Out & About: Symphonic funk to modern folk
The upcoming weekend boasts an amazing variety of musical styles and performers, ranging from symphonic funk to modern folk.
Top billing goes to the Portland Symphony Orchestra’s final two Pops concerts of the season, slated for Saturday and Sunday. The PSO’s guest ensemble is Maine-based Motor Booty Affair, a quartet of self-described “funkateers” who dress, talk and play in the fashion of the 1970s.
The DaPonte String Quartet is a far less funky foursome. Their repertoire will be great works from the classical canon, played on Friday, Saturday and Sunday in Damariscotta, Portland and Brunswick.
David Mallett, one of Maine’s best-known modern folkies, will appear Friday at One Longfellow Square; many of his song selections will be from “Alright Now,” his latest CD.
Also Friday, the University of Southern Maine School of Music’s Opera Workshop will present an evening devoted to a variety of musical variations based on the character of Falstaff, one of the most famous stage figures created by William Shakespeare.
Portland Symphony Orchestra
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.
The PSO plays that funky music twice this weekend at Merrill Auditorium at Portland City Hall: April 24 at 7:30 p.m. and April 25 at 2:30 p.m. Audiences are invited to attend in costume, and the Saturday night concert will be followed by a costume party at Space Gallery, a quarter mile away on Congress Street. Call PortTix at 842-0800.
DaPonte String Quartet
A trio of late works by three of the most prominent classical composers of the late 18th and early 19th centuries will be featured this weekend when the DaPonte String Quartet plays concerts in Damariscotta, Portland and Brunswick.
Recently reconstituted as a foursome after a short maternity leave by violinist Lydia Forbes, the foursome – the others being violinist Dino Liva, violist Kirsten Monke and cellist Myles Jordan – will tackle string quartets by Franz Joseph Haydn, Franz Schubert and Robert Schumann. Each composer’s string quartet is a mature work that dates from late in his life.
In the case of Schubert, who died so young, the “Rosamunde Quartet” was composed at age 27. It exhibits the characteristics that made him the perfect creative bridge between the past classical tradition, epitomized by Haydn, and the full-blown Romantic Movement that is represented by Schumann.
The quartet also represents an interesting second effort; its principal themes were originally heard as incidental music for a stage play about the character Rosamunde. The play was a flop, but the composer recognized that the music could be recrafted into a string quartet that remains popular as an exemplar of that demanding musical form.
The title of the DaPontes’ program is “Late Greats” and it will be played three times: April 23 at 7:30 p.m. at St. Andrew’s Church in Damariscotta, April 24 at 2 p.m. at the State Street Church in Portland and April 25 at United Methodist Church in Brunswick. Call 529-4555.
It’s spring and a time for gardening. And when your furrows are hoed and seeds are planted this Friday, you can attend a concert by the Maine folk singer who wrote the most famous gardening song on the planet. David Mallett’s “Garden Song” – “Inch by inch, row by row/ Gonna make my garden grow” – has been covered and recorded by 150 artists, including Pete Seeger, Arlo Guthrie and John Denver.
Mallett captures the cold winds and warm hearts of northern New England and the simple life of rural America through his songs; his tunes have been covered by artists such as Emmylou Harris and Kathy Mattea.
Bangor Daily News named Mallett among the most influential and important Mainers of the 20th century.
Mallet turns 59 this week. He has released 14 albums over a long career that began 49 years ago in a duet with his brother and continued on a Bangor television station in the 1970s. Although he’s a native Mainer and still lives here, he relocated to Nashville for a few years in mid-career. Mallett’s most recent CD is “Alright Now,” which was released late in 2009.
Reviewing the new CD for the Boston Globe, Steve Morse enthused: “This is an exquisite, ennobling record, made by a terrific craftsman.”
USM Opera Workshop
April 23 is William Shakespeare’s birthday, and the University of Southern Maine School of Music’s Opera Workshop is celebrating with a program devoted to one of the bard’s most famous and most memorable characters: the portly, fun-loving Sir John Falstaff.
Students and faculty of the USM Opera Workshop will perform “The Falstaff Connection,” an evening of operatic scenes that deal with the Falstaff story. Twenty-five singers will be accompanied by music director Kathleen Scott.
Three opera composers who have set Shakespeare’s story of “The Merry Wives of Windsor” to music include Otto Nicolai’s “Merry Wives of Windsor,” Giuseppe Verdi’s “Falstaff,” and Ralph Vaughn-Williams’ “Sir John in Love.” Scenes from each of these works will be presented.
Of interest is the way each composer treats the receipt of love letters by Mistress Ford and Mistress Page. The first half of the concert highlights these three different treatments, while the second half deals with Falstaff’s visit to Mistress Ford’s home as part of the response to the letters.
Four students are featured in solo roles and USM opera prof Ellen Chickering directs the overall production. Catch this interesting concert at 8 p.m. April 23 at Corthell Concert Hall on the USM Gorham campus. Call the music box office at 780-5555.