completed. A second edition appears to have been printed quickly upon the heels of Robert Moody’s appointment. A bit later, after confirmations that he could lock in additional calendar commitments to be in Portland, including two May dates when he would conduct Mahler’s First Symphony, a final fancy-glossy Portland Symphony Orchestra 2007-2008 Calendar was printed. This included a page-3 announcement of “A Season-long celebration” preceding Mr. Moody’s later ascension from Music Director Designate. (HS:  Having only recently moved to the Portland area, my trying to determine [in early 2012] which glossy calendar finally “carried the day” insofar as to who was, and when they were, going to be atop the PSO podium that season was a confusing exercise, as I flipped back and forth among them all. Hopefully the total printing expenses were not as high as I feared they were; and more importantly, hopefully the PSO subscriber-faithful figured everything out OK..... and in time to lock in their own calendar dates attend lots of concerts.)

Paul D. Merrill, major benefactor of the City Hall Auditorium named for his parents, passed away this year.

Deborah Galarneau is re-elected as PSO President.

At the Annual Meeting, costs associated with the searches for both the new PSO Music Director and the Executive Director were reported. As expected, not only had these activities been time-consuming to the many board members involved in such important decisions, they had involved material consulting fees and travel costs. (HS: Since the search process for the music director would end up extending longer than originally planned, the total final costs related to personnel searches would inevitably exceed budget projections.)

With qualified people now finally set in the Symphony’s artistic and operating management positions, even more concentrated attention to another substantial annual net loss, more than $230,000 in Fiscal Year 2007, would now be given seriously needed focus. The PSO’s 2007-2008 budget total was set at $3.2 million.

A very hard examination of the PSO’s financial  results, for both the just-concluded 2006-2007 season and prior seasons, was undertaken about this point in time. Analyses of the results determined that future-years’ budgets and operations would need to be significantly modified, leading to substantial reigning-in of costs and also limitations on both the number of concerts performed and aggregate remuneration able to be earned by the musicians. The PSO’s traditional big money-maker, the series of “Magic of Christmas” concerts was by now annually failing to draw large enough audience totals nor to generate needed profits (HS:  Remember, this was supposed to be the annual “cash cow” event that helped finance many of the PSO’s other concerts during the year.). From above-90%-capacity levels attained in the late 1990s, levels were by now around the 70% level with indications of even-lower capacity levels ahead. The negative financial “hit” from the overall audience decline at “Magic” concerts was compounded by production costs for this annual event had increasingly expensive.

The close examinations would more accurately inform the board that the PSO had even worse operating losses than had been reported during the previous several years (HS:  Annual net losses for the decade that have been referenced earlier This THINGS-PSO history reflect those restatements.). A series of draw downs of funds from investment portfolios had not even been enough for the PSO to be profitable. A final re-accounting showed five-year cumulative operating losses had exceeded $1 million. The outside auditor was fired and a board committee took on virtually daily control of operations. The new auditor discussed the probability that it would issue a qualified opinion about the PSO’s financials, a step usually taken only when clients’ financial situations were tenuous. Mr. Solotoff remained in charge, warranted by both his experience and his explorations of specifics behind previously-reported financial results. A new chief financial officer, Ellie Chatto, was by now also on board (HS:  A solid and experienced professional, the forensic accountant served in this vital PSO staff position until 2013, and deservedly remains greatly respected by the PSO trustees. Years later, Mr. Solotoff praised Mrs. Chatto as someone who “cut right to the core”.).

By the time another year had passed, the plain-and-simple summary of where the PSO’s financial results stood would be clear. Cumulative net  losses during the preceding nine years would by-then have been determined to have amounted to more than $1,700,000. These had been financed by several means:  (1) Withdrawals from the Endowment Investment Account (above the Spending Policy) would have been about $850,000; (2) A several-hundred-thousand-dollar Line of Credit would have maxed out, at its limit from prior year losses; and (3) Advance subscription sales proceeds of close to $850,000 would have been used to offset current expenses. An industry consultant later referred to the confluence of all these events as a “Perfect Storm” at the PSO.

Furthermore, the Board of Trustees would re-set the PSO on a path to both getting profitable and continue remaining so. A  Sustainability Plan would be enacted that included staff lay-offs, staff wage cuts, expense cuts, and orchestra service cuts. The Plan also initiated a fund-raising effort, named the Bridge Initiative, to fund the cash shortfalls. Aspects of the important three-year “Bridge” fund-raising program would be designed to replenish the investment accounts from which “borrowings” had been taken.

One PSO staff member from that time described the situation as “very scary”, hardly a surprising reaction (HS:  I went through a similarly harrowing period of financial uncertainty during my working career in the private sector. There were many sleepless nights, indeed.)

More evolving details regarding the very significant Sustainability Plan and Bridge Initiative are reviewed in the 2008 section of this THINGS-PSO.

With contracts to perform already in place, five “Independence Pops” concerts were performed around the July 4 holiday, each conducted by Lawrence Golan. Ironically, all were actually before the 4th, and none were performed on Independence Day itself. After two indoor rehearsals at Thornton Academy’s Garland Auditorium in Saco on Thursday, June 28, the first “IndyPops” was on Friday, June 29, at Fort Williams in Cape Elizabeth. While no specific record of works performed seems to have been retained in PSO Archives, Mr. Golan’s website lists the following as on that evening’s program, titled “From Sea to Shining Sea”: -- “Sousa: Hands Across the Sea, Gliere: Russian Sailor’s Dance, Gilbert & Sullivan: Selections from H.M.S. Pinafore (with vocalists from the Portland Opera Repertory Theater): Overture, “My Gallant Crew”, “Now Give Three Cheers”, “Never Mind the Why and Wherefore”, Act Two Finale; “Oh Joy, Oh Rapture Unforeseen!”, Badelt, arr. Ricketts: Pirates of the Caribbean, Tchaikovsky: Waltz from Swan Lake, Boyer: Celebration Overture, Williams, arr. Custer [full orch version]: Summon the Heroes, Shimada, arr.: Armed Forces Salute, Tchaikovsky: “1812” Overture, Kennedy, arr.: Patriotic Sing-Along: America (My Country ‘Tis of Thee), America the Beautiful, Battle Hymn of the Republic, Fenstad: Stein Song, Sousa: The Stars and Stripes Forever.”

Mr. Golan’s website lists similar programs for the other three Independence Pops concerts. Those performances were on June 30 in Bridgton (Saturday), July 1 in Old Orchard Beach (Sunday), July 2 in Brunswick (Monday), and July 3 in Sanford (Tuesday). (HS:  Many months after the preceding information was drafted for this THINGS-PSO, a copy of the program for these concerts was discovered in the PSO operations files.)

Later in the month, Robert Lehmann conducted at two run-out concerts that featured classical music. The programs were presented on July 23 and 24, the first an L.L. Bean-sponsored performance in Freeport and the second the next day at the Maine Maritime Museum in Bath. On these programs were Czech Suite in D major, Op. 39, composed by Antonín Dvořák in 1879; Antonio Vivaldi’s Summer from “The Four Seasons”, with PSO concertmaster Charles Dimmick, soloist; and Beethoven’s Symphony No. 1 in C Major, Op. 21.

Unfortunately, the search-related costs and continuation of a seven-year secular decline in “Magic of Christmas” sales weren’t the only P&L problems the PSO board were forced to consider when this year’s Annual Meeting was held. A series of “borrowings” from the PSO’s investment accounts to support operations had periodically taken place over a number of preceding years..... extending back into the 1990s. Also extending over most of those years had been a series of worse-than-budget operating losses, such that not only did the “borrowings” not get repaid..... but also a sizable bank line of credit had been heavily drawn down. The hammer of realization would fall as Mr. Solotoff became more and more aware that the PSO’s financial stewardship had been unsatisfactory. For some years budget expectations had been set too high. More to the point, sales and other revenue expectations had not occurred according to plan; but costs HAD. A series of annual operating losses had resulted in a considerable and unsustainable accumulated deficit. The PSO’s senior financial manager needed to be replaced, as did the independent auditor – which had been inattentive to the seriousness of the situation. Both were replaced.

Looking back at this time, during just the five-year period 2002-2006, the PSO’s total operating losses had totaled more than one million dollars. As normal for the business, the large majority of each season’s ticket sales would always be received in advance; however, each year almost all of these funds had been used to fund expenses incurred the previous year. The “borrowings” from the investment accounts had also been burned through, as had the bank credit-line take-downs. Current cash accounts were too low...... way too low. A final “borrowing” from the investment accounts boosted the PSO’s operating cash, but immediate new plans and procedures were required, especially as many future 2007 and 2008 expense commitments had already been made. Board members realized that volatility and unfavorable investment results would inevitably come, since business cycles are inevitable; the investment accounts couldn’t be tapped indefinitely. Cost cutting, tighter cost controls, and a one-time sizable special development program were each called for. The culture of the PSO as an organization, not as a musical ensemble, needed big changes.

Details about the work-out will come later in this THINGS-PSO. However, there was plenty of work to be done. Fortunately, now everyone involved with the PSO realized the facts and could together work on solutions to the problems.

Interestingly, when he came to the PSO a year earlier, Mr. Solotoff told reporter Whit Richardson that a “crescendo” in the fundraising effort was especially needed before the new musical director’s arrival. “We want that person to come in and say ‘Wow, look at what a great job everybody did’. We don’t want to be in the position where that person arrives and we’re still struggling to get by day to day.” If this realization and this attitude meant that Mr. Solotoff was ready-and-able to make it happen, such an achievement couldn’t come too soon for the PSO.

A number of PSO musicians were in the Merrill Auditorium pit on July 25, 27 & 29, when “The Barber of Seville” by Giaocchino Rossini was conducted by Giovanni Reggioli.

On the stage, the PSO’s 2007-2008 Season kicked off when concertgoers were handed the usual glossy programs upon entering Merrill Auditorium on Tuesday evening, October 16. Tympanist John Tanzer (HS: still a PSO musician in 2014) was featured on the program cover this season. Artistic Advisor Joseph Silverstein was on the podium, and the first work performed was Beethoven’s powerful and expressive Overture to “Egmont”, Op. 84. Next, the Steinway concert grand piano was rolled into place and guest artist William Wolfram performed Mozart’s Concert Rondo in D Major, K. 382. The prize-winning soloist came to Portland with a technique heralded by the New York Times as “flabbergasting”. While no post-concert review of this concert has been found in the PSO Archives, it seems likely that the audience was dazzled by his talents during the performance. Mr. Wolfram remained for the closing work of the first half, Franz Lizst’s symphonic piece Toentanz (Dance of the Dead), S. 126. After intermission, Mr. Silverstein led the Symphony in Hector Berlioz’ important piece of the early Romantic period, the grand five-movement Symphonie Fantastique, Op. 14.

Prior to the performance, the conductor told the Press Herald’s Bob Keyes that the concert’s concluding work was “a virtuoso show-off piece that will give everybody the chance to see the strength of the orchestra and also enjoy the acoustics of the hall.” Recognizing that his primary task this season was to keep the orchestra sharp until Mr. Moody arrived, the Artistic Advisor was quoted, “My job is to keep the orchestra firing on all cylinders, so that the new music director will be able to get behind the wheel of his new vehicle and find it in good shape.”

This evening extended a four-decade-long history during which Mr. Silverstein had been on stage with the PSO, having performed under conductors Paul Vermel and Bruce Hangen, also guest-conducting for an engagement in 2001. Following the concert, members of the audience were invited to join the artists for a reception in the Rehearsal Hall.

Ironically, prior to his long Boston Symphony association, Curtis-Institute graduate Mr. Silverstein’s early career included stints with several other orchestras with which previous PSO conductors had been associated: the Houston Symphony (HS: Where Toshi Shimada had also refined his on-stage skills) and the Denver Symphony (HS:  Likewise an important developing podium for Bruce Hangen). A third connection with another PSO official would evolve later, as Mr. Silverstein’s one-year stint with the  Philadelphia Orchestra would be coincidentally connected to Mr. Solotoff’s eventual departure from Portland to an executive position with that organization.

A significant and positive “Welcome from The Orchestra” page in the concert program was signed by longtime PSO viola player Jean Alvord. She commented on “two years of challenging but exciting adjustments to make as different conductors came to Merrill during the search” to name a new music director. She also complimented the “new administrative team (as) smart, creative, and open to new ideas. There is a warm cooperative spirit between Trustees, staff, and musicians that promises great things.” Ms. Alvord closed with her usual good humor, citing that “We players of the PSO sometimes like to reminisce about the many hurdles we have survived  –  sleep-on-the-floor blizzards, I-95 traffic jams that stranded soloists, power failures, feuds, romances, leaky tents – and the most difficult, the two years of ‘wandering in the wilderness’ to the Civic Center, State Theater, and high school gyms while Merrill was being renovated. This year seems like the Promised Land at last”. She closed with a succinct but optimistic comment about Mr. Silverstein’s then-underway year as Artistic Advisor:  “Enjoy the season – we all are!”

The season’s first Pops Concerts were presented on Saturday and Sunday, October 27 & 28. Returning to the Merrill Auditorium podium was the talented and personable Robert Lehmann, Director of String Studies and Associate Professor of Music and Faculty at the University of Southern Maine. Since this was the weekend before Halloween, a pre-season PSO promotional brochure encouraged concertgoers to “Give in to your darker side and enjoy the music of the night!” Another PSO brochure entry especially got into the spirit (HS: “Spirit”. Get it?) of the season by “Calling all vampires, werewolves, mummies, and goblins!” to hear spine-tingling hits.

Appropriately, the theme for the concerts was “A Little Fright Music”. Starting off the program was Michael Daugherty’s “Lex” from Metropilos Symphony. The entire work is a five-movement musical response to the world of Superman, and this section marked “Diabolical” in the score, is a name derived from one of Superman’s most vexing foes, the super-villain Lex Luthor. Next up in the PSO musicians’ music folders was Igor Stravinsky’s Infernal Dance from “Firebird”. Following were five segments of Maurice Ravel’s arrangement of Modest Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition (Gnomus; Catacombs; Cum mortuis in linguea mortua; Baba Yaga; and Great gates of Kiev). Composer Russell Peck then joined Mr. Lehmann on the stage as he narrated his The Thrill of the Orchestra, which the concert program described as an orchestral instrument demonstration piece.

After intermission, John Wasson’s arrangement of Danny Elfman’s Music from “Spider-Man” quickly reset the spooky tone of the two Pops concerts. Next the PSO performed the Allegro Moderato segment from Franz Schubert’s Symphony No. 8 (“Unfinished”), in B Minor. Ted Ricketts’ arrangement of Stephen Schwartz’s Highlights from “Wicked” set up the finale for the concerts, the always popular and seasonally-appropriate descriptive masterpiece symphonic poem by Paul Dukas that Walt Disney made extra famous, The Sorcerer’s Apprentice.

On the following Monday and Tuesday mornings, October 29 & 30, Mr. Lehmann again conducted Mr. Peck’s The Thrill of the Orchestra at Youth Concerts theme-titled the same as the work, although at these performances it was narrated by an associate of the composer for students who had been bused to and were assembled in Merrill Auditorium. (HS:  Years later Mr. Lehmann recalled that Mr. Peck’s assistant did a “terrific” job narrating.) Complete or partial segments of most other works performed for the students were also from the “Fright Music” Pops events: Daugherty’s “Lex”; Stravinsky’s Infernal Dance; four sections from the Mussorgsky/Ravel Pictures At.... Elfman’s  “Spider-Man” music; and Schubert’s “Unfinished” (HS: Accompanied by a silent film sequence from “Nosferatu”.). (HS: One source indicated that Dukas’ Sorcerer’s Apprentice was also performed; although a second source made no reference to this work.) For an encore, John Williams’ Harry’s Wondrous World from “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone Suite” was also played by the Symphony musicians on these mornings.

Mr. Silverstein returned to both conduct and perform at a PSO Classical Concert on Sunday afternoon, November 4. The program was titled “Stravinsky Celebration (I)”. Mozart’s Overture to “The Impresario”, K. 486 started the concert, followed by Sir Edward Elgar’s Serenade for Strings in E minor, Op. 20, a composition in three short movements (HS:  Googling informs that this is one of the composer’s earliest compositions to survive into the standard repertoire.). The first half of the performance concluded with Igor Stravinsky’s eight-movement Pulcinna Suite. Following intermission, principal PSO violist Laurie Brown Kennedy joined with “violinist” Silverstein for a performance of Mozart’s Sinfonia Concertante in E-flat Major for Violin, Viola and Orchestra, K. 364. No newspaper review of this concert has been located in the PSO Archives, thus no information as to whether Mr. Silverstein both played and conducted this work has been uncovered. (HS:  It is presumed that he did conduct while playing his violin.)

Nine days later Joseph Silverstein re-ascended the Merrill Auditorium podium for a Tuesday Classical Concert titled “Stravinsky Celebration (II)”. The conductor began the program with Felix Mendelssohn’s Overture to “Ruy Blas”, Op. 95, inspired by Victor Hugo’s 1838 tragic drama. Then, Augustin Hadelich came on stage to solo in a performance of Antonín Dvořák’s Concerto in A minor for Violin and Orchestra, Op. 53 (B. 108). The young (then 23 years of age; German-citizen but born in Italy) guest performer was the 2006 gold medalist of the Violin Competition of Indianapolis, and was a graduate of Julliard. Two months later he would make his Carnegie Hall orchestral debut, to be followed shortly thereafter by his Carnegie Recital Hall debut. The entire post-intermission segment of the concert was a performance by the Symphony of Igor Stravinsky’s Petrouchka. So far (mid-2013) no review of this concert has been located among the PSO Archives.

The PSO teamed up with the Portland Public Library this season to present “Musically Speaking,” a four-part series of lively lunch-time brown bag explorations of upcoming PSO classical concerts. Dr. Scott Harris, Director of the music department at the University of Southern Maine, hosted the discussions, which were free and open to the public. The first of the four sessions was focused on composer Stravinsky’s work performed at the above-mentioned November 13 PSO classical concert.

The Portland Ballet Company took over Merrill Auditorium during the weekend of December 8 & 9, performing first an evening and then a matinee performance of its heralded “Victorian Nutcracker”. Pensacola Symphony Conductor Peter Rubardt stepped into the pit to hold the baton over a contracted contingent of independent musicians that primarily consisted of players who were PSO regulars. Lawrence Golan’s arrangement for small orchestra of the music originally composed by Tchaikovsky was once again performed. While freelance music critic April Boyle failed to specifically mention the orchestra in her review for the P-H, her overall impression of the production was positive. Included in her report, she wrote:  “History and fiction frolicked festively on the Merrill Auditorium stage Saturday night as Portland Ballet delivered an enchanting performance of Tchaikovsky’s ’The Nutcracker’ set in Victorian-era Portland”; and also, “It was an aesthetically pleasing evening, filled with wonders and prowess.”

This season’s “Magic of Christmas” concerts totaled 14, including a preview performance. Conducting was Mark Mandarano, then recently named Principal Guest Conductor of the Moscow Chamber Orchestra. Earlier he had served as Resident Conductor of the American Symphony Orchestra, which he conducted at Lincoln Center. This was followed by  a four-year tenure with the Pacific Symphony orchestra in Orange County, California, first as Assistant and then as Associate Conductor. (HS: Currently [2013] the Cornell and Peabody graduate is Assistant Professor and Director of Instrumental Activities at Macalester College in St. Paul, MN.) A description of Mr. Mandarano in the PSO’s “Magic” concert programs noted him as “an amazing conductor” who was “fun, funny and (one who) will display his many talents during the concert(s).”

Returning to direct this season’s “Magic of Christmas” shows was the experienced Brian P. Allen.

Ellen Domingos was once again featured at this season’s “Magic” concerts, having made the first of several appearances when 11 years old, in 1984. In the interim the Brunswick native had graduated from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts and performed in off-Broadway, regional theater, touring companies, cruise ships, voice-overs, commercials, television and film. Later described by Forecaster reporter Scott Anddrews as having a “superb, slightly darkly tinged mezzo-soprano voice”, she shared the role of lead vocalist with David Burnham, listed in the concert program as winner of the 2007 Helen Hayes Award for Outstanding Performance by a Lead Actor in a Musical.

Also on the program was Portland Municipal Organist Ray Cornils at the Kotzschmar keyboards; The 130-voice Magic of Christmas Chorus, directed by Richard Nickerson; the Musica de Filia (“Daughters of Music”) Girlchoir of 8th-to-12th-graders, directed by Jaye Churchill; and a five-artist troupe from the Portland Ballet Company, Eugenia O’Brien, director. Vanessa Beyland was choreographer and dancer, and like Ms. Domingos was also a graduate of the Tisch School at NYU.

The shows began with John Francis Wade’s Adeste Fidelis, arranged by Arthur Harris. Following was the bouncy We Need a Little Christmas from “Mame”, with the chorus. The girl choir next sang Vince Guaraldi’s 1965  arrangement of Felix Mendelssohn’s Christmastime Is Here, used in the enduring “Charlie Brown Christmas” TV production. Ms. Domingos performed a Mindy White arrangement of Irving Berlin’s I’ve Got My Love to Keep Me Warm, followed by another Mindy White arrangement, Baby, It’s Cold Outside, composed by Frank Loesser. Mr. Burnham joined Ms. Domingoes for this number.

The Symphony’s trumpet duo of John Schnell and Elizabeth Rines next did Leroy Anderson proud in a performance of the popular composer’s Bugler’s Holiday, followed by the chorus and the musicians combining voices and instruments for Mac Huff’s rhythmic Let it Swing, Let it Ring, Let it Snow. This number was a show-time arrangement that included Let it Snow; Frosty the Snowman; Marshmallow World; and the Ukrainian Bell Carol. Mr. Nickerson then conducted the Musica De Filia Girlchoir in John Rutter’s Shepherd’s Pipe Carol. Mr. Burnham next returned to the stage to sing the Moore arrangement of Adolphe Adams’ 1847 classic, O Holy Night. Leading to intermission, the chorus sang both Randol Bass’ Glory to God and George Frideric Handel’s Hallelujah! From “Messiah”.

The second half of the concerts began with Mr. Mandarano conducting the Symphony in Morton Gould’s well known 1952 arrangement of Jingle Bells. Members of the Portland Ballet then jazzed up the program with a swing dance to Duke Ellington’s rendition of the Peanut Brittle Brigade from “The Nutcracker”. After Mr. Burnham sang John Bucchino’s Grateful, the audience joined the chorus from their seats for a trio of holiday favorites:  Charles Wesley’s Hark! The Herald Angels Sing; Edmond Sears’ It Came Upon a Midnight Clear; and the traditional Deck the Halls. Now all excited at the sing-along, concertgoers pulses didn’t get much chance to pause, as Ms. Domingos and Mr. Burnham kept up a high level of action with Chuck Sayre’s arrangement of Rockin’ Christmas. No PSO “Magic of Christmas” performance would seem complete without a long-established holiday chestnut about........... well---- chestnuts roasting on an open fire. This task was completed when Ms. Domingos joined with the Symphony in Mel Tormé’s classic The Christmas Song, an arrangement published by the Edwin H. Morris music publishing house.

Immediately preceding the concert finale the chorus and the Symphony performed Christmas Flourish, another arrangement by Randol Bass, commissioned by the Dallas Symphony Orchestra in 1992 and subsequently widely performed nationwide on Christmas programs, both in the concert hall and for church presentations. It contains the Christmas carols:  Shiloh, by William Billings; Joy to the World; Silent Night; and Angels We Have Heard on High. All the “Magic of Christmas” concerts finished with the fun-filled, “nobody performs it quite like the PSO” Sleigh Ride, by Leroy Anderson.

Overall net revenue at the PSO’s 2007 holiday concert series was now just over $200,000, versus more than $500,000 back in 1999. The now long-continuing downtrend created substantial negative pressure on the Symphony’s P&L accounts.

Once again this holiday season the PSO had some other box office competition, including Broadway veterans Willi Burke and George Merritt returning to Maine for what was now being called the annual “Broadway at Good Theater Holiday Show” (HS:  So reported the P-H.). The two Broadway stars joined many Good Theater regulars for a concert of Broadway songs and holiday favorites. Presumably, Good Theater artistic director Brian P. Allen was involved, notwithstanding his return to the “Magic of Christmas” this year as Director of the PSO’s 14 shows at Merrill Auditorium.


2008       The PSO’s 2007-2008 season resumed with a Classical Concert at Merrill Auditorium on Tuesday, February 8. Alisdair Neale was guest conductor this evening. Mr. Neale was then in his eighth year as Music Director of the Marin Symphony in northern California, following a 12-year association with the San Francisco Symphony as associate conductor and Music Director of the San Francisco Symphony Youth Orchestra, posts where he had become acquainted with the PSO’s now-executive director, Ari Solotoff. By the time of his Portland appearance he was also Music Director of the Sun Valley Summer Symphony and Principal Guest Conductor of both the New World Symphony and San Francisco Conservatory of Music.

For this concert, Mr. Neale had agreed with Mr. Silverstein to conduct a program named after the premier work to be performed, thus the theme title was “Also sprach Zarathustra”. The opening work was John Adams exuberant Short Ride in a Fast Machine, a composition chosen by Toshi Shimada for its first Portland performance in 1991. The primary work of the concert’s first half was Mozart’s three-movement Symphony No. 38 in D Major, K. 504, (“Prague”). After intermission, the Symphony first performed Richard Strauss’ Serenade for Winds in E-flat Major, Op. 7. The great German composer’s Also sprach Zarathustra, Op. 30, comprised the remainder of the second half. Ray Cornils was featured during the performance of this half-hour-long “symphonic poem” masterpiece intended as an homage to Nietzsche’s genius. The Press Herald’s Mr. Hyde wrote that the major Strauss work was “brilliant”; that the “well crafted” Adams’ “Fast Machine” included “the loudest triangles I have ever heard”; and the “Serenade” a work that was an “interesting programming” move on the part of Mr. Neale to lead into the tone poem. The reviewer wrote that the Mozart symphony was a “slightly disappointing part of the program”.

Sometime at about this point in time (HS: So far, I’ve not learned precisely when.), the PSO began making available large-print concert notes to audience members. Currently (2014) these more readable aids continue to be available at all Sunday, Tuesday and Pops concerts---  all folks need to do is just ask an usher for a copy.

The PSO next returned to perform for concertgoers on February 16 & 17, a Saturday and Sunday. These Pops Concerts presented identical programs titled “Vocal Valentine” with Portland-based singers soprano Lisa Saffer and tenor John McVeigh. Pre-season PSO promotional brochures promised “fans of pure romance, two of opera’s brightest lights (and Portland residents!) deliver a delightful bouquet of the most famous and beloved romantic arias from throughout the ages. Love is in the air!” Well traveled guest conductor Julian Wachner was on the Merrill Auditorium podium. The concerts opened with Felix Mendelssohn’s Wedding March from “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”, followed by Mozart’s Overture to “The Marriage of Figaro, K. 492. This was followed, from the same opera, by Ms. Saffer singing Giunse alfin il momento... Deh vieni, non tardar, which Googling reveals was Susanna’s recitative and aria (HS: Translated as “The moment finally arrives... Oh, come, don’t be late, my beautiful joy”). Mr. McVeigh then joined Ms. Saffer to sing As steals the morn from “L’Allegro” by George Frideric Handel. This was followed by the Symphony performing Tchaikovsky’s Polonaise from “Eugene Onegin”. Ms. Saffer then returned to sing Sergei Rachmaninoff’s Vocalise. Next the duo sang Tchaikovsky’s Romeo and Juliet, arranged by Sergey Taneyev. The first half concluded with a pair of selections from Alexander Borodin’s Polovtsian Dances from “Prince Igor”.

After intermission, the Symphony under Mr. Wachner returned to perform Giuseppe Verdi’s Triumphant March from “Aïda”. Mr. McVeigh then came to center stage to sing Una Furtiva lagrima from “The Elixir of Love” by Gaetano Donizetti (HS: Translated as “A Furtive Tear”). Giacomo Puccini’s Intermezzo from Manon Lescaut was next played by the Symphony. One of the best-known opera melodies, Giuseppe Verdi’s famous duet, Libiamo ne’lieti calici from “La Traviata” (HS:  Translated “Let’s drink from the joyful cup”.), sung by both Ms. Saffer and Mr. McVeigh, concluded the concerts.

The post-concert Press Herald review noted it “well conducted by Julian Wachner and well sung, with projected pink hearts on the wings of the stage.” The article, headlined “Portland singers sweeten PSO’s classical Valentine”, mentioned that “following a standing ovation, the encore was a delightfully one-sided Duet from Franz Lehár’s ‘The Merry Widow’.”

On the afternoon of Sunday, February 24, the PSO hosted a concert at Merrill Auditorium with guest conductor Arthur Post and pianist Benjamin Hochman. A year earlier Mr. Post had to withdraw from an originally-scheduled PSO concert. An honors graduate from Yale University with a distinction in Music, he later earned a Master of Music Degree at The Julliard School. Substantial further study and conducting in Europe led to his then-current assignment, Music Director of the San Juan Symphony. Mr. Hochman was born in Jerusalem in 1980, and held degrees from both the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia and the Mannes college of Music in New York (HS:  He would later receive a prestigious Avery Fisher Career Grant.). By the time the acclaimed 28-year-old pianist appeared in Portland, he had established an impressive list of international  solo appearances.

A performance of Richard Wagner’s intimate and emotional Siegfried idyll opened this concert. The remainder of the first half was the Portland Symphony playing five of the eight-movement Suite No. 1 from “El sombrero de tres picos” (“The Three-cornered Hat”), G. 59, by Manuel de Falla:  Introduction and Afternoon; Dance of the Miller’ Wife; The Corregidor; and The Grapes. During the second half of the concert, concertgoers were treated to Mr. Hochman performing Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No 4 in G Major for Piano and Orchestra, Op. 58. Once again, it is hoped that before this THINGS-PSO is completed a newspaper review of this concert will be found in the PSO Archives.

In March the 7th annual Wine Dinner and Auction took place at the Harraseeket Inn in Freeport. (HS:  Sorry to all the  heroes who worked to make the previous six events successes; I somehow failed to mention this important fund-raising affair as comments about those years in this THINGS-PSO were written. And since I might not comment on similar events in subsequent years, “Hats Off!” to volunteers who helped at those affairs, too.)

The Press Herald reported in early March that “The Masterworks Chorus of the Choral Art Society (would) join the Portland Symphony Orchestra to perform Brahms’ ‘A German Requiem’... Merrill Auditorium” on Tuesday, March 4 (HS: Another P-H report “raised the bar”, intellectually, by announcing that “The program will culminate with Brahms’ masterpiece Ein deutsches Requiem. That title was also contained in the concert program handed to the audience upon entering Merrill Auditorium, to which “Op. 45” was added.) Robert Russell was on the podium to direct, and soprano Mary Wilson and baritone Philip Cutlip were ready to participate as featured soloists. The Masterworks Chorus of the Choral Art Society also was on hand to participate this evening. The first half of the program had the USM professor first conducting the chorus in Franz Joseph Haydn’s Te Deum for the Empress Maria Therese. (HS:  Googling reveals that the work is a rare example from Haydn’s late period that doesn’t feature soloists, thus making it an ideal concert opener.) Ms. Wilson was then featured during a performance of Samuel Barber’s Knoxville: Summer of 1915, Op. 24. After intermission, the full ensemble performed Brahms’ large-scale seven-movement work. The newspaper reported that Mr. Russell presented a pre-concert lecture prior to the concert.

The only review of the concert in the PSO Archives was by Christopher Hyde of the Press Herald, a situation which is often the case since Portland has only one major daily newspaper. The headline above his positive article was “Brahms’ ‘Requiem’ flawless, every beautiful minute of it”. He wrote that the performance was “one of the better ones I have heard”, citing the chorus as in “good voice, the orchestra responsive and the soloists... ...outstanding.” He complimented Mr. Russell for “a fine job of coordinating orchestra and chorus”.

Prior to Music Director Moody putting his positive “let’s-make-improvements” stamp on the 2007-2008 season’s programming, the Saturday-Sunday, March 15 & 16, Pops Concerts were titled “HOORAY FOR HOLLYWOOD!”, according to a glossy four-page promotional flyer issued by the PSO. At this early-on stage, no guest-conductor name was listed on the brochure. Later the theme-name was changed to “Music of Henry Mancini”, with Bill Conti named to be on the podium and also at the piano. The weekend’s maestro had for many years been orchestral director of the Academy Awards ceremony and was an accomplished composer himself.

Writing in the Press Herald, a Bob Keyes article published prior to the concert included interesting details about how Bill Conti and Henry Mancini became friends. “In 1976, after Conti had a hit with the ‘Rocky’ theme, out of the blue, Conti’s phone rang. It was Mancini. He said, ‘Your life is about to change dramatically. I know exactly what is going to happen to you. I am here for you if you want to talk.’ What a generous thing to do,” Conti said. “From that time on, we became friends.” Although separated by 18 years, the men had much in common. Both were Italian-Americans – Mancini from Ohio, Conti from Rhode Island. Both attended Juilliard School of Music in New York. Both ended up in Los Angeles writing music for film and TV. Both conducted the Academy Awards show, and both won Oscars in recognition of their work. Mancini also won 20 Grammy Awards, including a posthumous lifetime achievement award. After becoming friends, the lives of the two men intertwined. They socialized monthly with their wives, either going out to dinner or to each other’s house.”

The program was announced from the stage, and as of mid-2013 no record of specific numbers performed has been seen among the PSO Archives. The advance P-H article mentioned that the first half of the show would highlight music from Conti, while the second half would feature Mancini’s music. A Sun-Journal article likely gave a hint about some of the numbers performed, reporting “Some of (Mancini’s) many hits, including the theme from the TV series ‘Peter Gunn’ and the memorable instrumental music for the many ‘Pink Panther’ films, have entered the pop music lexicon. Songs such as Moon River from the film ‘Breakfast at Tiffany’s’ have become standard classics. Conti has composed memorable scores such as the one for James Bond film ‘For Your Eyes Only’ and the powerful anthem Gonna Fly Now from ‘Rocky’.” After a standing ovation, the encore was It Had better Be Tonight from “The Pink Panther”. The headline above the Press Herald article about the concert attended by its reviewer was, “PSO, Conti deliver an Oscar-worthy show”.

PSO concertgoers entering Merrill Auditorium for a classical concert on Tuesday, April 1, knew that Joseph Silverstein would once again be on the podium, the concert programs everyone received from ushers that evening contained the first program communication from Robert Moody. In a full page “welcome from Robert Moody” letter, the yet-to-arrive new maestro wrote, “I greet you now as Music Director Designate”, commenting that “This current chapter of the PSO is the story of revered conductor and violinist Joseph Silverstein as our Artistic Advisor. Simply put, no one could have done a better job to bridge the gap from maestro Shimada’s grand finale in 2006 until my first concerts as Music Director in the fall of 2008. Thank you, Maestro Silverstein”.

This evening’s concert under the baton of Mr. Silverstein was his final 2007-2008 season appearance conducting the Portland Symphony Orchestra as Artistic Advisor. Pre-season promotional brochures had listed a “Spirit of Russia” theme for this evening’s concert. The program began with Mikhail Glinka’s Overture to Russlan and Ludmilla, coincidentally a work performed during Dr. Russell Ames Cook’s inaugural concert at PCHA as PSO conductor in December of 1937. The other composition played during the first half of this concert was the “puckish and tart” (HS: So wrote Mark Rohr for the concert program notes.) Symphony No. 9 in E-flat Major, Op. 70, by Dmitri Shostakovich. Mr. Rohr commented in the Notes that the composer described the work as “a merry little piece. Musicians will love to play it, and critics will delight in blasting it.” Following intermission, Yuja was scheduled to be guest soloist for a performance of Sergei Rachmaninov’s Concerto No. 3 in D minor for Piano and Orchestra, Op. 30. The young Chinese artist, a student of Gary Graffman, was about to graduate from The Curtis Institute of Music. A biography found while Googling, mentioned that with a broad and eclectic repertoire, Ms. Wang was one of the few pianists to become a major international presence’ by her 21st birthday.

Unfortunately, Ms. Wang was unable to appear as scheduled, and Canadian virtuoso Stewart Goodyear was at Merrill Auditorium to perform the difficult Rachmaninov work. (HS:  While I haven’t asked anyone on the PSO staff to attempt to recall the change-of-artist chain of events, they must have been of the “last minute” type, for two days prior to the concert the Maine Sunday Telegram featured an article about Ms. Wang and the upcoming event. Whatever the problem was that caused her to miss this PSO concert, there must have been a good excuse—for she later appeared at a PSO classical concert in February of 2010.) The P-H’s Christopher Hyde described Mr. Goodyear as a pianist who “has technique to burn, an innovative turn of mind, velocity, emotional fire and enough volume to drown out the orchestra at times – all sure-fire crowd pleasers.” The critic also criticized, however, finding the “balance between the orchestra and the soloist (at times) tilted too far in one direction or another”, and some missed climaxes. The article referred to one instance when Mr. Silverstein “rescued one of the near misses by means of an orchestral sforzando”. Mr. Hyde also took issue with an encore performed by the soloist, Leopold Godowski’s Blue Danube transcription that he felt “did not belong on the same program as the Rachmaninoff Third.” As for the other two works on the program, the newspaper article referred to the Glinka overture as “almost flawless” and also praised the PSO’s playing of the Shostokovich symphony. Mr. Hyde wrote that the concert was “the Portland Symphony at its best”. Presumably, Mr. Silverstein was roundly applauded by appreciative PSO concertgoers at the end of the evening, with everyone enthusiastically on their feet. His musical talents and his advisory talents had greatly benefited the Portland musical scene.

Conductor Paul Polivnick, Music Director of the New Hampshire Music Festival, returned for another guest-conducting role with the PSO on Sunday afternoon, April 13. The classical concert began with Franz Joseph Haydn’s Symphony No. 95 in C minor. The program concluded with Richard Strauss’ nine-segment Suite from “Le Bourgeois Gentilomme”, Op. 60. In between, the Symphony premiered Bowdoin associate professor of music Vineet Shende’s Three Longfellow Poems, played just prior to intermission. (HS: Three years earlier, in 2005, Toshi Shimada had dropped plans to premiere the work, originally scheduled for the PSO’s 2004-2005 season.)

In a post-concert review published by the Press Herald, Christopher Hyde wrote regarding the Haydn work, that “the program began with a precise but not terribly exciting reading” by Mr. Polivnick and the Symphony. Regarding the concluding work, he expressed the view that “The orchestra had more fun with Richard Strauss’ incredible Suite from Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme”. He interjected some humor, writing “I think I saw Polivnick lunging a sword arm toward the violin section in The Fencing Master”, referencing the suite’s third segment.

Regarding the complex 35-minute-long Shende work, Mr. Hyde was quite enthusiastic. The composition is scored for soprano soloist, choir, and orchestra, and featured the 90 mighty, combined voices of the Bowdoin Chamber Choir and Oratorio Chorale, as well as soprano Elizabeth Weigle. In an article headlined “PSO delivers worthy premiere for Bowdoin composer”, the reviewer wrote that “The long-awaited world premiere of Vineet Shende’s ‘Three Longfellow Poems’ Sunday at Merrill Auditorium did not disappoint. This is definitely a major symphonic work, densely written, expansive and lovingly performed by the Portland Symphony Orchestra.” The reporter added that Mr. Shende “originally wrote the work to complement a performance of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, and it makes equally uncompromising demands on the soprano.”

An article about the work contained in a Bowdoin College publication provided additional perspectives on Mr. Shende’s composition. “He turned to Bowdoin’s famous son for the textual framework of the cycle, finding in Longfellow’s works, ‘Daybreak’, ‘The Warning’, and ‘The Occultation of Orion’, an arc whose theme is hope born, hope lost, and hope restored.” The article continued, with comments from the composer: “I think people tend to see Longfellow as a quaint 19th century poet and I wanted to convey the power and relevance of his poetry. I find in [the poems] reflections of my feelings about the state of the world, politics, and culture. It’s a very difficult piece. There isn’t a simple line for anyone. The soprano soloist has it the hardest of all because she’s singing the entire time, but she was flawless and just great to work with.” (HS: Googling yields no information regarding any subsequent performances of Mr. Shende’s composition premiered by the PSO at this concert.)

The next two days, the PSO helped four contingents of Portland-area students to get a one-week start on Earth Day, during a total of four concerts at Merrill Auditorium on Monday and Tuesday, April 14 & 15. “Music for Earth Day” was the theme. Indian-American conductor Ankush Kumar Bahl conducted the PSO, then in his first season as the Music Director of the New Jersey Youth Symphony. Trained at Cal-Berkeley (HS: This was also PSO Executive Director Ari Solotoff’s alma mater.) segments of works performed were: Waltz and Midnight from Sergei Prokofiev’s Cinderella Suite No. 1, Op. 107; Claude Debussy’s La Mer; Bedřich Smetena’s The Moldau; Benjamin Britten’s Moonlight from “Peter Grimes”, Op. 33a; Edvard Grieg’s Morning Mood from Peer Gynt Suite No. 1, Op. 46; Gioaccino Rossini’s “William Tell” Overture; Hector Villa-Lobos’s “The Little Train” from Bachianas Brasileiras No. 2, Tocatta; and Aaron Copland’s Saturday Night Waltz from “Rodeo”. One source found while researching, referenced an unspecified Strauss work.

Writing for independent news organization HULIQ, Ruzan Haruriunyan reported in advance of the concerts that “The program(s) will also feature nature photography exhibitions by award-winning Vermont writer, photographer and educator Marjorie Ryerson and the PSO’s bassist Lynn Hannings. (Lynn was).. Also a bow maker, and serves as the president of the International Pernambuco Conservation Initiative (IMPCI).” He added, “The IMPCI is a nonprofit organization dedicated to the conservation and sustainable use of the Pernambuco, an endangered Brazilian tree used in making violin bows for over 250 years. Ms. Hannings’ photographs at the event feature(d) the Pernambuco trees.” (HS: See an Anecdote item about Lynn Hannings’ important role IMPCI elsewhere in this THINGS-PSO.)

A current Google-inquiry about the now 43-year-old Mr. Bahl revealed that he was an Assistant Conductor with the Orchestre National de France and had recently began his post as the Assistant Conductor of the National Symphony Orchestra (Washington, D.C). The New York Times referred to him as an “energetic” conductor who leads with “clear authority and enthusiasm” after his Carnegie Hall debut.

With the late-springtime approaching, PSO Executive Director Ari Solotoff articulated his latest major objective, musingly telling the Press Herald’s Bob Keyes, “How do we create the tsunami of Robert Moody in the next season?  That’s the goal”. Other keys to what then lie ahead regarding Mr. Moody’s podium ascent in Portland contained in the P-H article follow:  “There are still plenty of folks who probably presume, ‘The orchestra is not for me.’ But that’s what we’re working to change”, said the new conductor. “With snow and ice crunching underfoot on a crisp March morning, Robert Moody stepped away from the path that rings Mackworth Island and scampered out toward the edge for a closer look at Casco Bay. ‘Awesome,’ he said, bracing himself against a tree as a stiff breeze blew back in his face. ‘It’s beautiful’.”

Mr. Keyes added that Mr. Moody “makes few promises, but pledges that honesty and integrity will be hallmarks of his leadership. ‘I try my very best to be myself’ ”, said the young new music director, who was then about to turn forty-one. “I try my very best not to put on affectations. Audiences should trust that they will get an honest experience”, and “The orchestra will have a different personality than it did with Toshi. And that’s neither a good nor bad thing. We will take on a different personality and a different energy, which will exist within the community and within us.”

Robert Moody was then preparing to take the podium at Merrill Auditorium on the Saturday-Sunday weekend of April 26 & 27, to lead the Portland Symphony Orchestra through the paces of a pair of “sizzling” South-American-flavored pops concerts featuring the guest ensemble Tiempe Libre. That pair of concerts were followed on May 5 with a short-length one designed to welcome Moody to the community, and the season-closing Tuesday Classical concert on May 6. Both featured the Symphony performing Mahler’s first symphony, which Mr. Keyes described as “an epic piece of music with spiritual overtones, often performed to signify an important time or event.” The reporter added that, “Collectively, the concerts mark the beginning of a monumental moment for the symphony, as Moody becomes the 12th conductor in the orchestra’s 84-year history. He replaces one of its most beloved conductors, Toshiyuki Shimada, who departed after the 2005-06 season and a 20-year tenure.” Continuing, he wrote “Moody’s job is to steer the symphony into the 21st century – to make it look and sound contemporary, build an audience for the future and secure its standing by reconnecting with the community. His job will be tricky. It will involve stimulating the musicians and satisfying the orchestra’s core base of subscribers while expanding that base by attracting new people and sponsors. Moody has begun that task by programming an inventive and bold concert season for 2008-09, and by establishing his presence as a youthful and articulate spokesman for one of Maine’s most important cultural institutions.”

Mr. Keyes article in the Press Herald was titled “The baton is passed: The sun is about to rise on the Robert Moody era at the PSO, and the new conductor is eager to start making music and charting a course for the future”. And now, looking back five years (HS: This section of THINGS-PSO is being written in mid-2013), it is safe to say that Portland Symphony Orchestra patrons and friends who then welcomed the New Maestro to the city and the PSO podium have since been well rewarded.

Prior to a pair of Pops Concerts on Saturday and Sunday, April 26 & 27, a PSO news release heralded the “official” conducting arrival in Portland of Robert Moody:  “Robert Moody makes his PSO debut as Music Director Designate with (a) sizzling program featuring music with a South American flavor, including works by “tango king” Astor Piazzolla, music from Bizet’s sultry opera ‘Carmen’, and the fascinating Rumba Sinfónica, fusing the urban rhythms of past and present Cuban music with the sophisticated sounds of a symphony orchestra.

“Grammy-nominated Tiempo Libre is one the hottest young Latin bands today. Equally at home in concert halls, jazz clubs and dance venues, the Miami-based band has become known for their incendiary, joyful performances of timba – an irresistible, dance-inducing mix of high-voltage Latin jazz and the seductive rhythms of song – true modern heirs to the rich tradition of the music of their native Cuba.”

The theme of these pops concerts was ”Rumba Sinfónica”, and the performance unmistakably featured works with Latin connections, beginning with Tangazo by Astor Piazolla, dubbed by some as “The Tango King”. This 14-minute composition starts slowly, gently and very quietly, remaining pleasantly harmonic throughout, with only a very brief not-quite-frenetic  segment, before drifting off to near silence at the end (HS: I Googled for a listen, and was glad that I did.). Mr. Moody then conducted Georges Bizet’s six-movement Suite No. 1 from “Carmen”, compiled posthumously by the composer’s friend Ernest Guiraud which adheres very closely to Bizet’s opera orchestration. The first half of the concert concluded with Danzón No. 2 for Orchestra by Mexican composer Arturo Márquez, which Mr. Moody had first introduced to a delighted PSO audience during his classical-concert audition in November of 2006.

After intermission it was truly “Rumba Sinfónica” time, as this was also the name of a 30-minute sound travelogue exploring the possibilities of a Cuban band and orchestra playing together and fusing the urban rhythms of past and present Cuban music with the sounds of a classical symphony orchestra. Googling reveals that this Cuban rumba takes the lead in composer Ricardo Lorenz’s symphonic work written in collaboration with Jorge Gomez, musical director of the PSO’s guest Latin band for the two Pops Concerts’, Tiempo Libre. Written by a Michigan State University professor who had been a composer in residence with the Chicago Symphony from 1998 to 2003, the work had been publicly performed only four times previously, but was scheduled to be played at concerts the next month by both the Detroit and Dallas symphonies.

All schooled at Havana conservatories, the seven musicians of the now-Miami-based high-voltage Tiempo Libre band had appeared in Portland two years earlier. Then the city’s long-established arts presenter, PCA Great Performances (HS:  To be renamed Portland Ovations prior to the 2009-2010 season.) sponsored a concert at Merrill Auditorium that was followed the next day with a concert at the Strand Theatre in Rockland. The seven friends from Cuba had formed their now Miami-based band in 2001.

Searching continues (mid-2013) among the PSO Archives for a newspaper review of Mr. Moody’s inaugural PSO concert as Music Director.

On Monday evening, May 5, Robert Moody conducted a PSO “Podium Prelude Concert”, an hour-long performance featuring a showcase of Gustav Mahler’s Symphony No. 1 in D Major “Titan”. All seats to the new maestro’s unofficial welcoming party were priced at only $25. The PSO announced that this special concert was designed to allow the entire Portland community to see and hear the chemistry between Moody and the PSO. There were also a limited number of patron tickets available for $150 per person, which included a prime reserved seat in the Grand Tier and an exclusive cocktail reception with Maestro Moody following the performance. Speaking with the P-H prior to the event, Ari Solotoff, the orchestra’s executive director said, “We scheduled the Podium Prelude because the Tuesday Classical concert is either well-sold or sold out, and we wanted everybody in the community to have the chance to see Robert conduct.

The PSO’s season finale was the next evening, on Tuesday, May 6. Dan Locklair’s Phoenix for Orchestra led off the concert, followed by Franz Joseph Haydn’s Concerto in D Major for Violoncello and Orchestra with soloist Denise Djokic. Gustav Mahler’s Symphony No. 1 in D Major “Titan” completed both the concert and the PSO’s season. The event was a complete sellout.

In its May 8 edition, the Press Herald headline positively stated “>Difficult Mahler proves a breeze for Moody and the Portland Symphony Orchestra”. The article began with the comment, “The only problem with the Portland Symphony Orchestra concert Tuesday night at Merrill Auditorium was that the tremendous Mahler Symphony No. 1, aptly subtitled ‘The Titan’, overshadowed two other fine renditions of contemporary and classical works.” Reviewer Christopher Hyde wrote, “Soon-to-be musical director Robert Moody has already shown what he can do with the orchestra, but Tuesday’s performance, before a large and enthusiastic audience, took it to new heights. The Mahler First Symphony is one of my favorites, but I hadn’t remembered just how spectacular it can be when played live. The last movement is all about climaxes. There are so many that in lesser hands it could become a comedy skit. However, Mahler and Moody make them so varied and inventive that one wishes the sequence of codas would never end.” Readers were not used to Mr. Hyde including glowing compliments toward the Symphony in his reviews, so this was an especially significant article.

Other snippets from the P-H review include: “Soon-to-be musical director Robert Moody has already shown what he can do with the orchestra, but Tuesday’s performance, before a large and enthusiastic audience, took it to new heights. Moody’s rearrangement of the cello and viola sections seemed to work well.”; “The orchestra was in great form for a work that is not only among the most difficult to play, but also affords no room for error. Any brass section in the world would prefer to perform this work in the privacy of the recording studio, but it also makes great demands on the woodwinds, strings and percussion, all of which were realized with flair, excitement and precision. The end of the symphony was met with a tumultuous standing ovation.”; “Moody also seemed thoroughly at home in a contemporary idiom, with ‘Phoenix for Orchestra’, by Dan Locklair, which he (HS: Referencing Mr. Moody.) commissioned and premiered for the Winston-Salem Symphony. The piece shows evidence of being a more lengthy rewrite of an earlier fanfare for organ, brass and percussion, but holds interest through a series of variations by means of textures so lush that it is sometimes difficult to distinguish between the orchestra and the pipe organ.”; “The classical period was represented by the Haydn Concerto... .... with Canadian soloist Denise Djokic. This work was written for a virtuoso, but the young cellist managed its significant difficulties with ease, and, more important, musicality. The concerto was as satisfying in its own way as the Mahler.”

This year, printed in the third-published (of three) concert program booklets for the season, to acknowledge their respective participation and assistance, was a list of individual musicians who provided substitute services over the course of the season. Reading like the equivalent of a complete orchestra on its own, were 67 names. (HS:  I don’t recall ever seeing such a listing in other PSO programs, and it is possible that I “just missed it” somewhere along the line. Nonetheless, it was fun to read through this list and find that by now [2014], some are regular PSO’ers.)

At the end of the 2007-2008 fiscal year, Gordon Gayer was elected to the first of what would become three terms as PSO President. (HS: At this point in time, however, the very practical, down-to-basics, make-ends-meet kind of guy ----at most expected to serve only the traditional two terms. His abilities to clearly see the big picture and his focus on the PSO being able to only incur bills that it could pay ended up doing two things:  assuring that the board of trustees would successfully entreat him to remain in the chief’s chair for a third term..... and  –bluntly stated— to save the PSO enterprise.)

While the PSO was now set artistically with Mr. Moody onboard as Music Director, the P&L aspect of the Symphony’s business, largely inherited by and now under the direction of Executive Director Ari Solotoff, was in need of substantial repair and improvement. In a later (March, 2012) look back article about the PSO’s journey back to profitability, published by, an initiative of the Institute for Music Leadership at the Eastman School of Music (HS:  The Institute lists itself as a professional organization “Leading the music profession into a new era through education, discussion, and peer insight.”), the PSO’s Board President from 2008-2011 got right to the point about conditions in 2008. “Financially, we were near the precipice”, Mr. Gayer said about the crisis existing that year.

Ramifications of what has been covered earlier in this THINGS-PSO had became crystal clear to Mr. Gayer, Mr. Solotoff and Finance Director Ellie Chatto,  ---uncomfortably so. Fortunately, a Fantastic Turnaround would occur, although not without a significant amount of effort on the parts of many people, especially the Gayer-Solotoff-Chatto trio. The organization was running out of cash, having drawn down the majority of its bank line of credit and withdrawn substantial balances from its endowment accounts over the years, with general unfavorable market conditions having started to negatively impact the endowment. Although those investment accounts by-then still carried a balance of nearly $2 million, Maine statutes prohibited trustees from drawing down funds below initial principal levels of restricted gifts, so opportunities for further withdrawals in the then-near future were limited. Subscriber deposits on 2008-2009 renewals had already also been largely spent.

The Polyphonic article summarized the situation and then described the roadmap ultimately designed to achieve financial recovery:  “The symphony had begun spending incoming revenue from the following year’s subscription income to pay the current year’s bills, not an uncommon practice in the orchestra world, until the situation become dire.” The Polyphonic report continued that the “then board president, put the orchestra on a very lean financial diet; they cut concerts, services, and salaries, and decided to embark on a major strategic planning process to chart the way out of their problems.” (HS:  The 2008-2009 operating budget was dramatically cut to $2.5 from $3.3 million in the prior season.) The ESM institute also reported that “Simultaneously, some long-time members of the PSO, which had been a non-union orchestra for all its life, decided it was time to seriously start organizing to see if the orchestra could join the AFM and benefit from all that the union has to offer. The musicians voted to join the AFM in the spring of 2008”.

Continuing his look back interview, Gordon Gayer said that the PSO had “come to understand that we must tend to our financial state and ensure that we have an adequate financial base all the time. That’s our business. This is as much our business as creating transcendentally beautiful music. And we’ve made huge strides towards building this concept into our own DNA. We need positive operating results – ‘profits’.”

Mr. Solotoff played a major positive role in changing the PSO’s DNA. He developed a matrix regarding the “thinking” of the Symphony, synthesizing new ways of clearly capturing better ways for the organization to operate. A poster outlining those changes,  a reminder of prudent financial stewardship, remains at the PSO’s general offices at 50 Monument Square in downtown Portland. It reads:

A consultant to the PSO, John Shibley of EmcArts, later praising these philosophies of orchestra management in a report to clients, said that Mr. Solotoff discussed first sharing a slide of the above during a pivotal board meeting. The PSO Executive Director reported that “When the Finance Committee and then the Executive Committee first saw this slide, it was shocking. It was as if all of the frustrations and lack of understanding had been crystallized in a set of statements. Trustees were excited about adopting a plan based on a new way of thinking because it gave them language to hold onto when making decisions. Everyone could be held accountable for the thinking underlying decisions, irrespective of one’s place in the institution.” Mr. Shibley observed that the PSO board “responded with enthusiasm and a clearer sense of how to proceed.” (HS:  Mr. Shibley would subsequently write, late the next year in 2009, that “Over the last eight months, the PSO has had a remarkable turnaround, attributable, says Solotoff, to taking actions consistent with their new assumptions.”)

Several years later when Mr. Gayer would speak to the subject for the 2012 article, he looked back at one of the main areas that needed new thinking and where implementing that new thinking paid off:  “When things turned south in ‘03 and ‘04, the PSO began to tap into next-year subscription revenue to pay for the current year. Within five years, we went from taking a little to taking all of it. We (were using) 100% of next year’s ticket revenue to finish the current year.” Addressing the important change in operating philosophy at the PSO he then said, “So we decided to stop doing that, and now, all subscription revenue is escrowed.”

Mr. Gayer and Ms. Chatto also explained that a so-called “Canary Fund” had been established during the financial turnaround. Like the proverbial “canary in the coalmine” a cash account of several hundred thousand dollars kept on the PSO’s books was established to be “watched like a hawk”. With no-dips-below-a-set-level policy in place, the “canary” would cry out if anything caused the account balances to slide below the limit. Simple? Yes; Brilliant? For Sure!  --------given what had transpired before. The “Canary Fund” would assure that proper fiscal management practices were in place, were being carried out, and “no surprises” would be discovered after the fact. Perhaps getting a bit too hyperbolical (HS:  An author’s privilege, it says in the handbook in front of me.)....... The PSO’s Financial Turnaround Story would turn out to be one of the most beautifully melodic performances ever given by the Portland Symphony Orchestra.

This year, Carolyn Nishon joined the PSO in an artistic staff position. A violinist, after graduating from the University of Michigan in 2007, she spent a year in her home state of Michigan as an intern with the Ann Arbor Symphony. She held Bachelor of Arts degrees in English and Psychology from the University of Michigan, where she had served as Publicity Director and Executive Director for the University of Michigan Pops Orchestra. Subsequently, she was chosen as one of only five to be selected for the prestigious League of American Orchestras’ management fellowship program, gaining a highly competitive slot designed to launch executive careers in orchestra management. As part of the intensive LAO training program, during the 2007-2008 season she had worked at the Aspen Music Festival and School, the North Carolina Symphony, the Spokane Symphony Orchestra, and the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra. Mr. Solotoff, previously also a LAO fellow, recruited her to join the Portland Symphony staff, and Ms. Nishon is currently (2013) the PSO’s Director of Artistic Operations.

Looking ahead for a moment, Ms. Nishon’s significant seven-year’s series of professional achievements for the PSO would result in her being held in such high esteem by co-workers, the Symphony’s musicians, and subscribers, that private conversations would frequently turn to “it can’t be long before Carolyn is offered and accepts a top job with another orchestra?”... comments of concern that she’d be lured away, to the PSO’s disadvantage. In the end, instead a most positive result to that feared dilemma would happen, when she would be named replacement PSO Executive Director when Lisa Dixon French resigned that position to relocate with her family to Tennessee when her husband received a major promotion. Following a competitive national search in 2015, the Symphony would unanimously select Ms. Nishon. Then Board President Harper Lee Collins would say, “We are truly pleased to announce that Carolyn Nishon will be taking on this role ... Her in-depth knowledge of the PSO and her experience, combined with her passion for music and for the community, made it clear that she was the ideal candidate. We are looking forward to working with her in the years to come” as the PSO’s next Executive Director.

One outgrowth of the serious financial challenges then facing the Portland Symphony Orchestra in 2008 was when the orchestra musicians voted to join the American Federation of Musicians in the spring of that year. Earlier, a group of seven musicians who thought that it would be good for the PSO musicians’ group at large to  affiliate with a union, had quietly organized and “assigned” each of themselves respective groups of ten or so musicians who were not among the original group. With the PSO musician membership then about 80 in total, under laws administered by the federal National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), all the group needed to achieve was for a majority of the total musicians to sign authorization forms, or "cards," stating they wished to be represented by the union. While some players felt that having the group affiliate with the union would be too confrontational and lead to new problems, the supporters of unionizing pressed the philosophy that with help from the Boston AFM local, achieving some improvements in the work environment was possible without severely threatening the financial and artistic aspects of the Portland Symphony Orchestra organization. When all was said and done, enough signature cards were submitted to PSO Executive Director Ari Solotoff such that unionization occurred AND eventual agreement regarding improvements for the musicians would be achieved with agreement from the PSO Board. The original supporters of affiliating with the Boston local ended up seeing the PSO agree to work rules (HS:  Not the least important of which was longer break times during rehearsals.) and pay levels that made the Portland Symphony Orchestra a relatively more attractive “gig” for musicians to want versus options that previously existed at alternative regional New England venues. The road to these successes was not easy, but calm heads prevailed...... on both sides of the negotiating table.

The involvement of new advisors to the players was a matter the board recognized as important to address. Mr. Solotoff sensibly urged the involvement of a facilitator so that the issues of all parties could be considered without undue risk of “hard, intractable positions” being adopted by anyone. Fortunately, open communications and cooperation were goals of all involved. Key representatives of the musicians strongly agreed with this approach, an important development. Facilitators at the Harvard Law School Negotiation Project were selected to fill that role (HS:  More later; read on.).

The June 30 “Independence Pops” Concert at Shawnee Peak in Bridgton marked the official ”summer debut” of Robert Moody atop the PSO podium (HS: Following his appointment as Music Director Designate in the Spring of 2007, a year later he had conducted a pair of Pops concerts in late April of 2008, followed by two Classical concerts in early May.). The next three evenings, subsequent “Indy-Pops” concerts were also on his and respective regional concertgoers’ schedules --  in Brunswick at Thomas Point Beach, at Sanford in Goodall Park, and in Cape Elizabeth at Fort Williams Park. The promotional flyer for the concerts displayed a “Let Freedom Ring!” theme. A P-H article on July 5, preceding the Cape Elizabeth “Indy-Pops” concert stated that “Tonight is your last chance to take in an ‘Independence Pops’ concert by the Portland Symphony Orchestra, continuing that “This year’s ‘Pops’ series... ...features patriotic favorites such as America, the Dream Goes On by John Williams and a musical portrait of Irving Berlin. As always, the performance will end with Tchaikovsky’s “1812” Overture followed by a fireworks display.” Soprano Jenn Raithel Newman was a featured soloist, a talent praised in the Press Herald review following the concert.

Other works listed on the flyer were John Philip Sousa’s Washington Post March; Aaron Copland’s Lincoln Portrait; the Armed Forces Medley; Irving Berlin’s America, the Beautiful; and Sousa’s always-required Stars and Stripes Forever.

And..... to at least once “get on the record” important details included in PSO news releases over the years, the P-H article included the helpful info: “You may bring a picnic, along with a blanket or lawn chair, and games or toys for the kids. Organizers also suggest packing bug spray, sunscreen, sunglasses or a hat, a raincoat, a sweater and a flashlight.”

The fact that the article mentioned that tickets were $20  (and $10 for those under age 18) caught my eye. This was a reduction versus prices of $22 for recent years’ Independence Pops concerts, a marketing attempt to boost attendance and PSO receipts. As events would play out, attendance levels proved to be nowhere large enough to offset costs of the concerts (HS: Pyrotechnics are expensive!). It is likely that few, if any, concertgoers at the Fort Williams “Indy-Pops” concert imagined that this would be the final time that the PSO would sponsor a 4th–of-July fireworks concert..... but it was (HS:  Keep reading for details.).

But back to Mr. Moody’s “first official concert as music director of the Portland Symphony Orchestra” at Shawnee Peak......  The Press Herald’s Christopher Hyde termed it a “a ‘rousing success’, one of the best Independence Pops concerts I have heard in recent years”. Commenting on Ms. Newman and Mr. Moody joining voices before the fireworks, when they sang America, the Beautiful with the audience, Mr. Hyde teasingly offered some criticism:  “It’s not fair that the conductor of a symphony orchestra should also have a good baritone voice.”

PORTopera presented Charles Gounod’s “Roméo et Juliette” on July 24 & 25. Israel Gursky conducted many PSO musicians during these productions.

This summer the PSO presented a series of four chamber orchestra concerts entitled “Summer Serenades”, featuring a guest appearance by MPBN’s newest voice, Tom Porter. A news release from the PSO called the series “a great way to spend a summer evening with the whole family while enjoying music in enchanting Southern Maine settings.” The early-evening-start concerts took place in Freeport at L.L. Bean on Saturday, July 19; Boothbay at the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens on Friday, July 25; in Old Orchard Beach at the Salvation Army Pavilion on Sunday, July 27; and at the Deertrees Theatre in Harrison on Tuesday, July 29. The last event was part of the Sebago Long Lake Music Festival. Rehearsals for these concerts were held at the John Ford Theater at Portland High School.

The “Summer Serenades” series showcased Sergei Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf, narrated by Mr. Porter. The programs also included a favorite from the operatic repertoire, Giacomo Rossini’s Overture to Barber of Seville, and Mendelssohn’s delightful Symphony No. 4, (“Italian”) in A major, Op. 90. Conducting each performance was Matthew Fritz, who at the Eastman School of Music had studied conducting under PSO Music Director Robert Moody. Utilizing less than full-complement symphony orchestras, these run-out chamber concerts involved limited labor costs and since they remained contract events, the PSO was still subject to financial risk in case of weather problems. Specific P&L analyses for either the 2007 Independence Pops or the “Summer Serenades” series of concerts has not been spotted in the PSO records, however it is likely that they were not profitable (HS: Financial analyses of the 2006 Indy-Pops concerts showed significant losses, and the 2008 Indy-Pops concerts were cancelled before labor commitments were extended. Those two facts offer further support to the supposition that the two summer series in 2007, while musical successes--  were P&L losers.)

Also during July, facing expiration of the labor contract with its musicians, the PSO and the musicians’ AFM Boston Local began what were referred to as an “interest-based negotiation process” as movement toward a new contract got underway. The pre-negotiation process was  funded by a grant from the Sam L. Cohen Foundation. Designed to stave off opening negotiation offers from either side that might inadvertently become intractable positions, interest-based negotiations focus on collaboratively solving problems, acknowledging interests, and creating new options for moving forward. At hotel accommodations in Kennebunkport provided by longtime Symphony supporters and subscribers, the Ginn Family, all parties participated in an intensive two-day training session in interest-based negotiations, with a facilitator.

Board president Gayer later reflected on advantages of the process followed:  “I cannot overemphasize the importance of the personal contact, of the personal relationship. It’s essential that trustees have some gut feel for the lives led by the musicians and vice versa. Musicians need to have a sense of the lives of the staff and board and other pillars, such as our patrons and stakeholders. Look at the dysfunction that exists among our politicians in Washington, DC – it’s because they don’t know each other.” He added, “When I look at dysfunctional situations between players and boards elsewhere, often the money difference is not large enough to justify that degree of alienation.”

Mr. Gayer would also later say, reflecting back on the atmosphere of prior labor talks, “Back in 2003-2005 there were some contentious negotiations, and the musicians got some lawyers involved. It was not ‘the peaceable kingdom’. But we never had a work stoppage.” It proved important to the PSO’s then-future that it was obvious to the board in 2008 to keep everyone calm and focused on trying to understand and solve everyone’s’ problems the best way possible.

French horn player Nina Miller would later (HS:  when the interviews were taking place in early 2012) reflect back on how the PSO board and the musicians continued to work to understand everyone’s respective financial situations. She would speak to several aspects of the overall topic. “In this day and age of less-than-positive orchestra news, it’s nice to have a good story; we’ve received cash bonuses in December 2010 and 2011!  The PSO ended those years in the black, so management, along with the Orchestra Committee, worked out a formula, based on salary. This is so indicative of how much they want to work with us, how they value and care about us. It’s a hugely positive and optimistic situation.”

Further questioning Ms. Miller for the website report, the Polyphonic interviewer said to her, “Everything sounds great, but I’m sure there are still difficulties.” The PSO musician answered, “Oh sure! – PSO musicians want more services and a raise!  It’s been several years since we’ve had either...and it is frustrating.

Lastly, when the interviewer followed up with a question about how Ms. Miller had felt about joining the Boston local back in 2008, the longtime PSO player responded, “Great!  Something we’ve needed to do for a long time. A very positive step forward for the PSO musicians. I’m very hopeful for our orchestra – we’re a pretty happy bunch, which is not a common occurrence in today’s orchestras. We have a good, strong and solid relationship with the board and management. One of my goals is to continue working on building a bridge to connect musicians to the audience, community, board and management. This vital connection will help to ensure that today’s orchestras not only survive, but thrive.”

Before, throughout and after what would be months of labor discussions and negotiations, two members of the orchestra attended all board meetings, and a third musician was an active member of the board’s Finance Committee. Representatives of each side would work very hard to maintain transparent discussions and negotiations, each having worked hard to know and understand the financial realities faced by the other. All understood that everyone had “skin in the game” and that failure to attain a new contract could be a death knell to the PSO. One key participant described the process as “A poker game, but everyone knows the other’s cards.” (HS:  Read ahead to July of 2009 if you can’t wait to learn about resolution of the contract discussions.)

During August, the PSO and Portland Ovations moved into shared space on the second floor of 50 Monument Square, continuing a co-habitation that had begun about a decade earlier. However, when the lease for the new address had been signed, the two organizations invited FOKO to join them (HS: Portland’s Choral Art Society and the LARK Society for Chamber Music would also “move in” the following spring.). The shared space allowed all the organizations to share conference facilities as well as costs of overhead including office equipment and machinery. A PSO news release stated that it “also represented an opportunity for artistic collaboration between groups that often already worked closely together.” The 50 Monument Square building was owned by Youth Alternatives Ingraham, a Portland social services agency dedicated to advancing healthier lives, happier families, and strong communities.

As his first full season approached, Music Director Robert Moody ran in his first Beach to Beacon 10K road race. Having taken up running six years earlier, the new PSO maestro tried to run in at least one road race each month, usually going on training runs most days that his schedule allowed. The PSO’s executive director, Ari Solotoff, also ran in the Beach to Beacon race.

Prior to the start of the 2008-2009 season, a “PSO Challenge” was announced when the Wescutogo Foundation awarded a $25,000 Challenge Gift to the Symphony. The foundation offered to match dollar-for-dollar new and increased giving to the Annual Fund. The challenge term extended to July 31 of 2009..

The PSO’s first full season under the baton of Robert Moody began on Tuesday, October 7. The event was heralded by a Proclamation signed by Maine Governor Baldacci. Following six “WHEREAS-s”, the final three of which welcomed and referenced Robert Moody as the PSO’s 12th music director, came the key “THEREFORE” provision of the edict. “NOW, THEREFORE, I, JOHN E. BALDUCCI, Governor of the State of Maine, do hereby proclaim October 7, 2008 as 2008-2009 PORTLAND SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA DAY throughout the State of Maine, and urge all citizens to recognize this observance. The Great Seal of the State was duly affixed, and yes—the proclamation really did showcase this PSO Day in huge-sized lettering. (HS:  The only downside to the hoopla was that the engraver of the proclamation forgot to insert the part about “schools being closed in observance”--  oh, well....... that’s the breaks, kids.) The proclamation is now (2013) in the PSO’s Monument Square offices.

That Tuesday evening the program began with Antonin Dvořák’s Carnival Overture, Op. 92, B. 169. Googling reveals that the well known work is “part of a ‘Nature, Life and Love’ trilogy of overtures” written by the composer, “forming the second ‘Life’ part. The other two parts of the trilogy are In Nature’s Realm, Op. 91 (Nature) and Othello, Op. 93 (Love).”

Next was a performance of Mason Bates’ Liquid Interface, which has been referred to as a “water symphony” that “traces the phases of water from glaciers through flowing streams to warm mists and back again”. (HS: The young on-the-rise composer and the PSO’s new music director went back more than 15 years, when Mr. Moody commissioned a then-high-school sophomore to write his first symphonic piece.) This evening’s work was commissioned by the National Symphony and premiered under the direction of Leonard Slatkin in 2007. The San Francisco Chronicle described the work as “a four-movement tone poem that combines virtuoso orchestral writing with the rhythms and textures of  electronica. It was conceived as a way to approach the theme of water, with all the tools a composer has available today, and that includes electronic.” Prior to the concert Mr. Bates told the Press Herald that “His original seed of an idea involved taking the topic of water beyond the wave all the way back to glaciers. With each of four movements, the water heats up to hurricane force.”

Also about this evening’s work, Mr. Bates had written that it is “a kind of Symphony No. 1 (though you will never wring a numbered piece out of me)”. He says that it “needs a killer drum set player for the Dixieland movement” and has an “electronic component, while straightforward as always in my music, (that) requires some sharp ears from the conductor.” Mr. Bates, performed with the orchestra – “on an electronic drum pad and with a laptop or two”, wrote the P-H’s Bob Keyes. Music Director Moody told the P-H, “He’s there, in the back with the percussion, with a laptop and a drum pad. The electronica doesn’t override the orchestra, but is used as one more percussive sound palette.”

Mr. Moody told the newspaper reporter that “With this first concert, I want to make sure we send the correct and exciting message about what people can expect to see coming in the next chapter of the PSO – that we’re going to perform music that is extremely well-known and beloved, and played at the highest level. And also that we will push the envelope from time to time. We will move the orchestra into the 21st century in a great and exciting way.” Mr. Keyes characterized the new music director’s approach as “reassuringly traditional, but with a bit of an edge”.

During the second half of the concert, Mr. Moody conducted the Maurice Ravel arrangement of Pictures at an Exhibition, by Modest Mussorgsky. The newspaper review in the P-H began by saying that a “capacity audience... ...was rooting for the (PSO’s) new music director... triumph in his first official concert” in his new capacity. With the playing of the Mussorgsky work, Christopher Hyde considered “their expectations... (were) ...fulfilled.” He reported that after that work, “Moody and the orchestra received a long, foot-stamping standing ovation”. (HS:  The reviewer did not seem too taken by the Bates work, although he wrote that it “would probably repay listening to once again”.)

A “Tribute to John Williams” was the theme at a pair of Portland Symphony Pops! Concerts, held during the weekend of October 11 and 12. The PSO’s pre-season brochure encouraged concertgoers about “exciting concert(s where) Robert Moody celebrates Williams’ most memorable classics. May the scores be with you!” The performances began with Olympic Fanfare and Theme, composed for the 1984 L.A. Olympics, next Highlights from “Jurassic Park”. These opening works were followed by three compositions important to respective motion pictures:  Somewhere in my Memory from “Home Alone”, sung by the Saco Bay Children’s Choir; Theme from “Schindler’s List”, which featured PSO Concertmaster Charles Dimmick; and Hymn to the Fallen, from “Saving Private Ryan”, with members of the Choral Art Society and USM Chamber Singers. Prior to intermission, the Symphony and the children’s choir performed Sayuri’s Theme from “Memoirs of a Geisha”; and Superman March from the movie.

The second half opened with Raiders March from “Raiders of the Lost Ark”. The three guest vocal ensembles then joined forces to sing Music from “Harry Potter”. Dry Your Tears, Afrika! From “Amistad” then preceded the final work, Star Wars: Suite, which also featured the three ensembles.

The P-H reviewer rated the concert “a highly enjoyable pops concert”, also crediting the Choral Art Society and director Robert Russell with high marks. He noted that “the surprise of the evening, however, was the Saco Bay children’s choir under Camille Curtis-Saucier”, noting the ensemble as “several cuts above other children’s choirs in precision, volume and part singing. In fact they could give some adult choruses a few pointers.” Additional high marks were cast toward PSO Concertmaster Charles Dimmick for his “(and Moody’s) version of” the theme from “Schindler’s List”.

This fall the Portland Youth Symphony Orchestra, led by Rob Lehmann, participated in a side-by-side rehearsal of Sergei Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet with the Portland Symphony Orchestra welcoming Robert Moody as the PSO’s new Music Director. (HS:  Although obviously tremendously useful and encouraging to the students, these side-by-side rehearsals had the PSO incurring service costs since the professional musicians had to be paid. Unfortunately, this project would be  eliminated when the Symphony’s final cost-cutting determinations were made.)

A Masked Inaugural Ball was set for the Portland Country Club on Saturday, October 25. The black-tie gala was a celebration to the PSO’s new season and the arrival of new Music Director Robert Moody. The invitations to the fun event contained the poem, “Find A Marvelous Mask And Wear It Well, So your True Identity No One Can Tell”. A financial positive after Mr. Moody’s arrival on stage this season was a meaningful increase in subscriptions. Whether the fact that the new maestro conducted mask-less entered into the new supporters’ decisions to regularly attend PSO concerts is something that the PSO Archives do not reveal.

American Mezzo-soprano Elizabeth Bishop, a frequent guest soloist with orchestras and premier opera companies, was at Merrill Auditorium to join with the PSO and maestro Moody for a Classical Concert the following afternoon, on Sunday the 26th of October. The concert program listed Gioaccahino Rossini’s Overture to “L’Italiana in Algeri” as first up. Ms. Bishop then joined with the Symphony in a performance of Gustav Mahler’s four-movement Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen (“Songs of a Wayfarer”), which Googling reveals to have been the composer’s first song cycle. In his program notes about this work, PSO bass trombonist Mark Rohr wrote that “each song shows the wayfarer inevitably sinking back into his broken heart, (as) each also ends in a different key from where it began. The emotional and musical journeys are one.” A Furman University website hails the noted artist as one who “doesn’t take herself too seriously”. Like the PSO’s new music director, who had known her since the two were six years old, the soloist (HS: Referred to as “Betsy Bishop” by the university site.), was a 1989 graduate of Furman. For the post-intermission segment of the concert, Mr. Moody selected a work long favored by classical music audiences, conducting Antonin Dvořák’s Symphony No. 9 in E minor, Op. 95, “From the New World”.

Flugelhornist Micah Maurio was guest soloist at two pair of Youth Concerts for students, on Monday and Tuesday, October 27 & 28. For these performances, PSO Music Director Robert Moody selected the theme, “Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra”, beginning and ending each of the concerts with segments from Benjamin Britten’s composition with that name. Also on the program were Tchaikovsky’s Serenade in C Major for Strings, Movement 2, Waltz; Dukas’ Fanfare from La Peri; John Williams Nimbus 2000 for Winds; Ogoun Badagris for Percussion by Christopher Rouse; Haydn’s Concerto in C Major for Cello and Orchestra, No. 1, Movement 3, Allegro Molto, featuring Mr. Maurio and his powerful and melodic flugelhorn; and Williams’ “Superman” March.

Then about to perform his senior recital at USM, the Caribou brass player was completing both jazz and classical studies in Gorham. One of his teachers was PSO trumpet player Betty Rines. During his high school days, in 2002, he was one of six high school trumpeters in the state who earned a spot in the Maine High School All-Star Jazz Band, which experienced the thrill of opening for Wynton Marsalis and the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra when they were on tour.

The PSO’s next concert at Merrill Auditorium was on Tuesday, November 11. On hand for this classical event were soprano Tacy Dahl, baritone Troy Cook, and the Choral Art Society. Mr. Moody first conducted the Symphony musicians in John Adams’ 1973 Christian Zeal and Activity. Mark Rohr wrote for the program notes that the composition was “originally composed as the centerpiece of his three-movement work, American Standard.” The notes said that the title was not only a description of three “standard” American forms: a march, a hymn, and a jazz ballad”, but was also an intentional “play on the name of a toilet manufacturer”...... certainly a rather wry way of teasing audiences. Next performed by the PSO was Felix Mendelssohn’s 1830 Symphony No. 5 in D Major, Op. 107, “Reformation”. After intermission, the vocalists and the members of the choral Art Society joined with the Symphony in a performance of Ralph Vaughan Williams’ Dona Nobis Pacem.

The headline above Press Herald reviewer Christopher Hyde’s article about the concert was “PSO, chorus, guests deliver a powerful tribute to veterans”.

PSO Pops! Subscribers who failed to closely check their tickets at either of a pair of concerts on Saturday and Sunday, November 15 & 16, might have made a double-take “What Is This?!!” gasp when The Beatles came on stage at Merrill Auditorium. No, it turned out that John, Paul, George and Ringo weren’t in Portland; however, dressed as the “Fab Four”, playing and singing like the group that Ed Sullivan introduced to the U.S., were Jim Owen, Tony Kishman, Tom Teeley and Chris Camilleri. The group, named Classical Mystery Tour (HS:  “Classical Mystery Tour” was also the theme-title chosen by the PSO for this concert.) was a Beatles tribute band who answered the question of what the Beatles playing live with an orchestra would have sounded like. The guys were a true tribute band, dressed up like the Beatles, who talked and sang like them — with the accents. They continue (HS: It’s now late-2013 as this paragraph is being written.) to actively perform with North American orchestras, and enjoyed more than 60 concert appearances during 2012 and 2013 combined (HS: Presumably the years in between were equally as busy for the four.). Based on a raft of concert reviews found Googling, the Classical Mystery Tour quartet brings audiences to their feet everywhere they appear. (HS:  The sound of the Portland Symphony Orchestra with the music of the live Beatles tribute band worked so well that the group would be re-engaged for a follow-on appearance with Robert Moody and the Symphony during the PSO’s 2013-2014 season.) The Orchestra began the show with a medley of well-known Beatles material. After the applause, the four members of Classical Mystery Tour walked onto the stage, waving and dressed in black suits with skinny ties.

The numbers performed were announced from the stage, and time did not allow for all of the songs in the group’s repertoire to be played. According to various website articles, their typical concerts include 20 or more Beatles’ hits. A pre-concert Press Herald article stated that “The band will perform a range of Beatles music, from the band’s early days to their solo years, with orchestral accompaniment. The concerts will give fans the chance to hear Penny Lane with a trumpet section and Got to Get You Into My Life with trumpets and saxophones. Yesterday will get quiet string-quartet treatment, while the crescendo of A Day in the Life will be bombastic (if not more so) than the recorded version.” The P-H also advised that “The four band members dress the part, beginning the show in the black suits and moving into the wild costumes of the ‘Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band’ and ‘Magical Mystery Tour’ periods.” “Classical Mystery Tour” was the theme title for these PSO Pops! Concerts.

On five dates in late November and early December the Maine State Ballet presented “Nutcracker” at Merrill Auditorium. While no record of attendance at these shows appears readily available, the PSO certainly didn’t benefit from competition for holiday-season entertainment ticket orders. How much, if at all, the ballet productions eroded PSO “Magic of Christmas” ticket orders, hasn’t been an item spotted in the PSO Archives. In any event, there didn’t seem to be any hard feelings about the ballet company’s endeavours, since (HS: As you’ll soon read) the ensemble was also part of this season’s PSO “Magic” concert series.

In early December a number of PSO musicians came to the PSO office and made “Thank You” calls to doners. This effort was part of the then year-ending capital campaign, then confronting a 30 percent stock-market-decline environment— that was going to become a major rout.

With prior commitments precluding recently-installed PSO Music Director Robert Moody from participating, a familiar “new-old” (HS: Com’on.... one can’t label him “old-new”!”) face was signed to conduct this holiday-season’s “Magic of Christmas” concerts, with Bruce Hangen set to hold the baton. “From its beginnings, ‘Magic of Christmas’ has always been an exciting local artistic partnership, and this year is especially rich because of the diversity of Maine talents involved, old and new,” he said in a press release. “It is always a pleasure to return to Portland, and I am thrilled to be back to conduct ‘Magic’ this year. I will always be connected to Portland’s audiences and artistic communities, so it feels like coming home to me.” In a full-page “Greetings” column in the holiday concerts’ program, the PSO’s 10th conductor began, “To return to the ‘Magic of Christmas’ after all these years for me is awesome!”

The PSO news release advised that alternating during the “Magic” performances, members of both the Maine State Ballet and Portland Ballet would participate, performing variations from “The Nutcracker.” Dancers from Maine State Ballet performed Dec. 12-18, and dancers from Portland Ballet performed Dec. 19-21. Also featured during the program were opera and concert tenor Matthew DiBattista, Portland Municipal Organist Ray Cornils, and the Magic of Christmas Chorus.

This year, the Windham Chamber Singers joined the collection of voices. Directed by Richard Nickerson, the Chamber Singers consisted of 37 students from Windham High School. Selected by audition, the Chamber Singers had traveled throughout North America and Europe.

Singer, actor and broadcaster Suzanne Nance was the narrator. Ms. Nance was music director at Maine Public Broadcasting Network, where she hosted weekday morning classical music programs, and had sung in Prague, London, Philadelphia, Chicago, New York, Bangor and Portland.

In what evolved into a permanent change, there was no formally appointed director of the concerts this season, a role that Brian P. Allen had played for many years. Michael Reidy was credited in the concert programs as Scenic Designer, with Gary Massey listed as Sound and Lighting Designer.

The concerts began with Leroy Anderson’s now-classic A Christmas Festival, with the Symphony musicians joined by the chorus. The chorus remained on stage for the next number, Mack Wilberg’s arrangement of the traditional Angels We Have Heard on High. The Windham Chamber Singers were featured next, in Mark Hayes’ arrangement of the traditional Christmas Bells are Ringing. Audiences then enjoyed Ms. Nance narrating Matthew Naughtin’s A Visit from St. Nicholas (‘Twas the Night Before Christmas). (HS: Had I have been in charge there would have been a wise-guy concert-program reference to the alliterative bounce when saying the three arrangers’ names: Mack, Mark and Matthew.)

Mr. DiBattista came on stage to sing George Frideric Handel’s Comfort Ye, My People, from “Messiah”. Remaining, from Hector Berlioz’ Selections from L’Enfance du Christ, Op. 25, he then sang Les pélerins étant venus, whereupon the chorus sang Berlioz version of Alleluia from those selections. Immediately prior to intermission, the chorus performed Handel’s Hallelujah from “Messiah”.

 The second half of the concerts began with John Rutter’s arrangement of the traditional The Twelve Days of Christmas. Mr. Nickerson guest conducted that number. Ms. Nance then returned to narrate another Naughtin composition, Footsteps on the Roof. The Symphony’s playing of Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s Selections from “The Nutcracker”, depending on the specific performance underway, next brought on members of either the Maine State Ballet Company or the Portland State Ballet. Mr. Nickerson then conducted the Windham singers in the traditional Nigerian composition, Betelehemu. A super composition came next (HS: One I’ve enjoyed since my teenage years from a Frederick Fennell recording.), but only twice before  performed during PSO “Magic of Christmas” concerts. It was a Lee Norris arrangement of Percy Faith’s Brazilian Sleigh Bells (HS:  If you don’t know it, “give a Google” and enjoy hearing it.)

Mr. DiBattista returned to the stage along with both the Magic of Christmas Chorus and Windham Chamber Singers, singing Snow’s arrangement of A Crooner’s Christmas. No ”Magic of Christmas” concert in Portland would have been complete without Leroy Anderson’s Sleigh Ride...... and this season’s performances didn’t leave it out. Concluding the concerts was a traditional A Christmas Panorama Sing-Along, arranged by Braz, with the chorus and chamber singers.

The Press Herald review of this year’s “Magic of Christmas” concert attended by Christopher Hyde carried a positive headline, “Hangen and PSO work their ‘Magic’ “. Internal PSO files show that many musicians reported that Bruce Hangen had wonderful rapport with children during the “Magic” concerts.

A “Magic” postscript:  PSO Director of Artistic Operations, Carolyn Nishon, recalled in a recent (mid-2013) email communication that the first and last scheduled concerts of the 2008 ”Magic of Christmas” concerts were both canceled due to storms. (HS: During a recent get-together chat, Bruce Hangen also had a vivid memory of those disruptions.) The bad luck didn’t stop with the snowstorm cancellations, as the December 20th Matinee performance was interrupted due to a fire alarm malfunctioning---- not once but twice during the performance, forcing the entire building to be evacuated to the sidewalk each time. Carolyn and PSO Concert Manager Joe Boucher added, “As you can imagine, December is a chilly time to be standing on the sidewalk waiting for the Portland Fire Department to walk through the building to determine if it’s safe to return.” (HS:  Oh...... the “magic” of wintertime in Portland.) In total, 12 performances were presented during the season’s run this year, versus the 14 originally scheduled.

A postscript to the “Magic” postscript immediately above (HS: Think of that as “postscript-squared”.):  Considerably after learning about the false-alarms from Carolyn, Sue and I met longtime PSO subscriber Arthur Hussey (HS:  During his last two years at Wells High School in 1948-1950, before heading off to Penn State and a college career as a geology professor, he had been a second violinist in the PSO.). He had been at one of the fire-alarm-affected “Magic of Christmas” concerts, and claimed that the bells went off “just after the soloist had started singing ‘Chestnuts roasting on an open fire.......’.” When I checked the 2008 “Magic” concert program and discovered that “Chestnuts roasting” wasn’t listed, my pause was only a millisecond:  Arthur’s story is too fun a memory to pass by. If it’s good enough for him, it’s good enough for me---- AND the people who will read this someday.

While the storm-affected preview cancellation and the final-concert cancellation were both insured against loss-of-business force majeure causes, technicalities in how the insurance carrier would rule meant that many months would pass before payments were eventually received by the PSO. The payments covered net loss and unrecoverable expenses. This delay placed additional pressures on the PSO’s finances. (HS:  The preview cancellation was officially due to a power outage that affected Merrill Auditorium.)

Back at the end of November, the day after Thanksgiving, for the first time the PSO joined the spirit exhibited by many merchandisers around the country --- offering Black- Friday-rated tickets to the Friday, December 17 “Magic” performance for just $25. This sale lasted six hours (HS: However, no follow-on articles have surfaced yielding information about how many ducats were purchased.) Later, in mid December, an anonymous gift of $20,000 stimulated the PSO to offer its remaining stock of “Magic” tickets at a special rate, also just $25.

In mid-December, freelance music reviewer Jennifer Brewer reported on this season’s “Victorian Nutcracker” performance at Merrill Auditorium, on Saturday evening the 17th. The Portland Ballet Company’s dance presentation was accompanied by former PSO concertmaster Lawrence Golan, who once again returned to Portland from his regular orchestra assignments in the western U.S. to conduct a group of musicians largely drawn from the PSO. Enthusiastic about the sell-out performance she attended, Ms. Brewer wrote of the music for the Press Herald, “From the delicacy of the overture to the vigor of the Russian variation, the Portland Ballet Orchestra played Tchaikovsky’s masterpiece with clarity and energy. Under the direction of Lawrence Golan, the orchestra maintained an appropriate tempo for the dancing, and gave an almost flawless, concert-quality performance.” As usual for PBC “Victorian Nutcracker” events, the score was an adaptation for a mid-sized orchestra that had been arranged by Mr. Golan.


2009       Pianist Orion Weiss returned to Merrill Auditorium for a guest appearance at a PSO Classical Concert on Tuesday, January 13. (HS:  His last-minute substitute performance with Robert Moody and the PSO in November 2006, when Mr. Moody was still a candidate for the PSO-music-director slot, had been  a Surprise Success, enthusiastically acclaimed at the time by the Press Herald.) With Robert Moody holding the baton, this evening the talented pianist opened the program with George Gershwin’s energetic jazz orchestral work Concerto in F for Piano and Orchestra. The P-H’s Christopher Hyde reported the artist “ending with a bang and a standing ovation from the capacity crowd”. He then responded with an encore, an improvisational playing of Samuel Barber’s Excursion, which Mr. Hyde wrote “sounded like Gershwin himself at the piano.” This concert was a two-work event, and regarding the second half, an advance PSO news release stated, “To close the concert, the PSO takes on Dmitri Shostakovich’s famously explosive condemnation of Russia’s Stalin era, Symphony No. 10 in E minor, Op. 93, written by Shostakovich shortly after Stalin’s demise (HS:  In 1953.) and filled with unstoppable fury and passion. It is a musical summary of that bleak and terrifying era; hearing it performed live is a tremendously exciting and moving experience.” The Press-Herald reviewer was impressed, writing “I have seldom heard the Portland Symphony in such brilliant form as in the Shostakovich...  ...the portrait of Stalin is one of the most violent pieces of music ever written, executed by the PSO with such power as to be the ultimate argument for the necessity of live music.” With the talented and energetic Mssrs. Weiss and Moody involved, this evening must have been a big winner with concertgoers.

Mr. Moody’s collaborations with Mr. Weiss did not end with this concert. The Winston-Salem Symphony’s 2011 season opened with Mr. Moody on the podium and the pianist performing  Grieg’s Piano Concerto in A minor.

The January 25 Sunday Classical Concert had the theme, “All-Mozart Matinee”. The PSO celebrated the great composer’s birthday with a concert led by the well-traveled frequent guest conductor, Christian Knapp (HS: Who, in one of his concert-program columns, Robert Moody cheered as “a dear friend of mine”.), featuring critically acclaimed guest soloist William Hudgins, principal clarinet of the Boston Symphony Orchestra. The concert opened with the Overture to “Don Giovanni”, after which the guest soloist performed the Clarinet Concerto in A Major, K. 622, considered among Mozart’s greatest works. After intermission came Adagio & Fugue in C minor, K. 546; then the dark and serious Masonic Funeral Music, K. 477. The concert concluded with Symphony No. 35 in D Major, K. 385, (“Haffner”). No review of this concert has yet (mid-2013) been located in the PSO Archives.

As the PSO board had wrestled with the PSO’s woeful financial situation, counter posed against some audience growth for the orchestra in response to the appointment of Mr. Moody as music director and conductor (HS: The orchestra had sold about 5,000 more tickets for the then-current season than the year before, and the number of new subscribers was up 50 percent.), any natural temptations to attempt to hide the financial difficulties from the public were soon swept aside by the reality that pleas for help with the Bridge Financing programs required candor about the difficult P&L realities. Intelligently, a decision to “go public” was made--- about both the news and the changes that would be made to correct the situation. Ironically, this would set the stage for a Turnaround Story, not just a “Problem Story”.

In early February the PSO announced a series of administrative and programming cuts in response to its significantly deteriorated financial health. The organization cancelled the 2009 Independence Pops concerts, reduced administrative costs by eliminating two full-time positions and cut the pay of senior staffers by 10 percent. It also eliminated two spring youth concerts and scrapped a side-by-side youth program, in which student musicians performed alongside PSO musicians. Even scrapping the annual PSO Pops! series was considered, if necessary. A February 4 front-page P-H article was headlined, “Facing deficit, symphony cuts back: The PSO eliminates jobs and cancels Independence Pops concerts as it deals with a $220,000 shortfall”. An editorial in the Press Herald did not criticize the corrective moves taken by the PSO, instead saying that “The orchestra is doing what it must to meet an all-too-familiar challenge for public and private institutions in this protracted economic downturn.” The above changes were projected to reduce the sizable estimated annual deficit by about $95,000. Another cost-reducing move made by the PSO was to plan more rehearsals in the Merrill rehearsal hall backing on Cumberland Avenue instead of in the main auditorium. The rental costs saved for each day that the full auditorium was not reserved for a rehearsal, and the rehearsal hall was used instead, amounted to $1200 (HS: based on rates in effect in 2011). The musicians would grumble about lousy acoustics and being crowded together in the hall, but they all realized their grumbles would be much louder and reflect more pain were the PSO to have to substantially cut back on performances. Their rehearsal service rates of pay did not change as a result of the decision to rely less on the Auditorium stage. Overall, at this point in time PSO’s budget was below $2.5 million for the then-current fiscal year, down from more than $3 million in 2007-2008.

About this news, the P-H’s Bob Keyes wrote an extensive article that included: “In another sign that the deepening recession is striking all sectors, the Portland Symphony Orchestra is cutting jobs, reducing salaries, canceling performances and trimming educational programs in an attempt to fill a $220,000 budget shortfall for the fiscal year that ends July 31. In addition, the orchestra is examining all aspects of its operation in an effort to reduce expenses to avoid future deficits, said Executive Director Ari Solotoff. ‘We’re all faced with really challenging circumstances, and the orchestra is not immune,’ Solotoff said. ‘This is a very tough time’.”

Continuing, the article reported:  “Cost-saving measures announced Tuesday include canceling all four 2009 Independence Pops concerts, which are scheduled around the Fourth of July in Bridgton, Brunswick, Cape Elizabeth and Sanford; reducing administrative costs by eliminating two of 10 full-time positions and cutting the pay of five senior staffers by 10 percent; eliminating two spring youth concerts; and scrapping a side-by-side youth program, in which students performed alongside PSO musicians. The orchestra will adjust the makeup of its concert programming in the spring so it can perform music that requires fewer musicians. It also will move rehearsals from Merrill Auditorium, where it performs concerts, to less expensive rental space within the Merrill complex, Solotoff said. The cuts and changes announced Tuesday will make up about $95,000 of the shortfall. The orchestra probably will try to cover the rest with a communitywide fundraising campaign, he said.”

About what would be the Bridge Initiative, Mr. Keyes further quoted Mr. Solotoff:  “We need to sit down with our closest supporters and ask one question: What is the value and meaning of the PSO to you and to the community?  That’s a question we hope is answered with the recognition that the orchestra is a unique community and cultural asset’, Solotoff said.” The PSO executive director further informed that “The orchestra’s endowment has eroded because of the plunging stock market. The endowment stands at $2.1 million, down from a high of $2.9 million in 2007.” The young executive added, “The endowment is made up of restricted gifts that cannot be used to cover operating expenses. The orchestra can use interest and dividends from those gifts toward its operating budget, but that money is insufficient to make up the remainder of the shortfall.”

The Press Herald reported that “In a phone interview Tuesday, Music Director Robert Moody said the financial issues facing Portland are not unique. He attempted to cast Tuesday’s news in the best possible light. ‘This is not doom and gloom. We’re not having a last gasp of air. We are trying to be as practical and real as we can be to make sure the ship of the orchestra remains completely on tack in these difficult waters, so we are intact on the other side of the storm.” Mr. Moody also told the P-H that “the other orchestra he directs, in Winston-Salem, N.C., also faces difficult budget decisions. ‘Both orchestras are facing the realities of, how do we come up with a plan that has the most fiscal integrity and gets us through the current economic time, and how do we make sure we do so without ever cutting into our artistic bone?’ “, he was reported as saying.

The newspaper also reported on another interview:  “Joanne Woodward, a longtime violinist with the orchestra, said she was disappointed but not surprised by Tuesday’s news. ‘The optimist in me had hoped it wouldn’t happen. But knowing what is going on in the stock market and knowing the status of our endowment, I knew something was going to happen – and that something wasn’t going to be great’.” She added that “The elimination of the four Independence Pops concerts will hit musicians especially hard. We’re freelance musicians, and every service represents a paycheck. Fewer services means fewer paychecks, so that is hard. But it’s a challenging time in the greater scheme of things, and the fiscal health of the whole is very important’, she said.” Fewer rehearsals would also mean fewer services performed by the musicians, of course.

While there is no need to belabor the point about the PSO’s financial difficulties then being openly discussed for the public, it is historically useful to see how especially blunt Emily Parkhurst of The Phoenix was at this time. She wrote, “The Portland symphony is in trouble. The unresolved dominant-seventh chord — a $2 million loss over the past eight years, and a possible shortfall of $220,000 this year alone — would be a setback for any company. But for the symphony, this is more than that. It means the end for some of the PSO's signature events, the disappearance of community-outreach programs, and layoffs and pay cuts for staff.” After laying out the litany of details about lower endowment balances, program cuts, staff layoffs and pay reductions, etc., she  --at least--  concluded with a quality-comment about one aspect of the situation then prevailing. Quoting Robert Moody, she wrote that he said,  "While the world is focused on the economy, we will focus on being the best human beings we can be."

At the time, Mr. Moody also is reported to have said that he would not hesitate to ask the community to support the PSO during this crisis. “I have no hesitancy in encouraging, asking and imploring folks to help us – not with hat in hand, but with a great amount of pride and confidence that during tough economic times, we need a great orchestra,” Moody said. “People turn to art and great music in tougher times, and I think our ticket sales reflect that,” he continued. “I can’t help but think that’s partially because the arts are healing. The performing arts are good for the soul.”

Found to be needed, and therefore established after the Toshi Fund campaign, the fall-’08 Bridge Initiative had been a band-aid type of emergency buffer, safety-net fund designed to enable the PSO to continue operating without interruption. While raising new capital was important to get the PSO’s P&L statement into the black, to pay off all debt, allow the endowment to recover by not withdrawing annual distributions, and re-establish cash reserves...... also extremely important was to get the operations into good financial order. As one member of the PSO staff would eventually put it, “The Bridge Initiative really did its job—accomplishing its goals and setting the organization up for success” in future years. Achievement of the $1.25 million overall goal was exceeded, from the combination of both financial contributions and cost-cutting moves. Eventually, the near-death experience also turned out to be the foundation of a solid new PSO culture commitment to “live within its means”. A commitment could be, and was, set in place such that the now-verboten siren lure of using next year’s ticket revenue for current year expenses would now only be a bad-habit of the past.

The public and final phase of the Bridge Initiative was named the Maestro Musicians Fund, addressing the heart of the PSO..... its musicians and its artistic programs. The long-term sustainability and artistic excellence of the PSO required changes to address the fact that musicians were then in the fourth year of a wage freeze and had also been disaffected by the need to reduce the number of total performances; also that a limited staff which had accepted wage cuts and had also picked up additional assignments due to layoffs, could be re-energized and rebuilt. Important strategic planning efforts would result in the development of financially-sustainable pilot programs designed to meet community needs, that would also provide musicians with increased opportunities to perform great orchestral music throughout the community.

A promotional flier regarding the Maestro Musicians Fund that was later created in 2010, as the final push of the Bridge Initiative Campaign, focused on the fact that “Musicians are the lifeblood of every great orchestra!”, and encouraged potential donors with an offer to “donate ’Magic of Christmas’ tickets to families in need of uplifted spirits this season” for every $250 raised through the fund. The PSO partnered with several social service agencies to bring hundreds of families the story, the spirit, and the music of Maine’s favorite holiday tradition. Specifically referenced in the promotional flier were the Barbara Bush Children’s Hospital, the Boys and Girls Club, and the Center of Grieving Children.

By the time of the later “final push” of the public phase of the campaign, major to-do items toward Building  a Healthy Orchestra that would be checked off in 2010 as accomplished would be: (1) Securing working capital of $975,000, (2) Paying off a $500,000 line of credit, (3) Replacing three years of endowment draw totaling $250,000, and (4) $125,000 toward stabilizing finances. That 2010 flier would also include a remaining unchecked box---  obtaining $1,250,000 of contributions to “invest in PSO musicians”.

Without getting into the PSO’s year-by-year financial specifics (HS:  There is plenty of public information in the annual IRS-990 filings for anyone who really wants to dig into that issue), the highlights of the PSO’s turnaround would be that a $3+ million-operating-expense enterprise in 2006-2007-2008 would be streamlined down to a $2.5 operation for 2010..... and steadily remain “in the black” following the Bridge-Initiative-boosted year of 2009. Despite especially-solid revenue (including contributions) years that would come in fiscal 2012 and 2013, total expenses would still be kept at levels below $3 million annually.

Renée Fleming, who had become one of the world’s most popular opera stars, made her Maine debut on February 17, 2009, in the first-ever benefit concert for the PSO Endowment Fund. A pre-season PSO brochure heralded that “The world’s most famous soprano” would debut in a don’t-miss concert that is sure to delight fans of all musical genres.” The Merrill Auditorium concert was titled “An Evening with Renée Fleming”. The PSO welcome to Ms. Fleming followed her many performances at the Metropolitan Opera and Washington Opera, and with orchestras and in recitals around the world. Ms. Fleming performed works from both the celebrated classical repertoire and popular repertoire under Maestro Robert Moody’s baton. Mr. Moody labeled her appearance and the concert as “Great serious music and light pop music”. He told a local newspaper, “This is a hallmark event....” and “This is an orchestra that plays at a level befitting of an artist like (Ms.) Fleming.” Further discussing Ms. Fleming, Maestro Moody said to the P-H, “there are a handful of people in classical music who are larger than life, and there is a reason why – talent and the execution of the art form is at such an unbelievably high level. She is among them. No question about it.” She would rehearse once with the PSO, the evening before the concert (HS: And a number of PSO season-ticket holders were able to sit in during the rehearsal, as did a contingent of invited USM music majors who engaged in a Q&A afterwards with the star.).

Prior to the concert, the Press Herald’s Bob Keyes had written, “Fleming is among the most sought-after opera singers of our generation, and a bona fide superstar.” He also said, “She won a lot of awards early in her career, and made her debut with the Metropolitan Opera in 1991. Fleming’s star has been on the rise since. A soprano, she has won multiple Grammy Awards and numerous other global honors.” He reported that she had been raised in Rochester, New York, the daughter of high school music teachers. Her major professional training was at both the Eastman School of Music and at Julliard.

In another advance article, this one by Emily Parkhurst in the Portland Phoenix, it was reported that “the program will begin with (Richard) Strauss’s Der Rosenkavalier Suite (TrV 277, op. 59) the suite from one of the composer’s most popular operas....”. The report added, “The opera was incredibly successful at its premiere in 1911, and has continued its popularity over the past century. The work is a comic opera, and the suite is a perfect way to highlight Fleming’s talents while setting the tone for the rest of the show.”

Ms. Parkhurst also wrote, “After an operatic opening, Fleming will shift gears to sing the Vier letzte Lieder, or “Four Last Songs”, also by Richard Strauss  “The Four Last Songs are Strauss writing about the autumn of life. They’re unbelievably poignant,” it reported Robert Moody as saying.

To end the first half, Ms. Fleming performed Morgen, op. 27, no. 4 (“Morning”), also by Strauss. Mr. Moody told the Phoenix, “It is the perfect epilogue to the Four Last Songs. It is a (mournful piece) about the Afterlife, about the finding of peace,” he explained.

During intermission, interested in variety, Ms. Fleming changed more than her dress. She also shifted from being an opera singer into a Broadway starlet. The second half of the program actually began tenderly, if not sadly. She sang John Kander’s A Letter from Sullivan Ballou, a simple yet powerful musical setting of Civil War soldier Sullivan Ballou’s final letter and testament to his wife, written a week prior to his death at age 32 during the first Battle of Bull Run. The second half also contained a variety of popular songs, including George Gershwin’s Summertime from “Porgy and Bess”, and Carousel Waltz from “Carousel” by Richard Rogers. She then sang perennial jazz all-stars Lee Ritenour and Dave Grusin’s classically oriented majestic arrangement of two American folk standards: The Water is Wide and Shenandoah, integrated in a unique Medley (Two Rivers).

Switching to Broadway, Ms. Fleming sang Cole Porter’s So in Love from “Kiss Me Kate”, concluding with Frederick Loewe’s classic, I Could Have Danced All Night from “My Fair Lady”. About the latter, the P-H reported that “she actually enticed the audience into singing ... loudly”. Reporter Ron Bancroft wrote, “Believe me, Julie Andrews never sounded this good”, obviously referring to the star...... not the PSO concertgoers.

So how did the concert go overall?  Music-wise, the P-H headline said it all:  “Fleming simply awesome, and PSO benefits in a big way”. Christopher Hyde wrote that “After several foot-stomping standing ovations, Fleming sang three encores: Puccini’s O mio bambino caro; Strauss’ early Zueignung (“Dedication”); and Somewhere Over the Rainbow.” Financially, the concert was thought to have generated the largest box office figure in Merrill Auditorium history. Considering the lean financial times then, the P&L result of the concert also was.... “Awesome”.

The PSO’s news release about the then-upcoming concert mentioned that the “PSO endowment provides financial security for the PSO’s concert and education activities, and acts as a safety net especially during fluctuations in the economic climate. ‘Though orchestras typically maintain a minimum 3:1 ratio of endowment to operating budget, the PSO’s is less than 1:1, which makes this special event all the more significant,’, said Gordon Gayer, president of the Board of Trustees. ‘We are thrilled to welcome Renée Fleming for this special event, especially during Robert Moody’s inaugural season, and are grateful to the patrons who are supporting the future of the PSO through their ticket purchases to this concert, as well as those who support the Symphony throughout the year.’ Ticket prices were steep, ranging from a low of $65 to a high of $140. The Phoenix article stated that “the opportunity to hear such talent in a small hall like the Merrill Auditorium is a treat not likely to be repeated any time soon.” Encouraging Portlanders to step up and visit the box office, the newspaper added, “The performance is an endowment benefit concert, the first of its kind for a symphony desperately trying to make ends meet.”

According to a newspaper article found Googling, the financial report following the benefit concert with Renée Fleming reflected that the performance was the highest grossing show in the history of Merrill Auditorium, and contributed more than $50,000 to the Symphony’s recession-battered endowment fund. Musically, the Symphony was thriving during the lean economic times. A P-H editorial page column by Ron Bancroft said that “In his inaugural season as music director, (Robert) Moody brings energy, passion and megawatt charm of his own. The orchestra is responding with some of its best performances in the 20 years (that the reporter and his wife) have been going to these concerts.”

The nationally-acclaimed, Minnesota-based Five By Design singing group was at Merrill Auditorium as guest artists for a pair of PSO Pops! Concerts on the weekend of Saturday and Sunday, February 21 & 22. The three men and two woman ensemble brought their “Radio Days” showcase production to Portland. The group’s flagship production had debuted in the 1980’s as a patriotic tribute to the “golden age of radio,” commemorating the 50th anniversary of World War II. A pre-season PSO brochure advised that the artists would be “paying tribute to vocal groups and big bands from the 1940s, (with) ‘Radio Days’ interweave(ing) music from the likes of Glenn Miller and Tommy Dorsey with segments from vintage serial comedies, and quiz shows; a musical time capsule with your PSO.” The Orchestra was led by Charles Latshaw, music director of the Bloomington (Indiana) Symphony Orchestra and the Columbus Philharmonic Youth Orchestra. He was a graduate of the Ohio State University. No newspaper review of this concert has yet (mid-2013) been located among the PSO Archives.

A Classical Concert on Sunday afternoon, March 15 began with Maestro Moody conducting the PSO in a performance of Maurice Ravel’s Mother Goose Suite, his orchestration of an original piano duet based on a series of five fairy tales. This work was followed by Franz Schubert’s Symphony No. 8 in B minor, (“Unfinished”), D 759. After intermission, Portland Municipal Organist Ray Cornils joined with the Symphony to close the concert with Francis Poulenc’s Concerto in G minor for Organ, Strings, and Timpani, a work composed between 1934 and 1938. The P-H’s Christopher Hyde wrote that the performance “live(d) up to its advance billing... ...and then some.” (HS: However, he expressed the negative view that the synopses, in English, of the Mother Goose scenes..... considering that the audience was largely adult, were “a little patronizing, as well as distracting.”) The reviewer did write that the orchestra “could not have played better”, praising both Mr. Moody’s interpretation of the Schubert work and Mr. Cornils “putting the Kotzschmar Organ through its paces”.

JoAnn Falletta was guest conductor at a PSO Classical Concert on Tuesday, March 24. Since 1991 she had been music director of the Virginia Symphony Orchestra, and since 1999 also music director of the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra. With violinist Michael Ludwig (HS: He served as BPO concertmaster for a time.), with whom she had frequently collaborated at Buffalo concerts, she had “shuffled” over to Portland for this concert at Merrill Auditorium. (HS: Earlier in the month she had also guest-conducted Robert Moody’s “other orchestra” in Winston-Salem.) Writing in the Maine Art Scene Online Magazine, Brenda Bonneville previewed this concert, writing that the “concert opens with Robert Schumann’s Overture to Manfred, Op. 115.” (HS: She had conducted this work in Winston-Salem. Another item of note is that it was not listed in the PSO’s pre-season promotional brochure; instead- then Hector Berlioz’ Roman Carnival Overture was scheduled.) Ms. Bonnefille’s article continued, “Guest soloist Michael Ludwig joins the PSO for Beethoven’s Violin Concerto in D major, Op. 61, one of the most celebrated works of the violin concerto repertoire. The program closes with the Symphony No. 6, ‘Pathetique’, by Tchaikovsky. Exquisitely passionate and intensely emotional, with some of the most beautiful music ever written, the composer considered it ‘the best and most open-hearted’ of his works.” The Press Herald review labeled Ms. Falletta’s guest-conducting appearance as “masterful control of the orchestra”, although he found fault with what he considered to be too-slow tempo choices in the Beethoven concerto. He rated the Tchaikovsky performance as “simply stupendous”, from start to finish. The concert received a deserved standing ovation, added Mr. Hyde. (HS: A gracious post-concert thank-you was received from Ms. Falletta. She penned a congratulatory letter to the Press Herald, that ran a month following her appearance in the April 30 edition. She expressed “great pleasure... ...conducting the symphony”, and praised the musicians and Mr. Moody’s leadership, as well as Mr. Solotoff and Ms. Nishon of the staff. She brought Portlanders’ attention to the PSO being “a treasure to the community- a beautiful mosaic of talent that is an enormous artistic, educational and economic resource”, encouraging the community to “continue to cherish and care for your extraordinary symphony!”)

A week later, on Tuesday, March 31, Robert Russell conducted the Choral Art Society at Merrill Auditorium, assisted by a large 42-member orchestra contingent of PSO’ers. Performed was Mendelsson's, Elijah Op. 70, MWV A 25. The oratorio in English, which depicts various events in the life of the Biblical prophet, was composed in 1846 for the Birmingham Festival.

By the time a pair of PSO Pops! Concerts were performed during the Saturday/Sunday weekend of April 4 & 5, a pre-season-brochure title listing had been changed. Instead of a theme, “Shall We Dance?”, the concerts by now had been given the energetic title, “Dance! Dance! Dance!”. The New England Entertainment Digest, likely parroting a PSO news release, said:  “Guest ensemble Neos Dance Theatre and tap dancer Fred Strickler take the stage in this dynamic tribute to dance and dancers through the ages. From sassy swing to percussive tap, from a frontier-town hoedown to the Firebird’s Infernal Dance, audiences will witness an authentic homage to the history of dance.”

The two concerts began with Maestro Moody conducting the Symphony musicians in Frederick Loewe’s “My Fair Lady” Medley to start the first half, and Jacques Offenbach’s Can-Can from “Orpheus in the Underworld” following intermission. Otherwise, the energetic Neos Dance Theatre then took center stage, but this was nothing new to Mr. Moody, for he had previously collaborated with the Ohio-based ensemble, more than a half-dozen times. (HS:  The group’s Facebook front page says, “Neos is Greek for ‘starting something new’, and that’s what we’re doing.”)

Prior to the concerts the Sun Journal reported that “Dance! Dance! Dance! Leads audiences through a tribute to dance from the charlestons and foxtrots of Twentiana, to the razzle-dazzle of ‘A Chorus Line’. Along the way, there will be a Tap Dance Concerto, showcasing the musicianship of the art of tap (composer Morton Gould notated all the rhythms for the dancer in the same way he would for a drummer); the Hoe-Down from ‘Rodeo’,  Aaron Copland’s classic American ballet; and music from ‘Babes in Arms’... plenty of fancy footwork, leaps and lifts.” The S-J article added, “Led by Artistic Director Robert Wesner, the dancers of Neos Dance Theatre have performed all over the United States and abroad. Firmly centered in classical ballet technique, the Neos dancers have a modern versatility and sense of the eclectic in dance.”

Writing extensively afterwards in the Press Herald, free-lance reviewer Jennifer Brewer was ecstatic with enthusiastic praise. Instead of working down the concert-program list for this THINGS-PSO, her article explains all that needed explaining. If you keep reading about this concert, you’ll wish that you had been there (HS: I now know that I certainly would have liked to have seen and heard it, but we had then not yet moved to Maine.). Ms. Brewer wrote that the concert was “a pizzazz-filled tribute to dance throughout the 20th century. Most of the music was originally intended for dance, and dancers performed in front of the orchestra for several selections.” She continued, “Members of the versatile Cleveland-based Neos Dance Theatre performed in ‘Twentiana’ and ‘Sing! Sing! Sing!’ – medleys of popular tunes from the 1920s and 1930s – as well George Gershwin’s ‘Lullaby’ and Marvin Hamlisch’s One from ‘A Chorus Line’.”

Ms. Brewer labeled Neos “delightful in the Gershwin and ‘Chorus Line’ selections. For the Gershwin, artistic director Bobby Wesner and wife Brooke Wesner performed a sophisticated pas de deux. It was impossible not to love the Wesners as a couple. Their physicality, in both body type and dance style, is well-matched, and their onstage chemistry was heartwarming. Bobby Wesner’s choreography complemented the Gershwin music with elegant lines and sweeping movements highlighted by Brooke Wesner’s long, flowing dress. The choreography was primarily classical, with ballet partnering, pirouettes and pointe work, but included shades of smooth ballroom dance.”

The P-H article said that Conductor Robert Moody added a touch of poignancy by telling the story of ‘Lullaby’. The composition wasn’t performed until long after Gershwin’s untimely death at age 38, having remained for almost 30 years among papers preserved by his brother Ira Gershwin.”

The reviewer noted that “In ‘Twentiana’ and ‘Sing! Sing! Sing!’ the Wesners were joined by four more dancers. These numbers constituted a whirlwind tour through popular dance styles such as soft-shoe, Charleston and vaudeville. These gorgeously accomplished dancers were a pleasure to watch throughout their performance. In a few spots their exuberant athleticism overwhelmed the historical theme.

The centerpiece of the evening was Gould’s Tap Dance Concerto, performed just before intermission, with virtuoso tap dancer Fred Strickler. Concertos are composed for a solo instrument to play with an orchestra or piano, and it was remarkable to hear and see one in which the solo instrument was a pair of tap shoes. The Concerto is a classic challenge for a tap choreographer. The music for the taps is written out, like music for any percussion instrument, and the choreographer must create steps that match it in both rhythm and tone. Strickler, who has performed the piece with many orchestras, got it just right. His taps were extremely clear, understated when appropriate and hard-hitting when the music required. His extended solo brought down the house.” She added, “Although some audience members found the Concerto a little long (all four movements were performed), most seemed to realize their good fortune in seeing it performed here in Portland.”

“Moody presented the Pops concert with a light hand and entertaining presence. His introductions were brief and enlightening, and his gestures were often dance-like. He seemed genuinely delighted with the dancers.” Meanwhile, she expressed that “The orchestra was in excellent form, capturing all the rhythmic and stylistic nuances of pieces ranging from American classics like the Copland/de Mille ballet ‘Rodeo’ to Stravinsky’s Firebird.”

Ms. Brewer concluded that, “The program closed with the triumphant ‘Chorus Line’ Finale, for which the Neos dancers performed unannounced in the program, with choreography based on the original Broadway show. One represents the joy of performance that rewards dancers’ grueling training, auditions and rehearsals. The six Neos dancers portrayed that spirit as clearly as the full cast of the Broadway and touring productions. It was a fitting ending to the dance-themed evening.” (HS:  I realize that the foregoing seven paragraphs, combined, were a long read about only one concert. However, Jennifer Brewer’s enthusiasm about the concert and the dancing of the Neos troupe was contagious insofar as I was concerned.)

As late April approached, Robert Moody had three classical concerts left to conduct during this, his inaugural season as PSO Music Director. The first of those was on Sunday afternoon, April 26. This concert, with the theme “Bach and the Baroque”, began with J.S. Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto No. 2 in F Major, BWV 1047. Next came Joseph Haydn’s Symphony No. 103 in E-flat Major (“Drumroll”), Hoboken 1/103. Following intermission, the Symphony performed both George Frideric Handel’s Water Music: Suite No. 1 in F Major, HWV 348 AND his Water Music: Suite No. 2 in D Major, HWV 340. The concert concluded with Tomaso Albioni’s Concerto for Trumpet in B-flat Major, Op. 6 (“San Marco”). The guest trumpet soloist was Ryan Anthony, best known as a virtuoso with the Canadian Brass. The P-H review of this concert confirmed what concertgoers likely came expecting:  the musical talents of the various Canadian Brass musicians over the ensemble’s four-plus decades is unparalleled. He soloed in three works during the concert, and although the newspaper review didn’t specifically say so----- It’s a virtual sure bet that Mr. Anthony “blew down the house” during his Merrill Auditorium appearance with the PSO.

Two days later the PSO performed a single pair of Youth Concerts at Merrill Auditorium for Portland-area students, on Tuesday, April 28 (HS: For years, two pair of concerts – on consecutive mornings – had been presented for students, so this spring’s two concerts represented a 50 percent reduction..... also a 50 percent reduction in costs of engaging PSO musicians for the events. When the season-schedule was circulated to the musicians the prior fall, pairs of concerts on both April 29 and 30 were originally on the list.). The theme of these Springtime concerts was “The Orchestra’s Excellent Adventure”, a performance designed to offer students the opportunity to explore different time periods throughout the history of music. Robert Moody and the PSO were prepared to travel back in time to help the students learn about a wide variety of repertoire, with some of the stops including the Baroque, Classical, Romantic, jazz and modern periods of music.

The concerts opened with the well known Beethoven Symphony No. 5 in C Minor, Movement 1, Allegro. This was followed by Gabrielli’s Canzoni Septimi Toni No. 2; and Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto No. 3, Movement 1, Allegro. Another allegro from Beethoven’s 5th Symphony, the fourth movement was next. Dvořák’s music “From the New World” was featured, as his Symphony No. 9 in E Minor, Movement 4, Allegro confuoco, led to Excerpts from “Porgy and Bess” Suite by Gershwin. Another famous #5, the Symphony No. 5 in D minor, Movement 4, Allegro non troppo, took the students’ imaginations to Russia via a work by Shostakovich. Maestro Moody then led the Symphony musicians in a performance of one movement from Josh Newton’s four-movement suite, American Pageant. The 30-year-old classical music composer from Farmingdale, then an undergraduate student in the School of Music at the University of Southern Maine in Gorham, attended the concert. He was scheduled to graduate in May, with plans to return to pursue his master’s degree in either composing or conducting. He wrote the work soon after the inauguration of President Obama. The suite was a celebration of the American spirit, with the first movement, “Fanfare”, setting the mood for the piece as a whole. A report said that it lasts five minutes or so, and features a lot of brass and winds. It opens loudly, and has some sweeter spots in the middle, with a clarinet solo inspired by one of Newton’s teachers, Tom Parchman, who also was (HS: And still is, in 2013.) principal clarinetist with the PSO. The students likely were already familiar with the final work performed, Harry’s Wonderful World, from “Harry Potter”, by John Williams.

Fortunately, although reduced in number, PSO Youth concerts survived the lean economic times, which says something about their importance to the Symphony and its mission of education. In the more recent past, the PSO had performed four concerts over two days. This year, as mentioned, they presented two concerts during only one day, so the performances were consolidated, but still were an important component of the Orchestra’s work. The end of the PSO’s “two-concerts-on-each-of-two-days” Youth Concert policy was now a thing of the past.

Sometime during April while Mr. Moody was in Portland, he collaborated with Robert Lehmann to conduct at a joint rehearsal of the PSO and the Portland Youth Orchestra. Rehearsed side-by-side were Selections from Romeo and Juliet, by Seregei Prokofiev.

An earlier-issued PSO news release advised that on Tuesday, May 5, Robert Moody would lead the PSO in a program dedicated to the Romantic period of classical music. The concert opened with Jubel (“Jubilee) Overture by Carl Maria von Weber, followed by Sir Edward Elgar’s Cello Concerto in E minor, Op. 85, one of the most beloved concertos ever written. This work featured  acclaimed cellist Zuill Bailey. In a promotional WCSH-TV appearance prior to the concert, the personable then-37 year-old well-traveled Peabody and Julliard graduate Mr. Bailey mentioned that he had played the cello “every day since he was four years old”. The program concluded with Johannes Brahms’ dramatic Symphony No. 1 in C minor, Op. 68. (HS:  P-H reviewer Hyde considered the PSO’s performance of this work as “disappointing”; however he wrote that the overall concert was one that allowed the Symphony to go “out with fireworks... ...before a full house at Merrill Auditorium.”)

A post-concert review by Emily Parkhurst began, “This evening’s performance was one of the best I’ve heard from the Portland Symphony Orchestra in some time. While the program was about as mainstream as they come, (following the tried and true overture-concerto-symphony structure) the energy of the orchestra, soloist, and conductor was palpable.” Later she said that Cellist Zuill Bailey preformed a “stunningly emotional rendition of Edward Elgar’s Concerto for Cello and Orchestra... ...Conductor Robert Moody introduced the piece, describing it ‘like friends sitting around a fire’, which, on this rainy evening, was a welcome image.” Regarding the guest soloist, she concluded with “Bailey is the kind of performer one must absolutely see live. He is a cello rock star if there ever was one.“

Ms. Parkhurst wrapped up her review by writing, “This is Music Director Robert Moody’s 1st official year with the PSO, and he has clearly earned the respect of musicians and audience alike. He is the Fred Astaire of conductors, internalizing the music and expressing it with every muscle in his body. The orchestra responds with equal passion. I am certain that, in spite of the quality of this performance, the best is yet to come.”

Zuill Bailey endeared himself to the PSO staff when during his stay in Portland for rehearsals, interviews and the concert, he made time to stop by the second floor of 50 Monument Square, where he performed a private cello recital for all those who had worked behind the scenes to make sure that those rehearsals, interviews and concerts were carried off without interruptions or glitches (HS:  Save for glitches that Mr. Moody and the musicians always work to iron out before concertgoers fill Merrill Auditorium.).

Robert Moody indeed did conclude his “1st official year with the PSO” with a Classical Concert at Merrill Auditorium, on Tuesday, June 9. Pre-season promotional information listed the theme of this performance as “Season Finale; Rites and Rhythms”, featuring Rite of Spring by Igor Stravinsky. Somewhere along the line the program changed, and Hungarian exile Béla Bartók’s symphony-like 1943 Concerto for Orchestra, Sz. 116, BB 123 was the work conducted by the popular young maestro during the concert’s first half. The concerto was the composer’s final completed work. After intermission, the concert and the PSO’s 2008-2009 season concluded with the four-movement “Sabar”: Concerto for Senegalese Drums & Orchestra by Minnesotan James DeMars.

Guest artists were drummers Mark Sunkett, Sonya Branch, Medoune Gueye and Abdou Kounta, along with some dancers. Mr. Demars’ commissioned work had its world premiere in 2001 with the Phoenix Symphony Orchestra under Mr. Moody’s direction. Mark Rohr’s program notes express that it was created to “integrate the musicians of two cultures to celebrate a new millennium”. Ironically, now that Senegal is 95 percent Muslim, emotional musical expressions like Sabar (HS: Googling reveals that the word sabar refers to both a traditional drum generally played with one hand and one stick and also the style of music played while using this drum.) are largely banned in the country. The National Endowment for the Arts awarded the PSO a $10,000 grant to support the concert performance of Sabar.

At this concert, a statement by Music Director Robert Moody was greeted with enthusiastic applause. He said that the PSO may actually be in the black by the end of the fiscal year in July.

A report in The Forecaster noted that “in keeping with the objective of extending the PSO’s reach to non-traditional audiences”, the weekend prior to the performance Mr. Moody spoke “at Portland’s Museum of African Culture. One of the guest artists, Mark Sunkett, offer(ed) instrument demonstrations and talk(ed) about Senegalese drumming. Chief Oscar Mokeme, founder and director of the museum, discuss(ed) the country and culture of Senegal”, noted as a former French colony that would celebrate its 50th anniversary of independence in 2010. This event was open to the public.

This year Mr. Moody completed a ten-year tenure as head of the Oklahoma City Philharmonic’s “Discovery” concert series, a successful musical experience that would be the catalyst for a similar new concept to be developed by the PSO for the Portland-area youth market.

By March, the trustees had adopted a three-year Sustainability Plan and Bridge Initiative in response to financial challenges and changing economic conditions faced by the PSO. The purpose was to restore fiscal health, with a new approach to produce quality core artistic experiences and education programs, while operating within known financial limitations. Public reports at the time revealed that the orchestra laid off two staff members and senior staff took a pay cut. The PSO also scaled back educational shows for schoolchildren and canceled the series of popular Independence Day shows that had traditionally been performed throughout the region. Although the “Indy Pops” were a Maine tradition, they were always weather dependent and costly to stage. The PSO advised that they had been losing an average of $65,000 a year (HS: This amount was verified by detailed cost analyses read among the PSO Archive office files).

The tranches of the bridge-fund efforts (there were several individual funds set up) would eventually total about $900,000, which was new capital funding from the community. Mr. Gayer would praise the community. “They really rallied”, he would tell the interviewer in 2012.

In April, the Press Herald carried a follow-up article (HS: to its February report about the PSO’s need to improve its finances) by Bob Keyes that was sub-titled: “Orchestra set to change its tune next season: A tight budget has made scheduling for 2009-10 ‘more interesting’ for the PSO’s music director”.

Highlights of the newspaper report were a reminder that it was “Against a backdrop of financial stress, (that) the Portland Symphony Orchestra announced its 2009-10 schedule.” It added that “Robert Moody, the orchestra’s music director and conductor, described the season as adventurous and bold, mixing classical masterworks such as Mahler’s Symphony No. 2 (also known as “Resurrection”) with a new mandolin concerto” that was co-commissioned by the PSO, to be written and performed the following March by Chris Thile, “best known for his work with the modern bluegrass band Nickel Creek”.

The article reminded readers that “with Its endowment eroded, the orchestra is trying to fill a budget gap for the current fiscal year, and is contemplating a budget for the 2009-10 season that will be less than this year’s $2.8 million.” Mr. Keyes continued, “As part of its cost cutting... ...Moody said his programming decisions reflect the new economic realities. For instance, the orchestra will play Mahler’s Symphony No. 2 twice – as part of its Sunday Classical concert series on May 2, 2010, and as a Tuesday Classical concert two days later. By repeating a program, the orchestra saves money by reducing rehearsal time and guest-artist fees. It costs less to hire one artist for two concerts than it does to hire two guests for two programs, Moody said.” Finally, the reporter mentioned that “The upcoming season will be Moody’s first as conductor of “Magic of Christmas,” which will mark its 30th anniversary. He (the PSO’s music director) promised to make big changes in the ‘Magic’ program, while retaining audience favorites.”

In July, the PSO announced a four-year labor agreement – the first with the American Federation of Musicians in the PSO’s 84-year history. The new Collective Bargaining Agreement with the Boston Musicians Association was retroactive to September 1, 2008, and would extend through the 2011-2012 season.

The trustees had set out to achieve a new partnership between the PSO musicians, the Board, and the Boston Musicians Association. Facilitators at the Harvard Law School Negotiation Project and Triad Consulting were publicly credited by the PSO with aiding achievement of the agreement. Richard S. Kelly, PSO percussionist and Orchestra Committee Chair, publicly offered a significant and positive comment: “This new Agreement, and interest-based negotiations, have set the stage for ongoing collaboration and discussions of how the PSO can be most artistically meaningful and relevant to our community.”

Combined with significant reductions in administrative expense, and through the ratification of the new labor agreement, the PSO announced plans to achieve nearly $1 million, or a 30% reduction, in overall expenses. The PSO’s announcement stated that “By doing so, all stakeholders have come together to support long-term financial health while maintaining high standards of artistic quality and performance.”

Many pertinent and positive perspectives about the negotiations and the professional commitments of both the PSO board & staff and the PSO musicians were contained in a Press Herald article of July 26 titled, “Musicians of the PSO sacrifice pay, not quality”. For the historical record, it is worth including a number of points made in that article:

“Technically, the accord freezes wages at their current rate, and also maintains a guaranteed minimum number of rehearsals and performances for the musicians. But let’s be clear: any musician in the PSO who plays most concerts will see a reduction in wages. While the minimum number of service days remains intact at 51, the actual number of service days will be down next season by about 10, from 85 to 75. The musicians receive pay each time they gather to perform or rehearse, anywhere from $95.87 to $143.82, depending on their roles with the orchestra. Principal musicians are at the top of the scale, but most of the musicians earn the minimum.

“Do the math. It means that most of the players in the orchestra earn a little more than $7,000 annually for their time and service, which is hardly a livable wage. That’s why they juggle numerous jobs in order to do what they love most, which is perform for an audience. If you’ve attended a PSO concert in recent years, you know these musicians are true professionals. They’ve been through years of training and education, and are working at a high level in their field.

“The PSO has always maintained a level of quality over the years that’s admirable for an orchestra in a city of Portland’s size. But the current orchestra has achieved a level of consistency and artistic excellence under music director Robert Moody that has made the PSO a top-shelf regional symphony. That accomplishment is somewhat remarkable given that the PSO is adjusting to new fiscal realities that challenge its ability to achieve greatness. The orchestra’s board last week approved a $2.4 million budget for the 2009-10 season. That figure is down nearly $1 million from two years ago.

“Throughout the negotiations for this new labor deal, both sides – management and musicians – agreed in principle that whatever accord they reached, they would do their absolute best to not sacrifice one iota of musical quality. The number of concerts may be reduced and the outreach may not extend as deeply into the community as they might like. But at least whatever task they attempt, they feel they will be able to do it without compromising where it matters most – on stage.

“During a meeting on Tuesday to discuss the labor pact, both sides went out of their way to praise the other.” The article continued, saying that the musicians “understand the reality. Like many other working professionals, they accepted that a pay increase was not possible right now, and agreed to maintain wages for the immediate future because it is best for the greater good of the orchestra and the community at large.”

Regarding what was happening to orchestras nationally –budget cuts, pay cuts, job losses, staff reductions, furloughs and unfilled vacancies--, the point was made that “Increasingly in the orchestra world, there is a sense of shared ownership and shared sacrifice. P-H reporter Bob Keyes continued, “For its part, under the direction of orchestra executive director Ari Solotoff, management listened to the concerns of the musicians and created a fairer and more just process for musicians to air grievances and concerns. Most important, management paid attention to the musicians, and created an atmosphere of trust, commitment and professional collegiality during negotiations.”

Mr. Keyes found it telling that both sides spent about six hours together last New Year’s Eve in Boston working on the contract, commenting “Typically, New Year’s Eve would not be a logical time for negotiations, but these folks must have liked the tenor and tone of what they were hearing.” The article stated that musician/negotiator Kelly said he “felt management really listened to him during the talks, and said the process left him feeling more a part of the orchestra than ever. Previous negotiations left the musicians angry and feeling helpless and powerless”, Mr. Kelly added. “We’re now connected in ways we were not connected before,” he said.

As the article neared conclusion, the reporter observed “That bodes well for the orchestra as it wades into an uncertain future. Solotoff and members of the orchestra’s board can now go out into the community and put forth a unified front. That is hugely important in light of the financial challenges. It’s going to be easier to raise money and build support for the orchestra when it can point to this new agreement as proof that the rank-and-file are on board with management in forming a partnership that will carry the orchestra into the next decade.”

Importantly, the musicians as a group were able to retain the special family-like camaraderie that makes the Portland Symphony Orchestra a unique ensemble. Over the several years of researching and creating this THINGS-PSO, many PSO’ers have emphasized to me how much the individuals genuinely enjoy each other’s personal company...... as well as respect each other’s musical abilities. I have heard that musicians who substitute with the PSO, over and over remark about how extraordinary they find the green-room ambiance in Portland versus their experiences with most other orchestras. This hallmark, of which Merrill audiences in general are largely unaware, helps the Portland Symphony Orchestra draw a better overall quality of musicians than would otherwise happen.

The PSO’s budget for 2009-2010 was set at $2.8 million. This was $400,000 below the level two years earlier. The traveling series of run-out Independence Pops concerts was by now cut from the PSO’s plans, a necessity since projected operating losses of $65,000 were unsustainable.

Encouraging against the artistic issues associated with the pared-down future operating budget plans that the PSO outlined to the community, for the first time in almost a decade the Portland Symphony Orchestra operated in the black during the 2008-2009 season. The significance of this accomplishment cannot be over-emphasized. The Board received the satisfying news that the PSO’s net income was $367,617, with $213,214 of that from the Bridge Initiative.

In time, the Board would also welcome financial reports showing PSO achieving net income for fiscal years 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2013 (HS:  FY-2014 is on budget when this paragraph is being written). The subsequent profits would be--  FY10: $348,619, with $277,806 from the Bridge Initiative; FY11: $143,872, with $210,876 from the Bridge Initiative; and FY12: $146,419, with $84,778 from the Bridge Initiative.

Later, speaking about the role of PSO supporters regarding the total Bridge Initiative effort, Mr. Gayer would say that all in all, “We received bridge fund(s) of $900,000, which was new capital funding from the community. They really rallied. We also shrank our spending by $700,000 – $800,000.” Commitments from interest groups on all sides of the situation were significant, and certainly effectively meshed..... an impressive combination of efforts all around.

Gordon Gayer is re-elected as PSO President.

Early during the year the Press Herald had reported that “Under the direction of artistic director Dona D. Vaughn, PORTopera will present Gaetano Donizetti’s comic opera ‘Don Pasquale’ at Portland’s Merrill Auditorium on July 30 and Aug. 1 with guest conductor Robert Moody, music director of the Portland Symphony Orchestra.” A number of the PSO musicians, along with Mr. Moody it is presumed, were looking forward to picking up paychecks for rehearsals and performances related to these events. Considering the cancellation of the Independence Pops concerts, those paychecks would have likely proved extra usual for some of the players. However, the worldwide economic situation ended up causing PORTopera’s trustees to later reluctantly conclude that the economic risks to present a fully staged operatic production were too great, and a possible financial failure could imperil the company’s existence. Thus the originally announced plan was scrapped, but PORTopera instead presented a  15th anniversary concert on July 30. The replacement event was a “joyous affair, uniting seven singers who had performed with the company in a sort of ‘greatest hits’ program of famous arias from previous productions”. (HS: Those well-chosen words were published in an article in the Forecaster, who urged opera enthusiasts to reserve “seats early for this reunion concert”.) The concert featured a full operatic orchestra, with Portland Symphony maestro Robert Moody on the podium.

The decision to end the high-financial-risk run-out concerts proved to be an especially correct one. The P-H’s Bob Keyes wrote, “The orchestra canceled this past summer’s ‘Independence Pops’ concerts because they represented financial risk. The concerts are historically popular, and they’ve succeeded in getting the PSO in front of people who otherwise might not experience live orchestral music. But you remember June and July. Remember all that rain?  The shows might not have gone on, and the orchestra might have taken a bath. PSO Executive Director Ari Solotoff concurred with the reporter, saying “We would have lost a tremendous amount of money.”

In the fall of this year, the PSO announced that it indeed had finished the previous fiscal year in the black, a HUGE ACCOMPLISHMENT following nine consecutive years of deficits. In recognition, The Portland Symphony Orchestra would the next year be awarded the 2010 Maine Association of Nonprofits Governor’s Award, annually awarded to Maine nonprofits that have achieved significant results by combining ingenuity with sound management practices. The PSO was the first arts organization to earn first place in any of the MANP categories for the Governor’s Award for Nonprofit Excellence.

Sensibly-focused Executive Director Ari Solotoff was quoted in the Press Herald, “In reaching a balanced budget, we’ve stabilized, but now we have to get healthy... ...Now we must go back and look at what were the contributing factors. We don’t want to just say the PSO finished in the black, ‘phew, job well done.’  In reality, this is exactly the moment to roll up our sleeves and do the work we need to do to get healthy.”

The Symphony issued a news release about the award. “The honor is shared by all of our musicians, Trustees, volunteers, and staff because of their sacrifice and leadership. It comes at a particularly pivotal time in our history,” said PSO Executive Director Ari Solotoff. “We have been working diligently to instill new thinking in fiscal management while sustaining artistic excellence. After eliminating our debt and having stabilized our financial platform, we can now begin to explore strategic questions and community needs. We feel fortunate to share the spotlight with two other deserving nonprofits, and to be recognized for this hard work with the Governor’s Award for Nonprofit Excellence.”

Regarding the PSO’s 2009-2010 fiscal year budget, the P-H’s Bob Keyes wrote that it, “reflected the goals of the PSO’s new Sustainability Plan and Bridge Initiative. Adopted in March, the plan reaffirm(ed) the orchestra’s commitment to producing quality artistic experiences and educational programs while operating within known financial limitations.” Mr. Solotoff restated that the orchestra was not going to resume taking on financial risks.

“There (were) a lot of good things happening with the orchestra”, said the newspaper. “Ticket revenue is up 23 percent, and Moody is as popular as (PSO President) Gayer and his fellow board members hoped he would be. Most important, the orchestra is humming along with great artistic aplomb.” The article concluded, “ ‘We need to seize the momentum,’ (Mr.) Solotoff said. ‘We’re definitely headed in the right direction. We’re not there yet, but we’re getting there.’ “

This Press Herald’s article was most appropriately headlined, “PSO deserves a standing O, on the Merrill stage and off”.

The PSO’s website capabilities were enhanced and expanded before the 2009-2010 season began, with so-called “webisodes” introduced whereby Robert Moody began offering informal web-internet introductions to each concert that internet viewers could pull up at any time to watch. Also continued “live” were post-concert Q&A’s, were concertgoers could join Mr. Moody and guest artists downstage after each classical concert.

Emily Parkhurst, writing in the Phoenix, informed Portlanders much about the PSO’s season-opening concert, set for Tuesday, October 6. The theme this evening was “Heroes and the American Dream”. The reporter noted that Music Director Robert Moody “would open the PSO’s season with Peter Boyer’s Ellis Island: The Dream of America. Admittedly”, she quickly advised, “Moody has placed Beethoven’s Eroica (Symphony No. 3 in E-flat Major, Op. 55) before Ellis Island (HS: And before intermission), but I’ll chalk that up to the fact that Boyer’s work will require dramatic stage adjustments, so the choice to play one of the world’s most famous... ...symphonies as the orchestra’s season opener was merely a logistical one.”

“Regardless”, she wrote, “the Boyer is the exciting work for the evening. Ellis Island calls for seven actors and a large projection screen, in addition to a full orchestra.” She informed readers that the composer based much of the composition on information contained in the Ellis Island Oral History Project. The program, begun in the 1980s, asked immigrants to recount their experiences coming to America through the Ellis Island immigration station. Mr. Boyer went through the more than 2000 interviews, and chose the seven stories that spoke to him. “I was determined to use only the words of actual immigrants,” she quoted him saying.

The work opened with a prologue introducing all the musical scenes, with images of Ellis Island and the immigrants projected onto a large screen in Merrill Auditorium. Then actors from Portland Stage Company took the stage to tell the stories of seven European immigrants who came to America between 1910 and 1940. Mr. Moody knew Mr. Boyer’s work well, having conducted it in 2008 with the Winston-Salem Symphony.

Writing after the concert in the Press herald, Bob Keyes reported that “As maestro Robert Moody soaked up the adoration of a lingering standing ovation, it was apparent that the season-opening concert could not have been received more warmly.” Earlier in the article he had said that “the orchestra had tamed Beethoven’s rousing third Symphony”. The headline in the newspaper was the one that read, “PSO deserves a standing O, on the Merrill stage and off”. The main gist focused on the Portland Symphony Orchestra’s absence of financial red flags, reflecting an  announcement that it “had closed the fiscal year with a balanced budget”, announced from the stage before the concert. “What a difference a year makes”, wrote Mr. Keyes, noting that the PSO had ended a string of nine years of losses. The reporter reminded readers that there had been substantial rainfall in June and July, underscoring the importance of earlier cancellations of “Indy-Pops” concerts that might not have gone on, which otherwise would have caused the PSO to “have taken a bath” punned Mr. Keyes. Looking ahead, there were prospects for more black ink, an outcome that would be welcomed by every PSO stakeholder

Christopher Hyde’s season-opening reviews initially referred little to music, but did lend a look-back at “stuff that was going on” at that time. “In spite of swine flu, the recession and no parking at the former Press Herald lot, the first concert of the Portland Symphony Orchestra’s 2009-2010 season played before a full house”. He later described the performance of the Beethoven work as “enjoyable as usual and generally well played”, however then citing some what-he-called “missteps”. He found Ellis Island “better played”.

A program insert included information that “As part of Robert Moody’s vision to broaden the concert experience by adding visual elements, tonight’s performance represents the first use of the Symphony’s new high power long-throw projector.” Several supporters of the PSO provided funding towards purchase of the projector, and they were specified and cited with appreciation in the program for their combined generosity.

What was called an “Afterglow” party at Grace on Chestnut Street followed this concert, the first of a series of such affairs that continued to be held for more than two years. The parties allowed those who went to concerts to mingle with Mr. Moody and guest artists, including Mr. Boyer this evening. A Press Herald mention of the events heralded the idea as a way to “talk music with the people who play it, conduct it and, like you, love it.”

Students gathered at Merrill Auditorium earlier on October 6 also heard a performance of Ellis Island: The Dream of America, including the dramatic readings of the actors from Portland Stage. A segment (HS: Segments?  PSO Archive records are not clear about two Youth Concerts this day .) from Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5 in C minor, Op. 67 may also have been presented at the performances that morning.

During the Saturday/Sunday weekend of October 24 & 25, the Portland Symphony Orchestra hosted Cirque de la Symphonie at Merrill Auditorium. The group’s name was also the theme-title chosen by the PSO for the pair of PSO Pops! Concerts presented that weekend. The traveling troupe of jugglers, acrobats and aerialists brought the magic of cirque to the music hall. Each of the artists performances was choreographed to music selected by Maestro Moody, which was advised in advance to the ensemble. The concert program expressed the combined effect:  “The combination of the PSO’s audible presentation fused with the visual feats of the troupe, offering patrons exhilarating cirque performances and the majesty of live symphony orchestra.” Writing for the Press Herald, Christopher Hyde called  Cirque de la Symphonie “actually better than a three-ring circus, because one can concentrate on a single performer, while enjoying the musical accompaniment as it was meant to be played.” The overall response was so positive that several of the troupe’s  top members were invited back for a significant follow-on PSO appearance in 2011-----  the entire “Magic of Christmas” run.

Pre-intermission musical compositions performed by the Portland Symphony Orchestra during this pair of PSO Pops! Concerts were: Antonín Dvořák’s Carnival Overture, Op. 92 (“Karneval”); Georges Bizet’s Danse Bohème from “Carmen”, also Les Toreadors; Aram Katchaturian’s Valse from “Masquerade”; Beethoven’s Finale- Allegro molto from Symphony No. 3 in E-flat Major, Op. 55 (“Eroica”); and Camille Saint-Saëns’ Bacchanale from “Samson and Delilah”. Works played during the second half of each concert were: Danse des cygnes from “Swan Lake”, by Tchaikovsky; The Sea and Sinbad’s Ship segment of Scheherazade, Op. 35, by Nicolai Rimsky-Korsakov; Katchaturian’s Sabre Danse from “Gayne”; Harry’s Wondrous World from “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone”, by John Williams; and finally..... Valse from “Swan Lake” by Tchaikovsky. Also performed (HS: But I’m not sure when) was the finale of Symphony No. 2 by Jean Sibelius.

The P-H reviewer called The Sea and Sinbad’s Ship segment “outstanding”, as he did also the Sibelius finale. He reported about some extra fun enjoyed by the audience when a gymnast “took on the role of escape artist and deprived maestro Moody of his coat in spite of being bound with several coils of rope.” The newspaper article was headlined “Cirque de la Symphonie dazzles crowd”.

The October 27 Classical Concert opened with Music Director Moody directing the Symphony musicians in Johannes Brahms’ lively Academic Festival Overture, Op. 80, composed in 1880 as a “thank you” to the University of Breslau for awarding him an honorary doctorate, and based on boisterous student drinking songs of the time. PSO Concertmaster Charles Dimmick then took the spotlight for a solo performance of serialist Alban Berg’s 1935 12-tone beautifully-phrased Concerto for Violin. This work is structured in two movements, each further divided into two sections. A post-concert blog spotted while Googling heaped praise upon Mr. Dimmick’s playing this evening. After intermission the sole work performed was Jean Sibelius’ powerful Symphony No. 2 in D Major, Op. 43. The next-day’s P-H review by Christopher Hyde was headlined “Splendid Sibelius sweeps PSO audience away”. The article began, “Maybe it’s the effect of similar northern exposure, but the Portland Symphony Orchestra under Robert Moody gave a brilliant and idiosyncratic performance of the Sibelius” symphony. The performance was before a full house at Merrill Auditorium. The reporter described the Brahms’ work as “a fine reading”; and regarding the Berg concerto, also “thanked” Mr. Dimmick and Mr. Moody “for introducing one of the seminal works of modern music to a wider audience.” (HS:  I think he liked what he heard, but specific credits or boos were not evident to me as I read the review.)

On Oct. 28, Portland Symphony Orchestra Music Director Robert Moody made a return trip to Thornton Academy in Saco to run a workshop on a student performance of the Academic Festival Overture. A snippet found Googling said that “Moody had his maroon and gold colors on for the visit, wearing the shirt that Thornton’s faculty presented him with during his last trip to campus one year ago.” (HS:  Well, I guess those are “close” to the white and royal purple Furman colors.)

TA’s Orchestra and Wind Ensemble groups had traveled to Merrill Auditorium two nights earlier, on Oct. 27, to listen to an open dress rehearsal of the PSO. The Academic Festival Overture was one of the pieces the students heard. Prior to the rehearsal, the students and teachers took a backstage tour of the auditorium. Their guide was PSO Concert Manager Joe Boucher, who for many years was light and sound technician at TA’s Garland Auditorium for school productions.

The theme of the PSO’s Classical Concert on Sunday afternoon, November 8, was “Great Stories to Tell”. This performance began with Ottorino Respighi’s 15-minute-long Ancient Airs and Dances: Suite 1, based on Renaissance lute pieces . Next on the musician’s stands was Felix Mendelssohn’s Selections from “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”, Op. 61. In his program notes, Mark Rohr cleverly concluded, “This music may leave you enchanted but remember, as Puck suggests, that it was all but a dream.” After intermission, Portland-bred “Breakfast Club” film star Judd Nelson was supposed to be in Maine to serve as guest narrator for Igor Stravinsky’s L Histoire du Soldat (“A Soldier’s Tale”), assisted by three dancers from the Portland Ballet Company. Several days prior to the concert the PSO released a statement saying that because of an injury, Nelson – whose father once served as the president of the PSO’s board of directors – would be replaced for the concert by Peter Wolf, of J. Geils Band fame.

Mr. Wolf, the former front man for the J. Geils Band (HS:  He had moved into a solo career in 1984.), told reporters that it was really not a stretch for him to sit in with the Portland Symphony Orchestra. “I figured, why not? My dad was in the Robert Shaw Chorale, and I grew up around symphony orchestras. My dad was also in vaudeville and jazz. So this was something that wasn’t foreign to me at all. And besides, I love Portland”, said the Boston resident. Since he had recorded audio books and helped narrate a film, he was accustomed to using his speaking voice as part of his performance repertoire. “The biggest challenge”, he said, was “simply familiarizing himself with the Stravinsky piece”.

He got the call to sub for Nelson from an old friend, Bob Ludwig, owner of Gateway Mastering & DVD in Portland. Wolf had known Ludwig for many years, and said that he enjoyed coming to Portland to hang out while his records are mastered. When Nelson notified the orchestra during the week that he would be unable to keep his commitment, orchestra staff members scrambled to find a replacement. Among the calls they made was one to Ludwig, who suggested Wolf. Reportedly, the rock star barely hesitated, advising that he rarely turned down a chance to visit his favorite city north of Boston. “I love Maine, and I love Portland particularly. Great bookstores ... great bars. The heart is a lonely hunter, so I thought I would venture up and give it a try. So you can tell people that I am rolling into town, double-parked in the highway of love, and rolling in and out of your different barrooms, of which Portland has some very good ones. I’m looking forward to trying some of your city’s fine home-brewed beer and some of their good wine.” An AP report found Googling put it succinctly:  “Rocker Peter Wolf says he’s looking forward to trying some home-brewed beer and good wine” in Portland.

So, you ask...... “How did Peter Wolf do?” The P-H review answered that question:  “It is hard to see how anyone could have played the part better, with clarity and just the right emotional shading.” Overall, the newspaper’s Christopher Hyde praised the performance of the tale by Stravinsky, cited “fine and enjoyable renditions of Respighi’s Dances, a label he also affixed to the PSO’s performance of Mendelssohn’s incidental music. He specifically noted “The gradually expanding fusion of horns and woodwinds in the Nocturne (as) especially striking”.

The PSO welcomed guest conductor Matthew Fritz and special guest artist Byron Stripling to Merrill Auditorium for a pair of PSO Pops! Concerts on the weekend of Saturday and Sunday, November 14 & 15. The guests were on hand for a tribute to the legendary jazz trumpeter and singer Louis Armstrong. Mr. Stripling, a world-renowned guest trumpet virtuoso and a graduate of the Eastman School of Music, was the artistic director and conductor of the highly acclaimed Columbus Ohio Jazz Orchestra. He had soloed with the Boston Pops and on the PBS television special, “Evening at Pops”, with conductors John Williams and Keith Lockhart, and also played the lead role in the Broadway production of “Satchmo”.

Of special interest to Portlanders, guest conductor Matthew Fritz, 26, had been Maestro Moody’s first student of conducting while an undergraduate and went on to receive his Master’s degree in orchestral conducting from the Eastman School of Music. The conductor had previously conducted the PSO’s series of regional “Summer Serenade” concerts during July of 2008. It was reported in the Press Herald that “The orchestra played happily under guest conductor Matthew Fritz” (HS: Whatever that means........).

Newspaper reviewer Christopher Hyde offered some humor, writing that the trumpeter “at times seemed to be channeling Armstrong, not just in his superb trumpet playing and improvising, but also in his broad humor, which often had both the audience and the orchestra laughing. His parody of an ‘authentic’ blues song – the only words you can understand are ’oh yeah’’ – was worth the price of admission.” Mr. Hyde reported that Stripling “also had a lot of fun with recollections of his one gig in Ban-GOR.”

The P-H article mentioned that the “program covered the waterfront of Armstrong favorites, from his early days in New Orleans and Chicago to his version of Hello Dolly, which bounced the Beatles out of the number one position on the top 100 chart. Although Stripling can imitate Armstrong’s gravelly voice perfectly, he sang most of the songs straight, with Satchmo’s characteristic variations on the melody, which echoed his innovative trumpet improvisations. Stripling can also handle Armstrong’s virtuoso feats on the trumpet, or cornet, such as a succession of high C’s. Although he didn’t match the record of 200 of those, he did, after a moment of prayer, hit some even higher notes. And on Alexander’s Ragtime Band, he held a note for so long that it must have involved circular breathing – something that I thought couldn’t be done on the trumpet.”

Hyde added, “Stripling’s scatting (singing rapidly in nonsense syllables) was also amazing, as in his riff on Fritz, his Cab Calloway-like version of Minnie the Moocher, and Flat Foot Floogie. The program ended with a medley of Hello Dolly, Mac the Knife, and What a Wonderful World. The encore, after the standing ovation, was I Can’t Give You Anything But Love.”

Other works heard during the concert included Hermann’s Duke Ellington Fantasy, played by the Symphony musicians to start the concerts; also Gunther Schuller arrangements of two Scott Joplin hit rags, The Easy Winners and Maple Leaf Rag—played by the PSO to start the second half. Also performed were Manny Albam’s Sounds of New Orleans Medley; Albam’s arrangement of Red Rodney’s Red Arrow; Bill Grimes arrangement of Do You Know What It Means to Miss New Orleans?; Jeff Tyzik’s arrangements of Fats Waller’s Honeysuckle Rose and also Ain’t Misbehavin; Dennis Mackrel’s arrangement of Sweet Georgia Brown; arrangements of I’m Confessin’ that I Love You; and another Albam number to close the scheduled program, a Louis Armstrong Tribute. Whether concertgoers attended on Saturday or Sunday....... these concerts had to have been super fun!

In conjunction with the Pops concerts, community members were invited to attend a lecture titled “Three Keys to Musical Success” with Byron Stripling at Corthell Hall on the USM Gorham campus. This session was held the previous Friday. At the concert Mr. Stripling did not do an impersonation of Louis Armstrong, but dressed as the trumpet great did in the 1930s, he did an homage to “Satchmo” and played his instrument in the artist’s distinctive style.

As December began, Robert Moody was preparing to make his final “debut” at a significant PSO event. This holiday season would mark his first involvement with a “Magic of Christmas” concert series, the series’ 30th season entertaining Portland-area concertgoers. (HS: A year earlier Mr. Moody was away on previously-scheduled music-assignments and Bruce Hangen was on the podium for all the “Magic” performances.) The P-H reported that “Within minutes of landing in Portland for his first audition (HS: In 2006, more than three years earlier.) as music director of the Portland Symphony Orchestra”, that he “began to understand the importance of ‘Magic of Christmas’ “ to the community. “I was taking a cab from the airport to downtown and I told the cab driver I was conducting the Portland Symphony. He told me, ‘Oh, yeah. We go see Magic every year.’  I realized then that people think of it as a great tradition. I want to make sure we keep it alive so it does not feel stale.”

In a guest column he wrote for the Portland Press Herald, Mr. Moody referenced the importance of tradition and community. “The joy of being in an audience for a live performance is shared with the members of the orchestra or others on stage when they see the happiness of the crowd in attendance,” he wrote. “Now, more than ever, these events are important to our lives. They reconnect us to our family, our friends and our community. They remind us of the beauty of the season, the caring of others and the soul within ourselves. And while the holidays will pass, we can use these experiences to guide us throughout the year – to remind us there is life outside of our home or work.”

P-H reporter Bob Keyes wrote, “For its 30th anniversary of ‘Magic of Christmas’, the Portland Symphony Orchestra attempts a balancing act. On one hand, the orchestra wants to honor tradition by keeping the structure of the popular holiday program intact. On the other, this is music director Robert Moody’s first go-round with ‘Magic’, and it’s important to him and to the orchestra to improve on the past. In their minds, the same-old, same-old just won’t do. Given that, the ‘Magic’ that audiences experience beginning Friday at Merrill Auditorium will feel different from past programs. The biggest change is the addition of an adaptation of Charles Dickens’ ‘A Christmas Carol’, performed by the orchestra with a narrator playing the character of Scrooge.” The condensed adaptation of Dickens’ holiday tale involved a score written by contemporary composer Michael Runyan. The reporter continued, “The presentation will include narration by concert soloist Joe Cassidy, a tenor. He’s also an actor who has appeared on Broadway and on TV...   ...In the piece, Cassidy plays the role of Scrooge, who also serves as narrator and provides the voices of all the characters... ...In addition, Figures of Speech Theatre of Freeport has created three large(er-than-life) puppets representing the ghosts of Christmas past, present and future for use in the segment. The puppets will be animated by dancers. Moody borrowed the idea from the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra, which has presented a popular Yuletide Celebration concert for 25 years. Runyan works as a librarian at the Indianapolis Symphony.”

Mr. Keyes added that Mr. Cassidy would also will provide voices of the story’s other characters. The Dickens centerpiece of the new “Magic” was expected to clock in at about 24 minutes. “Much of the concert will be familiar to families who come back year after year, but there is a lot that’s new, too”, said the P-H article. Summing up, Mr. Moody forecast that “It’s going to be a sight to see, and very exciting. Christmas was meant for children, and Christmas is for children of all ages. We hope this re-energizes parents and grandparents that ‘Magic’ is a great idea for children.”

Overall, Maestro Moody told the TV reporter that the “Magic of Christmas” concerts would have three sections: 1st, focusing on the tradition of the holidays; 2nd, focusing on the story of Christmas; and 3rd, expressions of the spirit of Christmas. And yes.... an audience Sing-along would be part of each show.

Separately, he told a local TV host that he especially looked forward to the section of the concerts when the musicians would don festive holiday garb, saying that this was all “new for me, but I understand that I’m in for a real treat when the orchestra takes over with Leroy Anderson’s ‘Sleigh Ride’.” He was about to get his chance to be involved in the Symphony’s wonderful wackiness. (HS:  A fun snippet of info about Robert Moody came out during the TV interview, when the PSO music director said that since his birthday was the same as that for Bing Crosby, he was partial to White Christmas--- which was NOT being performed by a guest soloist this year.)

The newspaper also reported that “this year will be a dancing Santas number, with a Rockettes-style dance line across the front of the Merrill Auditorium stage... ...’The idea is to infuse the' show with a high-energy segment and to add an element of unbridled fun’, Moody said.”

The “Magic” concerts began with Jim Beckel’s 3-minute-long Christmas Fanfare, followed by Mr. Anderson’s now-standard A Christmas Festival. Mr. Cassidy then sang Mel Tormé’s The Christmas Song (HS: the one about chestnuts.....), after which the Symphony played Tchaikovsky’s Trepak Dance from “The Nutcracker”. Mr. Runyan’s musical adaptation of the Dickens’ classic closed out the first half of the concerts, also featuring the Magic of Christmas Dancers, who had been prepared by Bethany Field. Young Jake Doolittle was Tiny Tim. The second half began with an arrangement of Robert Shaw’s Many Moods of Christmas, Suite IV, featuring the Magic of Christmas Chorus, prepared by Richard Nickerson.

The tenderness of the Christmas season was then explored by PSO Concertmaster Charles Dimmick. He performed the beautiful Meditation from “Thais” composed by Jules Massenet, as dancers created a nativity scene on stage. Mr. Cassidy then read the simple-but-powerful essay “One Solitary Life”, written by Dr. James Allen Francis, accompanied by the Symphony musicians playing The Enchanted Garden from “Mother Goose Suite” by Maurice Ravel. The dancers remained on stage to also add to the glamour. Next, John Rutter’s arrangement of O Holy Night was accompanied by a narration by Mr. Cassidy as the chorus members sang. Sleigh Ride and PSO zaniness followed.

Mr. Cassidy returned for a vocal specialty, Sugar Plum, the Oratorio, an arrangement by Robert Moody from Tchaikovsky’s ballet music. John Finnigan’s A Christmas Sing-Along found the chorus in a somewhat-reverse role, accompanying the audience. As concertgoers settled back, Mr. Cassidy then sang David Foster’s My Grown-up Christmas List. The chorus and dance ensembles combined in a rendition of “Magic” Arranger-Orchestrator Tom Snow’s Santa Claus is Dancing to Town, during which the PSO-Merrill-ettes (HS: I invented that label, so it’s not official.) high-stepped a kick-line routine. Each of this season’s eleven “Magic of Christmas” performances concluded with Let There Be Peace on Earth, arranged by Hawley Ades.

Mr. Moody likely ended each concert with a well-deserved broad smile. He was now “officially” A Portlander, ........“magic” and all.

During a long conversation that I enjoyed with Robert Moody in 2014, when I mentioned that he had conducted the PSO many times before other commitments no longer prevented him from “finally” ascending the “Magic of Christmas” podium..... he smiled. Then he reminded me that “three of those concerts were interrupted by fire alarms going off........ and some folks went home”. I knew, of course, that the reason for their early departures wasn’t dissatisfaction with either him or the PSO; however, it was fun for me to tease him that maybe the fire-alarm gods were punishing him for it taking so long to finally “do Magic”.

As an aside during a WLBZ TV interview for the Bangor viewer market, Mr. Cassidy mentioned having first meeting and working with Robert Moody when, several years earlier, the two ended up both being featured during a yuletide celebration with the Indianapolis Symphony. (HS:  The tenor would make a return “Magic” appearance in December of 2011.)

Midway through the eleven “Magic” performances, the Portland Ballet Company moved into Merrill Auditorium on Wednesday, December 16, for an evening performance of its unique and popular “Victorian Nutcracker” production. Former PSO concertmaster Lawrence Golan, by then a busy conductor in his own right, led a group of more than two dozen PSO’ers selected for the orchestra to support  this independently-produced PBC production. Mr. Golan had earlier adapted the score to entail a smaller-sized  orchestra that could better fit into the pit area at Merrill...... also better fit the PBC’s limited budget that could never have afforded a full-size orchestra.


2010       In January, the Portland Symphony Orchestra announced that Music Director Robert Moody’s initial three-year contract had been extended five years, assuring that he would remain atop the podium in Merrill Auditorium through the 2015-16 season. Quoting Mr. Moody, a Press Herald article said that he agreed to the extension because “I feel like we are beginning to reach our stride in terms of what we mean by a concept of sound and what our unique personality will be, and what our sound will be like with me at the helm and with this particular group of players. It revolves around how we believe we will take on any musical performance – with foundation, rhythm intonations and phrasing. I am proud of what we are doing, and I feel like we have only just begun.”

The newspaper report added, “Moody said he always intended to stay in Portland longer than three seasons, but it was important to him and to the orchestra to ensure their relationship was mutually beneficial before making a long-term commitment. ‘From day one, the idea was that if the chemistry continued to be right and we continued to like each other – which we do very much – then my vision was to stay for multiple years,’ he said.

“By agreeing to stay in Portland, Moody said he could begin to think about longer-term goals, including creating a family concert series, bringing back summer concerts and expanding existing classical series. Appropriately, he added, ‘Those are dreams at this point. But those are our goals, as long as we make sure we do it while maintaining fiscal integrity,’ he said. In addition to his job in Portland, Mr. Moody retained his positions as music director of the Winston-Salem (N.C.) Symphony, which he had led since 2005, and as artistic director of Arizona Musicfest, which he had led since 2007.”

The previous week Mr. Moody had guest conducted the Memphis Symphony Orchestra, which was seeking a new music director and named him as one of four finalists for the job.

PSO Executive Director Ari Solotoff’s tenure was going well, as he had substantially adjusted a previously-mismanaged budget, improved the office staff, administered successful contract negotiations with the musicians’ union, and succeeded in extending the time that Robert Moody would be sure to remain PSO music director.

The first Sunday Classical Concert of the new calendar year had the theme-title “Head and Heart”. The matinee event was performed at Merrill Auditorium on Sunday, January 24, with Music Director Moody on the podium. The Phoenix’s  Christopher Gray wrote that the concert “began with the gentle melodrama of Maurice Ravel’s Pavane pour une infante défunte, but the group really began to pierce the Merrill’s slight aural barrier between the stage and the audience halfway through an intoxicating rendition of Mozart’s manic 25th Symphony (HS: The “Little G minor, K. 183.). Both were greeted with respectable applause and the requisite meaningful sighs.” The reviewer then approvingly focused on the afternoon’s major work, observing that then conductor and the Orchestra “rather awesomely revealed a willingness to prod and provoke their audience... ...The finale  was a performance of Brett William Dietz’s Headcase, an interpretation of the young contemporary composer’s experience suffering a stroke and its debilitating, maddening aftermath. Dietz’s operetta is a multi-media piece, with photos from Dietz’s post-stroke bedside journal and MRI and brain scans shown on a screen, and recorded electronics and vocals from Dietz piped in from offstage. The orchestra was pared down to a half-dozen members, not including guest baritone Timothy Jones.”

Mr. Gray commented on a “movement called ‘Please Try to Count’ (which) found Dietz’s narration struggling to find order, while Jones forcefully sang a sequence of numbers, and members of the orchestra barked out orders and questions between notes in thrilling staccato rhythms.” He cited “a sense of pain and information overload”. The reviewer reported there was an expected mixed reception from the audience, but approvingly praised Mr. Moody for “Push(ing) the time-honored boundaries of both his musicians and his audience”. (HS:  To this day [2014] Robert Moody proudly refers to the PSO’s performance of this work as a top musical achievement.)

Earlier in the day, more than 250 people sat in during an open rehearsal of the PSO. The group contributed nearly $5000 to Haiti relief efforts following that country’s devastating earthquake. Mr. Moody, of course, conducted the rehearsal.

“Rach and Romance!” was the theme of the February 16 Tuesday Classical Concert. The performance opened with John Adams’ The Chairman Dances (Foxtrot for Orchestra) an outtake from his opera “Nixon in China”. American composer and longtime conservatory-educator Howard Hanson’s Symphony No. 2, Op. 30 “Romantic,” followed. Press Herald reviewer Hyde favorably rated the Symphony’s performance, writing that it was a “lush performance”. Concert-program notes advised that the work was originally commissioned to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Boston Symphony Orchestra in 1930 and was familiar to many from its use in the film “Alien.” The evening’s finale was Sergei Rachmaninoff’s popular Concerto No. 2 in C minor for Piano and Orchestra, Op. 18, with guest soloist Yuja Wang, who had moved to the U.S. from her native China at age 15 and studied with Gary Graffman at The Curtis Institute until graduating (HS: In 2008, a guest appearance with the PSO needed to be changed, and near the last minute she was replaced by Stewart Goodyear.). The P-H reviewer wrote that her rendition was a “thrilling performance of the Rachmaninoff Piano Concerto No. 2 with the Portland Symphony Orchestra”. He chided the soloist, however, for “an unwelcome encore (Scarlatti’s Sonata in G minor, K. 455) that spoiled the romantic mood created by the Rachmaninoff, and raised doubts about the respect of the pianist for that work.” He concluded that part of his review, saying “The Rachmaninoff Second is certainly an old warhorse. But it deserves better than to be upstaged.” (HS: There was a bit of an echo in his view, for the reviewer had also expressed opposition to Mr. Goodyear’s choice of encore when he replaced Ms. Wang in 2008.)

PSO violinist Clorinda Noyes objected so much to Mr. Hyde’s chiding of Ms. Wang that she in turn chided the reviewer in a letter to the editor that was published by the Press Herald. She cited her realization at the concert that “we experienced that rarest of rare moments, when we know we are in the presence of a singular gift”, continuing, “Ms. Yuja Wang possesses technique and heart. Her performance was powerful and clean.” Ms. Noyes added, “The spontaneous response of the audience at the conclusion of the work was amazing!  A sound, as a single shout from hundreds of onlookers, filled the auditorium. An artist communicated, and the audience responded. She accepted that outpouring with grace and offered a beautifully played movement of light and joy by Scarlatti. She played it as an encore, an exquisite dessert to the sumptuous main event.” The longtime veteran PSO musician’s concluding comments related to Mr. Hyde’s references that the piece was “out of place” and an “unwelcome encore that spoiled the romantic mood”. The violinist ended: “Shame on you, Mr. Hyde. You missed the point.”

The concert performance was preceded by a concert conversation, and followed by a concert Q&A with the artists and an Afterglow reception at Restaurant Grace.

The PSO’s pre-season promotional brochure had tempted concertgoers to “Treat your valentine to the most romantic love duets from Broadway shows throughout the ages, and fall in love all over again with music that will make your heart skip a beat!” The event was a pair of PSO Pops! Concerts on Saturday and Sunday, February 20 & 21, titled “Isn’t It Romantic?”, with guest conductor Matthew Troy. The UNC-Greensboro graduate was assistant conductor of the Winston-Salem Symphony and was, of course, familiar to PSO Music Director Moody. Soprano Jenn Raithel Newman and tenor Joe Cassidy, both of whom had previously worked with the Orchestra, were featured vocalists. Arrangements of audience favorites that were performed in the first half were: Frank Loesser’s Music from “Guys and Dolls”; Richard Rodgers’ People will say we’re in Love from “Oklahoma”; Jerome Kern’s Can’t Help Lovin’ dat Man from “Show Boat”; Frederick Loewe’s On the Street Where you Live from “My Fair Lady”; Music from “Carousel” by Mr. Rodgers; and Excerpts from “West Side Story”: Maria, Tonight and Somewhere, by Leonard Bernstein.

After intermission, the Symphony started with Music from “Oliver”, an arrangement of Lionel Bart’s hit show music by Alfred Reed. Arrangements of love songs and romantic duets from Broadway shows then featured were: Sheldon Hamick’s She Loves Me from the show of the same name; Stephen Sondheim’s Send in the Clowns from “A Little Night Music”; Sondheim’s JoAnna from “Sweeney Todd”; Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Memories from “Cats”, also his Love Changes Everything from “Aspects of Love”. The concerts concluded with two additional Webber hits: I Don’t Know How to Love Him from “Jesus Christ Superstar” and the title song, Phantom of the Opera.

A pair of PSO Youth Concerts were conducted at Merrill Auditorium by Music Director Robert Moody on the morning of March 9. The theme was “Sounds Like Art – Painting, Poetry and Performance”. PSO Concertmaster Charles Dimmick was featured as soloist during a performance of Antonio Vivaldi’s Winter from “The Four Seasons”. Also on the program for Portland-area students were segments of varying lengths from Christopher Theofanidis’ 2000 composition, Rainbow Body; and Camille Saint-Saëns’ Danse Bacchanale from Samson et Delila. In this era, at least one finalist of the USM School of Music Concerto Competition could be offered a chance to perform at the PSO’s spring Youth Concerts. A past winner of the Scholarship had been saxophonist Jason Giacomazzo. He performed Paul Creston’s Concerto for Alto Saxophone and Orchestra, Op. 26, 3rd Movement. Also played by the Symphony was John Williams’ Superman March. A composition titled Congo was also featured, the premiere of a work composed by Christopher Staknys, a student at Walnut Hill School for the Arts in Natick, Massachusetts. Mr. Staknys, from Falmouth, was winner of the 1stannual Young Composers Festival held this spring, a Portland Symphony Orchestra Composition Competition in partnership with the Maine Music Educators Association (MMEA). The young composer, who attended rehearsals and the two concerts  --at which he received Maestro Moody’s recognition from the stage--  had dedicated his work to Gustavo Dudamel, a Venezuelan composer, conductor, and violinist whose music inspired him in writing his composition. (HS: The Anecdote section of this THINGS-PSO includes the tale of one time when a younger Mr. Staknys met Toshi Shimada in an elevator; also perspective regarding how Robert Moody enthusiastically incorporated young composers’ works into his Youth Concert planning process.)

The purpose of the MMEA festival is to support the work of young composers (K-12) through the provision of positive and supportive feedback from practicing composers. The composer of each entry, winner or not, is directly contacted by one of the composers, and also offered opportunities to establish constructive professional dialogue with other composers with various applicable specialties or experiences. Over the years, Maine composers who have provided feedback to entrants include: Daniel Sonenberg (Composer-in-Residence at the University of Southern Maine); Nancy Gunn (Maine-based, Portland area); E. Scott Harris (at the time, the Director of the USM School of Music); and Elliott Schwartz (Professor Emeritus, Bowdoin College).

A Tuesday Classical Concert was also directed at Merrill Auditorium by Maestro Moody that evening. The program began with a performance of Mr. Theofanidis’ Rainbow Body. Next came Richard Strauss’ tremendous and intense musical tone-poem portrayal of what he said were “the dying hours of a man who had (unsuccessfully) striven toward the highest idealistic aims” during his soon-to-end lifetime. The work of course, was Tod und Verklärung, Op. 24 (Death and Transfiguration). The concert’s major work this evening, however, was what Mr. Moody referred to as a “truly amazing choral work” with Latin text by the highly successful master of the musical theater, Andrew Lloyd Webber. The composer’s unusual (for him) religious work, Requiem, was described by the PSO music director as “musically breaking from the mold a little bit”. The mighty Kotzschmar Organ played a key role during this performance, as did soprano Natalie Fagnan and tenor Michael Ryan, the Masterworks Chorus of the Choral Art Society and also a boy soprano. Interestingly, the composer did not write for any violins in this work, so the PSO members were rearranged on the stage to reflect this intentional omission.

Choral Art Society Director Robert Russell included the “Webber Requiem” among his all-time most satisfying moments when the CAS collaborated with the PSO. Admiring Mr. Moody’s choral-related talents, Dr. Russell spoke of how a number of the vocal works performed during the “Moody era” had been “scintillating”.

During March the PSO announced the schedule for the 2010-2011 season that would begin in the fall. A P-H article reported that “Overall, the orchestra would again perform three series of concerts: five Sunday Classical concerts, with a mix of chamber orchestra and full orchestral works; six Tuesday Classical concerts; and four PSO Pops! Concerts. That equals a total of 19 performances of 13 programs”. Two concerts were set to appear on both the Sunday Classical and Tuesday Classical series: the season-opening concert and the season-closing concert. The article mentioned that “The orchestra has reduced its budget in each of the last three years... (and that) ... Spending for the current season will total $2.4 million. . (adding) ...For the first time in many years, the orchestra operated in the black last season, and is on track to meet budget this season, said executive director Ari Solotoff.”

During the winter months of 2009-2010, the Portland Symphony Orchestra received a truly magnificent gift. Longtime PSO patron and support Charlton “Carl” Smith combined his technical talents with those of his company, Transparent Audio, Inc., and Bob Ludwig’s Gateway Mastering Studios, both long term corporate sponsors of the PSO. After setting up a recording studio in the den of his winter house in Florida, Carl rolled up his sleeves and did commendable “dirty work” for the PSO, working MANY hundreds of hours. “What did he do that was such a big deal?”, you ask. Well---- read on (HS:  I’ll steal a lot of the following from an essay that Carl wrote about his project.).

For 50 years, recordings had been made of virtually all Portland Symphony Orchestra concerts. While for the previous 10 years the recordings were made directly to CDs, the PSO Archives contained 32 years of analog tapes and 8 years of digital tapes, 25 boxes of tapes in the attic of City Hall. The task that Carl took on was to attempt transferring 40 years of tapes to CDs, some 250 concerts performed between 1960 and 2000. Since from the mid-1970s the tapes were recorded with fully professional equipment, the sound quality of a large part of all the tapes was comparable to commercially released recordings. About 1000 pounds of tape boxes by shipping weight were shipped to Florida and arrived by truck at Carl’s door. They were stacked in a large guest room closet, and between November 2009 and April 2010 Carl “had the privilege of ‘attending’ 250 Portland Symphony Orchestra concerts as if I were sitting in an ideal seat midway between the stereo microphones that were suspended just above the orchestra”, he still claims. “Digital recording has made considerable advances since CDs were first introduced in 1982, but there is simply nothing like the realism of hearing the music directly from the open reel tapes. It was a thrill to re-hear concerts for which I was present in the hall as far back as the 1960s and to hear many other concerts for the first time. As broad as my interest in classical music has always been, I heard many works that were new to me due to the musical adventurousness of all the Music Directors that the orchestra has been fortunate to have over the past 50 years.”

When finally in CD form, all the regular subscription series concerts on these tapes covering 40 years fit into an aluminum case the size of an airline carry-on bag weighing 35 pounds. From music on some of the tapes, his efforts allowed production of a two-disc 85th Anniversary CD-set of selections representing each of the five music directors who have led the Symphony over the half century that recordings of the concerts were made. If you haven’t heard those CDs, be sure to do so!  Carl’s volunteer work was a FANTASTIC ACCOMPLISHMENT..... and an invaluable permanent contribution to the PSO.

Early this year, Leah Robertson was appointed as the PSO’s Director of Development & Special Projects, a position she continues to fill (2013). From Newton, New Jersey, she was a 2003 graduate of Colby College in Waterville. While there she was an active member of the Mules Varsity-8 Rowing Team. She joined the PSO from a position as Development Coordinator at the Gulf of Maine Research Institute.

“From the Top,” a National Public Radio program that profiles talented young musicians, came to Portland for a show on Wednesday, March 24, at Merrill Auditorium. Hosted by concert pianist Christopher O’Riley, the program was recorded for national broadcast. “From the Top” offers serious music, light-hearted skits and informal interviews, and listeners are introduced to young classical musicians. For the show in Portland, the young artists profiled included Josie and Sophie Davis, teenage violin-playing sisters from Waldoboro. Mr. O’Riley accompanied the sisters, who had participated in the Kneisel Hall Maine Young Musicians. Program. Members of the Portland Youth Symphony Orchestra also performed. Pianist Wilson Bristol, 17, of Freeport, a student at the University of Southern Maine’s School of Music, and several other young music students from out of state were also on the program. (HS: The previous November, the two Davis sisters had presented a recital in Camden to benefit local KinderKonzerts by the PSO. A penned note found in the PSO Archives referred to an enclosed $360 check to the Symphony, after payment of Waldo Theatre rental expenses of $450. Hey!  Who said that performances of/for the PSO don’t aid local businesses!?)

The March 28 Classical Concert had the title-theme “Chris Thile In Concert with the PSO!”. Concert-program notes advised that the original leader of the by-now defunct Nickel Creek acoustic bluegrass trio was “widely regarded as one of the most interesting and inventive musicians of his generation... ...chang(ing) the mandolin forever... the sophistication and brilliance of the finest jazz improvisation and classical performance”. (HS: In 2012 he would be named a MacArthur Fellow.) Scott Terrell, Resident Conductor of the Charleston Symphony and recently-named Music Director and Conductor of the Lexington Philharmonic, was guest conductor this Sunday afternoon. The first work performed was Aaron Copland’s wonderful original 13-instrument version of Appalachian Spring. Next was a work by Arnold Schoenberg, composed prior to his 12-tone period, Verklärte Nacht, Op. 4. Translated “Transfigured Night”, it is a romantic work for strings.

After intermission Mr. Thile came on stage and performed his own composition, Mandolin Concerto (Ad astra per alas porci; or “To the Stars on the Wings of a Pig”) with the Symphony, written for a small orchestra. This concert marked the New England premiere of the work, which he had premiered the previous fall with the Colorado Symphony Orchestra. (HS: Both the PSO and the Winston-Salem Symphony, where PSO Music Director was also music director, were among several orchestras that, along with the Colorado ensemble, jointly co-commissioned Mr. Thile’s concerto.) The Denver Post’s earlier-written post-world-premiere next-day headline said “Chris Thile’s Mandolin Concerto ‘Nothing Short of Astounding’ “. The gentle and melodic work is alternately harmonic and acerbic, usually melodic. Denver Post fine arts critic Kyle MacMillan favorably thought it almost Bartók –like. (HS:  Unfortunately, as of mid-2013, no Portland review of the performance has been located.) It is scored for small orchestra, winds, horns, percussion, timpani and piano.

Because of Mr. Thile’s multidimensional musical talents, both Portland Ovations and the PSO presented individual concerts featuring the artist, on consecutive nights, to likely two completely different audiences. The “Ovations” concert featured the artist with the Punch Brothers. Some economies of scale helped both organizations, since Mr. Thile’s travel and lodging expenses were shared.

The Choral Art Society and the Portland Ballet Company collaborated on Tuesday, March 30, to present a performance of Mozart’s Requiem. The concert program lists the names of a 17-member contingent from the Portland Symphony Orchestra which formed a chamber group to accompany the CAS and PBC participants. Choral Art Society Music Director Robert Russell conducted.

Solo classical percussionist Dame Evelyn Glennie returned to Portland for a solo appearance with the PSO on Tuesday, April 6. She had appeared in 1995, prior to the renovation of PCHA into Merrill Auditorium, and subscribers from that era recalled that the virtuoso percussionist from Scotland, profoundly deaf, often performed barefoot so she can feel an orchestra’s music through the floor. The music director of the Evansville Philharmonic, Alfred Savia, was guest conductor, and the title theme was “Sounds and Light”. The concert opened with Pulitzer-Prize winner Joseph Schwantner’s Chasing Light.... composed in 2008, and inspired by the composer’s expediencies with first-morning color and light  “that penetrate the morning mist as it wafts through the trees in the high New England hills.” (HS:  According to an insert in the concert program, this work was co-commissioned by the Ford Motor Company Fund, part of its “Ford Made in America” partnership program of the League of American Orchestras. The insert referred to “58 small-budget orchestras” that also partnered the commission, and that the work would receive “more than 70 performances within an eighteen month period”, including all 50 states.)

Next on the program was Beethoven’s light-hearted Symphony No. 8 in F Major, Op. 93, followed by the intermission. To start the second half, Mr. Savia conducted the Symphony musicians in Icelandic composer Áskell Másson’s 1982 Konzertstück for Snare Drum & Orchestra, which featured Dame Glennie, who had performed the work with many of the world’s finest orchestras. The phenomenal soloist then played Joe Duddell’s three-movement Snowblind for Solo Percussion & Strings, featuring melodic and harmonic roles by the soloist who only performs using marimba, vibraphone, crotales and temple blocks. The concert concluded with Maurice Ravel’s ever-crescendoing 1928 original ballet musical composition that quickly exploded, and for eight decades has lasted, on the classical and pops musical scene..... Boléro. (HS: I would be most interested in locating a newspaper review of this concert, especially to read comments about Dame Glennie. If you know of one, please let me know.)

A Donor Appreciation Dress Rehearsal prior to the concert featuring Ms. Glennie was offered to PSO contributors. Having the chance to twice hear the guest percussionist would have been an opportunity that Sue and I would have jumped at; however at this time we hadn’t yet moved to Maine.

A pair of PSO Pops! Concerts were performed on Saturday and Sunday, April 24 & 25, a tribute to the music of the ‘70s. An appropriately be-wigged Maestro Moody conducted, and likely had as good a time on the podium as concertgoers did in Merrill Auditorium. Although the concert-program states that the program was announced from the stage, a pre-Pops article by Scott Andrews in the Forecaster lays out all that one needs to know about what happened. Read on:

“The time is 1975 and the dress code is polyester suits, bell-bottoms and platform shoes. The hair code is rainbow-hued Afro. That’s the setting for this weekend’s two Pops concerts by the Portland Symphony Orchestra. ‘Play that Funky Music, PSO!’ is the title, and maestro Robert Moody has invited a popular retro rock band to join his 50-plus orchestra members in a musical journey that recalls the 1970s.

“Motor Booty Affair” is one of Maine’s most popular cover bands, a costumed quartet comprising four ‘funkateers’ straight from the planet Funktar: Superfly, Spanish Fly, Sir Rumpus Funkberry and Cyclone Link Skywalker Jr. They’ve been dubbed the ‘ultimate disco party band’ and they’ll play all-time favorites that include Night Fever and Stayin’ Alive from the movie ‘Saturday Night Fever’ and the hit theme song from the 1971 movie ‘Shaft’. Other artists covered include the Eagles, Queen and Village People”, so the favorites from the “Me Decade” were well represented. Due tribute was paid to the Bee Gees, Abba, Barry Manilow and other 1970s-era artists. The PSO encouraged audiences to dress the part by wearing bell-bottoms, platform shoes and polyester. Afros were encouraged, and dance moves were playfully declared mandatory. Following the Saturday night performance, Space Gallery on Congress St. hosted a ‘70s Dance Party with a midnight costume contest.

During April it was announced that PSO Executive Director Ari Solotoff had accepted a position with the Philadelphia Orchestra Association to a newly-created position of chief of staff and director of planning. Three years later when yours truly had the pleasant opportunity to meet Mr. Solotoff for the first time (HS: Remember, Sue and I only moved to Portland in 2011.), he cited his proudest accomplishments during his time with the PSO as completing the music director search, strengthening management’s relationships with the orchestra musicians, and improving the PSO’s financial condition. He commended the quality of the board leadership of the PSO, as well as their pride and thoughtfulness in how they conducted their responsibilities to the organization and the community. “There wasn’t much knee-jerk action taken by the PSO board”, he said to yours truly.

A Portland newspaper article at that time of Mr. Solotoff announcing that he had accepted the Philadelphia position credited him, during his four-year tenure at the Portland Symphony, with “guiding the organization through a highly successful music director search and launch, returned it to break-even operations, eliminated its debt, and established a new culture of strong fiscal management, artistic vitality, collaboration, and community connection.” (HS:  Only 18 months later, he would announce a decision to resign his Philadelphia position, intending to return to Maine to pursue a degree at the University of Maine Law School.)

Until a new PSO executive director search could be completed and a successor brought on board, the PSO’s highly regarded Director of Finance, Ellie Chatto, took on the additional responsibilities as Interim Executive Director.

“Mighty Mahler” was the title-theme for the PSO’s final two concerts of the 2009-2010 season, performed on Sunday and Tuesday, May 2 & 4. Prior to the season Mr. Moody had told the P-H that a programming decision regarding these two performances would reflect the PSO’s new economic realities. By playing a great work twice – respectively as part of its Sunday Classical and Tuesday Classical concert series, the orchestra  would save money by reducing rehearsal time and guest-artist fees. The PSO music director explained that also  “costs less to hire one artist for two concerts than it does to hire two guests for two programs.”

Lisa Saffer, a soprano who then performed around the world and lived in Portland, was one of the guests for the Mahler piece, along with mezzo-soprano Mary Phillips from New York City, and the Masterworks Chorus of the Choral Art Society. Throughout the PSO season, the hour-and-one-half-long Gustav Mahler composition, his Symphony No. 2 in C minor “Resurrection”, likely was enthusiastically anticipated by the PSO’s classical music subscribers. The P-H’s Christopher Hyde was complimentary about the concert. He wrote that “The orchestral high points of the hour-and-a-half performance were too many to mention in a review, but the trumpets from the four corners of the auditorium were particularly effective, as were the many unusual instrumental combinations that only a composer with Mahler’s conducting experience could have devised.”

Off the stage, the PSO for the second season in a row hit some good notes on the financial front by finishing the 2009-2010 season in the black. And, for the first time, the season finished without having to dip into any of the cash already on hand from 2010-2011 advance season-ticket sales. Nor had the PSO’s (revised? – or --   Renewed?  <HS to determine which adjective is correct) line of credit been touched. In early June, on Tuesday the 2nd, Mr. Moody addressed one of the series of community-focused “Eggs and Issues” breakfast sessions sponsored by the Portland Chamber of Commerce. Many in that audience likely were looking forward to the then-upcoming “Patriotic Pops Concert” on the Eastern Prom. But first...... some commentary about how the PSO was, at the core, a business.

After chatting up the audience with his classic storied tales about his family’s Possum Kingdom, NC, home and how he first took up the cello in the fourth grade (HS: Stories that many of his admirers among the PSO-family have enjoyed hearing numerous times over the years—they never fail to generate laughter.), Mr. Moody set about helping those at the breakfast understand how the PSO had changed with the times over the preceding several years. He explained how much of his organization’s severe financial difficulties had been fostered by “old thinking” models, moving on to discuss the “new thinking” models that had allowed the PSO to escape fiscal turmoil. Mr. Moody kidded himself by telling the meeting that while he was perhaps the worst businessman on the planet, “even I know full well that funding the current year’s programming with next year’s advance ticket revenues is a model for failure.” That positive revelation likely surprised many people at the breakfast who were steeled in thinking that the “artsy types” never, ever, thought about the realities of costs and financing.

He  eloquently told how running in the red, and funding concerts from unknown sources was an unacceptable mold for the Portland Symphony Orchestra. He discussed the "new 21st-century  model" philosophy that now guided the PSO’s thinking and planning. Weighing artistic integrity versus a “live within our means” policy, he told about his role working from the artistic side but yet achieving a balance with the administrative/business side of the orchestra. For example, he explained that it was “OK to schedule a work requiring 70 players instead of one requiring 300; there were many possibilities to make concerts a great artistic experience.” However, he stated, it would not be OK to cut four rehearsals for many a concert down to two rehearsals----- that would be “cutting into the artistic bone, the quality would drop and we’ll all suffer in the end.” Mr. Moody told the breakfast audience that he was the "keeper of the bottom line"--- “always considering: how much can we cut? how much can we tighten our belt? and still make sure that we don’t get into any problems artistically.”

During his remarks, he told the meeting that the PSO’s financial side and the artistic side were by now in “complete and supportive positive open dialogue on (keeping) those things moving forward..... financial success and artistic success. One doesn’t happen without the other.” He reported that first and foremost, atop the PSO’s “New Business Model”, was that the organization was committed to “Live within your means”. He commented that “All stakeholders are equal partners”, be they the: music director, board of directors, administrative staff or musicians; in essence that everyone was responsible for all of the other partners’ roles when at the table---  “we all have skin in the game”

Justifiably smiling, the PSO music director told the assembled group that “it feels very, very good to be a part of all (of this).” (HS: Mr. Moody’s address is available on YouTube. As one who spent a career analyzing companies, I rate his talk [and the content of his remarks] as a fantastic job explaining “the business” of classical orchestras and an equally lucid job of explaining the new operating philosophies and policies of the Portland Symphony Orchestra. This YouTube is worth checking out, if only to gain a clear vision of what was a “new PSO”.... from a direct and personal aspect.)

A Mainebiz publication about the Chamber of Commerce session was titled “PSO adopts a business approach to stay in the black”, mentioning that Maine’s largest musical institution was less than a month away from, for the second year in a row, ending its fiscal year in the black. Speaking of the important financial changes undertaken by the PSO, it quoted Mr. Moody with a classic:  “I’m the worst businessman on the planet and I can see how the old model is a recipe for failure.” It referred to the PSO music director explaining discussing the commitment whereby the board and administration of the Symphony “decided to live within the organization’s means and still put on the best-quality concerts it can”, pointing to the often not-so-obvious to musicians’ viewpoint that “financial success and artistic success must happen together”. The article also referenced Mr. Moody’s comment when he said, “We all have skin in the game.” Certainly, the PSO’s message about being serious regarding the turnaround was getting out to the Greater Portland community.

At the breakfast, Eleanor Chatto, the PSO’s then-acting director was also on hand. Ellie told the publication’s Robert Cook that it took some tough decisions over the last two years to get the PSO’s financial house in order without sacrificing the quality of the performances. She advised that $2.4 million annual budgets in fiscal years 2009 and 2010 were below a $3 million budget in 2008.

During a 2014 conversation with Mr. Moody, I learned that he became aware of the “tough times” that the PSO was facing directly from PSO Executive Director Ari Solotoff. Ari was part of a small search committee group who visited with Mr. Moody in Winston-Salem and attended a concert there, wanting to once again watch the PSO candidate. Thus informed by Mr. Solotoff, he “knew how bad it was” before he took the job. Once he was selected and came on board, Mr. Moody well remembered many living room get-togethers with PSO supporters when he accompanied Gordon Geyer and Ari to discuss plans for the PSO to financially turnaround and to promote support for the Bridge Initiative. The PSO maestro recalled being frank with all concerned, that while one alternative was for the PSO to downshift and become a very good community orchestra..... but were that to become the chosen course--- that he would not continue to serve. Fortunately, prudent financial measures were taken that compatibly meshed with continued high musical-quality standards...... and Mr. Moody and the PSO flourished.

The PSO decided that for the upcoming season subscription prices would be increased between 3 percent and 10 percent, with single ticket prices remaining the same. The orchestra also added student rush tickets to its pricing, which would be available to college students for $10 on the night of performances.

Gordon Gayer is again re-elected as PSO President, to start his third term. The board needed to take special action for him to serve in this position for more than two consecutive years. Obviously, his leadership and successes during his first two terms made him eminently qualified and entitled to  serve another term.

Sometime earlier this year, due to budget constraints related to the economic recession, the Portland City Council had decided to no longer allocate funds to pay for annual July-4 fireworks displays in the shallows of Casco Bay off Munjoy Hill.

In May, a Press Herald article was undoubtedly cheered by Portlanders. The report said that “Portland’s fireworks display will not only go on this Fourth of July despite city budget cuts, it will be punctuated by the patriotic musical offerings of the Portland Symphony Orchestra. A group of local business people who are privately funding Portland’s fireworks on the Eastern Promenade are expected to hold a press conference at 11 a.m. Thursday to announce that a concert by the PSO will be part of the festivities.” The article went on to advise that “the free PSO concert this July 4 will be funded by private money”, adding that in “early April, a group of local business people came forward to announce they would provide the $45,000 needed to put on the annual fireworks show after the city announced the fireworks would be canceled due to budget cuts.”

In the end, the addition of the PSO’s “Patriotic Pops” concert involvement in the event brought the total cost to about $115,000, to which individuals and other businesses contributed. “Hoo-Ray’s and Gold Stars ALL AROUND” for Portlanders who made this happen!

The P-H recalled that because “of a budget crunch, the PSO canceled its ‘Independence Pops’ concerts last summer, ending a years-long tradition of the orchestra playing a series of outdoor Fourth of July concerts around southern Maine for an admission fee. Because of inclement weather and other factors, the shows were too great of a ‘financial risk’ to continue”, the article added, quoting PSO Music Director Robert Moody. “When we made the sad decision not to do the ‘Independence Pops’ last summer, this is exactly what we hoped for,” Moody said. The community has come forward and said, ‘We value the fireworks as an iconic tradition, and we value the wonderful pops concerts on July 4 too.’ “ This was clearly well-received news. The Fourth of July celebration on the Eastern Prom was named “The Stars and Stripes Spectacular,” and the PSO’s performance announced that the title of the concert would be “Patriotic Pops”. Mr. Moody told the newspaper that the full orchestra – 60 to 70 members – would play about 90 minutes of patriotic tunes and Americana music before the first rocket was fired. Then the orchestra would play more heart-pounding music during the 40-minute fireworks show.

Thus, after only a one-summer time-off from years of entertaining Independence Day pops performances, the cut-off caused by financial severities at the Portland Symphony Orchestra, the PSO was once again back in the 4th–of-July concert business. And, the catalyst for the newly-created private-sector “Stars and Stripes Spectacular” endeavor that hired the Symphony were the City of Portland’s own financial severities. And now, with strong community sponsorship, the PSO no longer needed to take on uncertain underwriting risks related to the new event.

The day before the concert, a Saturday headline of a Press-Herald article about the event read:  “Fired up for fireworks? Countdown’s begun: This year’s ‘Spectacular’ will blast off as the Portland Symphony Orchestra plays its rendition of Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture”.

The article reported on the pre-event excitement: “It has never been tried before – integrating rousing patriotic music into Portland’s Fourth of July fireworks show. But that’s what will happen Sunday. The Portland Symphony Orchestra will play on the Eastern Promenade while fireworks light up the sky over Casco Bay. Organizers want to ensure that the performances, on land and overhead, are synchronized. PSO Music Director Robert Moody sent a compact disc of the music his orchestra will play to the company that will stage the pyrotechnics display.” A spokesperson for the event was quoted, “The fireworks will begin during the last two minutes of the Tchaikovsky Overture to 1812”, continuing, “I’ve been told that (Moody) is the master of time management.” Although for years the Portland Symphony Orchestra had performed “Indy Pops” concerts elsewhere in the Portland region, this would be the first time the PSO would play during the fireworks display on the Eastern Prom. The concert portion of the event was scheduled for 7:40 p.m., with the fireworks display set to explode off around 9:20 p.m.

The city was anticipating a crowd expected to exceed 50,000 people, and the fireworks would likely actually be watched by upward of 70,000 people. The light show would be easily seen from many nearby locations, including Peaks Island and hundreds of boats on Casco Bay. Assuming success, a nonprofit July 4th Portland Foundation was being formed to sponsor the fireworks in future years, even considering making the celebration a daylong festival in 2011.

Regarding the event’s specifics, the First Annual “Patriotic Pops Concert” and fireworks display, the privately-sponsored officially-called “Stars and Stripes Spectacular”, free to Portlanders and other visitors, was presented on Sunday, July 4 of 2010. The roots of American independence were celebrated with a reading of the Declaration of Independence and a musical salute to the armed forces, and the ever-popular “1812” Overture by Tchaikovsky kicked off a spectacular fireworks display. MPBN’s Suzanne Nance, a soprano, was guest soloist.

Following The Star-Spangled Banner, works chosen by Maestro Moody that were played by the PSO were John Williams’ Music from “The Patriot”; George Gershwin’s Summertime from “Porgy and Bess” with Ms. Nance; Jack Mason’s arrangement of music by Leonard Bernstein From West Side Story”; Prof. James Beckel’s Liberty for All; Morton Gould’s American Salute; Frederick Loewe’s I Could Have Danced All Night from “My Fair Lady”; and Bob Lowden’s Armed Forces Salute (HS: Both of these numbers featured Ms. Nance.). THE DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE, in its entirety, was read during the playing of both Sir Edward Elgar’s Nimrod from “Enigma Variations” and Peter Wilhousky’s arrangement of  Battle Hymn of the Republic. The PSO then gave the audience what everyone wanted, the “1812” Overture, with fireworks beginning during the last two minutes of Tchaikovsky’s masterwork. Played during continuation of the fireworks were: John Philip Sousa’s Washington Post March; Kenneth Alford’s Colonel Bogey March; Sousa’s Liberty Bell March followed by his Semper Fidelis; Excerpts from William Tell Overture by Gioacchino Rossini; Rudy Vallée’s Maine Stein Song; Carmen Dragon’s arrangement of America, The Beautiful; Hawley Ades arrangement of Irving Berlin’s God Bless America; and the obligatory July-4th concert-closer, Sousa’s Stars and Stripes Forever.

After the Sunday concert and the pyrotechnics went off on schedule on July 4, the next day the PSO was heralded by the P-H in an editorial, headlined: “Orchestra was the star of this year’s fireworks show: The Portland Symphony Orchestra was given the biggest stage and made the most of it”. The editors observed, “While the donors were given appreciative applause Sunday, the orchestra was the star of the night performing a program filled with John Phillips Souza marches, classical favorites and popular songs from musical theater. Portland Harbor never looked or sounded better... Robert Moody conducted the Portland Symphony Orchestra in a patriotic pops concert that provided the prelude and backdrop for this year’s fireworks show. As the orchestra moved through its program and the sun set over Back Cove, hundreds of small boats bobbed off East End Beach joining tens of thousands of onlookers perched on the Eastern Promenade. Many thousands of Portlanders have never bought a ticket to hear the symphony,” offering praise to the participating artists by continuing, “but they were able to hear the orchestra play exciting music and see actors read the Declaration of Independence for free, turning a predictable annual event into something truly special.”

There is no question that playing a key role in making the “Spectacular” a success was another important part of the PSO’s “comeback” from a financial precipice.

The PSO music director also helped the audience gain an understanding about how the respective factions at the Symphony now had a better understanding about how to work together toward the common goal of performing and presenting quality live music experiences for audiences who would want to come back again and again. Among the PSO’s stakeholders, he explained, “everyone is an equal partner--- everyone has shared responsibilities----; the music director, the board of directors, the administrative staff, the musicians of the orchestra-------- we’re all at the table, everyone is responsible, we all have skin in the game.” (HS:  A YouTube video of Mr. Moody’s 6/2/2010 address is easily accessible on the internet. Take a look’n’listen--- it’s wonderfully refreshing to be reminded about how NOT to get an organization..... or oneself..... into financial precariousness.)

PORTopera this summer presented “Hansel and Gretel” by Engelbert Humperdinck. Israel Gursky conducted two performances, on July 29 & 31.

Also on July 29, a Thursday, Robert Moody conducted an ensemble playing Igor Stravinsky’s L’histoire du soldat at Bowdoin’s Studzinsky Recital Hall in Brunswick. The performance was a collaboration with the Julliard Technology Center in a multi-media presentation, part of the 2010 Bowdoin International Music Festival. This work was a segment of the Gamper Festival of Contemporary Music, which extended on into August 1.

Looking ahead, the PSO announced that its 2010-2011 season would open with two performances of a “Season Opening Celebration” on Sunday, October 3 and Tuesday, October 5. Those concerts would be “riveting program(s) of Strauss, Tchaikovsky, and bassist Edgar Meyer performing concertos by Bottesini and of his own composition. The PSO Pops! Season (would be) a series of tributes, two to distinctive genres [“Celtic fiddler Eileen Ivers with Immigrant Soul” and also “The Golden Age of Motown”], and two to iconic artists [“Simply Sinatra” and also “Elvis Lives!”]).” The PSO announced that the season would conclude with two performances of Daphnis and Chloé on Sunday, May 1 and Tuesday, May 3.

For the upcoming subscription season, the Sunday Classical series would expand to five concerts, featuring a mix of chamber orchestra and full orchestral works, with two of the programs performed on Tuesdays as well. The Tuesday Classical series would comprise six concerts. Adding in the PSO Pops! Concerts would result in a season total of 19 performances of 13 programs (not including eleven “Magic of Christmas” concerts in December). A PSO news release said that “Music Director Moody continues to champion great music and artists while blurring the lines between classical, popular music, the classics of the future and other genres. This season will feature an expansion of ways for audience members to connect with Maestro Moody and the PSO’s musicians directly through Concert Conversations, post-performance gatherings and social media.

Prior to the first two Classical concerts of the new season, set for Sunday and Tuesday, October 3 & 5, Music Director Moody said that instead of a specific theme for the performances, he primarily wanted to “celebrate everyone getting back together and just enjoying great music in Merrill hall”. The program was theme-titled, “Season Opening Celebration”. The Press Herald’s Bob Keyes wrote that, “In microcosm, the opening program represents Moody’s musical sensibilities. He wants his concerts to inspire the audience and musicians, and tries to include music that is both familiar and tested – the canon of the classical repertory – along with pieces that are lesser known but intuitively appealing as unique contemporary compositions.”

First to be performed was the first tone poem that Mr. Moody had ever conducted, Richard Strauss’ passionate Don Juan, Op. 20, TrV 156, which he considered “a great way to bring back the sheer power of an orchestra to an audience after several month’s break.” Next on the two programs was renowned and versatile bassist Edgar Meyer, a Grammy Award-winning bass player and composer whose musical expertise spanned several genres, including classical, jazz and bluegrass. He was then Visiting Professor of Double Bass at the Royal Academy of Music and at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia. At the Portland concerts he played Giovanni Bottesini’s 1845 Concerto No. 2 for Double Bass and Orchestra in B minor, followed by his own 1993 bluegrass-inspired composition, Concerto No. 1 for Double Bass and Orchestra in D Major. Each concerto lasted about 16 minutes in length. The programs also included Tchaikovsky’s melodic and emotional Symphony No. 4 in F minor, Op. 36. (HS:  No post-concert review of this concert has yet [late-2013] been spotted in the PSO Archives.)

Celtic fiddler sensation Eileen Ivers and her band, Immigrant Soul, sat in with the orchestra for two PSO Pops! Concerts that same week, on Saturday and Sunday, October 9 & 10. The pre-eminent star had last appeared in Merrill Auditorium with the Symphony during a pair of pops concerts in October of 2003 (HS: PCA had also brought the former musical star of “Riverdance” to Portland in 2002.). Prior to the concert, WERU community radio in Bangor and Blue Hill advised that the show would be “full of energy and inspiration.” The station’s announcement reported that Ms. Ivers had been “called ‘the Jimi Hendrix of the violin’ by The New York Times”, and that “fiddler Eileen Ivers is a major presence on both the traditional Irish and contemporary world music scenes.” Googling uncovered a claim that she had “been dazzling audiences with her multicultural and genre-bending performances for decades”, and that through major concert appearances with major orchestras for decades, had established herself as the “pre-eminent exponent of the Irish fiddle in the world”. (HS: Ironically, although with Irish-immigrant parents, she had been born in New York City---  in The Bronx!)

The two PSO Pops! Concerts featuring the fiddler and some amazing local-area dancers, with Music Director Robert Moody on the podium, began with the Symphony performing Sir Charles Stanford’s Irish Rhapsody No. 1, Op. 78. Googling reveals that it was  “Dedicated to the conductor Hans Richter (subsequently to be the dedicatee of Elgar’s First Symphony).... ...first heard at the Norwich Festival of 1902, the year of Stanford’s knighthood.” The remainder of the first half of the program, with Ms. Ivers and her quartet (vocalist and percussionist; tin-whistle, button accordionist  and also keyboardist; guitarist; and bass guitarist) consisted of Michael Starobin’s arrangement of Turlough O’Carolan’s  Planxty Loftus Jones; Keith Sammut’s arrangement of Ms. Ivers & Brian Keane’s melancholy Bygone Days, which was written for her parents; Ms. Ivers’ arrangement of the traditional Rights of Man set; Mark Suozzo’s arrangement of Ron Kavana’s  Reconciliation; and Mr. Sammut’s arrangement of the traditional  Immigration Suite. After  intermission the Symphony led off with Ralph Hermann’s Irish Medley. The soloist and her ensemble then joined in for the remainder of the concert:  Mr. Sammut’s ever-crescendoing and full-tilt-at-the-end arrangement of Pachelbel’s Frolics (HS: In this one, the Symphony musicians played the classical favorite canon straight, before it evolved into a lively Irish-fiddler reel.) ; Patrick Hollenbeck’s arrangement of Bill Whelan’s  Riverdance; and concluding with D. Levine’s bluegrass/blues-infused arrangement of the traditional Blizzard Train, borrowed from Ralph Blizzard’s Lost Train Blues. Judging from the nine-time winner of the all-Ireland fiddling championships’ reputation for delivering spirited excitement at her concerts, it is likely that an excited audience exited Merrill Auditorium after both of these PSO Pops! Concerts...... and then headed directly to the Emerald Isle.

A pair of November 9 Youth Concerts focused on musical interpretations of three composers’ impressions of Outer Space, during concerts titled “The Planets”. PSO Music Director Moody first introduced the Portland-area students who had been bused to the concerts to musical sensations reflecting “speed”, conducting John Adams Short Ride in a Fast Machine. (HS: I’m uncertain as to whether he likened the speed of the sports-car ride that inspired the composer to speed that rocket ships must have..... but if not–some of the students likely made the association on their own.) Next the Symphony performed Music from “Close Encounters of the Third Kind”, by John Williams. During this number, the students had been encouraged to practice a way to “communicate with aliens”, using hand signals to move through the musical scale  do-re-me, etc. The other pieces performed this morning were from the genesis of the theme for the concert, Gustav Holst’s The Planets. Mr. Moody explained the composer’s respective impressions of the planets:  Mars, the Bringer of War; Uranus, the Magician; and Jupiter, Joy and Happiness, the Bringer of Jollity. (HS: What a great theme this concert had, to encourage young students regarding classical music.)

That evening at a Classical Concert, Music Director and the Symphony musicians took another musical Short Ride in a Fast Machine , so on the same day Portland-area adults and students were separately whisked at high speed—but none were stopped by highway patrolmen. Mr. Adams’ work kicked off the night-time concert, followed by John Williams’ brilliant Suite from “Close Encounters of the Third Kind”, joined by the University of Southern Maine Chamber Singers offstage down under the orchestra pit, conducted by Robert Russell. All seven settings of Gustav Holst’s incredible The Planets, Op. 32/H 125, were then performed by the Symphony and the USM choral ensemble. The PSO’s pre-season promotional brochure had commented about this concert, “Powerful sounds and otherworldly images blur the lines between classic and popular music. A majestic program with ‘universal’ appeal!”. (HS:  The program was performed without intermission.)

A pair of PSO Pops! Concerts were performed at Merrill Auditorium, on Saturday and Sunday, November 13 & 14. Guest artist Steve Lippia was on hand for programs titled “Simply Sinatra”, and he performed interpretations of the great singer’s songbook. Advance information about the concert informed that celebrating the timeless talent of “Ol’ Blue Eyes” and “The Rat Pack”-era would feature songs including I’ve Got the World on a String, Fly Me to the Moon and My Way. Unfortunately, a final complete list hasn’t so far been located in 2013 when this paragraph is being written. Although the concert-program stated that the specific program was announced from the stage, Googling about Mr. Lippia’s concert appearances elsewhere revealed that he often belted out other Sinatra standards such as: I’ve Got You Under My Skin; Cheek To Cheek; The Lady is a Tramp; Mack the Knife; Just the Way You Are; That’s Life; Come Fly with Me; Luck Be a Lady; and The Best is Yet to Come. (HS: If you were there and know of any others,  give me a call and “sing out” those song titles.) Prior to the concerts, the Forecaster reported that, “The show isn’t totally Sinatra; Lippia also performs tunes made popular by Tony Bennett, Nat King Cole and Sammy Davis Jr.” (HS: PSO music director Robert Moody got into a relaxed “Sinatra mood” during the taping of his PSO-website “Online Insight” {as the formerly-named “webisodes” were now called] before these concerts, sporting his usual-casual open-collar shirt AND an open [untied] bow-tie flopped down from his neck; --Cool!.)

OK...... OK. It’s now 2014 and we can go “All The Way” with info about this concert. PSO Librarian has come to the rescue with a copy of the playlist for these two “Simply Sinatra” concerts, and the list is extensive. Frank Sinatra fans must have gone home happy. Frank Loesser’s Guys and Dolls was first, followed by the Nelson Riddle arrangement of Harold Arlen’s I’ve Got the World On a String. Cy Coleman’s The Best Is Yet To Come then led to Sammy Cahn’s All The Way, with next, Billy May’s arrangement of the Irving Berlin hit, Cheek to Cheek. Another Cy Coleman hit, Witchcraft, led to Ervin Drake’s haunting It Was a Very Good Year. Two additional Riddle arrangements, Cole Porter’s I’ve Got You Under My Skin, then Jerome Kern’s The Way You Look, Tonight; led to the pre-intermission hummer, Dean Kay’s That’s Life.

The second half opened with Lerner and Loewe’s Camelot. Next The Lady Is a Tramp, composed by Richard Rodgers and arranged by Nelson Riddle, was followed by a huge Sinatra hit, Sammy Cahn’s Come Fly With Me. Mr. Riddle’s arrangement of the Rodgers and Hammerstein ballad from “The King and I”, I Have Dreamed, preceded his arrangement of Bart Howard’s Fly Me To the Moon. The Merrill Auditorium audience undoubtedly wanted more, so they were next treated to the Sammy Cahn and Jule Styne hit, Saturday Night; David Mann’s In The Wee Small Hours of the Morning; and Frank Loesser’s Luck Be a Lady. Leading to the end of the concerts, Mr. Lippia sang three final Sinatra hits: Angel Eyes, by Earl Brent and Matt Dennis; Count Bassie’s You Make Me Feel So Young; and My Way, a  winner that four guys wrote together---  Paul Anka, Claude François, Jacques Revaux, and Gilles Thibault  (HS:  Maybe an early title candidate was “Our” Way?). There were no encores (HS:  Only kidding; .....only kidding.). In fact, there were TWO ENCORES:  first John Kander’s vamping New York, New York; and last, the Anka/Cahn collaboration, Let Me Try Again. Some concert, eh?!

During November, Lisa Dixon joined the PSO organization as Executive Director. A native of Minnesota and graduate of the Eastman School of Music (HS: Degrees in both Clarinet Performance and Music Education; she was also a post-graduate mentor with Eastman’s Arts Leadership Program.), she came to Portland from the Memphis Symphony Orchestra, where she had been chief operating officer since 2008. (HS: There, she got to know Robert Moody, the PSO’s music director, because he was a frequent guest conductor with the Memphis orchestra.) Prior to becoming COO, Dixon was the MSO’s Director of Operations & Community Engagement. She previously worked with the St. Paul (Minn.) Chamber Orchestra, and participated in the League of American Orchestras’ 2005-06 Orchestra Management Fellowship program, which trains orchestra managers. It was through the LAO program that she also knew her predecessor in Portland, Ari Solotoff, as she and Solotoff went through the program together. A stated first priority for Ms. Dixon was becoming immediately involved in the orchestra’s strategic planning process, which was in the early stages. Important to all at the PSO, having been through financial turmoil in recent years, was to build upon having finished the past two seasons in the black.

At the time her appointment was announced before the PSO season began, PSO Board President Gordon Gayer said, “After an intensive search, and with a unanimous vote, we have found the perfect person to lead the PSO into our next phase of health and growth. Lisa’s recent experience in the community engagement sphere will serve the PSO particularly well during this transformative time. We look forward to drawing on Lisa’s leadership and knowledge as we continue to strengthen as an orchestra and as a community organization.”

“I feel very fortunate that the PSO has been able to bring Lisa Dixon on board,” said Music Director Robert Moody. “I have had the privilege of working with her at the Memphis Symphony, and I am a big fan of the work she has done during her time there.”

Commenting on the fact that she was among a growing cadre of young artists who are refocusing their talents on arts administration, Ms. Dixon told reporters, “In college, I discovered this whole other side of music, which is administration. It’s another way to take my love of music and apply it in a different direction.”

She had met the orchestra’s musicians during a lunch at Merrill Auditorium on the Saturday preceding the Symphony’s  season-opening concert, and was introduced to the audience at that Sunday performance and also at the Tuesday concert  Newspapers quoted her as saying, “This is a great opportunity. The Portland Symphony has a terrific reputation, and everybody that I have met is so incredibly committed to the PSO. I’ve felt a real good energy, and am excited about working with the staff, the board and the musicians.” Various reporters also wrote,  “Among Dixon’s first priorities is digging into the orchestra’s strategic planning process, which is in the early stages. The orchestra has been through financial turmoil in recent years, though it has finished the past two seasons with a balanced budget. Dixon wants to build on the momentum and continue to help the orchestra find stability and growth.” An important quote from her was, “We’re going to look at how we can strengthen our relationships with the community.”

(HS: Looking ahead for a moment, Lisa Dixon French would prove to be a most successful executive director for the PSO. Her tenure would end five years later in 2015, due to the transfer of her husband to Nashville, TN. Notably, the PSO would financially operate in the black during each of the seasons that she was the Symphony’s CEO. This achievement was critical, especially following the period during the first decade of the century when continually operating in the red almost brought about the end for the Portland Symphony Orchestra. Especially noteworthy would be her abilities to balance the PSO’s fiscal goals, its musical goals, relationships with subscribers, office personnel recruitments, and the creation and implementation community outreach programs -- not to mention two extensions of the contract with the orchestra’s musicians. She would move on to initially unknown opportunities in Tennesee with much sincere and affectionate goodwill from the entire PSO family.)

At the time of the announcement of her appointment, learning about three aspects of her personal interests likely pleased local-newspaper readers:  First, “Dixon likes what she has seen of Portland and of Maine. She appreciates the active nature of people who live here, and has been impressed with the city’s cultural and culinary community.”; second, “Being a Minnesotan, she is not intimidated by the prospects of a Maine winter, and is looking forward to bringing her skis out of the closet.”; and third, “She’s also a dedicated runner. She has run seven marathons, and says her goal is to run a marathon in each state.” (HS: By early 2014, she was up to 19 marathons, run in 17 states. The latest as of this date was a January event in Baton Rouge, LA. Her goal remains----- to do all 50!)

With seven other orchestras the PSO co-commissioned a composition by Christopher Brubeck (son of jazz legend Dave Brubeck), which would receive its Maine premiere at Merrill Auditorium under the baton of Music Director Robert Moody on Sunday afternoon, November 21. This Sunday Classical Concert began with Paul Hindemith’s 1943 four-movement Symphonic Metamorphosis based on themes by Carl Maria von Weber. This was a work originally composed for a ballet collaboration with Léonide Massine, but withdrawn by the composer after some disagreements (HS: George Balanchine later choreographed the work for the New York City Ballet.). Next came a performance of Chris Brubeck’s Travels in Time for Three, a four-movement 27-minute work the PSO described in a news release as a fun piece written specifically for the talents of a versatile improvisation trio of Curtis Institute-trained musicians named Time for Three. The piece embraced many musical genres from jazz to country, Irish folk to funk, and gospel to classical. The Time for Three ensemble was on hand to perform the composition with the Symphony. After intermission the Symphony performed Leonard Bernstein’s orchestral work “West Side Story” Symphonic Dances., a work that brings the masterful Broadway show’s powerful themes to the fore. (HS: No post-concert review of this concert has been located in the PSO Archives as of late-2013.)

Including a preview performance open to ticket-buyers, eleven “Magic of Christmas” performances were scheduled for December this year. An advance Press Herald article advised that the PSO would “launch the 2010 edition of ‘Magic of Christmas’ on” Friday the 10th at Merrill Auditorium. The P-H reported that “Maestro Robert Moody will lead the orchestra through this annual seasonal romp... ...a production framed around the traditions, the story and the spirit of Christmas”, which the publication described as “a collection of seasonal favorites, holiday hits and classical, inspirational numbers”, adding that “Robert Moody has assembled a show similar to last year’s, which was his first as ‘Magic’ director. Overall, this is the 31st year the PSO has presented ‘Magic’.”

Further, the newspaper reported that “ ’Magic of Christmas’ 2010 will feature (HS: New Yorker) Joe Cassidy portraying Scrooge while providing all the voices in an abridged version of ‘A Christmas Carol’. He will also perform the Irving Berlin classic ‘White Christmas’ and other seasonal favorites”. The article mentioned that Soprano Suzanne Nance also was set to join Mr. Cassidy and Robert Moody for The Oratorio from “The Nutcracker”, teasingly described as a “newly discovered” vocal trio from the famed Tchaikovsky ballet and described by the P-H reviewer Hyde as “a patter song to the famous March of the Toy Soldiers”. P-H reporter Bob Keyes wrote that Mr. Moody had written holiday-themed lyrics for a comedy piece, infusing the classic with good humor and levity. “The real treat here”, he added, “is the chance to hear Moody sing. Classically trained, he sings like an angel but rarely gets the chance to demonstrate his vocal talents in front of his hometown fans. He gets that chance with ‘Magic’.” Ms. Nance, described by Mr. Keyes as “a world class soprano”, was well known to most Portland-area concertgoers  as producer and host of MPBN’s “Morning Classical” music program.

The reporter also said that the “Saco Bay Children’s Choir will sing Somewhere in My Memory from the movie ‘Home Alone’.” Camille Saucier directed the Choir, which was new this year.

The show opened with a Sousa-inspired setting of “Jingle Bells,” followed by Mr. Cassidy’s version of  the above-mentioned Berlin standard. That segment was followed by the 24-minute A Christmas Carol narrative, with Andrew Wagner playing the role of Tiny Tim this year. Looking both back and ahead, the P-H reporter wrote that, “Last year, the PSO commissioned Freeport-based Figures of Speech theater to create three giant puppets to help illustrate the story. This year, Figures of Speech has added two more: Mr. and Mrs. Fezziwig. As a result, the Fezziwig dance will be expanded considerably from last year.”

The show’s second segment was dedicated to the Christmas Story, with “The story of the nativity tak(ing) on a really great new burst of energy this year”, according to Mr. Moody. This section, right after intermission, would flow from O, Come All Ye Faithful to Benjamin Britten’s This Little Babe, and then to O, Holy Night. The section closed with Angels We Have Heard on High, but with the text from “Angels from the Realms of Glory”. Mr. Moody was quoted, “I saw this done on DVD with Renée Fleming and the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, and have wanted to do it ever since. This section this year also really needed a tremendous soprano”, which is why he chose Suzanne Nance to sing O, Holy Night and Angels from the Realm of Glory, along with the choruses and orchestra.

Back to Mr. Keyes’ article:  “The Spirit of Christmas is neatly tucked into the ending. The orchestra’s playful Sleigh Ride begins this section, followed by Moody’s lyrical new twist on ‘The Nutcracker’. Cassidy, who also plays guitar, will perform John Denver’s A Baby Just Like You. Dancing Santas make an energetic appearance, topped by Let There Be Peace on Earth and We Wish You a Merry Christmas.”

It was reported that “At first, Nance considered turning down the chance to join the ‘Magic’ cast. She has been awfully busy lately, and the prospect of 11 performances over two weekends seemed daunting. But she was overcome by the spirit of the program”, quoted as saying, “I thought about Robert Moody, and I thought about all of those singers and that great chorus that comes together, and I thought, ‘This is an opportunity to make festive holiday music with a great symphony and great people.’”

Others who contributed major roles during the production, all of whose names were featured in the concert program, were Portland Municipal Organist Ray Cornils, PSO harpist Jara Goodrich, Magic of Christmas Chorus Master Richard Nickerson, and Magic of Christmas Dancers choreographer Bethany Field. Jazz pianist Thomas Snow returned to the “Magic” team for his fourth year as an arranger and orchestrator.

On Thursday, December 23, the Portland Ballet Company presented two performances of its “Victorian Nutcracker” interpretation of the great Tchaikovsky work. Besides professional dancers from the company, both the matinee and evening events at Merrill Auditorium also included a small-orchestra ensemble, the Portland Ballet Nutcracker Orchestra, consisting of two-dozen or so musicians drawn from the PSO who were under the baton of Lawrence Golan.

From a P&L standpoint, the PSO’s guest-artist costs were kept down this season by only having one out-of-towner on the bill.


2011       A PSO news release informed that Maestro Robert Moody and members of the Portland Symphony Orchestra would return to Merrill Auditorium for a late-January Tuesday Classical Concert on January 25. The title-theme of the evening performance was “From Russia With Love”. The main event of the evening, opening the concert, was the world premiere of a new piece by Maine composer Elliott Schwartz, Diamond Jubilee. The orchestra co-commissioned Professor Schwartz, of Russian ancestry, to write the piece in honor of his 75th birthday. Before the concert the composer had written, “It seemed appropriate to compose the work as a memoir and to give it a title celebrating the number 75. It’s not exactly an autobiography, more like a retrospective look backwards at 75 years of human history in which my own life mingles with the larger panorama.”

Guest pianist Andrew von Oeyen then joined the orchestra for Sergei Prokofiev’s Piano Concerto No. 3 in C Major, Op.26. After intermission, the concert concluded with Dimitri Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 5 in D minor, Op. 47, the politically-charged 1937 composition with hidden messages underneath the crowd-pleasing lyricism. As was the norm for PSO classical events this season, a Concert Conversation was held prior to the concert, followed after the performance with a PostConcert Q&A with the artists and then an Afterglow cocktail reception at Grace Restaurant. (HS: Reviewer Emily Parkhurst’s article was the only one I spotted so far [late-2013], and it did not contain much enthusiasm for this concert, nor the Schwartz composition.)

At the PSO’s first Sunday Classical Concert of 2011, a single work was performed as the Symphony was joined by the Choral Art Society under the direction of its longtime music director, Robert Russell, professor of vocal arts at the University of Southern Maine School of Music. A monumental work that dates from the Baroque period and has resonated with audiences since its first performance in 1724, Bach’s Passion According to St. John, BWV 245, involved not just the Symphony and  the Masterworks Chorus of the Choral Art Society. Also participating in the performance of the sacred oratorio, composed by Bach for the Good Friday Vespers service of 1724, were  soloists Kendra Colton (soprano), Pamela Dellal (mezzo-soprano), John Aler (tenor), Laurence Albert (bass) and Troy Cook (bass) all Baroque specialists. Performing this Bach composition requires about two hours. The concert was presented on Tuesday evening, January 30, and no post-concert review has yet (late-2013) surfaced in the PSO Archives.

A note about this performance:  Earlier in his career when Robert Moody was considering a performance of the great Bach work elsewhere, a Jewish board member’s strong opposition to performing this work had startled the conductor. The issue was Bach’s use of New Testament text to describe the last days of Christ, viewed offensive by the objector because of anti-Semitic undertones. All this was reported by the Press Herald’s Bob Keyes as perspective to Mr. Moody and the PSO “hosting a series of (community) forums and discussions in Portland to bring attention to the controversy and provide context for the baroque-period music’s setting. ‘It seems to lend itself to a teaching moment’, said Moody, who will lead the orchestra and address the offensive text from the podium Sunday afternoon.” The PSO music director wanted to bring into focus the view as to how the Bach work transcended the worlds between great art and spirituality. His decisions to neither avoid again performing the work nor ignoring potential religious objections to it tell a lot about Mr. Moody, all positive.

In the PSO performance, the piece was sung in German with English supertitles, and the word “leute” (people) was substituted for the word “Juden” (Jews), a change also made by other presenters of Bach’s composition. The P-H quoted Mr. Moody explaining the “decision to alter the text as the right thing to do, noting that several pieces of music have received updates to remove or change offensive words, including work by Mozart and Broadway musicals. ‘Changing one word that could easily be considered in a negative light is a no-brainer’, he said.”

The 2010-2011 pre-season PSO promotional brochure had urged potential concertgoers to be ready to “Join the PSO and special guests for a musical celebration, steeped in good old-fashioned soul and rhythm & blues, marking the 50th anniversary of the Motown record label”. The lure was a pair of PSO Pops! Concerts on the weekend of Saturday and Sunday, February 12 & 13. The title-theme was “The Golden Age of Motown”. At the salutes,  Joy Lynn Matthews and Tituss Burgess were guest vocalists. In advance, Music Director Moody had talked about the concert including “lots of great Motown songs”, and he delivered on that promise. Many of the songs performed represented hits by a huge list of seminal American artists such as Lionel Richie, Martha and the Vandellas, Stevie Wonder, Michael Jackson, Diana Ross, The Commodores, Smokey Robinson, Marvin Gaye, Rick James, Mary Wells, the Temptations, The Supremes, The Jackson Five and others..

So far (late-2013) no copy of the concert program details has been located, so a complete listing of songs during the concerts cannot be presented in this THINGS-PSO since all numbers were announced from the stage. However, in a Press Herald review, Christopher Hyde wrote favorably about some, including renditions such as I Heard it Through the Grapevine; What’s Going On; Money (That’s What I Want); and Midnight Train to Georgia.

Mr. Hyde thought that the “orchestral arrangements... ...were fine and cleverly done”, specifically citing “a melodic cello solo from The Tears of a Clown, in the middle of Motown’s more characteristic driving rhythms.” He also added that “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough, a duet between Mr. Burgess and Ms. Matthews, ended the evening on a high note”, and (HS: Presumably referring to the entire concert.) that “the crowd at Merrill Auditorium on Saturday night gave a rousing standing ovation”.

Guest conductor Eckart Preu led the PSO in a Tuesday Classical Concert that was focused on “Great Germanic Music”, on March 8. The East German-born Preu was (HS: And still is, in 2013.) music director of both the Spokane Symphony and the Stamford Symphony. He had conducted at Carnegie Hall, the Sorbonne in Paris, and with the Jerusalem Symphony, and he and Robert Moody had known each other since 1995 when they studied conducting together. This evening’s concert included only two works, the first part of the program featuring 29-year-old soloist Tai Murray in a performance of Felix Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto in E minor, Op. 64, the composer’s last large orchestral work. She had graduated with honors from the University of Indiana Artist Diploma program, followed by completion of a three-year program at New York’s Julliard School of Music. When just 22, she had earned a spot in the professional residency program at the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, an ensemble with which she performed for three years. Earlier, when she was age 15 in 1998, Ms. Murray was selected the First-place Laureate of the inaugural Sphinx Competition, after which she was acclaimed as “superb” by The New York Times. In a pre-concert interview about the Portland concert, PSO Music Director Moody went a step further, publicly labeling her “phenomenal”. Although still young when she appeared with the PSO, the acclaimed guest soloist was known for her beautiful, mature phrasing and graceful bow work, enjoyed by both U.S. and international audiences during many guest appearances. (HS: A related note:  It was coincidentally ironic that Ms. Murray and Mr. Preu would a short time later find that they had somewhat reversed their nationality roles. As opposed to the German-born conductor then a resident of America, in early 2012 the Chicago-born violinist would move to Berlin, Germany.)

Following intermission, Mr. Preu conducted the PSO in Anton Bruckner’s Symphony No. 4 in E-flat major (WAB 104), a second popular work for the Portland audience this evening. The wonderful, powerful concert received two enthusiastic standing ovations from a capacity Merrill Auditorium crowd. Conversations with PSO staff revealed that the performance of the Symphony was “stellar” and that the musicians very much enjoyed playing under Mr. Preu’s leadership  (HS:  Related note #2:  Googling reveals that in March of the next year, to return the favor of the invitation for him to guest-conduct the PSO, Maestro Preu ceded his Stamford podium perch to Robert Moody for a pair of concerts in Connecticut.)

Robert Moody was away from Portland for five weeks, between the February 13 and March 20 concerts at Merrill Auditorium. While he may have been away, he was indeed very busy, serving as Artistic Director of Arizona Musicfest, the nation’s premier winter destination music festival, held in North Scottsdale, Carefree, Cave Creek, and through the Arizona Desert Foothills region. Looking at the website about the festival allows me to yield to the temptation to lift some info about it:  Founded in 1992, “The Musicfest Festival Orchestra consists of members of some of the nation’s top orchestras (Chicago, Boston, Detroit, National Symphonies, The Cleveland and Metropolitan Opera Orchestras, and many more).” Appointed in 2007, Maestro Moody leads this orchestra in four orchestral concert programs each February and March. Altogether, annually there are 15-20 classical, jazz, pops and musicales performed each season. Reported income for Arizona Musicfest in 2011 was $943,172. A fuller description of Arizona Musicfest provided by the organization:  “America’s Premier Winter Music Festival – presents top artists of classical orchestral, chamber, opera, jazz, Broadway, country-western and pop music in exceptional programs (created especially for Arizona Musicfest) at venues throughout the scenic desert foothills of Scottsdale and Carefree. At the heart of the Festival is the 60-member Arizona Musicfest Orchestra comprised of musicians from the nation’s finest orchestras conducted by Robert Moody, Artistic Director; the 100-voice Arizona Musicfest Chorus; and, the Arizona Musicfest Chamber Players.

Over the years of his tenure as PSO Music Director, many musicians and guest artists with whom Mr. Moody interfaced at Arizona Musicfest appeared (and will appear) at PSO events in Portland.

It is likely that many PSO subscribers felt confident that they knew which composers’ works would be performed when first learning of the beginning of the title-theme for the Sunday Classical Concert on March 20. It started with the familiar phrase, “Three B’s”. So.... of course, music of Bach, Brahms and Beethoven would be on the program, right?; ----WRONG!  Having some fun, Music Director Moody instead selected compositions written by another “Three B’s: Brahms, Britten and the Beatles”, the evening’s actual full title. This concert included four  works, starting with Brahms --  one of the original “Three B’s”. The program began with his Variations on a Theme by Haydn”, Op. 56a,  an 18-minute-long 1873 work consisting of a theme in B-flat major based on a “Chorale St Antoni”, eight variations, and a finale (HS: Mark Rohr’s program notes about the music told me that. Thanks, Mark). Next was Benjamin Britten’s Nocturne, Op. 60, a song cycle which Googling reveals was written for tenor and seven instruments and strings. P-H reviewer Christopher Hyde wrote that “The seven soloists, principals of the orchestra, excelled, providing both counterpoint and obligato to the poems, and establishing the predominant atmosphere of each.” He also said that Portland-based and Eastman School of Music-trained tenor John McVeigh “shone... ...brightly” during this work.

After intermission, Mr. Moody conducted what the newspaper reviewer referred to as composer  ”Peter Schickele’s Beatleset of seven relatively obscure songs”, which he thought must “have been a labor of love” effort by the usually-fooling-around man behind PDQ Bach. The P-H article included extra praise, mentioning that “Tenor John McVeigh sang the lyrics beautifully with all the vocal ornamentations.” The concert concluded with Mr. Britten’s Variations and Fugue on a Theme of Purcell, Op. 34 (The Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra). The reviewer took a bit of a snipe, expressing the view that “Moody took it at such a fast tempo that the flute and piccolo ensemble was ambushed at first, but otherwise it worked perfectly.”

The theme-title of the PSO’s pair of Youth Concerts on Tuesday, April 5, was a return to the always-appropriate-for-student-concerts “Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra”. Music Director Robert Moody was on hand to conduct a program that differed somewhat, but was 50-percent the same as the similarly-theme-named Youth Concerts in October of 2008. Opening the concerts was the Introduction section of Benjamin Britten’s composition that had been performed during a Sunday-Classical concert two weeks earlier. Next the Symphony played Tchaikovsky’s Serenade in C Major for Strings (Movement 2, Waltz), followed by Paul Dukas’ Fanfare from “La Péri” for Brass Quintet. John Williams’ Nimbus 2000 from “Harry Potter” then provided the students an opportunity to focus on the PSO woodwind section. Christopher Rouse’s Ogoun Badagris for Percussion, inspired by Haitian drumming, featured another PSO section. Also performed was James Horner’s Music from “Avatar”, and the premiere of Prelude for Piano, a solo composition written and performed by Silas Price (HS: Then a student at Skowhegan Area High School), the 2011 winner of the 2nd annual Young Composers Festival Competition sponsored by the Portland Symphony Orchestra Composition Competition in partnership with the Maine Music Educators Association. Currently (2014), Silas Price is enrolled at the university of Lowell, with aspirations to become engaged in the Music/Recording industry. Mr. Britten’s Fugue Finale from the “Young-Person’s” theme-work of the concert concluded each of the performances.

Bank of America awarded the Portland Symphony Orchestra a $5,000 grant to make it possible for over 400 students from four Portland schools to attend this spring Youth Concert, for free. Fourth and fifth graders from Portland’s predominantly low-to-moderate income schools — Ocean Avenue, Reiche, East End Community, and Presumpscot —received free transportation and tickets to one of the performances.

This concert marked the first time that the Symphony’s musicians wore tee-shirts on stage. No, it wasn’t “Tuesday Super-Casual Day”. The tee-shirts were purchased by the PSO to help students at Youth Concerts to more easily comprehend the distinctive sections of the orchestra. Respective sections all wore the same color; thus all the members of the string, brass, woodwind and percussion sections wore colors distinguishing them from the other three sections. (HS:  That idea proved to be very successful, and since that time it has been common for the PSO’ers to don their special tee-shirts during at least one Youth Concert each season.)

The Symphony’s lone classical Concert in April was also on Tuesday the 5th, with a theme-title of “Seasons and the Sea”. This evening Music Director Robert Moody had designed a program that would celebrate the arrival of spring and the beauty of the seasons and the sea. Several advance newspaper articles used or paraphrased a PSO news release, mentioning that to begin the concert would be German Romantic composer Felix Mendelssohn’s 1832-premiered Calm Sea and Prosperous Voyage, Op. 27, inspired by the composer’s first journey at sea and two poems by Goethe. The piece takes the listener out to sea on a voyage that begins with ominous calm before becoming more tumultuous, and concluding with an expression of relief at the sight of land and a celebration of a completed journey. The middle two pieces on the program were by 20th century composers, first Astor Piazzolla’s Estaciones Porteñas (Four Seasons of Buenos Aires). The New England Entertainment Digest mentioned that this “little-known piece, deserving of greater recognition, is filled with great rhythm, humorous references to Vivaldi’s Four Seasons, and incredible beauty. This is a significant work, filled with complex arrangements and inspired by Piazzolla’s classical training as well as his love of the tango.” The guest artist featured in the Piazolla work was violinist Corine Brouwer, the concertmaster of the Winston-Salem Symphony, referred to by the PSO as Mr. Moody’s “other orchestra”, where he was also the music director. P-H reviewer Hyde wrote that she “was amazing... (in a piece) ...which contains four ferocious tangos in moods varying from savage mockery to intense lyricism”. The guest soloist had also received high praise for earlier solo performances of composer Piazolla’s Estaciones Porteñas with the Winston-Salem Symphony. (HS: The PSO’s concertmaster, Charles Dimmick, engaged in a “swap” of sorts earlier in the year, having performed with the W-S orchestra, performing solos during both Berg’s Violin Concerto and Rimsky-Korsakov’s Scheherazade.)

After intermission Maestro Moody conducted the Portland Symphony Orchestra and a trio of top violinists in a performance of Christopher Brubeck’s 2002 Interplay for Three Violins & Orchestra. The trio was comprised of Ms. Brouwer, Mr. Dimmick and the principal of the PSO’s Violin II section, Benjamin Russell. The second work by Chris Brubeck performed by the PSO this season (HS: The other was Travels in Time for Three, in November.), Interplay explored the relationship between folk music and classical. The Winston-Salem Journal had earlier written that “this piece skillfully blends influences of classical, Celtic and jazz in a rollicking manner, giving each soloist a juicy part until the music ends up in what Brubeck calls ‘this Latin place’. “The P-H’s post-concert article was glowing in praise, describing the work as “a kind of ‘Dueling Banjos’ for three violins representing classical, Celtic and jazz styles, respectively, with each trying his or her hand at what the others are doing. The orchestra sets the stage with a sound and rhythm for each segment. The work is not only a display piece for each soloist but also a complex intermingling of textures. It was beautifully written, brilliantly played and a great deal of fun. The composer was in the audience but his bow couldn’t be seen through the standing crowd.” (HS: It was nice to read confirmation of my guess as to audience reaction to Mr. Brubeck’s composition; I assumed that concertgoers in attendance this early-April evening did some active and happy toe-tapping as the violinists ‘rollicked’ on the stage.)

The program concluded with Claude Debussy’s La mer (Three Symphonic Sketches). The local-area newspaper articles noted that this was “a testament to Debussy’s lifelong love of the ocean that strongly evokes the sounds of wind, waves and even the ocean’s spray. The piece, which opened to poor reviews, has become the most popular and frequently performed of Debussy’s works.” (HS:  A rare [and unfortunate] happening occurred during the performance of the Debussy work. Mr. Moody had to restart the final movement, Dialog of the Wind and Sea, when noise backstage interrupted the pianissimo opening bars. It’s a sure bet that the conductor was justifiably “one mad maestro” over this incident.).

The week prior to a pair of PSO Pops! Concerts on Saturday and Sunday, April 9 & 10, the Press Herald carried an announcement about a special offer from the Portland Symphony Office. It said, “Fans still holding tickets to (Elvis) Presley’s scheduled performances at the Cumberland County Civic Center on Aug. 17 and 18, 1977, will get in free to the symphony if they bring their ticket to the Merrill box office at least one hour prior to the concert(s).” The P-H went on to remind readers that Presley died in advance of those civic center shows. While at first this special offer might not seem to make any sense, the Portland Symphony Orchestra actually had a pertinent reason, for Music Director Moody, the PSO staff and the Symphony’s musicians were up to something big:  there was going to be a “whole lotta shakin’ goin’ on” at Merrill Auditorium this weekend, for the PSO-ers just knew--- that............ Elvis Lives!”

Actually, the PSO concerts were going to be tributes, and were theme-titled “Elvis Lives”, featuring noted Elvis impersonator Elvis Wade and his band, along with a portion of the Portland Symphony Orchestra. Leading the PSO Pops was guest conductor Robert Franz, music director of the Boise Philharmonic and associate conductor of the Houston Symphony (HS: Currently [2014] he has added to his responsibilities; now also Music Director of the Windsor Symphony Orchestra, and the Fairbanks Summer Arts Festival Opera and Orchestra.) . With hip-swingin’ Mr. Wade at the forefront, Mr. Franz was going to see that Merrill Auditorium was filled with the energetic, entertaining and ever-lasting sounds of Elvis’ greatest hits. The King of Rock n’ Roll-impersonator was jam-packed with gyrations, song and fun. Born as Wade Cummings, Elvis Wade grew up in rural Tennessee and began entertaining as Elvis at the age of 9. A PSO news release stated that “Elvis Presley himself saw the show in 1976 and gave it a standing ovation.” The Forecaster’s Scott Andrews wrote assurances that the guest performer had “the looks, the costume, the voice and the moves that recall the King of Rock n’ Roll, who was this country’s most sensational and ground-breaking musical superstar from the mid-1950s into the mid-1960s.”

Since the concert-program informed attendees that the numbers would be announced from the stage, it looked for a while as though yours truly would be unable to list any of the numbers that were performed (HS: At least no list with 100% certainty that all had been performed.). But, despite my having failed on literally hundreds of occasions to successfully Google for PSO-classical-concert newspaper reviews, you’ll never guess (1) who was at the concert, (2) who wrote a review and (3) whose article showed up as #17 when I Googled “Portland Symphony Elvis”. Well, the answer to all three is.......... the P-H’s “Classical Beat” columnist, Christopher Hyde!

Mr. Hyde started off by writing, “Audience members, nearly all Elvis fans, began to fancy, or to convince themselves, that it was the real thing – reaching on stage to touch the star’s hand, or swooning at his gyrations. I never thought much of Elvis when he was alive and never attended a concert, but he was unavoidable if one listened to the radio at all, or happened to see a show on television. Based on that limited experience, Wade seems to have the moves and mannerisms down pat, while the vocals are uncannily similar.” The reviewer commented that he “felt sorry for the downsized orchestra”, continuing that they “got in the act only occasionally, and when they did were overpowered by a tremendous sound system – a tower of five large speakers on each side of the stage – hooked up only to the singer and his band of drummer, piano and two guitars. The sound system also ran tapes of Elvis’ group, the Jordanaires, as background. Wade was front and center at all times, except when the spotlight wavered, and behind him, on a raised platform, was the drummer and his entire kit. The drums were flanked by a grand piano on the left and another platform, with the guitarists, on the right. The result was that the orchestra was invisible as well as inaudible.” He later added that “They did make a valiant effort with some jazz trumpeting and in an arrangement of What Now My Love, to the rhythm of Ravel’s Boléro, that worked very well.

The P-H article stated that “Nearly all of the program was devoted to Elvis’ greatest hits, from Hound Dog to” lots of others. An interesting added comment in the article was that Mr. “Wade has an arresting stage presence too, telling jokes, drinking RC Cola and promising to try Moxie, but with a little too much of the good-ol’-boy shtick. A touch of irreverence would help, but I have a feeling that he thinks he is Elvis, or at least channeling him.”

The only other numbers that Googling revealed in Elvis’ (HS:  Sorry, I mean Mr. Wade’s.) program were Return to Sender, Jailhouse Rock and Can’t Help Falling in Love. If you MUST know what others were “for sure” performed, I’ve got two words for you, and they aren’t “Elvis Lives!”. They are............ “Go Google”.

Chats about this concert with folks who had attended this performance were universal:  The PSO’s Elvis event wasn’t a top-notch concert. I’m guessing that there is zero-chance that Mr. Wade will be invited back to Merrill Auditorium again. Let’s just leave it at that.

With springtime in full bloom, Music Director Robert Moody chose “Love Is in the Air” for a theme when he planned the PSO’s 2010-2011 season-finale concerts. The two Classical Concerts at Merrill Auditorium were on Sunday and Tuesday, May 1 and 3. Two of the three pieces on the program revolved around ancient classic love stories by legendary couples. The opener was Richard Wagner’s Prelude and “Liebestod” (“Love-death”) from “Tristan und Isolde”, an opera based on an ancient romantic tale from the time of King Arthur’s England.

Next on the program was a performance of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s Concerto for Bassoon and Orchestra in B-flat Major, K. 191/186e, performed by the PSO’s principal bassoonist, Janice Polk. This marked the second time she had played the work with the Portland Symphony Orchestra. The Forecaster’s Scott Andrews wrote that “She performed this elegantly melodic piece some years ago, but a blizzard kept the audience at home and the hall was nearly empty. So it’s nice that Moody has scheduled a reprise – and that he scheduled it for May.” Ms. Polk reminisced that the first time, in 1999,“there were maybe 100 people in the audience” at The Merrill, adding “I hope the weather will be better this time around.” The P-H reported that Ms. Polk had been a member of the orchestra since 1992, getting her first job subbing with the PSO in 1984 when Bruce Hangen directed the orchestra. She subbed off and on until she won a 1992 audition to become the orchestra’s principal bassoonist. At the time of this 2011 concert she ranked near the middle in terms of seniority. Also at this point in time, five members had been playing with the PSO since the 1960s, the longest-tenured dated to 1963.

Maurice Ravel’s monumental pastoral work, Daphnis et Chloé, was last  on the program, a major work which the Forecaster reporter wrote was “based on an ancient Greek pastoral poem depicting romance between a handsome young shepherd and a beautiful sheep-herding maiden”. Joining the PSO for the rustic and radiant Ravel work were two vocal groups: Brunswick-based Oratorio Chorale and Midcoast’s Vox Nova Chamber Choir. Their role was to add wordless choral lines that Ravel uses to gorgeous effect. Once again, neither the PSO Archives nor extensive Googling have yielded a post-concert newspaper review of this concert as of late 2013.

At some point during 2011, longtime PSO contra-bassist Lynn Hannings received a Special Recognition Award for her bow making efforts from the International Society of Bassists. Earlier, in 1989, the former graduate of the New England Conservatory had been granted both a Fulbright Scholarship and the Annette Kadé Fellowship for the Advanced Study of the French School of Bow making in Paris, France, with Bernard Millant, the world renowned authority of French Bow Making. During conversations, Lynn spoke fondly of important professional encouragement about expanding her musical horizons that she received from former Symphony Music Director Paul Vermel. Her bow-making expertise, although naturally related to her music-making expertise, is certainly evidence of her horizons having been greatly expanded. She attributes her performing career to when she long ago attended New York Philharmonic Young Peoples concerts and was hooked one day when Gary Karr performed “The Swan” from Carnival of the Animals. She tells of going home and telling her parents that she now dreamed of playing the bass--  and gives important credit to their enthusiasm and support that helped to make her dream a reality.

Debby Hammond is elected to the first of what would become two terms as PSO President.

This year the City Council voted to extend the $2 per-ticket surcharge on events at Merrill Auditorium, to finance the City’s share of the refurbishment of the Kotzschmar Memorial Organ at Merrill Auditorium, as well as some needed new capital improvements for the hall. FOKO pledged to raise at least half of the total $2.5 million required for the organ repairs and refurbishment.

On Monday evening, July 4, city officials estimated 50,000 to 60,000 people filled the Eastern Promenade for what by now had become the biggest event Portland hosts each year, the second annual “Fourth of July Stars and Stripes Spectacular”. At a “Patriotic Pops” concert preceding and accompanying a huge fireworks display, the Portland Symphony Orchestra was conducted by Robert Moody. The concert was carried live on 94.9 WHOM. Each time the PSO maestro brought down his baton to start one of the many patriotic numbers traditional at July-4th concerts in America, the Symphony musicians revolted and instead they all played nursery rhymes (HS:  Of course, that’s total hogwash on my part...... and of course, the concert was filled with traditionally-American marches and music from Broadway shows and Hollywood films. Unfortunately, no copy of any program list or a concert hand-out has been found.)

One regular PSO musician did not perform with the Symphony at the Eastern Prom. Instead of playing before 50,000+ in Portland, John Tanzer (Principal Timpani) opted instead to perform before two bigger crowds in Boston (with literally millions more watching on TV) as one of the  percussionists in the Boston Pops Fireworks Spectacular, one of the nation’s premiere July 4 celebrations, on July 3 – 4 on the Esplanade in Boston.

Stephen Lord returned for a third summer PORTopera production, two performances of Gaetano Donizetti’s ”La Fille du Régiment”, on July 28 & 30.

A PSO news release from about this time announced that “On Sunday, July 31, members of the Portland Symphony Orchestra will don their finest Red Sox jerseys and make their way to Hadlock Field for a first-ever collaboration with the Portland Sea Dogs.” At the 1pm game versus the Altoona Curve, “The PSO Brass Quintet, which include(ed) three Principal players of the Symphony... ...provide(d) the pre-game entertainment for members of the Sea Dogs’ Hood Kids Club. Based on the PSO’s KinderKonzert program, this (was) an entertaining, interactive musical experience with kids encouraged to have fun while listening and learning about the instruments. PSO trumpet player Betty Rines will throw out the first pitch of the game.” The members of the PSO Brass Quintet were Principal trumpet John Schnell and Mrs. Rines; Carolyn Cantrell, Horn; Nicolas Orovich, Principal Trombone; and Don Rankin, Principal Tuba.

On September 22, Executive Director Lisa Dixon unveiled the PSO’s completed Strategic Plan in a 19-page document that listed five major Strategic Goals:

1- Engaged Artistic Core: Create meaningful Musical Experiences -- Promote the artistic growth of the full orchestra and individual musicians by encouraging creativity and innovation

2- Creating Community -- Build broad-based relevance and community value through a network of mutually beneficial partnerships

3- Provide Lifelong Musical Learning Opportunities -- Provide meaningful music educational programs and encourage lifelong musical learning

4- Building Financial Strength through Patron Relationships -- Identify and cultivate mutually beneficial patron relationships that increase revenue and build financial strength

5- Increase Organizational Capacity: Collaborative Culture -- Empower and mobilize PSO family members to work collaboratively in the ongoing planning, implementation, and evaluation of the Strategic Plan

Looking ahead towards once again ascending the PSO podium in October, during a late-September interview with the Press Herald’s Bob Keyes, Music Director Robert Moody again spoke with enthusiasm about the upcoming 2011-2012 season, saying, “This lineup of concerts, featuring great classics and fabulous Pops tributes, and introducing exciting young artists and composers, really allows the orchestra and the audience to celebrate all aspects of music, stretching us to embrace all genres.” He continued, “I’m particularly excited to shine a spotlight on the Kotzschmar organ, which really is a unique and important asset to our City, at our season finale concerts.”

In an earlier article, Mr. Keyes had written, “Next to running rehearsals and leading the orchestra in performance, Moody views his role as concert programmer as the most important aspect of his job. His decisions about the music that the orchestra will play directly reflect the personality of the orchestra itself, as well as his own ideas about music and the concert experience. He also factors in feedback that he receives from the audience, and Moody said Portland music fans are particularly vocal and outspoken – in a good way.” The reporter quoted him further:  “People have strong opinions, and they let me know what inspired them and they let me know what they don’t like,” he said. “I feel that (the) 2011-12 season is more reflective of the dialog that has so enjoyably been happening between me, the orchestra and the audience.”

The season began with a pair of Classical Concerts at Merrill Auditorium, first on Sunday afternoon and then duplicated on Tuesday evening, the 2nd and 4th of October. Three works were the program. In its pre-season promotional brochure the PSO had described the concert:  “Michael Torke’s Bright Blue Music is as vibrant and colorful as its title promises, while the ‘Emperor’ Concerto is moving, powerful and simply beautiful. One of the most inspiring masterworks of the orchestra literature, Brahms’ Symphony No. 4 is a passionate and unforgettable opening to the concert season.” The P-H critic, Christopher Hyde, wrote that Music Director Moody and the Symphony delivered, the first sentence of his post-concert report being:  “The Portland Symphony Orchestra opened its 2011-2012 season with three crowd-pleasers...”

About Mr. Torke’s work, with some reservation, the reviewer expressed that “Bright Blue Music is a cheerful, repetitive piece in D-major, which is related to the color blue. The orchestration is complex, without being particularly skillful, and the traditional tonality leads to a large number of passages familiar to anyone acquainted with the 100 Top Hits of Classical Music. It lasted nine minutes and ended on a solo high note.” Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 5 in E-flat Major, Op. 73, (“Emperor”) was performed by Awadagin Pratt, whose performance the reviewer found “considerably more interesting... ...sometimes quirky but always (a) fascinating interpretation... ...which earned a standing ovation that for once was entirely deserved.” (HS: The “for once” phrase relates to the critics oft-expressed disgust with too many standing-O’s from PSO concertgoers.) An interesting sidelight supplied by the PSO staff was that when Mr. came to Portland for the first time, he was relatively unknown. It was the late 1980s, and he came up from Baltimore for a concerto competition sponsored by the Portland Symphony Orchestra. He finished third. By 2011 among the most esteemed concert pianists of his generation, he returned a Naumburg International Piano Competition champ and had been awarded an Avery Fisher Career Grant.

The two season-opening concerts concluded with Johannes Brahms Symphony No. 4 in e-minor, Op. 98, the last of his symphonies. The 2011-2012 PSO season was off to a great start.

As a personal note, the second of the season-openers was the first time Sue and I had ever attended a Portland Symphony Orchestra concert, having moved to Maine during the summer. Expecting a high-quality community orchestra (obviously, we hadn’t done much homework about the PSO) that as longtime classical music enthusiasts we would “take what came” and enjoy it........ we were truthfully blown away by the quality of that first experience. From the pre-Concert Conversation (We still refer to them as “chalk talks”, the term used for Stanford basketball pre-game sessions where supporters hear insights from coaches. Obviously, if you didn’t know it before, we moved from Northern California.), to the concert, to the Q&A after the concert, we were absolutely delighted with everything. And then....... seeing Merrill Auditorium, about which we knew nothing---- Wow! ----what a great night this was for us.

Before the start of the season, Music Director Moody had told reporters that one of the concerts that he was most looking forward to was an appearance by the U.S. Naval Academy’s Men’s Glee Club, at a pair of PSO Pops! Concerts on Saturday and Sunday, October 8 & 9. He had been trying to bring the USNA Men’s Glee Club to Portland since he got the job as music director a few years ago, but found that it was hard to find time in the club’s schedule. “It will be a deeply patriotic program”, Mr. Moody had said. “I’ve been saying to everyone, ‘Just wait. You’re going to be jaw-dropped.’ “ He added, “They also sing incredibly well. When they graduate, many of them will head off to the Persian Gulf and aircraft carriers and other places of deployment. Some will lose their lives in combat. It gives you pause.” The P-H said that the PSO’s admiral had been moved when earlier conducting the ensemble elsewhere, and “expects similar goose bumps at the upcoming performances. He promised this concert will be ‘one of the grander moments of the PSO. They are incredibly powerful, as only an 80-voice men’s chorus can be. They sing their faces off, and they sing for the pure love it of it.’ “

For the P-H, USNA graduate Ron Bancroft wrote, “the Glee Club didn’t as much give a concert as burst onto the Merrill stage with a power and enthusiasm that left most of us dazzled. The collaboration with the PSO was a fine blend of classical choral music, nautical themes from Broadway and Gilbert and Sullivan, and songs in the best of Navy and military tradition. All of this from a group of midshipmen who are not music majors, as PSO Music Director Robert Moody pointed out. There are no music majors at Navy, simply future naval officers who love to sing and who have been impeccably prepared by the academy’s Glee Club director, Aaron Smith.”

The program opened with a grand choral work, Edvard Grieg’s Landkjending (“Landsighting”). Then, Leonard Bernstein’s New York, New York from “On the Town” boomed forth. The concert’s first half continued with Sir Arthur Sullivan’s With cat-like-tread from “The Pirates of Penzance”; Richard Rodgers’ There is Nothin’ Like a Dame from “South Pacific”; Nicholas Rimsky-Korsakov’s The Sea and Sinbad’s Ship from “Scheherazade”; Richard Wagner’s Norwegian Sailor’s Chorus from “The Flying Dutchman”, also his Pilgrim’s Chorus from “Tannhauser”; and concluding with Charles Gounod’s Soldier’s Chorus from “Faust”. (HS: Sometimes the PSO accompanied the chorus, but not entirely.)

After intermission the Symphony performed Mr. Rodgers Victory at Sea. About the Saturday-evening concert, reporter Bancroft wrote that Maestro Moody dedicated this “to World War II veterans in the audience and asked all of them to stand. There must have been close to a dozen of those proud men who stood tall – all well into their 80s. They were led by a particularly tall naval aviator from the Pacific Theater, former President George Herbert Walker Bush. Moody acknowledged the president, and noted that he had been the youngest naval aviator to serve in the war. President Bush and his wife, Barbara, had contacted the PSO earlier in the week to inquire if tickets were still available. Some were found. The Bushes insisted on no ceremony. They did go backstage before the concert to meet the midshipmen – and to get a pre-concert version of “Anchors Aweigh”.

The remainder of the concerts consisted of Bob Lowden’s arrangement of Armed Forces Salute (A “rousing” rendition, wrote Mr. Bancroft.); John Williams’ Hymn to the Fallen from “Saving Private Ryan”; Franz Biebl’s Ave Maria; Reverend John B. Dykes’ beautiful and haunting Eternal Father, Strong to Save; and finally, Peter Wilhousky’s arrangement of Battle Hymn of the Republic. (HS: Again, sometimes the PSO accompanied the chorus.) Performing together, sometimes during the final number it seemed as though the Symphony musicians’ strength almost matched the might of the Midshipmen. The Press Herald article concluded, “that brought the audience to its feet for an outpouring of joy and foot-stomping enthusiasm such as is seldom seen at the Merrill. By the time we had joined the midshipmen in their encore – what else but ‘America the Beautiful’ – the spirit of ‘76 was all but universal. A longtime usher told me that it was the most moving and emotional concert he had witnessed in his 25 years as a volunteer.”

On Saturday, October 15, Robert Lehmann conducted the Portland Ballet Company Orchestra at a performance at the Westbrook Performing Arts Center. The event, the result of a commission from the Portland Ballet Company, was the debut of Missourian Kirt Mosier’s The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. During a conversation when I asked about this show, PBC Founder and Artistic director Eugenia O’Brien commented that “This was one of the more important ‘PSO’-involved productions” in the ballet company’s history. Tom Parchman was orchestra manager, enlisting a 14-member ensemble, the majority of which consisted of musicians who were regular PSO’ers (HS: Although it should be noted that this was not an official PSO event.). Ms. O’Brien recalls that it “was an outstanding production... ....and the two men (Lehmann and Mosier) had a lot of conversations about melding (composer’s) thoughts... ....with those of the choreographer, Nell Shipman, along with surprise elements that occurred in certain passages, and even confirming ‘typos’, etc.” In another conversation, this one with Mr. Lehmann, he credited Ms. Shipman with locating and then contacting Mr. Mosier after she had heard some of his other compositions on the internet. That certainly was some most fortunate web-excursioning, which paid handsome dividends for the Portland Ballet Company.

The second Sunday Classical Concert of the season, on October 23, featured the PSO’s principal violist, Laurie Kennedy, then celebrating her 30th season as a member of the PSO. Before she came to center stage, Maestro Robert Moody conducted Samuel Barber’s Essay No. 1, Op. 12. Ms. Kennedy then performed Ernest Bloch’s Suite hébraïque, a performance that was panned by the P-H’s Christopher Hyde. (HS: Reading his review, he seemed to have been particularly perturbed about her performance being “preceded by a movie of her thoughts about music, the viola and the Portland Symphony,” about which he wrote, “the segment had absolutely no place in a concert of classical music, and indeed may have prejudiced the relatively sparse audience against Kennedy”. As my grandfather would say, “you don’t want your baseball to go into that man’s yard!”). I personally know someone who studied the viola at the Eastman School of Music, and she liked the performance. Last on the program was Franz Schubert’s Symphony No. 9 in C-Major, D. 944 (“The Great”). For the record, Mr. Hyde also didn’t express warm thoughts about that, nor the Barber performance.

On Tuesday, October 25, a pair of morning Youth Concerts were performed at Merrill Auditorium for students aged 8-12. The theme was “Beethoven in the House”, and the kids had a chance to learn about one of the most famous composers of all time – and also hear some of the greatest music ever written. L. van B. was on the stage, actually actor Mark Honan, who had appeared in plays at the Good Theater and Portland Stage. Students had a chance to get a glimpse into the life and music of the great composer through on-stage dialogue between Moody and Beethoven. A “student who was doing a report about Beethoven” was also on the stage, helping (and being helped by) Mr. Moody, as neither had enough facts about the composer to fully interview the composer. The Sun Journal reported before the events that featured would be some of the composer’s most famous works, including the First Movement of Symphony No. 5; Fur Elise; Moonlight Sonata and selected movements from a variety of symphonies and concertos. Guest pianist was 16-year-old Amanda Raymond of North Waterboro.

Inland Hospital in Waterville sponsored the PSO for a Fall Pops Concert on Saturday, October 29th. As a premier promotion for the hospital’s annual benefit event, this fall the PSO replaced other ensembles which had performed in prior years. The concert was held at the Messalonskee Performing Arts Center in Oakland, since the Waterville Opera House was closed for renovation. Robert Moody’s selections included George Gershwin’s Summertime from “Porgy and Bess” and Michael Jackson’s “Thriller”. A report spotted said that special guest soprano was Suzanne Nance from MPBN’s “Morning Classical Music” program. Proceeds were applied toward  the purchase of new equipment for the Birthing Center at Inland Hospital and Inland RehabWorks clinics.

Subsequent to gleaning the above information from internet newspaper sites, the hospital provided a concert program for this date, so now (November, 2013) much more info is known about the music this evening. The performance began with Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5 in C minor, Op. 67, first movement..... starting with the widely known bump-bump-bump-BAH! Next was I Could have Danced All Night from “My Fair Lady”, by Frederick Loewe, likely sung by Ms. Nance (HS: Unfortunately, the concert program does not specify which numbers she sang with the PSO.). Louis Prima’s Sing Sing Sing! Followed, the mid-1930s big band favorite that helped raise Benny Goodman and his band to stardom. Miss Nance likely returned for “Summertime”. The first half of the concert concluded with another movement from the Beethoven work that began the concert, his Symphony No. 5, fourth movement.

After intermission the Orchestra played the Opening from Also Sprach Zarathustra, by Richard Strauss, followed by Charles Gounod’s Funeral March of a Marionette. Giacomo Puccini’s Musetta’s Waltz from “La Bohème” must have also engaged the talents of Suzanne Nance, prior to the Symphony performing Carter Burwell’s gentle  Bella’s Waltz from “Twilight”. Michael Jackson’s hit led to Leonard Bernstein’s Some Other Time from “On The Town”, which likely was the final song by the guest soprano. The concert ended with John Williams’ “Star Wars”; Main Title theme.

While getting to Waterville wasn’t any particular problem for the Symphony musicians, conditions changed drastically after rain turned to wet snow –a record amount– (HS: For so early in the season..... AND this particular “season-opener snowstorm” was still only four weeks into fall!) of wet and heavy white stuff. Some of the PSO’ers who drove reported heading back down I-95 to Portland with their windows open so they could better see the side of the road through very heavy squalls.

Down East publications carried the following advance notice about a Sunday-afternoon October 30 Discovery – Youth Concert:  “Discover a Halloween experience filled with symphonic thrills and chills for the whole family!  Maestro Robert Moody leads the ghouls and goblins of the PSO in some of the greatest ‘spooktacular’ music ever written for orchestra, including the Funeral March of a Marionette by Gounod, music from Berlioz’ Symphonie Fantastique (HS: Dream of a Witches’ Sabbath), and The Chill of the Orchestra by American composer Russell Peck. Dancers from Portland Ballet will join in Bella’s Lullaby from “Twilight” and lead the entire audience in the zombie dance stylings of Michael Jackson’s Thriller.” A program from that concert reveals that other works performed were segments from:  Richard Strauss’ Also Sprach Zarathustra; Paul Dukas’ The Sorcerer’s Apprentice; and Sergei Prokofiev’s Suite No. 1 from “Cinderella”. Kids, adults, and the Symphony musicians were invited to come in costume, and many came early for games, crafts, a hands-on instrument “petting zoo” and lots more family-friendly musical fun. To begin the concert, PSO music director Robert Moody immediately set a light-hearted mood, rising from a coffin dressed as Dracula.

This was the PSO’s first-ever so-called Discovery Concert, and was titled “Hall-‘O-Ween Symphony Spooktacular”. It was distinct from PSO Youth Concerts that for years were held on several week-day mornings during the season, and to which busloads of students were brought by participating schools. This Discovery Concert was designed to give the whole family a chance to hear live music of the PSO together, and tickets were only $10 apiece. Concerts were set to be an hour long and engage the audience for an enjoyable and educational journey with the full orchestra. Meant to be fun and light, they would not be without serious music. A success right from Maestro Moody’s first downbeat, in years to come PSO season-schedules would include more and more Discovery Concerts. Prior to going into Merrill Auditorium, the instrument “petting zoo” was held in the facility’s large rehearsal hall. There, kids could try out various musical instruments, with a number of PSO musicians on hand to demonstrate and give tips to the kids.

Reflecting back on this initial Discovery Concert during a conversation in 2014, Robert Moody earnestly said to me, “I really wanted that series for Portland”, knowing how successful the similar decade-long series that he conducted in Oklahoma City had been. Upon first coming to the PSO, he realized that a family-priced Discovery Series could only be started here if new funding was forthcoming, and he was especially delighted when the Sam L. Cohen Foundation (HS:  Founded in 1983 by the Portland community leader and successful businessman) offered $25,000 to kick-start the pilot event. “As I’ve said many times, we have to reach people age 4 to 104”, the PSO’s prescient music director would remind me during our later chat.

Emphasizing how truly important that initial Discovery Concert was, when we were chatting in 2014, I asked the Symphony’s maestro the unrelated question “What BIG-Concert PSO memories stand out for you?”, he included it among his top-three recollections. He ranked the February-2009 Renée Fleming Benefit Concert as #1; the May-2010 concert when he conducted the Mahler Symphony No. 2 ("Resurrection") without a score as #2; and the October-2011 Hall-’O-Ween Spooktacular Discovery Concert as #3.

A composition by Mason Bates, a rising star on the composer scene and a close personal friend of PSO Music Director Robert Moody, opened the PSO’s November 1 Classical Concert at Merrill Auditorium. A description of his Rusty Air in Carolina found Googling describes the modern composition as “an orchestral work that uses electronics to bring the white noise of the Southern summer into the concert hall, pairing these sounds with fluorescent orchestral textures that float gently by.” Writing in the Forecaster, Scott Andrews informed readers that “this piece recalls the sounds of katydids and old-time blues. ‘Rusty Air’ was written a few years ago to mark the appointment of Robert Moody as maestro of the Winston-Salem Symphony.” No Maine newspaper post-concert revue has been located in the PSO Archives (HS: Or via Googling, a loss that unfortunately more-often-than-not seems to be the case when digging through internet sources looking for reviews of PSO concerts.). Reporter Andrews’ pre-concert article included the observation that “Perhaps the most intriguing work on the program is Samuel Barber’s Knoxville: Summer of 1915, Op. 24, a celebrated symphonic exposition that is set to a text by James Agee. Soprano Sarah Jane McMahon will join the PSO for this sad and evocative piece by one of America’s foremost 20th-century composers.” A New Orleans Opera star in her native city, Ms. McMahon was a Yale grad and a regular at the New York City Opera. Gustav Mahler’s Symphony No. 4 in G-major was the major work on the program, the most popular of the orchestral works by this late 19th-century giant of the German musical tradition.

Promising young American conductor Christopher James Lees,  who had served as an assistant conductor for multiple concert programs with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Detroit, Atlanta, St. Louis, Kansas City, and Charlotte Symphonie, and was then Assistant Professor of Conducting and Associate Director of Orchestras at his alma mater, the University of Michigan, guest conducted in November. He wielded the baton during a pair of PSO Pops! Concerts on Saturday and Sunday, the 19th and 20th. An experienced vocal duo who had long worked together, Nat Chandler and Teri Dale Hansen, were featured for two “Greatest Hits of Broadway” concerts, events that saluted songs from the Great White Way’s last quarter century. Prior to the Merrill Auditorium concerts, the Forecaster told readers that “Songs by Andrew Lloyd Webber (would be) especially prominent, with numbers from ‘Phantom of the Opera’, ‘Evita’ and ‘Cats’. Other selections include songs from ‘Chicago’, ‘Les Miserables’, ‘Victor/Victoria’, ‘Hair’, ‘Mary Poppins’, ‘Rent’, ‘A Chorus Line’, ‘Jersey Boys’ and ‘Mamma Mia!’

In a report for the P-H, the reviewer credited Mr. Lees conducting “of both the orchestral works and the accompaniment of the singers, as precise, nuanced and effective.” Just reading the headline above Mr. Hyde’s article, “‘Greatest hits’ or not, PSO delivers bright Broadway show”, told that he left happy. He began, “Not many conductors would think of Always Look on the Bright Side of Life, from Monty Python’s ‘Life of Brian’, as an introduction to the second half of the program and an encore, with the singers doing it (relatively) straight. Could one consider that one of the ‘Greatest Hits of Broadway’? And who cares?  The program began with the orchestra playing Selections from Andrew Lloyd Webber’s ‘Phantom of the Opera’. The score lends itself remarkably well to treatment by a large orchestra, and the PSO did it full justice.”

“Phantom” was also featured in two vocal offerings – The Phantom of the Opera and Music of the Night. During the concerts the Symphony, frequently supporting the guest soloists, also treated concertgoers to I Could Have Danced All Night; Tonight; All That Jazz (sung and danced by Mr. Hansen); Bring Him Home; Aquarius; and just before intermission, a rollicking Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious!, a number with more letters than the alphabet. The second half began with the Symphony playing a Victor/Victoria Medley.

The P-H article cited two other well-performed numbers, “A cutting self-portrait of the good witch Glenda, Popular from ‘Wicked’, (which) was paired with a romantic and sexy duet, Suddenly Seymour from ‘Little Shop of Horrors’.” Tying in with the article’s headline, also expressed in the article was, “ A good example of the fine but lesser-known songs featured in the program was a beautiful and well realized duet from ‘Next to Normal’How Could I Ever Forget?

This holiday season, the PSO readied to perform its 32ndMagic of Christmas” series of concerts, Robert Moody’s third stint on the “Magic” podium. As had been scheduled during his first two years conducting Maine’s favorite musical holiday extravaganza, again eleven performances were set. And this time, the brochures and advertisements about the annual festive-season’s show truly did advise about an upcoming extravaganza, substantially more than great music, a decorated set on the stage and the usual wonderfully-glistening Christmas trees in Merrill’s lobby. The P-H’s Bob Keyes wrote, “Each year, we hear about how things will be different, new and improved, better than ever. This year, those claims may have more substance than usual.”

This brand-new production featured aerialists and acrobats from Cirque de la Symphonie (who had performed with the PSO in October 2009), as well as the 80-voice Magic of Christmas Chorus, organist Ray Cornils performing preludes as the audience arrives prior to nine shows, and (HS: during alternate weeks) the all-male a cappella groups Bowdoin College Longfellows or Maine Steiners. Before the two Sunday-afternoon performances, students from the Maine Suzuki Association performed pre-concert programs. Beforehand, Music Director Moody spoke of his excitement for the plans for “Magic of Christmas 2011”, quoted in a PSO news release. “We’ve got a whole new production in store, and I can’t wait!  We’ll bid a temporary farewell to our acclaimed version of ‘A Christmas Carol’ (don’t worry, it will be back in years to come), and instead welcome the dazzling aerialists of ‘Cirque de la Symphonie,’ who will illuminate the traditions, story, and spirit of the Christmas season through their breathtaking performances.”

The Free Press wrote about “high-flying aerialists (who) will evoke the soaring spirit of the holidays, performing stunning acrobatic feats to seasonal and classical favorites. Hundreds of voices (including the maestro’s) will lift in sacred song, along with the awe-inspiring power of the mighty Kotzschmar Organ, all in celebration of the Christmas season.” During a five-minute interview shown on WCSH6-TV, PSO Concert Manager Joe Boucher told of “aerialists flying over the heads of the audience; and above the heads of the orchestra”, a three-dimensional effect that required special rigging and exact timing from backstage musclemen running back and forth with ropes attached to pulleys that would raise and lower the performers at critically-precise moments in the music.

A Forecaster review later described “a program that takes the show to new heights – quite literally”, cleverly describing “Angels we have heard on high. And acrobats we have seen on high.” The newspaper said that “Alexander Fedortchev and Shana Lord are mesmerizing performers with vast experience flying over orchestras around the world.” At the shows, the Cirque de la Symphonie duo performed graceful acrobatic feats to complement the music for Tchaikovky’s Waltz of the Flowers, The Rose and Rocket Sleigh, a composition by Maine-native Delvyn Case.

A Wheaton College announcement told of the Portland Symphony Orchestra’s playing of Rocket Sleigh, described as “a new original Christmas overture for orchestra” by the school’s music professor, “on its way to becoming a new holiday favorite among audiences and orchestras across the country.” This grand number was performed by the orchestra with visual stimulus provided by a group of Santa’s elves (HS: The Longfellows or Steiners in costume.) plus the two acrobats. Wheaton proudly said that “since 2009, Rocket Sleigh has been performed by over 25 orchestras from Alaska to Florida”, (HS: And now...... “to Maine”.).

The PSO’s publicity also included, “Audiences will celebrate cherished traditions with Music from ‘The Nutcracker’, festive carols, and the Hallelujah! Chorus from Handel’s ‘Messiah’, while high-flying aerialists evoke the soaring spirit of the holidays, performing stunning acrobatic feats to seasonal and classical favorites. Hundreds of voices (including the versatile and multi-talented Maestro’s) will lift in sacred song, along with the awe-inspiring power of the mighty Kotzschmar Organ, all in celebration of the miraculous story of the Christmas season.” And Mr. Keyes added that Mr. “Moody will step out from behind the podium to sing a solo during this year’s program – The Rose, the title song to the 1979 movie made popular by Bette Midler.” Overall, the P-H reporter observed, “This year’s ‘Magic’ has less shtick and schmaltz, and more substance and musical authenticity. The theatrical flair that been part of recent ‘Magic’ programs has a place, and provides a nice accent to the music. But it can also distract from the core of the program, which is beautiful music that enhances the experience of Christmas.”

The Sun Journal told readers to ready themselves for “daring feats of acrobats, the joyful sound of Christmas carols and the orchestra’s holiday traditions.” The S-J article also told of “PSO members performing Leroy Anderson’s Sleigh Ride while trying to outdo one another with their festive and comical attire; and an audience sing-along.” Other numbers performed at this year’s “Magic” performances were: A Christmas Festival, by Leroy Anderson; the Magic of Christmas Chorus singing Maestro Moody’s arrangement of Simple Holiday Joys, originally composed by Bob Ost and Jerrold Fisher; arranger Robert Wendel’s Overture to A Merry Christmas, also his Little Bolero Boy; Mack Wilberg’s arrangement of The First Noel; the a cappella ensembles’ singing For Unto Us a Child is Born; the rendition by the chorus of Mr. Moody’s arrangement of Theodore Baker’s Lo, how a rose e’er blooming; and the conclusion, the full cast presenting I Am But a Small Voice by Odina Batnag and Roger Whittaker – arranged by Mr. Moody.

It was justified that the Merrill box office staff was very busy. After the final curtain came down, the P-H reported that, “This year, about 15,000 people bought $532,000 worth of tickets to see the Portland Symphony Orchestra’s ‘Magic of Christmas’concerts. Those numbers far exceeded the symphony’s goal, said executive director Lisa Dixon. The ticket income represents roughly 20 percent of the symphony’s total budget of $2.5 million.”

An innovative approach to fundraising was conducted at the “Magic of Christmas” concerts. Nicknamed the “$10 Candy Cane Campaign,” the Symphony asked “Magic” attendees to donate $10 towards funding a Discovery concert, the affordable family-friendly programs featuring the full orchestra and pre-concert activities for kids with musicians. The PSO’s first Discovery concert, just held in October, had been a sellout and generated tremendous positive response. “Magic” audiences responded enthusiastically to this campaign, which raised almost $40,000 towards future Discovery concerts.

On Friday, December 23, a mid-sized pit orchestra contingent of two-dozen or so PSO’ers formed the Portland Ballet Nutcracker Orchestra for matinee and evening performances of the “Victorian Nutcracker”. The ensemble of musicians was under the baton of Sean Newhouse, who conducted Lawrence Golan’s adaptation of the musical score of this popular Tchaikovsky work. A friend of the arranger, the assistant conductor of the Boston Symphony Orchestra stood in for Mr. Golan, who had previously conducted it many times in Portland. Eugenia O’Brien, founder and artistic director of the PBC, told the P-H that "Lawrence was torn by the opportunity to go to China, but thrilled he could call Sean and get a response that allowed him to do his China trip knowing that he was assisting us by getting someone of that caliber who truly acknowledges the greatness of the music."


2012 Guest conductor Christopher Warren-Green was on the PSO podium for a January 24 Classical Concert at Merrill Auditorium. (HS: He might have had temptations to lead off with Come Fly With Me, since his pair of trans-Atlantic podium assignments, as both Music Director of the Charlotte Symphony Orchestra and Music Director and Principal Conductor of the London Chamber Orchestra, undoubtedly made him an elite-frequent-flyer with lots of bonus-miles.) The program began with Jean Sibelius’ melodic Karelia Suite, Op. 11, inspired by the peaceful and heavily-forested areas along the eastern end of the Gulf of Finland. (HS: Sometime after the 2011-2012 PSO season schedule was first released early in 2011, a change was made insofar as this concert was concerned. The Karelia Suite was substituted for the originally-scheduled 1988 Peace Overture of Russell Peck.)

Guest soloist Steven Moeckel next came on stage for another Sibelius work, Concerto for Violin in d minor, Op. 47, the only concerto ever written by the composer and considered to be “one of the great works in the concerto literature” (HS: So said P-H reviewer Hyde, who criticized Mr. Moekel’s performance as never “taking fire”.). The energetic, yet passionate and expressive soloist was well traveled, with numerous symphony appearances both in the U.S. and internationally. He was then the concertmaster of the Phoenix Symphony, and had many times crossed paths with PSO Music Director Robert Moody. Prior to the concert he had been interviewed by the Press Herald’s Bob Keyes about one of his excursions. A follow-on article reported that “Steven Moeckel spent a couple of winter weeks in Helsinki a few years ago. The experience helped him appreciate the music of Finnish composer Jean Sibelius and his influences. ‘Just being there and seeing the surroundings, the natural and extreme beauty of the country, I grew to appreciate Sibelius much more. He was a very dark composer,’ said Moeckel. ‘But darkness should never be confused with warmth. There is so much passion and warmth in his music, and gut-wrenching melodies.’ “ The article continued, “When he hears it now, Sibelius’ music reminds Moeckel of Finland’s ‘vast snow-covered hills and the dark silhouettes of the trees. You see lakes and ice and everything mirrored on frozen lakes.’ The environment is not unlike what Moeckel will encounter when he arrives in Maine to perform the PSO concert. This will be his first excursion to the Pine Tree State. ‘I’ve always wanted to go to Maine, though maybe not in January,’ he said. ‘But it’s perfect for this concert. We’ll all be in the right mood.’”

The concert concluded with the second half taken up by a performance of Antonín Dvorák’s Symphony No. 7 in D minor, Op. 70., another strongly nationalistic composition. (HS: A fun side note to this concert.... Mr. Warren-Green brought a bit of extra glamour along with him when he made his Portland appearance. With a long history of conducting for the royal family of Great Britain, the previous April he had gained extra professional notoriety during performances associated with wedding festivities of Prince William and Kate Middleton.)

In his review, Mr. Hyde expressed views that “The Karelia Suite began the program on a high note”, but criticized the performance of the Dvorák symphony, saying that the Orchestra “was unable to do more than produce some memorable moments.” The audience response during this concert was enthusiastic.

Another guest conductor rehearsed and conducted the PSO at the season’s sixth Classical Concert, presented on Sunday, January 29. Dmitry Sitkovetsky, music director of the Greensboro Symphony Orchestra, was on the Merrill podium. He was also going to be the afternoon’s violin soloist. Born to classical-musician parents in Baku, Azerbaijan, when 22 years old and after training at the prestigious Moscow Conservatory, he had fled the USSR and immediately enrolled at Julliard. (HS: His mother, the great Russian pianist Bella Davidovich, emigrated a year later and also came to Julliard, however to accept a teaching position. She also continued her active international performing career. Ms. Davidovitch could have told her son about Portland, for she had wow-ed two Portland audiences with season-opening performances with the PSO in 1989.) After his time at Julliard, Mr. Sitkovetsky built up a successful career as a renowned violinist. By now he also had a flourishing career as a conductor, and over the years had held a number of positions with international orchestras, including the Russian State Orchestra between 2002 and 2005. With Greensboro and Winston-Salem only 30 miles apart, he was a close professional colleague of Robert Moody.

The program opened with Gioacchino Rossini’s Overture to “The Barber of Seville”. Next Mr. Sitikovsky performed John Corigliano’s Suite from “The Red Violin”, which P-H reviewer Christopher Hyde wrote contained “variations... (that) ...sounded terrifically difficult.” The article also said “Sitkovetsky did them full justice, providing the most interesting sections of the suite. His fine encore of the Bach Chaconne from the Partita in D-Minor actually added to what had gone before”. The concert concluded with Felix Mendelssohn’s jolly (HS: Googling reveals that the composer used that description, in a letter to his sister.) Symphony No. 4 (“Italian”) in A Major, Op. 90. Mr. Hyde applied a playful phrase to the performance of the latter work: “The performance transformed the old warhorse into a lively colt.”

The post-concert review column in the P-H contained sincere praise regarding the concert. “It is not very often that one hears any symphonic concert without a low spot. The Portland Symphony Orchestra, under guest conductor Dmitry Sitkovetsky, accomplished that feat Sunday afternoon at Merrill Auditorium, before a larger-than-usual audience.”

During what a pre-season marketing brochure described as “The ultimate Valentine’s Day extravaganza”, on February 14 the PSO performed some of the most evocative, romantic music ever written for orchestra, highlighted by readings from the Shakespeare play that has inspired artists and audiences for centuries. Maestro Moody opened the program with Pyotrr Ilich Tchaikovsky’s Romeo and Juliet Overture-Fantasy, TH 42, CW 39. Next, pianist Henry Kramer was the featured soloist in Mozart’s exuberant piece with a sublime and romantic Andante at its heart, Concerto No. 21 for piano in C Major, K. 467. The talented Cape Elizabeth native was a National Chopin Competition winner, recently graduated from Juilliard School, and was working toward an advanced degree at Yale (HS: Speaking to a small group of subscribers before a PSO rehearsal, smiling broadly, he said “Toshi says ‘Hello!’ ”). He was especially active as a chamber musician and had appeared at numerous venues throughout the U.S. The evening concluded with six selections from Sergei Prokofiev’s ballet score, Romeo and Juliet, Op. 64., first performed in 1938. Interspersed throughout and corresponding with the music, four actors from Portland Stage narrated selections from Shakespeare’s play.

Two “Benny Goodman Tribute” concerts were performed at Merrill Auditorium during the weekend of Saturday and Sunday, February 25 & 26. Guest conductor was the very busy Teresa Cheung, Music Director and Conductor of the Altoona Symphony Orchestra, Resident Conductor of the American Symphony Orchestra in New York City and also Music Director of the Bard College Orchestra. A native of Hong Kong, Ms. Cheung earned her MM in Conducting from the Eastman School of Music. Featured soloist was Dave Bennett, who the concert-program described as a “Twenty-something clarinetist”, also as “Benny Goodman reincarnated”. (HS: The young clarinetist may not have been aware of the fact that in 1969, Benny Goodman had appeared with the PSO on what was then the Portland City Hall Auditorium stage.) Mr. Bennett brought his four-piece band and vocalist to sit in with the PSO for the PSO Pops! Tributes to “The King of Swing”. While the program was announced from the stage, various Portland newspaper articles referenced: Moonglow; I’ve Got Rhythm; Bugle Call Rag: Body and Soul; Blues in the Night; Do right (like the other men do); Let’s Dance; These Foolish Things Sing, Sing, Sing; and a Goodman Medley. An enthusiastic audience was extra-rewarded with two encores: Goodbye, and When the Saints Go Marching In.

Regarding how P-H reviewer Hyde viewed the concert, a second article by him followed the first, mentioning that “My column and review on Benny Goodman and his impersonator, Dave Bennett, generated three types of mail: People who loved the concert and enjoyed reliving it in print, those who thought I was unkind to Bennett, and those who thought I was unkind to Goodman.” (HS: While I didn’t read the first report, it’s obvious that the reviewer didn’t give this concert an A+ grade. A pretty good clarinetist myself “back when”, I attended the Sunday afternoon concert and had lots of fun.)

Robert Russell brought the Masterworks Chorus of the Choral Art Society to Merrill Auditorium to sing with the Portland Symphony Orchestra at a well-attended Classical Concert on March 13. At the outset, Robert Moody said from the podium that the theme of the concert was storytelling – of a poem, the Latin Mass and a fantasy narrative. He then left the stage, unobtrusively slipped into the chorus to be “just another singer”, and Mr. Russell took the podium, to lead the musicians and vocalists in a performance of Johannes Brahms’ Schicksalslied, Op. 54 (“Song of Destiny”). The work was sung in German, with subtitles displayed on a screen for the benefit of most everyone in the audience.

Next, with Mssrs. Moody and Russell reversing roles and the latter now in the chorus, the PSO music director conducted Francis Poulenc’s Gloria, a setting of the Roman Catholic “Gloria in excelsis Deo” text, one of the composer’s most celebrated works. It is regarded as a joyous and surprisingly vivacious celebration of faith. Guest soprano Jessica Cates and Portland Municipal Organist Ray Cornils, assisted with important contributions. Although he had some criticisms, P-H reporter Christopher Hyde wrote that the “performance, by both chorus and orchestra, had much... ...clarity and life“. The headline above his article was “Orchestra tells stories colorfully”.

A pre-season release from the PSO said that Nicolai Rimsky-Korsakov described Scheherazade, Op. 35, as “a portrait of fairy-tale images”. After intermission, wonderfully aided by numerous solo violin passages performed by “the voice of the storyteller”, Charles Dimmick, Maestro Moody and the Symphony perfectly put fairy-tale images into the minds of everyone in the audience by performing this great work. Besides many violin delights, features also included respective delicate musical exchanges between the PSO concertmaster and both harpist Jara Goodrich, and separately with Rachel Braude on piccolo (HS: An extra bonus for concertgoers who were “in the know” was that Mr. Dimmick and Ms. Braude are husband and wife.). After the concert, reviewer Hyde wrote that “The orchestra saved the best for last – an impressive rendition” of Rimsky-Korsakov’s masterpiece.” He added, “Every section of the orchestra (was) called upon for virtuoso playing in this tour-de-force of orchestral color, and all met the challenge. Moody was able to build excitement steadily throughout, until the recapitulation of the ‘Sea and Sinbad’ theme at the end was overwhelming.” He concluded his article, “After the last few gentle bars, Dimmick received cheers and each section of the orchestra a prolonged standing ovation.” (HS: This was a great evening; recalling it brings a smile to my face.)

On Sunday, April 15 at Merrill Auditorium, Music Director Robert Moody conducted a Classical Concert program that 100-percent featured orchestral compositions. Amy Oshiro-Morales, a member of the Philadelphia Orchestra, was guest concert master on this occasion (HS: In early 2014, her husband –also a member of the Philadelphia Orchestra, would be a clarinet soloist with the PSO.). The afternoon began with, Three Pieces for Orchestra, WAB 97, by Anton Bruckner, compelling and youthful works that are excellent examples of the Austrian composer’s lighter symphonic style. Music Director Moody chose this to be followed by Argentine composer Osvaldo Golijov’s Sidereus, a piece that the Grammy award-winning composer wrote in 2010, and that was commissioned in part by the Portland Symphony Orchestra. A PSO news release said that it was inspired by Galileo’s Sidereus Nuncious astronomical treatise published in 1610. It accordingly features melodies that are evocative of the sky, at once ominous and also heavenly. After intermission, Vaughan Williams’ Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis took the audience through a variety of musical themes, flowing between modern and contemporary classical sounds. The program concluded with a work that is constantly moving in new directions with suspenseful harmonies and melodic instrumentation, Beethoven’s Symphony No. 4 in B-flat Major, Op. 60. Mr. Moody included this work to be a perfect conclusion to the program’s integration of several dramatically different yet equally inspiring symphonic masterpieces.

A Press Herald edition in advance of a pair of mid-April PSO Pops! Concerts announced, “There will be no Spandex when the musicians in the Portland Symphony Orchestra channel their collective ‘70s psyche to pay tribute to the rock band Queen. In its final Pops concert(s) of the season, the orchestra will perform the music of the legendary British group accompanied by a tribute band fronted by vocalist Michael Shotton, who briefly sang with the band Boston.” Reporter Bob Keyes wrote that “PSO Music Director Robert Moody was a fan growing up in South Carolina. ‘I recall fondly being at middle school parties and singing We Will Rock You at the top of my lungs... ...I think the music, which has so many great elements of the both the ‘70s and ‘80s, is incredibly orchestral – dare I say operatic? – in nature. So the marriage between the music of Queen and the PSO is literally seamless.” The concerts had the theme, “One Vision: Music of Queen”, a package of the group’s music arranged for orchestra and chorus that highlights Queen’s best songs, many in what has long been noted as the band’s grandiose or “operatic” style.

Unlike other tribute artists, Mr. Shotton was not coming to Portland to recreate the image of the flamboyant Freddy Mercury who fronted Queen. “It’s all about the music and the orchestra,” the P-H reported him saying. “I try to be the host and just bring the music to life. I sing the stuff, but I’m not going to put buck teeth in and wear white leotards. It’s not going to happen.” The article continued, “Similarly, Moody made it clear he has no intention of donning Spandex or playing a role. ‘Wow. No’, he answered. ‘But I will let my inner product of the ‘80s come flying through.’ “ The concerts were performed on Saturday and Sunday, April 28 & 29.

More about the concerts: The P-H article said that Mr. Shotton, described by some as a “human dynamo” was an artist who “travels with a full band, including back-up singers, and has performed the music of Queen with symphony orchestras in other cities.” The University of Southern Maine Chamber Singers performed during the second set, under the direction of Robert Russell. Professor Russell said that he agreed that the music of Queen is both complex and inspired. He reportedly prepared his singers for this show with the same enthusiasm that he would for a classical music concert. The article continued, “ ‘Freddie Mercury’s choral writing is quite good and quite substantial. We have had a blast preparing this concert’,” Russell said. “ ‘It is much more than an occasional do-be-do-be-do that we sing. The lyrics are meaningful to the students as well as the choral sonorities that he has created. The music is really well conceived, and I have had as much fun rehearsing it as the students have singing it. I think the concert is going to be stunning’.” Prior to the concert the PSO advised potential concertgoers that “Selections include favorites such as Another One Bites The Dust; Under Pressure; We Will Rock You<; We Are the Champions; and Bohemian Rhapsody among others. The P-H’s Steve Feeney attended, reporting that Who Wants to Live Forever and You Take My Breath Away were on the program. He also wrote that “Chamber Singer Jeremiah Haley, no shrinking violet, was called down to the front of the stage to take the lead on Somebody to Love and got the crowd fired up with his soulful style.”

Sandwiched between the PSO’s final concerts of the 2011-2012 season were a pair of Youth Concerts for students on May 7, virtually all bused to Merrill Auditorium’s entry marquee entrance on Myrtle Street. The theme was “Sounds Like Art: Painting, Poetry, Performance”, focusing on how music can be associated with other arts. Prior to the events, publicity went out advising that K-8 students who submitted art work would see selected copies shown above the orchestra on a screen while Richard Danielpour’s Towards the Splendid City was played. Also, another student’s poetry, inspired by Antonio Vivaldi’s Concerto No. 1 in E major, Op. 8, Winter “L’a Primavera” (Spring), Movement 1, from “The Four Seasons”, would be selected after review and that student would read their poem from the stage. Third, at these two concerts for students, once again in partnership with USM School of Music, the Portland Symphony Orchestra under the direction of Robert Moody offered a winner of the USM Concerto Competition a chance to perform with the Symphony. The student-winner this year was trombonist Matthew Cloutier, who played the 3rd Movement of the Trombone Concerto, written by Danish composer Launy Grøndahl in 1924. Other works performed included Igor Stravinsky’s Infernal Dance of Kastchel and the Finale from “Firebird Suite”; and Klaus Badelt’s Pirates of the Caribbean. Portland Municipal Organist Ray Cornils, on the Kotzschmar Memorial Organ, was also featured at the two Youth Concerts, playing alongside the PSO for Movement No. 4 of Symphonie Concertante for Organ and Orchestra, Op. 81, by Joseph Jongen.

The Portland Symphony Orchestra concluded its 2011-2012 season by dedicating their two final performances to honoring the centennial year of the Kotzschmar Organ. Music Director Robert Moody conducted two festive programs celebrating the city’s mighty organ, which was played by Ray Cornils, the Municipal Organist for the City of Portland. The Sunday and Tuesday “Kotzschmar Centennial Celebration” performances were at Merrill Auditorium on May 6 & 8.

The program began with NEC and Julliard graduate Richard Danielpour’s Toward the Splendid City, which the PSO’s pre-season brochure described as “an ‘On the Town’-like celebration, (a) festive and brassy” musical portrait of New York City and a tribute to its Philharmonic Orchestra. Joseph Jongen’s Symphonie Concertante for Organ and Orchestra followed, a work a PSO news release called “lyrical and colorful while simultaneously tranquil and mysterious”, and which Mark Rohr wrote, concludes with “the superhuman perpetual-motion organ part... ...matched by the power of the orchestra... ...(with) the Symphonie Concertante Go(ing) out in a blaze of glory”.

The post-intermission work, and the PSO’s final composition performed this season, was Camille Saint-Saëns’ Symphony No. 3 in C minor, Op. 78, “Organ” (HS: This had last been performed at Merrill Auditorium in November 2004, with Toshi Shimada on the podium and Mr. Cornils at the console.). Of this performance, P-H reviewer Hyde praisingly wrote, “What is there to say about the Saint Saens, except that it is a peak musical experience that has to be heard live? (Music Director Robert) Moody’s interpretation, which treated the organ as simply a more powerful instrument of the orchestra, was almost flawless, beginning with the opening crescendo, which added voice after voice in different timbres until the ensemble reached full volume. I have seldom seen an audience more silently attentive as it was in the emotional Poco Adagio of the first movement. The finale, with orchestra, percussion and organ at full volume, seemed about to make Merrill Auditorium start vibrating into Casco Bay.” Referring to the second performance, and specifically to people yet without tickets, he wrote, “Hope that there are still some seats left for tonight’s concert.” (HS: Sue and I were living in Portland by this time, and attended this concert. What A Show!)

Shortly thereafter, a Week-Long Centennial Festival Celebration of the Kotzschmar Memorial Organ was held, with FOKO presenting a myriad of events.

The festival preceded dismantling of the Organ, prior to it receiving a major overhaul, and being removed from the auditorium for two years. Sixty percent of the $2.5 million restoration cost was to be financed by a City bond, backed by continuation of the $2 ticket surcharge on Merrill events. Thorough readers of this THINGS-PSO will recall that tax previously generating enough to pay off more than $2 million of municipal bonds issued in the 1990’s when Merrill Auditorium was renovated. (In recent years, as much as $300,000 had been generated annually by Merrill ticket surcharges.) --Related auditorium upgrades at this time, funded by the city through ticket-surcharge revenues, also included replacement of orchestra ceiling battens ($10,000), painting of auditorium ceiling ($90,000), purchase of a video projector and screen ($15,000) and an enhanced light & sound system ($250,000).

At this time, the then-current City Hall website listed Merrill Auditorium seating capacity at 1908.

Debby Hammond is re-elected as PSO President.

On the financial front, the PSO Board received the satisfying report that at the end of Fiscal Year 2012, the Symphony had $1,173,300 cash in the bank, more than enough to cover accounts payable of $50,000, advance ticket sales of almost $687,000 and next-season sponsor payments of almost $62,000. There then was no line-of-credit drawdown outstanding. The PSO was now, indeed, living within its means.

Looking back over this THINGS-PSO during its drafting stage, one can get the impression that the laying out of financial information about the Portland Symphony Orchestra over the preceding dozen years appears a bit haphazard. Organizing and presenting P&L and balance sheet details is never a smooth proceeding, nor is learning about them smooth sailing for readers. Nonetheless, in telling the tale of the PSO’s emergence from precarious financial conditions, readers likely clearly understood that the board’s analyses, efforts to recover, and the successes that ensued were anything but haphazard. The Portland Symphony Orchestra’s financial turnaround has been remarkable, and every bit as important to audiences who attend concerts at Merrill Auditorium as are the Classical, PSO Pops!, Discovery and Youth performances enjoyed by so many people in the Southern Maine region. Standing-O’s will always be deserved by all those who steered the PSO through those at-first murky, and then very choppy seas!!! If I may express personal wishes--- May everyone enjoy continued successful musical voyages with “Our Symphony”.

In the July 4 edition of the Press Herald, an article about that evening’s scheduled Independence Day Pops Concert and fireworks at the Eastern Promenade in Portland contained a sentence reading, “If the weather doesn’t cooperate on the Fourth, all the festivities will be postponed to July 5.” Well...... the weather indeed didn’t cooperate, with a deluge of rain forcing a postponement. Thus, the next evening, borrowing from a P-H description, “with two successful years under its belt, Portland’s ‘Stars and Stripes Spectacular’ provided another day and night of family-friendly Fourth of July festivities”, and once again attracted tens of thousands of people to the “Eastern Prom”. (HS: Your guess as to what was performed by the PSO is as good as anyone else’s...... with everyone likely to come up with the correct answers. A copy of a concert program based on the musicians’ call sheet for this concert is available on

Once again, this summer Steven Lord conducted during PORTopera’s productions of “Madama Butterfly” by Giacomo Puccini. Two Merrill Auditorium performances were presented, on July 25 & 27. And also once again, a considerable number of PSO musicians were in the pit with Mr. Lord.

This summer a new four-year contract was agreed upon during negotiations between the PSO and The Boston Musicians Association, American Federation of Musicians, Local 9-535. The new contract would extend from the 2012-2013 PSO season through the 2015-2016 season. The base per-service wage rate, which had been $95.87 throughout the four previous seasons increased to $98.75 for 2012-2013, increasing to $100.73 for the remaining three seasons. Respectively, the per-service wage rate for principals increased from $143.82 to $148.13 and $151.09. The above rates calculate to a first-year increase of 3 percent, a second-year increase of 2 percent, and no change thereafter. The two signatory organizations each agreed to give the other party the right to request that negotiations commence to develop a Wage Rate Re-Opener prior to the third year of the Agreement (HS: Later in time the musicians would opt to invoke the re-opener clause.).

At about this point in time, Robert Moody inked a contract with the artist management agency Opus3 Artists, one of the world’s largest agencies. David Foster, president of Opus3, became the PSO Music Director’s personal manager. Said Mr. Moody, and reported in the P-H, “I join the ranks of Daniel Barenboim, Christoph Eschenbach, Mariss Jansons, David Robertson, James Conlon, Sir Andrew Davis and many more of the world’s greatest conductors. I’m quite humbled that they added me to their roster. I think also that this can mean much good for the PSO, as I will most assuredly now be guest conducting more of the top orchestras around the world – meaning I bring that experience back to Portland with me – and two, working with a new level of guest artists from that roster, who I also will invite to Portland.”

By the end of the upcoming 2012-2013 season, Mr. Moody would have either guest-conducted or have guest-conducting appearances on his calendar with the Slovenian Philharmonic Orchestra, the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the Chicago Symphony, Charlotte Symphony Orchestra, North Carolina Opera, Jacksonville Symphony, Louisville Orchestra, and the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra.

New this year was a Music Lovers’ Luncheon Series, open to the public and held at the Cumberland Club, at which PSO Music Director Robert Moody and/or guest artists discussed upcoming programs. Four such affairs were held during the season.

“Fanfare for a New Season” was the theme for a pair of PSO concerts at Merrill Auditorium in early October. As is traditional with most U.S. orchestras, this being the season opener for the PSO, Maestro Moody began the concert with a finger extended toward the percussion section, and after a drumroll conducted The Star-Spangled Banner. (HS: While I hadn’t mentioned this traditional start to each PSO season in regard to each and every opening concert, I don’t believe that the Symphony has ever missed first-off performing our country’s National Anthem.)

The pre-season brochure told subscribers to anticipate “Three centuries of great music. Three works defined by both bold virtuosity and exquisite tenderness.” The trio of works promised “A rousing start to a dynamic new season!” First performed was Mason Bates Mothership (for orchestra and electronica), premiered at the Sydney Opera House the year before. The Julliard-trained talented musician had studied with John Corigliano and Samuel Adler in the Columbia-Julliard program through which he earned degrees in music and English literature, and only 35 when this composition was performed in Portland, he was already the recipient of a significant number of prestigious musical awards. Prior to the concert, PSO Music Director Robert Moody had described how “The piece mixes acoustic and electronic elements, and features sections for improvisation”, adding that “Mason is at the top of his game right now”. Mothership would be the third piece by Mr. Bates performed by the PSO. The Symphony’s music director had been an early mentor of Mr. Bates, and later became a good friend of the composer. Mark Rohr quoted the composer in the program notes: “This energetic opener imagines the orchestra as a mothership that is ‘docked’ by several visiting soloists, who offer brief but virtuosic riffs on the work’s thematic material over action-packed electro-acoustic orchestral figuration.” Mothership had already been recorded by the London Symphony Orchestra under Michael Tilson Thomas, who had commissioned the work.

Next on the program was a featured work by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, Piano Concerto No. 1 in b-flat minor, Op. 23. Another Julliard grad, Andrew Russo, was soloist. Multi-talented, the artist was also a venture capitalist and had run for a seat in the New York State Senate. After intermission the Symphony performed Aaron Copland’s Symphony No. 3, his final symphony and a work containing themes he also employed in Fanfare for the Common Man.

In a highly-favorable post-concert review for the Press-Herald, Christopher Hyde wrote, “I thought that music director Robert Moody had programmed the Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto No. 1 merely as a crowd pleaser to offset the modernism of Mothership and the intellectualism of Copland’s Symphony No. 3 at the opening concert of the Portland Symphony Orchestra season. The old warhorse, however, turned out to be a derby winner in the hands of pianist Andrew Russo, best known for his recordings of contemporary music and fusion jazz. Russo’s interpretation, ably abetted by the orchestra, took the quintessential Romantic piece back to its barbaric beginnings, revealing it as something new under the sun.” He cited the soloist’s collaboration with Mr. Moody as “a sheer delight, unveiling secrets never before heard live or in recordings. The Tchaikovsky No. 1 sounded positively modern.” He continued, “The exchanges between piano and orchestra, especially the imitations of rapid downward scales (HS: In the breakneck-speed finale, of which Mr. Hyde wrote, was “the real eye-opener”.), were impressive, given the tempo, and the excitement never ceased.

Regarding the Copland work, the reviewer wrote, “The finale is worth waiting for. Just when one thinks the explication of the magnificent fanfare can’t get any better, Copland raises it to a spiritual plane through the use of the woodwinds. That deserved its standing ovation as much as the Tchaikovsky.”

In between the two season-openers, on Monday morning, October 8, only about two dozen people listened to a performance by the PSO. No, nothing was wrong---- ; the event was a rehearsal and a recording session sponsored by a Bowdoin grad who also was a longtime PSO supporter, Doug Stenberg (HS: Terry Douglas Stenberg, if you’re now searching the Bowdoin alumni records). Doug, class of ’56, had been President of the Glee Club and a member of Bowdoin’s Meddiebempsters, the college’s prestigious a cappella “augmented double quartet”. During 2011-2012, the lay musician and retired educator had arranged a medley of five Bowdoin College songs in honor of music professor Frederic Tillotson and his 25-year career at the college, titling the nine-minute work Remembering Tilly – A Medley of Five Songs of Bowdoin College (HS: “Tilly” was the longtime nickname his students affectionately bestowed on the beloved professor).

The PSO rehearsed and then recorded Remembering Tilly, as well as compositions by two current-day Bowdoin students. The latter were honored as selectees by Vineet Shende, Chair of Bowdoin’s Music Department. The recording was later presented to the college, with hopes expressed by Mr. Stenberg that the songs – all synonymous with Bowdoin history and tradition (We’ll Sing to Old Bowdoin; Forward the White; Beneath the Pines; Raise Songs to Bowdoin; and Bowdoin Beata) – would never be forgotten by current and future students.

So..... Bowdoin was honored with a wonderful archival gift, Mr. Stenberg enjoyed the pleasures of saluting a mentor and his alma mater, and the PSO musicians’ wallets benefitted by playing an extra gig. That’s a pretty good three-way deal.

Two PSO Pops! Concerts were performed during the weekend of October 13 and 14. Robert Moody conducted what a pre-season PSO brochure had described as “A brand-new show” from the music director, “combining music from Giacomo Puccini’s popular opera ‘La Bohème’ with the two contemporary retellings it inspired: the contemporary Broadway counterpart ‘Rent’, and the film ‘Moulin Rouge’.” The concerts’ theme-title was “La Vie Boheme”, featuring songs from all three works, “woven together to tell a single story”, as Bob Keyes wrote for the P-H. Four singers were on hand – two sopranos and two tenors. The newspaper article noted that two came from the opera world; the other two from Broadway. Tenor Christian Reinert and soprano Jessica Cage from the former, while tenor Mike Eldred and soprano Mia Gentile were from the Great White Way.

The evening started with a performance of Nature Boy, composed by Eden Ahbez and arranged by Nelson Riddle. This was followed by what the P-H reported was a “rousing rendition of (Jacques) Offenbach’s Can Can from ‘Orpheus in the Underworld’, setting the stage for two tender moments from the first act of ‘La Bohème’, as Mimi and Rodolpho get to know each other (HS: Che gelida manina and Mi chiamano Mimi from the Puccini opera). Reinert and Cates were a near-perfect match for these light-hearted flirtations”. Then, “in a very neat juxtaposition, Eldred and Gentile next sang (Jonathan Larson’s) Light My Candle from ‘Rent’, one of the most erotic seduction scenes ever to grace the stage at Merrill Auditorium, but with the roles reversed from the previous arias.” The reviewer continued, noting how Puccini’s “great love duet, O soave fanciulla, was contrasted with (a Brian Shepard arrangement of) Elephant Love Medley, from ‘Moulin Rouge’, in which Eldred as Christian uses every musical and literary device in the book in a (successful) attempt to seduce the courtesan Satine.” Maestro Moody, the PSO musicians and the vocalists then rested while concertgoers sought the services available in the Merrill lobby.

Continuing with Christopher Hyde’s sequential review, “After intermission both couples sang Seasons of Love from ‘Rent’, in a well-balanced quartet, followed by Musetta’s Waltz (HS: Quando men vo) from Act II of ‘La Bohème’. Will I Lose My Dignity, from ‘Rent’, was (then) contrasted with the final scenes of Mimi’s death”, the Quartet and then the Finale from the opera. The P-H review neared conclusion, reporting that “The antidote was Come What May from ‘Moulin Rouge’, a song of triumph before Satine, like Mimi, succumbs to tuberculosis. A standing ovation led to an encore of La vie Bohème , the final song from ‘Rent’ .” The often-hard-to-satisfy reviewer finished with a vote that maybe it would have been best for excerpts from ‘La Bohème’ to be staged, but preceded that by writing that “All in all, the first POPS! Concert of the season was cleverly thought out, entertaining and well done...” The guess of yours truly (HS: We two non-opera-buffs were there and thoroughly enjoyed the concert.) is that the final thought of most concertgoers departing Merrill Auditorium after the concerts was likely “Good for you, Robert!”

The PSO again returned to Waterville this month, to the newly renovated Waterville Opera House for a concert to benefit Inland Hospital’s campaign to renovate its inpatient services areas. About 700 people attended the Saturday evening event on October 20, and special guest Suzanne Nance from MPBN was a popularly-received soprano soloist. Classical works chosen by maestro Moody included two Selections from “Swan Lake”, Scene and No. 2 Valse, by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky; Mason Bates’ Mothership; Francis Poulenc’s Le chemins de l’amour, with Ms. Nance; Richard Rodgers To Keep My Love Alive from “A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court”, also featuring the soloist; and just before intermission, Modest Mussorgsky’s A Night on Bald Mountain. The second half opened with John Williams Olympic Fanfare and Theme, after which Ms. Nance returned to perform John Kander’s emotional A Letter from Sullivan Ballew. The soprano concluded her solo-ing with Stephen Sondheim’s Send In The Clowns from “A Little Night Music”. Following a Bob Lowden arrangement of Armed Forces Salute, the concert ended with Giaocchino Rossini’s Overture to William Tell.

In remarks to the audience during this concert, Mr. Moody reflected back to the weather-related difficulties everyone had when the PSO performed an Inland benefit concert a year earlier, in late-October of 2011. He cited his own challenges after the concert when driving back down I-295 to Portland, mentioning that he spent much of that return trip peering out an open window through swirling large flurries that only sometimes allowed glimpses of the white lines on the road. He referenced the difficulties that he and his car had to the “Little Engine That Could” children’s story, saying that he almost ended up telling his vehicle to say to itself, “I think I can; I think I can”. Before any adults in the audience who were thinking back to their own challenges that snowy evening could nod in agreement, a delightful impromptu interruption occurred. To the maestro’s final “I think I can”, a youngster in the balcony innocently blurted out, “Yeah!” Mr. Moody happily looked up and gave a thumbs-up-forefinger-point toward his new friend. The audience loved the informality of the verbal and pantomimed ad-libs! The Music Director’s delightful reaction that night probably immediately sold some tickets for the 2013 Inland benefit concert, still a year away.

A pair of Youth Concerts for students at Merrill Auditorium on Monday, October 22, had the theme-title “Hold the Cannons!” The all-Tchaikovsky programs of course featured major parts of the “1812” Overture (HS: Teaching aids listed this work as “Overture Solennelle, Op. 49”. Could that have been to help French and math instructors?). Excerpts from other major works by the great Russian composer also performed included segments from Overture to “The Nutcracker”; Concerto for Piano & Orchestra No. 1 in B-flat Major, Op. 23, Movement 1; “Waltz” from Serenade for Strings in C Major, Op. 45; Lake in the Moonlight and also Waltz from the ballet “Swan Lake”; Overture-Fantasy from the ballet “Romeo and Juliet”; and Capriccio Italien, Op. 45.

Advance promotional notices about the concert had advised that “This concert is devoted entirely to the music of one composer – Tchaikovsky! You’ll hear some of the greatest classical music ever written, and learn about one of the most famous Russian composers through a conversation between Robert Moody and an actor who portrays Tchaikovsky. We’ll recreate historical moments from the composer’s life and celebrate his place in musical history.” Actress Nora Daly, a junior then attending Waynflete School in Portland portrayed a “Student” interested in the doings of the great composer. She worked with the PSO maestro to engage “Tchaikovsky”, played by experienced repertory theatre actor and director Andrew Harris, to reveal aspects of his life and musical activities.

Some subscribers seeing the Portland Symphony Orchestra’s glossy 2012-2013 pre-season promotional brochure might have rolled their eyes when first seeing what appeared to be an obvious typo that had been missed by the printers. The theme-title of the October 30 concert, “Celebration” was misspelled; instead “Cello-bration!” appeared. But in fact, there had not been a typo and Maestro Moody had playfully selected a special word favored by cellists, to celebrate about an October 30 PSO Classical Concert that would feature his favorite instrument (HS: Also the music director of the Winston-Salem Symphony, the word had earlier in 2012 been applied to a program highlighting the cello in solo and ensemble roles that he had conducted in North Carolina.). The brochure called out, “Cello lovers everywhere, rejoice! Each work on this program showcases the deep, honeyed tones of this beautiful instrument. The William Tell Overture, while most familiar for the “Lone Ranger” theme, features gorgeous cello ensembles, as does Shostakovich’s youthful First Symphony.”

To begin the celebration of the beauty of the cello, the concert opened with a massive cello solo featuring a dozen cellists in an arc across the center of the Merrill stage. In place of the PSO music director, USM music professor Robert Lehmann was conducting Heitor Villa-Lobos’ Bachianas Brasiliero, No. 1, W 246, scored solely for eight cellos, as among the performers was Mr. Moody. He had told reporters that “It’s the greatest instrument ever created,” mischievously smiling. “Why? Because it’s the one I started playing at age 9. I love the sound. I think the cello has one of the greatest ranges of any instrument.” Related to the fact that a very active conducting career had left him with little time to play, he commented, “I happen to own a really good instrument”, and that “I have always hated having the poor thing sitting in its case. It did that for well over a decade, but I am playing a lot more (now). I have come up with reasons to play in public, and I really love it.” He then made reference to a personal time-management issue, laughingly admitting “But it means I’ve got to practice”.

When the full orchestra came on stage, they were joined by guest artists Joel Noyes and Brian Thornton, both of whom had roots in Maine and with the PSO. Mr. Noyes was associate principal cellist of the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra in New York. His father, Richard, was associate principal cellist of the PSO, and his mother, Clorinda, was playing violin in the orchestra. Mr. Thornton was a cellist in the Cleveland Orchestra, and his father, Bill, was a member of the board of the PSO. Mr. Moody said that he had been trying to arrange this concert for three years, to no avail. Trying to coordinate the schedules of Mssrs. Noyes and Thornton had proven difficult at best, given that both performed with two of the busiest and most prestigious orchestras in the country. Accomplishing their joint homecoming, alone, provided a reason to celebrate.

The two guest artists featured on the program performed the first of two cello concertos on the program, Antonio Vivaldi’s Concerto for Two Cellos in g minor, RV 531. P-H reviewer Hyde, commenting favorably about the concert, likened this work to “dueling cellos, with considerable virtuosity but little for the orchestra to do except echo the sentiments of the protagonists.” Next was what Mr. Hyde wrote was the “real surprise of the evening”, David Ott’s 1987 work, Concerto for Two Cellos and Orchestra. The reviewer felt that “Noyes and Thornton did it full justice, with a beautiful song-like andante cantabile and a major cadenza that sounded improvised rather than written out – perhaps a bit of both.” Looking at the performance from a different angle, the reporter playfully expressed that “It was fun to watch the pair perform. If they were a comedy team Noyes would be the straight man and Thornton, who seemed to delight in everything he played, the comedian.”

Rounding out the program were two significant works, the first Gioacchino Rossini’s popular William Tell Overture, which Mr. Moody chose for its opening cello part. Concluding the concert was Dmitri Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 1 in f minor, Op. #10, the most famous of the Russian composer’s symphonies and written when he was only 18 years old. Rare for a reviewer usually loathe to approve of many PSO audience concert-ending reactions, Mr. Hyde wrote that Mr. “Moody and the orchestra... ...well deserved its standing ovation” when the concert finished.

More than a week prior to the concert, cellists of all ages and levels had been invited to bring their instruments and to participate in a free “Cello-bration Cello Choir” with the PSO music director. Almost 75 participating musicians spent the morning and early afternoon of Sunday, October 21 with Mr. Moody, and Professor Lehmann, along with cellists from the PSO. Everyone gathered in the morning for rehearsal and then had an opportunity in the afternoon to perform a free concert together on stage at Merrill Auditorium that was open to the public. The “Cello day” was free for everyone, both participants and concert attendees, and no auditioning was required to participate. (HS: We have a relative who is an accomplished cellist, and he reported having a great time that day as one of the assembled musicians.)

Following up a well-received (HS: and well attended) inaugural Discovery Hall-‘O-Ween Spooktacular” Concert in the fall of 2011, another Discovery Concert was performed on an October-2012 Sunday afternoon, the 28th. This presentation was titled “Trick-or-Treat Symphony”, and again was preceded by an instrument “petting zoo” in Merrill’s rehearsal hall. The large room was filled with energy and enthusiasm from hundreds of well-behaved costumed kids who worked their way to the front of long lines to have chances to play various musical instruments, aided by members from the Symphony and other volunteers.

Several days prior to the concert, the Press Herald’s Bob Keyes reported that “Robert Moody does not like giving away secrets. So don’t bother asking what he plans to be for Halloween. ‘It is a character that is beloved to me for many, many years’, the maestro vaguely hinted. We’ll find out Sunday at Merrill Auditorium, when Moody leads the Portland Symphony Orchestra through its second Halloween-themed Discovery concert”. The article reminded readers that “For last year’s show, Moody, the PSO’s music director, rose from a coffin dressed as Dracula. He admits, ‘It’s hard to top coming out of a coffin. But we are working on the next-best thing’.”

A pre-concert PSO news release told of “symphonic thrills and chills for the whole family”. The concert began with Victor Vanacore’s Name That Hallo-Wood Theme, followed by Music from “The Nightmare Before Christmas” by Danny Elfman. Also included was Modest Mussorgsky’s A Night on Bald Mountain accompanied by dancers from Portland Ballet, as well as Danse Macabre by the French composer Camille Saint-Saëns, featuring PSO violinist Alice Lord Hallstrom (HS: Mr. Dimmick had been called out of town for a family emergency.). Music Director Moody also chose to have the Symphony perform John Williams’ Hedwigs Theme from “Harry Potter”. An early P-H report said that a Sci-fi Medley was planned, with great songs from Hollywood thrillers bunched into one (HS: I don’t specifically remember that one, but someone I chatted with says it wasn’t scratched.). A lighter moment that caused kids and parents alike to try to bring the Merrill ceiling down was when PSO librarian (HS: A professional musician himself – violin and viola) Jon Poupore, dressed in “hospital-doctor’s whites” and sporting a huge head-mirror above his brow, stiffly acted out and sang a clever and diabolical rendition of Monster Mash (HS: Had I an annual physical scheduled the next week, I would have canceled it due to delightful fright lingering from his “classic” MONSTER comedy “bit”.). At the end of the concert, everyone enjoyed it when Mr. Moody led an audience-wide dance-along to Michael Jackson’s Thriller (HS: Lessons were available out in front at City Hall Plaza before the show, so oldsters could “bone up on your moves and not embarrass your kids”, wrote Mr. Keyes).

Members of the orchestra dressed up, with prizes awarded to some of the musicians (HS: My favorite was George Calvert, the PSO’s Larry-Bird-tall contrabass assistant principal dressed in a #33 Celtic’s uniform [yep, in shorts!] and palm-carrying a basketball before exchanging the sphere for his bow when Maestro Moody raised his baton.). Of course, the audience was encouraged to dress up as well. Prizes also went to kids who had entered and won a pre-concert costume contest. The P-H reported that “Moody has championed the Discovery concert series for many years, but the orchestra waited to launch it until it knew it could pay for it. Last year’s Halloween show was so successful, it was an easy decision to bring it back.” The decision was also aided by more than $40,000 of donations toward more such concerts from “Magic of Christmas” attendees in 2011. Mr. Keyes added the great news that “This season, the PSO will play a second Discovery concert in the spring, and Moody hopes to expand it to a three-concert series in following years.”

The PSO Music Director told the newspaper that “Last year’s Halloween concert was really a pilot concert to see if there was enough interest. The concert sold out so very quickly, it was just incredible to see this idea and this vision come true.” He sensibly cautioned that “We’re doing it in a way that we make absolutely sure we can fund it before we put the concerts on. We are breaking from the mold of ‘plan the concert and figure out how to pay for it later.’ This is being done in all the right ways – artistically and entertainment-wise, as well as financially. (HS: Hoo-Ray! Portland is lucky that it has a music director that can not only count the musical beat, but he also understands the need to count to be sure that the $$-in are enough to match the $$-out.) Mr. Moody also added that “It’s important that folks understand the PSO will not do a Halloween concert every year. But because it was so successful in the first year and still close enough to the actual day of Halloween, it just seemed like the right thing to do one more time.”

This paragraph is being written in late-2013, and the PSO’s 2013-2014 Season Schedule indeed does list three Discovery Concerts. Hoo-Ray #2!! Oh, yes......... so what was Mr. Moody’s Hall-o-ween garb? The answer: he was dressed as Mad-Eye Moody, the Harry Potter “that could have been”.

The theme-title of the pair of PSO Pops! Concerts on Saturday and Sunday, November 3rd and 4th, was “Swingin’ The American Songbook”, as Jazz vocalist Banu Gibson returned to the Merrill Auditorium stage (HS: She had been a big hit at a pops concert with the PSO in Portland in 2001). Once again, the 6-piece band that accompanies her, New Orleans Hot Jazz, had traveled up from the south with the vibrant performer. The Sun Journal reported that the swinging jazz singer was “one of the few vocalists of her generation to maintain exclusive loyalty to songs of the 1920-1940s. Rather than mimic(ing) singers of the past, she mixes fresh renditions of Tin Pan Alley standards and jazz classics” employing a style that lights up the stage called “New Orleans’ Fusion Jazz”. Performing some 60 concerts a year, her long list of credits included high profile appearances with the Boston Pops and a three-night outdoor booking with the Hollywood Bowl Symphony Orchestra. The guest conductor for the concerts was Keito Harada, a native of Tokyo, who was assistant conductor for Arizona Opera, principal guest conductor for the Sierra Vista Symphony Orchestra and music director for the Phoenix Youth Symphony.

Concertgoers tapped their toes to a score of classic American hits, starting off with Irving Berlin’s bouncy I’d Rather Lead A Band, followed by Fascinating Rhythm by the Gershwin brothers, George and Ira. Next came Harold Arlen’s I Gotta Right To Sing The Blues; then another Berlin classic, Heat Wave. Charlie Chaplin’s Smile preceded an orchestral arrangement of Swing Is Here, the Gene Krupa specialty. Dorothy Fields and Jimmy McHugh’s Doin’ The New Low Down led into another number featuring just the Symphony, Stomping at the Savoy, by Edgar Sampson. The first half couldn’t end without tap dancer Jason Rodgers, accompanied by the PSO musicians, showcasing his talents – he performed during a memorable rendition of Wrap Your Cares in Rhythm & Dance. Ms. Gibson returned to the stage before the curtain came down for an intermission, singing Mr. Arlen’s sleepy (HS: NOT!) tune, Get Happy.

The Symphony opened the second half with the anything-but-boring monotone hit by Richard Rodgers, Johnny One Note, followed by Ms. Gibson singing Blue Moon, which the great Broadway composer wrote with Lorenz Hart. George Gershwin’s Slap That Bass was next. Two great songs by Hoagy Carmichael preceded another Gershwin tune: first the gentle Georgia On My Mind; then the bouncy-sometimes-haunting Hong Kong Blues; and finally But Not For Me Lyric. Pete Johnson’s The Boogie Rock Roll, performed by the Symphony, kept the action at a high level, before the guest star helped everyone relax back in their seats. She sang Hoagy Carmichael’s easy-lilting New Orleans. The concerts concluded with the Harry Warren favorite, Lullaby of Broadway. (HS: As we departed the confines of Merrill Auditorium after one of her concerts, one comment we heard said it all: “THAT --- was a great show!”)

Two weeks later, on Sunday, November 18, another guest conductor was on the Merrill Auditorium podium, this time for a Classical Concert with the PSO. Timothy Myers, one of the youngest artistic leaders in American opera, was artistic director and principal conductor of the North Carolina Opera, and had performed with the New York Philharmonic, the New York City Opera and the London BBC Symphony. Frequently a guest conductor with symphony orchestras, he also was the principal guest conductor and artistic advisor of the Palm Beach Symphony.

The Press Herald’s Bob Keyes told readers that “When Robert Moody reached out to his friend Timothy Myers about guest conducting the Portland Symphony Orchestra, he had one important caveat: Myers had to choose the musical program, too. ‘It was back in the spring when we were in touch about it,’ Myers said in a phone interview. ‘At that point, Bob knew he would not conduct the program. They had some rough repertoire sketched out. One thing already confirmed was the Strauss horn concerto with (guest musician) Jeff (Nelsen)’.” The P-H continued, quoting Mr. Myers, “Bob asked, ‘What else do you want to do?’ So I ended up doing a lot of research, looking at all the programming they have done in the last three to five years so you know you are not repeating anything too soon, and looking to see if maybe there were some holes to fill.” What he chose to conduct was a traditional classical program featuring European music, but “not necessarily a predictable program”, said Mr. Myers.

For example, Mr. Keyes cited the 1945 version of Igor Stravinsky’s suite from the ballet “Firebird”. The P-H reporter detailed that “Stravinsky wrote the full-length ballet in the early 1900s, and later arranged three shorter suites, including one from 1919. The 1919 suite was later published in 1945 in a longer, more musical format. Mr. Myers told him, “Most people play the 1919 suite. The reasons for this, the 1919 suite is in the public domain. You can play it for free. But to perform the 1945 version, you must pay the copyright. I was ecstatic the (Portland) orchestra agreed to do so.” The 1945 version, about five minutes longer, is thought to be “more muscular in a musical sense than the earlier version. It will anchor the second half of Sunday’s program.” (HS: For information perspective, the PSO’s rental fees for the musicians’ parts for this afternoon’s performance of the Stravinsky work totaled $845.)

The first half began with Carl Maria von Weber’s Overture to “Euryanthe”, which the young conductor had described as “a nice, energetic opener”. In a review, the P-H’s Christopher Hyde expressed the view that it was “the least successful reading of the afternoon... ...seem(ing) to lack focus and shroud(ing) familiar melodies in over-attention to detail.” (HS: Prior to the concert another reporter had written that Mr. “Myers is known as a technically precise conductor.”) The reviewer then changed course entirely, writing that “the following works on the program were home runs, beginning with a shimmering performance of (Claude) Debussy’s early Printemps”, first composed for piano when the composer was a student in Rome.

Next, with many solo engagements under his belt with major North American orchestras around the world, guest soloist Canadian Jeff Nelsen performed Concerto No. 1 for Horn in E-flat Major, Op. 11, TrV 117. The Indiana University professor, who had earlier toured and recorded for 8 years as a member of the Canadian Brass, trained students in a philosophy that he called “Fearless Performance”. With both a great personality and super musical talents, he championed giving one’s best in performances, regardless of the potentially naturally scary influences surrounding playing before an audience. Unfortunately, based on chat-chat that I heard at the intermission, many PSO concertgoers this afternoon thought that while maybe confident and fearless, he hadn’t brought his A-game to Portland. His performance of this Richard Strauss work was less than what many had hoped to hear.

The Firebird Suite (1945 Version) comprised the entire second half the afternoon. Christopher Hyde wrote glowingly, “The second half of the program was devoted to the ‘Firebird’ Suite, in one of the finest performances I have heard by the Portland Symphony Orchestra in many years, encompassing a huge range of dynamics, startling contrasts, lyricism, tone painting and orchestral color. In some of the passages, it seemed as if an invisible choir were singing behind the instruments. The final hymn lived up to its billing as one of the most stirring orchestral passages ever written.” Of the overall concert, he expressed the view that “Guest conductor Timothy Myers guided the Portland Symphony Orchestra through a highly varied, and exceptionally well played, program Sunday afternoon at Merrill Auditorium”. (HS: For whatever it may be worth, a personal note about the complete program: it was one that Sue and I considered to be a very enjoyable one.)

Several events the day before Mr. Myers conducted the PSO, threw “sand” in his otherwise well-oiled rehearsal-plan gears. With only three rehearsals before the Sunday-afternoon concert, two on Saturday and one on Sunday morning, every second counted for the guest conductor and the Symphony musicians to get on the same page in regard to every measure in the four works on the program. The initial problem occurred prior to the start of the first rehearsal, when a major accident on I-95 just above the Piscataqua River Bridge brought many Boston-based PSO musicians on the Turnpike to a dead stop. The rehearsal started without the dozen or so stranded players, a group that straggled in over the next half hour or so. A second disturbance was the need to evacuate Merrill’s rehearsal hall when the City Hall fire alarm system started to ring. Everyone drifted out onto Myrtle Street for about 20 minutes, returning inside only when fire marshals gave the OK. During the afternoon rehearsal the fire alarm system once again gave the signal to evacuate. During both of the interruptions, the rehearsal clock inside the building kept ticking down the minutes allowed by the labor union agreement. (HS: I happened to be sitting in on both rehearsals as a guest that day, and I did not hear any corny jokes about “the fire alarm disrupting ‘The Firebird’ “. Mr. Myers , although undoubtedly perturbed, appeared to take the unplanned breaks without any outward signs of frustration. What a lousy break for him.)

During three performances at Merrill Auditorium during the weekend of December 8 & 9, Lawrence Golan once again conducted a medium-sized contingent of 20 or so PSO’ers during Portland Ballet Company performances of “Victorian Nutcracker”. Once again, the ensemble was conscripted for times when the Portland Symphony Orchestra did not have any rehearsals or concerts scheduled.

There was no illusion to it. The PSO’s 2012 “Magic of Christmas” concerts had More Magic in them than during prior years. And...... well, yes..... there was some illusion involved–the trick to accomplish such a feat was bringing a professional Illusionist to the Merrill Auditorium stage front during five numbers in each show. And the audiences loved it, with everyone shaking their heads when the final curtain came down, wondering “How Did She Do It?” Of course, “she” wouldn’t tell, nor would someone who guest illusionist Lyn Dillies made MAGICALLY APPEAR to start off each performance, PSO Maestro Robert Moody.

In addition to the accomplished illusionist, additional guests included the Windham Chamber Singers (40 students from Windham High School) and the 130-voice Magic of Christmas Chorus. Richard Nickerson was again on hand—this time with a new title: chorus master. Maine TV personality Bill Green read from the Scriptures during the biblical portion of the program.

Writing beforehand in the Press Herald, Bob Keyes informed readers that “The program includes a mix of festive and inspirational music, with both classical and popular holiday hits.” He further explained that Mr. “Moody has shaped ‘Magic’ into a program with three distinct segments. The first features traditional music for the holidays. The second tells the biblical story. Part three builds the Christmas spirit up to the Sleigh Ride sing-along.” The article went on to report that Mr. Moody knew he could tinker with “Magic of Christmas”, but not dare changing it too much. The PSO music director had “turned the illusionist idea over in his head for a few years, scheming how to bring magic to ‘Magic’. The concept gained traction last year (in 2011) when the orchestra hired circus performers for ‘Magic’. The audience seemed to love that ‘wow factor’ even though it wasn’t directly related to Christmas... (and)...the reaction emboldened him to push for an illusionist.”

Prior to the concert-series opening, the Sun Journal reported that “Music Director Robert Moody will lead the PSO in a festive and inspirational program of classical and popular holiday hits, including Joy to the World and Pastorale from ‘Christmas Concerto’,“ by Arcangelo Corelli. The actual concert-opener was Robert Wendel’s arrangement, Christmas a la Valse!, followed by Christmas Bells are Ringing, by Mark Hayes. The Singers and the Chorus joined in for the latter. Ms. Dillies then performed while Mr. Moody conducted Mozart’s Overture to “The Impressario”. (HS: It’s beyond me to adequately describe her tricks of illusion, but if she ever suggests that you get into a large box, and there are chains lying around on the floor.... My suggestion would be--- don’t do it.)

The vocal ensembles then sang Harry Simeone’s arrangement of Ken Darby’s ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas. Ms. Dillies returned for another illusion while the Symphony performed Edvard Grieg’s In The Hall of the Mountain King from “Peer Gynt”, Suite I. With Ms. Dillies remaining on stage for another trick, the Orchestra played Modest Mussorgsky’s The Great Gate of Kiev from “Pictures at an Exhibition”, arranged by Maurice Ravel.

Following intermission, the PSO and the Magic of Christmas Chorus performed Mack Wilberg’s Joy to the World; Lux Aurumque by Eric Whitacre, with the Windham Chamber Singers; the Corelli work, with Mr. Green reading from the Book of Luke; and Hallelujah! From “The Messiah”. The large chorus again sang during George Frideric Handel’s great composition. Following the inspirational segment of the concert, Mr. Moody had the orchestra perform both popular festive and classical works. Leroy Anderson’s Sleigh Ride led off that portion, the wonderfully-entertaining PSO number that “Magic” audiences always awaited with great anticipation. This was followed by the also-traditional PSO Christmas Sing-Along. Heading around the last turn, came Galop from “The Comedians”, with Ms. Dillies performing a fast-paced illusion that was perfectly set to match the pace of Dmitri Kabelevsky’s music. The illusionist’s final act was performed to Georges Bizet’s Farandole No. 2 from L’Arlésienne No. 2. (HS: An Anecdote about Ms. Dillies’ younger professional life is included elsewhere in this THINGS-PSO.) The concert(s) concluded with both choruses on stage, as all the vocalists and the Symphony expressed their seasonal wishes to the audience, with John Rutter’s I Wish You Christmas. The PSO’s 33rd “Magic of Christmas” show was a Big Hit!


2013       The January 27 classical concert, on Mozart’s 257th birthday, might have been called “The Afternoon of PSO Disappearances”. The first work performed was Sergei Prokofiev’s Symphony No. 1 in D major (Op. 25), written in loose imitation of the style of Haydn (and to a lesser extent, Mozart), and widely known as the Classical Symphony, a name given to it by the composer. “Missing” for the performance of that composition was PSO Concertmaster Charles Dimmick, with Assistant Concertmaster Katherine Winterstein serving the principal’s role. Of course, Robert Moody conducted the popular work. Next was a real Mozart composition, his Concerto for Violin and Orchestra No. 3 in G major, K. 216, the “Strassburg”. Ms. Winterstein remained in the orchestra’s top chair, although now, Mr. Dimmick came on stage. But...... this time Mr. Moody was nowhere to be seen..... as the work was conducted by.... Charles Dimmick, who also was soloist. Actually, nothing nefarious was happening; Mr. Dimmick was assuming the twin role that Mozart himself took for himself when the work was performed back in the 1700s (HS: Mr. Moody quietly adjourned to the side wall of the balcony to enjoy his colleague’s dual performance).

Prior to the concert, Music Director Moody told the Press Herald, “Charles is one of the most elegantly beautiful players I’ve ever worked with. This isn’t to say that he can’t bring the power in bigger romantic and/or 20th-century works. He can, and does. But he interprets music from the classical era so brilliantly. Folks won’t want to miss his take on a Mozart concerto.” At the conclusion of Mr. Dimmick’s first time directing a professional orchestra, audience response to both his conducting and solo-ing resulted in an enthusiastic standing ovation.

After the intermission, both Mr. Dimmick and Mr. Moody were in their accustomed positions as the PSO performed Mozart’s Symphony No. 39 in E-flat Major, K.543. Scored for flute, pairs of clarinets, bassoons, horns and trumpets; also timpani and strings, the PSO chamber ensemble warmly delighted the audience to conclude this afternoon concert--- which was performed during an afternoon when the concertgoers departing Merrill Auditorium needed to bundle up against wind-chill conditions flirting with zero-temperature/like conditions.

A Classical Concert on Tuesday, February 5, found two less-frequently performed works preceding one of the most famous symphonies ever written. For this program, Music Director Moody chose Béla Bartók’s The Miraculous Mandarin, Op. 19 to open the concert. At a Concert Conversation preceding the concert, the PSO Maestro explained the composer’s controversial 1919 ballet story about lust, thievery and violence eventually overcoming an elderly out-of-town successful Chinese man, around which Bartók set a descriptive and dramatic musical portrayal. Prior to the concert, the P-H’s Bob Keyes wrote about the piece as “dark and powerful, telling the story of three thugs and a seductress who lure a mystical and scary Chinese man into their hotel room, planning to rob him. They eventually attempt to murder him, but he can’t die. Only when the seductress actually softens her heart and offers him true love does he die in her arms.” Still a somewhat “modern” composition by current conventional-audience standards, the PSO’s performance of the work was assisted by subtitles displayed behind the orchestra. After its conclusion the audience responded with a respectful and appreciative, if not overwhelmingly enthusiastic, reception.

Next the subtitles were again used, during a performance of The Butterfly Lovers Violin Concerto, played by guest soloist Andrea Segar. The Forecaster reported that this work, based on a famous Chinese legend about love and separation, “premiered in Shanghai in 1959. A few years later it was severely condemned by the Chinese Communist Party as ‘western’, ‘bourgeois’ and ‘corrupt’ and the composers (HS: Chen Gang and He Zhanhao, both born in the mid-1930s) were placed under house arrest and given a punitive ‘re-education’. Only in more recent decades has Butterfly Lovers been performed in its native country, and (PSO bass trombonist and program-notes author Mark) Rohr notes that it is steadily finding favor with wider audiences.” One description of the legend referred to it as a “Chinese Romeo and Juliet” tale. The Portland audience seemed genuinely taken by the music, the PSO musicians’ performance, and most definitely by Ms. Segar’s alternately gentle or powerful mastery of her instrument. A medium-scattering of standees applauded afterwards (HS: Personally, I was thrilled at the experience of being there. I look back on this work as the highlight of the PSO’s 2012-2013 season.)

After intermission the Portland Symphony Orchestra performed Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5 in C minor, Op. 67. In rehearsals, Maestro Moody had prepared the PSO musicians well, and was successful in having the Symphony perform the oft-played work as if it was a first-time performance. The audience went home thrilled.

The founder of the Cleveland Pops Orchestra (HS: By this time in his 17th year with the Lake-Erie-city’s popular ensemble), Carl Popilow, was guest conductor with the PSO for a pair of PSO Pops! Concerts on Saturday and Sunday, February 23 & 24. (On the faculty of the Cleveland Institute of Music, he was also Music Director and Conductor of the National Repertory Orchestra, a summer music festival based in Breckenridge, Colorado.) In Portland he conducted a concert with the title-theme “A Night at the Movies” that coincided with the awarding of Oscars that week-end in Hollywood. Kicking off the fun was Rober Wendel’s A Hollywood Salute. Bill Conti’s popular film-title Theme from “Rocky” was followed by Bernard Hermann’s Theme from “Psycho”. Going back to the 1930s, next was the unforgettable Theme from “The Wizard of Oz”, then John Williams’ “Jurassic Park” Theme. Themes from 007, arranged by Calvin Custer, reminded everyone of the great series that originally featured Sean Connery. Three more compositions by John Williams came next: E.T. the Extra Terrestrial; The Imperial March from “Star Wars”, guest-conducted by PSO Concert Manager Joseph Boucher (HS: He was dressed for the bit, as Darth Vader [see an Anecdote about his preparation for this number].); and the Theme from “Superman”.

A Ted Rickets arrangement of Music from “Chicago”, by John Kander and Fred Ebb, included the PSO’s cello section hamming it up during the vamp. The section followed the conductor’s advice overheard during a rehearsal, “spin the cellos; the audience loves that.” The audience’s decision to sit back and enjoy Music from “The Godfather”, by Nino Rota and arranged by Paul Ferguson, was “a choice they couldn’t refuse” -- but didn’t want to, anyway. Made famous by its use in “The Bridge on the River Kwai”, was Kenneth Alford’s decades-earlier composition, Colonel Bogey March. Howard Shore’s Selections from “The Lord of the Rings” preceded more John Williams’ movie music, this time a Medley from “Harry Potter”. The love theme music from “Titanic”, My Heart Will Go On, by James Horner, led to the final work on the program(s), Klaus Badelt’s “Pirates of the Caribbean” – Musical Highlights. For an encore, the audiences loved John Williams “Star Wars” Cantina. And for a short follow-on encore, Mr. Popilow had the Symphony musicians flip out the racing-along Looney Tunes Theme.

During the rehearsal, the good-natured Mr. Popilow commented about one section of the “Wizard of Oz”, asking that “advanced violins – play one octave higher”, quickly adding “only kidding”. His good-naturedness was tested somewhat when the Merrill Auditorium fire alarm rang and forced a twelve-minute time loss during the rehearsal. After overhearing him ask union orchestra committee chair, Richard Kelly, “Is there anything in the contract about an interruption like this?”, Carl shrugged his shoulders and quipped, “I’ll have to add this to my memoirs”. The clarinet-toting (HS: and clarinet-joke-demonstrating.... from the podium during the concert) guest conductor was well received by the Portland audiences attending the pair of pops concerts. (HS: Coincidentally, much earlier in his career, in the late 1970s, Mr. Popilow and former PSO music director Bruce Hangen were young colleagues in separate positions with the Denver Symphony Orchestra.)

The PSO’s Tuesday Classical Series Concert on March 5 featured a guest conductor with whom Maestro Robert Moody likely held no professional disagreements. Donald Neuen, at this point in time on the UCLA music faculty and director of both the school’s Chorale and its Chamber Singers, had been Mr. Moody’s primary instructor at the Eastman School of Music (HS: In fact, the main draw that led the PSO music director to Rochester and ESM.). A Sun Journal article discussed the PSO event, a performance of The Creation that featured the Masterworks Chorus of The Choral Art Society and soloists Lisa Saffer, soprano; John McVeigh, tenor; and Laurence Albert, bass. The S-J said that, “Composed by Franz Joseph Haydn, known as the Father of the Symphony, ‘The Creation’ is one of the greatest masterpieces of choral writing. Inspired by Handel’s ‘Messiah’, the oratorio leads listeners from primal darkness and chaos, through the six days of Biblical creation, to the earthly paradise of the Garden of Eden.”

After the concert, the P-H’s Christopher Hyde was full of praise, beginning his review, “It is not often that orchestra, soloists and chorus come together as equals in a major performance. But such were the forces under the command of guest conductor Donald Neuen for a masterful reading of Haydn’s ‘The Creation’ on Tuesday night at Portland’s Merrill Auditorium.” He wrote that “The Portland Symphony Orchestra, the Choral Art Society and (the three) soloists... ...were at the top of their form, and Neuen’s conducting welded everything together perfectly. The result was a peak experience that generated cheers from a near-capacity audience.” He added that “The Choral Art Society sang at the highest level I have heard. The dynamics and delineation of parts were fine, but even more remarkable was the precision of its entrances at full volume. It also sculpted several very long crescendos, from pianissimo to fortissimo, that would have pleased the composer.” He especially praised Ms. Saffer, who “as the Angel Gabriel, was in good voice, often soaring over the chorus, and ideal in what I think was Haydn’s favorite passage, about the songs of birds before sorrow entered the world.” In the days leading up to and just prior to the his taking the podium, the personable Dr. Neuen participated in several pre-concert events, ingratiating himself with PSO devotees. His talents and enthusiasm definitely added to concertgoers’ enjoyment of the effectiveness of his work on the podium. Reportedly, the Masterworks Chorus received a genuine workout during rehearsals – which they thoroughly enjoyed, with both Robert Russell and with Dr. Neuen.

This appearance was not the first in Portland for Donald Neuen. In November of 1992 he participated in one of the Portland Concert Association’s five educational week-long residencies, culminating in a PCA concert on November 5 that included some groups with which he had worked during the week. All the groups were: the University of Southern Maine Chorale; Choral Art Society; Androscoggin Chorale; and high school singers from throughout the region.

On Thursday and Friday in Ljubjana, Slovenia, Robert Moody guest-conducted the Slovenian Philharmonic Orchestra. The concerts began with Uroš Rojko’s Blues, by the Slovenian composer and clarinetist – also currently professor of composition at the Academy of Music in Ljubljana. Next on the program(s) was Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 2 in C minor, Op. 17, composed in 1872. The major work featured guest soloist Dubravka Tomšič Srebotnjak performing Sergei Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 2 in C minor, Op. 18. Googling revealed some impressive information about the longtime professor at the Ljubljana Academy and honorary member of the orchestra. A promising piano student at a young age, “Following the advice of concert pianist Claudio Arrau, she went to the United States at age 12 (in 1952) and in 1957 graduated from the Juilliard School of Music in New York, studying under professor Katharine Bacon, while at the same time receiving coaching from Alexander UninskyArthur Rubinstein heard her New York Town Hall recital and invited her to study with him privately. Her lessons with him occurred over a period of years in the late 1950s and Tomšič became one of only a handful of Rubinstein’s protégées. Their friendship lasted for the rest of Rubinstein’s life.” Not surprisingly, Mr. Moody returned from Slovenia very excited about his visit to the country and his two conducting stints.

More than a month later, the next PSO Classical Concert was on Tuesday, April 9. This evening, Maestro Moody chose to start the program with the best work of Armenian-American composer Alan Hovhannes, what the PSO’s pre-season promotional brochure described as one that was “Exquisite, prayerful and serene”, his Symphony No. 2 “Mysterious Mountain”, Op. 132. Pianist Martin Perry, a frequent soloist with the Symphony over the years, then joined Mr. Moody at the front of the stage to perform Samuel Barber’s difficult Concerto for Piano and Orchestra, Op. 38, which the PSO described as an “exuberant” work. The P-H rated his performance a “tour de force”. The concert concluded with Sir Edward Elgar’s fourteen-movement Enigma Variations (Variations on an Original Theme) Op. 36. This work, a PSO news release had informed, was the composer’s “intriguing musical tribute ‘to friends pictured within’.” In his “About the Music” program notes, Mark Rohr wrote that the composition “put Elgar on the musical map”. The Press Herald Article following the concert commended the PSO’s “masterful rendition of Elgar’s ‘Enigma’ Variations’, which... ...was also a good opportunity to show off the talents of the orchestra’s principals, on cello, viola and oboe.”

The audience gathered at Merrill Auditorium on Sunday afternoon, April 14, likely included some late-filing taxpayers forgetting their woes prior to returning to the 1040-grindstone. This PSO Classical Concert opened with George Frideric Handel’s Concerto a due cori No. 1 in B-flat Major, HWV 332. Googling reveals that Handel composed this work “for the occasion of the Covent Garden premiere of his great English oratorio ‘Joshua’ ”, in 1748. Next, young Benjamin Robinette, at this time a graduate student at Texas Tech University, performed Henri Tomasi’s Concerto for Saxophone. PSO Music Director Robert Moody had come across the young artist in 2011, while serving as one of several judges at a Young Artists Competition during the Appalachian Summer Festival in Boone, NC. He was amazed when the young saxophonist, a graduate of the University of North Carolina School of the Arts, turned out to be head-and-shoulders above other talented musicians at the competition.

During the second half of this concert Maestro Moody conducted Paul Hindemith’s Mathis der Maler. The PSO’s pre-season promotional brochure explained that “Matthias the Painter” was Hindemith’s “symphonic adaption of his own opera inspired by the famous altarpiece by renaissance painter Matthew Grünewald. Each of the three movements reflects a musical spirit, from traditional German folksong to angelic repose to a breathtaking Alleluia.” This performance was well received by the audience.

A high school and college self-admitted “child of the ‘Eighties”, PSO Music Director Robert Moody conducted a pair of late April PSO Pops! Concerts with extra enthusiasm, on Saturday and Sunday, the 27th & 28th. The theme-title of the concerts was “Totally Awesome ‘80s”., and the two guest vocalists singing hits by various artists “from back then” were soprano Sarah Uriarte Berry and Tony Vincent. (HS: Christina DeCicco had been earlier-listed as guest soloist for these concerts, but Sarah Uriarte Berry eventually filled the bill [if not the earlier-printed concert playbill itself, which still listed and bio-ed Ms. DeCicco---- who two weeks earlier had gotten a better gig, joining the cast of the high-flying Broadway musical “Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark”.).

The program consisted of The Buggles’ Video Killed the Radio Star; then 1999, considered a defining moment in Prince’s rise to superstar status; Madonna’s Holiday; Every Breath You Take, made famous by The Police; and an 80’s Medley, featuring songs related to Devo, Blondie, Billy Idol and The Romantics. In the second half, the opening songs were Christopher Cross’ Sailing; David Bowie’s Let’s Dance; Bette Midler’s The Rose; and Kenny Loggings’ Footloose. The Symphony then performed an Orchestra Medley of Michael Jackson Hits. Billy Joel’s Still Rock ‘N’ Roll to Me was followed by Cyndi Lauper’s Time After Time, then George Michael’s Faith. The concert(s) concluded with Bill Medley and Jennifer Warnes (I’ve Had) The Time Of My Life, and then Bruce Springsteen’s Born in the USA. During the latter, the audience’s traditional waving of ‘80s-era Zippo lighters was by now replaced by many in the Merrill Auditorium celebrating and waving white-lit smart phones back and forth, back and forth. (HS: While most in the crowd loved this concert; Sue & I, both already both by then stodgies during the 1980s, frankly didn’t “dig all the excitement”...... but it was fun to see others so happy.)

In the 1985 hit movie “Back to the Future”, Michael J. Fox’s character traveled back in time to meet his teenage parents in 1955. His inventor friend played by Christopher Lloyd built the time machine they used out of a DeLorean car. Hoping to take advantage of the PSO Pops! Concert theme and the movie, the staff tracked down a DeLorean owner in Massachusetts who was willing to drive up and park his car in City Hall Plaza so concert goers could take their picture with the car before the gig(s). A fog machine was put under the car and a boom box played a loop of the Huey Lewis song “Power of Love” which was the theme song from the movie. People loved it!

Two Youth Concerts were performed for students at Merrill Auditorium during the morning of April 29. The theme was “Meet The Orchestra”, with the concerts separately demonstrating the individual sounds of the woodwind, brass, string and percussion families of the orchestra, and the sounds of the orchestra together. To help the students easily identify the respective sections, members of each wore T-shirts that were a unique same color (i.e., string players wore green T-shirts). Musical selections during the concerts included: the introduction to Benjamin Britten’s A Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra; excerpts from Bela Bartok’s Rumanian Folk Dances, Poargå Româneascå and Måruntel; Giovanni Gabrielli’s Canzon Septimi toni No. 2; John William’s Nimbus 2000 for Woodwinds; Christopher Rouse’s Ogoun Badagris for Percussion; and James Horner’s “Avatar” Suite. Also featured on this concert was the premiere of a composition by Yarmouth High School freshman Karl Munroe. His From Here On was the winner of this year’s spring Young Composer Festival in partnership with MMEA (HS: He was the third such-award winner.). At each of the performances, Mr. Munroe was called up to the stage by Maestro Moody and received hearty plaudits from the young audiences.

Early this year the PSO decided to hire its first permanent full-time resident assistant conductor. The person selected would conduct various concert cycles for the symphony, including Discovery Concerts for family, the Pops series and the orchestra’s educational outreach concerts. He would also serve as community ambassador for the orchestra, assist Music Director Robert Moody with programming decisions and the rehearsal process, and cover for him when the music director would be unable to conduct the orchestra. An anonymous donor funded the position. Almost 100 applications were received, including required YouTube videos of performances. From that group, a semi-finalist list was winnowed, with four finalist applicants eventually invited to rehearse-conduct the PSO in Merrill Auditorium. Each finalist was also required to speak from the stage, portraying two events: a Youth Concert and a Pops Concert.

At the Auditions, Maestro Moody requested each candidate to rehearse various sections of seven classical works: Mozart’s Overture to “Die Zauberflöte”; Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5, first movement; Haydn’s Straight Opening Her Fertile Womb from “Creation”, with a baritone soloist present; Igor Stravinsky’s Infernal Dance from “Firebird Suite”; Carl Orff’s Uf dem anger from “Carmina Burana”; and John Williams’ E.T. Adventures on Earth from the movie “E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial”.

Selected as Assistant Conductor and Community Liaison for the PSO was Norman Huynh (HS: Pronounced “When”), then about to receive his master’s degree in orchestral conducting at the Peabody Institute of the Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. Age 24, the talented and enthusiastic young man had earlier earned his bachelor’s degree from the University of Alabama, where he was a euphonium player and leading student-officer of the Alabama marching “Million Dollar Band.” Possessing great stage presence, he would begin his employment with the PSO on July 1, first conducting the Symphony in public at an outdoor evening 4th-of-July concert on Portland’s Eastern Promenade. One longtime PSO’er, a year later looking back at Notman’s first year with the Symphony, would favorably comment that “he has a good sense of humor, and works hard to get to know the members of the orchestra”.

Maestro Moody told the Press Herald about watching a Facebook video of Mr. Huynh with the Alabama marching band that got his attention. “The band members were outside the stadium before the game, and he gets a few of them to start the Alabama cheer. Soon, there are thousands of fans walking around getting into the cheer,” Moody said. “Norman started it. I was really impressed with that. I said, ‘This is the guy we want.’ We want this kind of take-charge, do-something personality.”

PSO Music Director and Conductor Robert Moody chose to conclude the PSO’s 2012-2013 Season with a pair of Classical Concerts at which only one work was performed. A Sunday-afternoon concert was followed by a Tuesday-evening finale, respectively on May 5 & 7. The playing of Gustav Mahler’s expansive 70-minute long Symphony No. 5 required that the largest-sized orchestra of the year be assembled on the stage of Merrill Auditorium, 91 members. The Symphony musicians were up to the difficult task of performing this passionate and wild composition, and Mr. Moody had prepared them well, delivering a performance that at many times filled the concert hall, and also the emotional experiences of concertgoers, with powerfully thunderous tones and effective lingering echoes. At other moments, he was successful in bringing the strings down to hard-to-believe delicately-soft levels. When the dramatic second movement, the earlier hurricane-threatening Stürmisch bewegt, mit größter Vehemenz, tenderly ended in silence.... the conductor remained frozen with his arms extended outward. Simultaneously not moving a muscle, every violinist kept their upheld bow in place, motionless for at least ten seconds, the effect of which had the audience certain that they were still hearing the softest sound ever created. The solemnity was awesome. Principal horn John Boden was outstanding during this work that required excellence, throughout all five movements (HS: And..... he literally “was standing” during the solo-obligato of the Scherzo movement.). At the conclusion of the symphony, Mr. Moody was quick to point at Mr. Boden, who immediately received loud applause and also many outright cheers from the audience. When the entire horn section rose as requested by the maestro, SEVEN (!) players stood, the chorus of shiny-instrument-holding musicians rightfully proud at being cited. Principal trumpet Steve Emery also received extra plaudits from the conductor and concertgoers for his playing. It seemed as though every member of the Orchestra deserved individual attention, but that would have meant “The Merrill” wouldn’t have emptied until after midnight. It is hard to imagine the PSO’s season having had a more memorable conclusion than rendered by this performance of Mahler’s great symphony. Robert Moody’s Fifth Season atop the PSO podium concluded with Gustav Mahler’s Fifth Symphony, a well-designed, well-conducted, and well-performed musical tribute-celebration combination.

Prior to the concert Mr. Moody spoke to the audience, expressing everyone’s pride in how the citizens of Boston had instantaneously responded to the despicable terrorism bombing during the recent Boston Marathon, immediately helping the many who were injured or maimed. Although the Mahler Fifth had long ago been selected for this concert, he likened the joy and celebration of its rondo-finale, following on earlier movements’ funerality, vehemence and storms, as symbolic of the Boston tragedy and the immediate coming-together and goodness of so many people. The PSO’s performance of the symphony was dedicated to those who died and suffered in Boston. To appropriately focus everyone’s attention on the Mahler work, the music director chose not to have the Symphony play Bach’s Prelude and Fugue in E-flat Major (“St. Anne”), BWV 552, an opening work listed in the concert program.

The Press Herald’s Bob Keyes wrote about why the change, saying “in the wake of the Boston Marathon bombings in April, Moody stripped the program of other music so the orchestra and the audience could focus their attention on this monumental piece of music.” The reporter quoted the PSO music director, “Music, and the thing we do with an orchestra, can be a really cathartic experience. The Mahler Fifth does it as well as any piece. Mahler was a composer who spent more of his thinking time than probably any other composer pondering the largest issues of life, death, the afterlife, resurrection, the pain involved, the mourning involved and also the healing involved.” Mr. Keyes continued, “For many years, conductors have turned to Mahler’s Fifth during troubled times. Most famously, Leonard Bernstein conducted the fourth movement of this symphony, known as the Adagietto, for Robert Kennedy’s funeral at the National Cathedral in 1968. That movement is Mahler’s best-known piece of music, and one of the most famous pieces of music ever written or performed. Portland audiences will hear all five movements of the symphony.” The article mentioned that “The marathon bombings affected many people in many ways. Moody believes it hit particularly close to home for the orchestra. Many orchestra members live in the Boston area and experienced the disruption and fear after the bombings. In addition, the orchestra is populated by runners. Executive Director Lisa Dixon ran the marathon last year, and was there this year in support of a runner/friend. She was at about mile marker 21 when the blasts occurred and the race was halted. A runner himself, Moody intends to register for Boston next year as a show of solidarity for runners everywhere.” The reporter concluded, “But first comes this music and its healing power.”

Before this concert, Robert Moody called PSO violist Jean Alvord up to the stage from a seat in the auditorium. A week earlier she had turned 90 years of age and retired from the Portland Symphony Orchestra after almost 50 years of service. She had performed under the respective batons of Arthur Bennett Lipkin, Paul Vermel, Bruce Hangen, Toshi Shimada and Mr. Moody. An official proclamation from the Mayor of the City of Portland citing her contributions and character was read aloud by the conductor. As she returned to her seat in the concert hall, a beaming Ms. Alvord waved to a still-standing audience. Concertgoers kept applauding and applauding her...... and instinctively responding to her parting gesture---  many also waved back.

The 2012-2013 PSO Season’s second and final Discovery Concert was presented at Merrill Auditorium on Sunday afternoon, May 19. Prior to the event, PSO news releases had asked children and their parents to imagine--- “When does a piano hop like a kangaroo, a violin bray like a donkey, and a cello swim like a swan?” The answer, of course, was in Carnival of the Animals! This grand ‘zoological’ piece by Saint Saëns creates a musical kaleidoscope for the orchestra with alluring sounds from the wild. Experience the full orchestra as a parade of music marches on with you from the zoo!” Also on the program were other “on the topic” works: Henry Mancini’s Baby Elephant Walk; Igor Stravinsky’s Circus Polka; Alan Hovannes’ And God Created Great Whales; and an arrangement by PSO music director Robert Moody of Michael Flanders and Donald Swann’s clever The Warthog. During this number Mr. Moody sang, an accomplished baritone, accompanied by Janet Reeves at the piano. During the featured work by Camille Saint Saëns, Laura Harris narrated and pictures were displayed on a large screen behind the Orchestra. An instrument petting zoo preceded the concert, and I happily helped out PSO harpist Jara Goodrich by assisting kids wanting to try their hand(s) at an elementary harp, while Ms. Goodrich helped older children with a larger, junior model. She had to leave the demonstrations a bit earlier than other PSO musicians demonstrating their instruments..... for she needed to get up to the stage to tune her full-size harp before Mr. Moody would stride out to the podium.

Sam Parkhill was elected as PSO President.

The Portland Symphony Orchestra completed its sixth consecutive year of operating in the black.

During the 2012-2013 season the PSO began a Music & Wellness program in collaboration with the New England Rehabilitation Hospital of Portland. PSO Executive Director Lisa Dixon French emphasized in a statement how this “program utilizes live performance as a healing and stress reduction tool for patients, hospital staff and patients families.” By the end of the following (2013-2014) season this program would end up having served 635 people.

The weatherman treated Portlanders attending the Fourth Annual Independence Day “Stars and Stripes Spectacular” more kindly than he had a year earlier. This 4th-of-July concert and fireworks display was not pushed forward to July 5th. Another huge crowd along the Eastern Promenade was on hand, on what was just a perfect evening. Temperatures were warm, but not too much so; and during the pyrotechnics winds blew all the smoke out to the bay.

PSO Music Director and Conductor Robert Moody led off the evening’s musical entertainment with Francis Scott Key’s lyrics immortalized in The Star-Spangled Banner. Heroes were celebrated this evening as the Portland Symphony Orchestra performed, starting with movie Music from “The Patriot”, by John Williams. Mr. Williams’ “Superman” March from another movie followed. Calvin Custer’s arrangement of Jerry Goldsmith’s music was next, a Medley from “Star Trek”. A featured guest soloist preceded a reading of Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, delivered by a member of the Association of Lincoln Presenters, Steve Wood (HS: Dressed in long black tails and a top hat, Mr. Wood absolutely WAS PRESIDENT LINCOLN.) In the background, the PSO underscored the immortal words with Maurice Ravel’s stirring Le jardin féerique from “Mother Goose Suite”. Also supporting the actor was the Patriotic Pops Chorus, under the direction of Richard Nickerson.

Following intermission, Mr. Moody sang John William’s strong classic, America, the Dream Goes On, accompanied by the Symphony. The featured guest artist then again came on stage, to sing what has become truly an American Classic. The famed soloist was Don McLean, composer of American Pie, which he performed, accompanied by the orchestra and Mr. Moody, and also by the composer’s Music Director, Tony Migliore at the keyboard. (HS: The other classic number that Mr. McLean sang during the first half was his Vincent [Starry Starry Night].)

Joining with the soloist for much of his composition, the audience was thrilled by the appearance of Maine resident, Mr. McLean. (HS: My wife Sue, and I, were equally thrilled by the appearance of Mr. Migliore. A fellow Tally-Ho Music Camp mate of ours from “way back”, we hadn’t seen Tony for a half-dozen years since a camp reunion in New York State’s Finger Lakes Region. We enjoyed quality time with him during the day, introducing the now-longtime-Tennessean to lobster rolls, and then enjoyed his orchestrations of the two McLean compositions as they were performed by the PSO.) Now having worked closely with Don McLean for 20 years, Mr. Migliore earned his spurs in Nashville during many years with Chet Atkins, first as his pianist. As Mr. Atkins’ performances changed to include more symphony concerts, over a twenty year period, Tony wrote over 50 arrangements for the legendary guitarist. (HS: Sue attended the Eastman School of Music, preceding Tony to the diploma line only because she started two years before he did.)

 As dusk descended on the PSO and the crowd, Mr. Moody saluted military veterans in the crowd, asking members of respective branches to stand when their songs were played as part of Bob Lowden’s Armed Forces Salute. At that point Maestro Moody poked fun at American concertgoers everywhere, heralding the next work, an overture, as a 4th-of-July classic. Googling confirms what many Independence Day audiences often forget, that the work composed by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, “was actually written to commemorate Russia’s def