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Rise Up Program at a Glance

Mar 26 2024

Tuesday, June 18, 2024  

Selecting a symphonic program to honor Pride Month means choosing from an embarrassment of riches. Along with the composers heard tonight, who either identified as LGBTQ or tried hard to conceal this  status, a conservative list would also include Benjamin Britten, Samuel Barber, Aaron Copland, Jennifer Higdon, John Cage, and Francis Poulenc. A more adventurous list might also include Handel, Lully, Corelli and Schubert; scholars argue on both sides of these questions. The point is not to claim famous composers for this list, but to point out that queerness, otherness, have always been part of the world of the arts, and of the world as a whole. The PSO celebrates the spirit of this exciting month in Maine with this vibrant, delightful music.

Ethel Smyth flouted convention throughout her life, struggling not only to bring her music to the public’s attention, but also to live her life openly and proudly. Born into a military family, she became a musician over her father’s opposition, receiving the best training. She had many lovers, mostly women, and conducted her romantic life in a manner that was extremely public for her time. Her music has existed on the periphery of classical concert life since her death in 1944, and is enjoying a revival now, as orchestras and opera companies diversify their repertoire choices. The overture to her opera The Wreckers is a spirited and varied curtain-raiser, depicting important scenes in the opera.

Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky remains one of the most beloved composers in the Western orchestral canon. His symphonies, concertos and overtures are heard everywhere. He is among the rare composers who have never fallen from favor with the listening public. His attraction to men was powerful, not an easy thing in 19th century Russia, and a source of despair to him. His brief marriage to a woman ended is a  failed suicide attempt. The first piano concerto is a brilliant vehicle for a great pianist, full of memorable tunes and dazzling display.

Leonard Bernstein, the great American conductor and composer, was a larger-than-life personality whose enthusiasms were many and often conflicting. Since his death in 1990, he is acknowledged as one of the finest conductors of the 20thCentury. He was also a dedicated and perceptive teacher, though in an era when boundaries between teachers and students were more frequently transgressed. He wished to be taken seriously as a classical composer, and in fact is, with 3 symphonies and many other substantial works to his credit. However, he is best known for the Broadway musical West Side Story, from which the dances on tonight’s program are drawn.

– Martin Webster

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This year’s Youth Concert will feature a performance of Carnival of the Animals: Remix, an engaging and reimagined version of Saint-Saëns’ famous work. Featuring local artists including a rapper, a Native American flute player, and an erhu player, this interactive daytime performance is perfect for all elementary students (K-4).

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