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There’ll be a whole lotta shakin’ goin’ on this weekend as the Portland Symphony Orchestra morphs into Pops mode with one of America’s best Elvis Presley impersonators as special guest artist. With the orchestra behind him, Elvis Wade will gyrate at the front of the stage and toss scarves to adoring women in the audience.
It seems a bit early for the classical music festivals, but two excellent festival events are slated for this weekend. In South Portland, Jennifer Elowitch and her Portland Chamber Music Festival will be giving their annual spring concert.
And somewhat farther south, the Ogunquit Piano Festival has concerts Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
And perhaps the most intriguing musical event of the weekend is “Belong to the Song,” an evening produced by Falmouth songstress and actress Lynne McGhee. Scheduled for Saturday, it’s a fund-raiser that benefits the humanitarian projects of the Brunswick Rotary Club.
Shake, rattle and roll!
There’s no question in my mind that the most interesting musical event slated for the weekend will be the Portland Symphony Orchestra’s Pops program that features one of America’s top Elvis Presley impersonators. Elvis Wade (aka Wade Cummings) has the looks, the costume, the voice and the moves that recall the King of Rock n’ Roll, who was this country’s most sensational and ground-breaking musical superstar from the mid-1950s into the mid-1960s.
As a more mature act, Presley continued performing until his death in August, 1977 – two days before he was to launch a national tour with two performances at the Cumberland County Civic Center in Portland.
PSO maestro Robert Moody says that Wade’s performances are “as close to the real thing as you can get,” and his tribute to the King of Rock n’ Roll is jam-packed with gyrations, songs and fun. Wade grew up in rural Tennessee and began entertaining as Elvis at the age of nine. The King himself saw the show in 1976 and gave it a standing ovation.
Led by guest conductor Robert Franz, this PSO Pops concert will include many of Elvis’ greatest hits, including “Return to Sender,” “Jailhouse Rock,” “I Can’t Help Falling in Love” and many more. Franz is music director of the Boise Philharmonic and associate conductor of the Houston Symphony.
“Elvis Lives!” will be performed twice at Merrill Auditorium at Portland City Hall: 7:30 p.m. April 9 and 2:30 p.m. April 10. Call PortTix at 842-0800.
Although the Portland Chamber Music Festival is primarily a late-summer happening, artistic director and violinist Jennifer Elowitch occasionally schedules concerts at other times of the year. Her annual spring concert is slated for this Saturday.
Elowitch, who divides her time between Boston – where she frequently plays with the Boston Symphony Orchestra – and Portland, will be joined by three other instrumentalists: cellist Marc Johnson, violist Michelle LaCourse and oboist Peggy Pearson. Johnson played with the Vermeer String Quartet for 35 years before the group disbanded a few season ago. He now lives in the Penobscot Bay area and co-directs the youth program for Bay Chamber Concerts and teaches at Boston University. LaCourse and Pearson both hail from Massachusetts, where they are active in Boston-area music circles.
Elowitch’s program includes an oboe quartet by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, a string trio by Franz Schubert and a serenade for string trio by Ernst Dohnanyi. Pearson will be featured in a new version of John Harbison’s “Six American Painters,” which the composer specially adapted for this occasion.
Catch the Portland Chamber Music Festival’s spring concert at 8 p.m. April 9 at Congregation Bet Ha’am, 81 Westbrook St. in South Portland. Call PCMF at 800-320-0257.
The beach is still too chilly for sunbathing, but Ogunquit is anticipating the summer season, and the town’s annual Elizabeth Dunaway Burnham Piano Festival is a sure harbinger of warmer weather. It’s scheduled for this weekend, with two featured pianists on Friday and Saturday and an all-star lineup of students performing at a freebie concert on Sunday.
David Sherman, who teaches at the Portland Conservatory of Music and accompanies the Maine Gay Men’s Chorus, will give a recital of Russian and American works on Friday. The following evening, Leslie Hitelman, a teacher and composer, who hails from a highly musical family, will perform one of her own compositions as well as pieces by Franz Schubert, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Johann Sebastian Bach and Claude Debussy.
Sunday’s concert will be given by a number of outstanding piano students from southern Maine, chosen by their teachers. And in case all those snow plowing bills have eaten up your entertainment budget, this one’s a freebie.
This is the fifth piano festival honoring Elizabeth Dunaway Burnham, daughter of Judson Dunaway, the benefactor who made possible the creation of the Dunaway Center for the town to use as a community center. His daughter, Elizabeth was a pianist and piano teacher. Ogunquit Performing Arts created this festival in her honor.
All concerts take place in the Dunaway Center at Ogunquit Town Hall. Times are 8 p.m. April 8-9 and 3 p.m. April 10. Call 646-7055.
I’ve known and admired singer and actress Lynne McGhee for almost 20 years in all sorts of roles, from drama to farce. This Saturday she’s acting as both producer and performer as the Brunswick Rotary Club stages “Belong to the Song,” a fundraiser to benefit its humanitarian activities.
McGhee has produced cabaret shows for years both in Portland and Brunswick, and she’s performed with the Portland Symphony and numerous theater companies in Maine and New York. Most recently she played a harried secretary in a classic comedy at Good Theater in Portland.
She’s lined up quite a cast, beginning with WGME Channel 13 news personality Kim Block and Steve Peterson, the managing artistic director of Maine State Music Theatre. Although Block and Peterson are primarily known for non-musical roles, I’ve seen both perform and they’re very good.
McGhee herself will sing, of course, and the fourth featured performer is jazz pianist Matt Fogg. Two vocal groups have also been invited. The Meddiebempsters, Bowdoin College’s a cappella men’s chorus, is one of the longest established ensembles of its kind in the country. Musica de Filia, a girls choir directed by Jaye Churchill, will be the largest group on the stage.
Expect a mix of Broadway show tunes and all-time favorites from the great American songbook.
“Belong to the Song” will be performed at Crooker Auditorium at Brunswick High School at 7:30 p.m. April 9. Call 833-6436.
Elvis Wade will gyrate and sing this Saturday and Sunday as the special guest of the Portland Symphony Orchestra.