Out & About: Antje Duvekot, Alvin Ailey Dance visit Portland

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For the second consecutive weekend, a top singer-songwriter from the Boston area visits One Longfellow Square in Portland: Antje Duvekot is a German-born musician who has just released an album that’s intriguingly titled “New Siberia.”

Portland Ovations is nearing the end of its 2011-2012 season, with only three more shows to go. Two of them are scheduled on back-to-back evenings at Merrill Auditorium next week.

The first is Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, which leaps upon the Merrill stage on April 24. Since 1958, this company has represented the epitome of modern terpsichorean excellence and it’s been a frequent visitor to Portland.

The next night Portland Ovations presents British classical pianist Imogen Cooper, known for both technical mastery and artistic excellence.

University of Southern Maine School of Music has a series of big events this weekend. The biggest is a public performance of “Carmina Burana” in a Portland performance that unites alumni with current students and combines several of the school’s different entities.

Antje Duvekot

An expansive vision segues to intimate emotions: That’s the expressive dichotomy that drives the music of Antje Duvekot, a singer-songwriter who will be appearing this Saturday at Portland’s One Longfellow Square.

Duvekot a fixture on the Boston music scene who regularly tours this country and Europe. In her first two albums, the 36-year-old poet-musician gained a following for her dark-eyed realism and street-wise romanticism.

Along the way she’s achieved the “Triple Crown” of singer-songwriters: the “New Folk” prize at the John Lennon Songwriting Competition, the “New Folk” award at the Kerrville (Texas) Folk Festival and the Boston Music Award for “Outstanding Folk Artist.”

Her third CD came out in January. Titled “New Siberia,” its 11 selections range from cathartic release in a song about her difficult childhood to a very humorous and modern take on a “disastrous” first date. Intriguingly, one song speculates on a possible romance between famed aviator Amelia Earhart and navigator Fred Noonan, who disappeared together on a global circumnavigation attempt in 1937.

Duvekot believes that her new release represents an artistic breakthrough.

“‘New Siberia’ is a special album to me because the songs are wiser,” she explained. “They have an age to them that should resonate with anyone who’s struggled through a difficult period and come out better. There’s something really sweet in being able to look back on a journey like that, from a darker, younger self to a better, older place.”

Born in Germany, Duvekot was uprooted at age 13 and endured very difficult teenage years in Delaware. “Glamorous Girls” recounts some the emotional turmoil of those times.

Nowadays she lives in the Boston area, and is a close friend and occasional professional partner with Ellis Paul, a Maine-born singer-songwriter who has also thrived in Hub musical circles.

“Antje is the rare artists who can write about the social and the personal in the same breath,” Paul said. “Her voice has a sound of innocence and naivete which makes razor-sharp insights into the human condition.”

Catch Antje Duvekot (pronounced AUNT-ya DOOV-a-coat) at One Longfellow Square, corner of State and Congress in Portland at 8 p.m. April 21. Call 761-1757.

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater

For the past 54 years, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater has been a groundbreaking artistic enterprise based in New York that has performed in nearly every corner of the world. The company has visited Portland several times, and returns April 24 under the aegis of Portland Ovations.

Founded in 1958, the company first gained fame with “Revelations,” a dance in three sections that depicts the tribulations and triumphs of African-Americans. “Revelations” was created by founder Alvin Ailey, who directed the troupe until his death in 1989.

It has grown into a major artistic force with its own theater building in New York City, a youth program and a touring company that showcases young artists.

Its international travels began five decades ago when the company was selected as American cultural ambassadors by the U.S. State Department. Over the subsequent years, AAADT members have performed before 23 million people in 48 U.S. states and 71 foreign countries on six continents.

AAADT is known for its incomparable and infectious sense of joy, freedom and spirit. The April 24 program will include two works created by Ailey himself: “Streams” and “Revelations.” It will also include two works created by others on the company’s commission.

Portland Ovations presents Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater at 7:30 p.m. April 24 at Merrill Auditorium at Portland City Hall. Call PortTix at 842-0800.

Imogen Cooper

The next night in Merrill, Portland Ovations hosts another globetrotting performer: classical pianist Imogen Cooper, a British artist who is lauded for her technical virtuosity, poetic poise and suave athleticism.

Equally at home with large orchestras, chamber music, art songs or solo recital, Cooper will spotlight the latter repertoire for her Portland visit. Her program includes works by Franz Joseph Haydn, Franz Schubert, Johannes Brahms, Ludwig van Beethoven and Frederic Chopin.

A few years ago The Guardian celebrated her 60th birthday with an editorial, which noted: “Her Schubert recitals demonstrated a rare ability to negotiate the composer’s change of moods between flippancy and tragedy, managing such delicacy in differentiating shades and tones within individual phrases. It was playing of the greatest intelligence and musical integrity.”

Her professional career now includes 28 recordings. Among the many kudos Cooper has earned is Commander of the British Empire, awarded by Queen Elizabeth in 2007.

Catch Imogen Cooper in recital at 7:30 p.m. April 25 at Merrill Auditorium at Portland City Hall. Call PortTix at 842-0800.

‘Carmina Burana’

The University of Southern Maine School of Music is approaching the end of the term with bigger productions. One of the biggest-ever years will be this Sunday’s performance of Carl Orff’s “Carmina Burana” in Portland.

Composed in Germany in the 1935-1936, the large-scale piece is based on a collection of poems from the medieval period. It is scored for three soloists, large chorus and orchestra. It is considered one of the most popular pieces in the classical canon and a sure-fire box-office hit.

USM’s production will bring back more than 50 alums who will perform with current students. The chorus will be directed by professor Robert Russell while the USM Concert Band will be under the baton of professor Peter Martin.

A single 3 p.m. performance is planned on April 22 at Merrill Auditorium at Portland City Hall. Call USM’s music box office at 780-5555.

Sidebar Elements

Antje Duvekot is a German-born singer-songwriter who lives in the Boston area. She’ll be visiting Portland this Saturday.