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American Beats Program at a Glance

Jan 22 2024

Sunday, February 25, 2024  

This program is as much spectacle as concert. The sheer complication of arranging the panoply of percussion instruments required by Corigliano’s Conjurer requires hours of planning, and skillful execution by stage workers. And that’s only the beginning!

Canadian conductor Marco Parisotto, appearing for the first time with the PSO, brings a program he calls “American Beats”. Tiawanese percussionist Pei-Ching Wu also makes her PSO today.

The program highlights a few of the many threads included in the tapestry of American music. One wraps around the enormously influential Parisian teacher Nadia Boulanger, who worked extensively with both Copland and Bernstein (and with Maine native Walter Piston, who taught Bernstein at Harvard). She also famously refused to teach Gershwin, whom she felt to be such an original voice that she feared diluting his natural gifts with too much instruction. Only Corigliano was not directly influenced by Boulanger.

Gershwin and Bernstein freely meld jazz and other popular styles in their high art music. At the same time, Bernstein took inspiration from the still difficult German composer Arnold Schönberg, and Gershwin looked to Maurice Ravel for harmonic and coloristic cues. Copland, American born and Paris trained, championed a spare, angular style that was novel when it appeared, and spawned many imitators. His sound became so iconic that it was used a generation ago in the famous “Where’s the Beef” TV commercials.

Corigliano (b. 1938), the only living composer on this list, has come to symbolize the modern American composer, who no longer tries to sound “American” in the sense of wide-open spaces and lonely cities, but embraces the traditions of the many parts of the world whose cultures enrich the United States.

– Martin Webster

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2425 chamber series

Announcing the all new Chamber Series

In honor of its 100th anniversary season, the Portland Symphony Orchestra steps beyond Merrill Auditorium and brings the music to you.

This all-new Chamber Music series celebrates the intimate and artistically vibrant nature of small musician led groups as they perform on stages throughout the state of Maine.


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Never been to a symphony before? Don’t worry, we’re here to help

Find the answers to all the questions about the orchestra you may be too afraid to ask!

Read our First Timer’s Guide

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Bring your class to a youth concert

Coming in 2025… The Portland Symphony Orchestra partners with Carnegie Hall to present Link Up: The Orchestra Sings! Link Up is a fully participatory, school-day concert program. Students will fill Merrill Auditorium to sing, play recorders, move, and listen along with the symphony from their seats. This program is designed for students in grades 3-5 but all are welcome and encouraged to participate!

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Sarah Atwood

your gift matters

Ticket sales cover only a portion of what it takes to produce the PSO’s artistic and education programs. Your generous support is vital in helping us deliver music programs that serve children and adult listeners.


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Meet the PSO’s Music Director


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