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Michael-Thomas Foumai’s “The Telling Rooms”

Jan 10 2019

The Portland Symphony Orchestra will present the world premiere of a piece commissioned by the orchestra and titled The Telling Rooms, written by Michael-Thomas Foumai, on Sunday, January 27 at 2 p.m. The concert will be repeated on Tuesday, January 29 at 7:30 p.m.  

 Foumai is a leading contemporary composer known for composing works inspired by film, art, literature, poetry and history. The Telling Rooms brings three poems from Portland, Maine’s, The Telling Room’s statewide writing contest to life through music. The three poems, Dressed in Red by Husna Quinn, Ink Wash by Eliza Rudalevige, and The Happiest Color by Aubrey Duplissie, were all finalists; Quinn’s Dressed in Red went on to win the contest. The Telling Room is a space dedicated to empowering youth through writing and sharing their voices with the world.   

The concerts will be conducted by PSO Music Director Designate Eckart Preu. The concert will open with Tchaikovsky’s Romeo & Juliet Fantasy Overture before presenting the Michael-Thomas Foumai premiere of The Telling Rooms. The concert will conclude with Rimsky-Korsakov’s Scheherazade. 

PSO Executive Director Carolyn Nishon said, “Portland’s The Telling Room is a unique and extraordinary place for young people to find their voice through writing and storytelling. Music is a natural partner in this discovery process, with many people finding their voice through instruments and song, too. For Eckart Preu’s first concert as music director designate, we are excited to share this collaboration and commissioned piece by composer Michael-Thomas Foumai. We hope the work, and the poems, will go on to inspire and help others discover their own voices.”  

Composer Foumai has worked with the PSO before; the orchestra commissioned him to compose Becoming Beethoven, which premiered in 2015 as part of the orchestra’s 90th anniversary. Foumai is the recipient of a Fromm Foundation Commission from Harvard University, 2017 ASCAP Morton Gould Young Composer Award, three BMI Composer Awards and the MTNA Distinguished Composer of the Year Award. His works have been performed by the Minnesota Orchestra, Milwaukee Symphony, the Buffalo Philharmonic, the American Composers Orchestra at Carnegie Hall and the Dolce Suono Ensemble at the Curtis Institute in Philadelphia. Dr. Foumai holds degrees from the University of Hawaii (B.M.) and the University of Michigan (MM, DMA). He is a member of the faculty of the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa Music Department in the area of Theory & Composition.  

About The Telling Room: 

The Telling Room’s mission is to empower youth through writing and share their voices with the world. Focused on young writers ages 6 to 18, they seek to build confidence, strengthen literacy skills, and provide real audiences for their students. They believe that the power of creative expression can change communities and prepare youth for future success.

The piece is comprised of three movements, each inspired by one of the poems. Click each movement below to read its corresponding poem and watch a short video of Michael-Thomas Foumai discussing his inspiration behind the music.

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