Out & About: Kris Delmhorst in Portland

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A choice of excellent musical opportunities beckons this weekend. My top picks are a pair of female singer-songwriters plus a pair of topnotch classical concerts.

Singer-songwriter Kris Delmhorst has been making waves in the Boston music scene for more than 15 years. She’s visiting Portland’s One Longfellow Square on Friday.

Singer-songwriter Heather Pierson has been making waves in Western Maine and the White Mountains in recent years. She has two gigs coming up in Portland.

The biggest classical musical organization in town is the Portland Symphony Orchestra, which will be performing on Sunday with a program titled “Bruckner, Beethoven and More.”

Portland String Quartet wraps up its 2011-2012 season on Sunday with a varied program that includes a frequent PSQ collaborator, pianist Laura Kargul.

Kris Delmhorst

Few cities on earth can boast a more vibrant music scene than Boston, with its myriad coffeehouses and small concert venues scattered throughout the city and suburbs. Since 1996 one of the stars of the Hub’s musical community has been singer-songwriter Kris Delmhorst. This Friday she’s motoring into Portland for a concert at One Longfellow Square.

Boasting a fine soprano voice and first-rate writing skills – both melody and lyrics – Delmhorst has released nine CDs of her own music over the past 15 years. She’s quite versatile, equally at home with soft, delicate solo numbers accompanied by herself on acoustic guitar, or rocking out with an electric and percussive sound with her band. “Damn Love Song” is a fine example of the former, while “Hurricane” exemplifies the latter.

I’m also a big admirer of her “Yellow Brick Road,” which uses the imagery of the famous tale of the “Wizard of Oz” to explain and explore a troubled romantic relationship. I’m also very impressed that anyone would dare tackle that theme and title in light of the Elton John-Bernie Taupin mega-hit with a similar moniker. But Delmhorst carries it off with aplomb.

Although she’s made her mark with a string of hits as a singer-songwriter, Delmhorst is also very comfortable covering hits written and first performed by others. Examples range from “Tracks of My Tears,” so redolent of the 1960s, to her newest project, “Cars,” her 10th album.

“Cars” is not automotive in any way; it’s an entire CD devoted entirely to covering songs by The Cars, an iconic Boston rock group of the 1970s and 1980s.

Kris Delmhorst visits One Longfellow Square, corner of State and Congress in Portland, at 8 p.m. April 13. Call 761-1757.

Heather Pierson

Up in the Fryeburg-Bethel area of Western Maine and all over the White Mountains of New Hampshire, singer-songwriter Heather Pierson has been performing in all sorts of venues in various formats, from solo appearances to gigs with her own four-man band.

I’ve run into her quite a few times up in ski country, and have always enjoyed her writing and singing. In 2010 I attended her CD release party for “Make it Mine,” her first album, and I’m particularly partial to the title song, a rousing anthem of youthful optimism and self-confidence. Not surprisingly, soon after the release she quit her day job to concentrate on writing and performing.

She’s got another CD coming out soon, titled “Open Road,” largely inspired by a couple of transcontinental trips over the past year. Now back in New England, Pierson has two gigs in Portland coming up, and I hope to catch at least one.

The first is April 13 at Andy’s Old Port Pub, 94 Commercial St., while the second is April 16 at Flask Lounge, 117 Spring St. Both gigs are with bassist Shawn Nadeau and both are at 9 p.m. The phone for Andy’s is 874-2639. Flask Lounge is 772-3122.

Portland Symphony Orchestra

Switching to the classical side of the musical ledger, the biggest show in town this weekend is the Portland Symphony Orchestra’s Sunday concert, titled “Bruckner, Beethoven and More.” Like most of the Sunday classical series, music director Robert Moody’s selections tend toward the light and light-hearted, usually scored for mid-sized musical forces.

The former composer, Anton Bruckner, is represented by three short pieces for orchestra, characterized by PSO program annotator Mark Rohr as “light in spirit.”

The “more” in the title refers to a pair of works. First is by contemporary Argentinean composer Osvaldo Golijov. It’s a co-commission of the PSO – along with almost three dozen other orchestras – that bears the title of “Sidereus,” a reference to the astronomical revelations of Galileo. It was written as a tribute to Henry Fogel, the longtime president of the League of American Orchestras. The second “more” refers to Ralph Vaughn Williams’ “Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis,” another piece with a throw-back facet.

Ludwig van Beethoven is represented by his Symphony No. 4. Standing in stark contrast to its monumental and darkly revolutionary successor symphony (No. 5), Rohr describes this work as “irrepressibly sunny.”

Catch the Portland Symphony Orchestra at 2:30 p.m. April 15 at Merrill Auditorium at Portland City Hall. Call PortTix at 842-0800.

Portland String Quartet

Moving down Maine’s classical size scale, the Portland String Quartet wraps up its 2011-1012 subscription season this Sunday with a concert that features a longtime collaborator, pianist Laura Kargul of Freeport.

The PSQ, comprising violinists Stephen Kecskemethy and Ron Lantz plus violist Julia Adams and cellist Paul Ross, has been a fixture of southern Maine since 1969. Kargul has been a piano prof at the University of Southern Maine School of Music for about two decades.

The first piece on the program is Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s Piano Quartet in E Flat, a 1785 work that drops one violinist from the normal lineup. Then Lantz and Kargul are the only performers in the second item on the program, Jacques de la Presle’s Sonata for Violin and Piano. De la Presle was an early 20th-century French composer who has been almost totally forgotten. This 1921 piece, which Lantz characterizes as a “hidden gem,” has been featured on a couple of duet concerts that he and Kargul have played over the past few years.

The PSQ continues to perform as a non-quartet. Again dropping one violin part, the season finale will be Johannes Brahms’ Piano Quartet in A Major,” a difficult and demanding work of many moods.

Catch the Portland String Quartet at 2 p.m. April 15 at Immanuel-Williston Church, 156 High St. (a change in venue from previously published schedules). Call the LARK Society at 761-1522.

Sidebar Elements

Singer-songwriter Kris Delmhorst has been making waves on the Boston music scene for more than 15 years; she visits Portland’s One Longfellow Square this Friday.