Out & About: Music for a Maine spring

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Astronomically speaking, we’re entering springtime, although we Mainers don’t expect flowers or leaves for a few more weeks. But we don’t have to wait for music to spring forth; there’s plenty coming up real soon.

The Portland Symphony Orchestra unofficially celebrates Women’s History Month with its next Tuesday concert. Three women will be highlighted: guest maestro Ruth Reinhardt, guest pianist Diane Walsh and 19th-century classical composer Clara Schumann.

Palaver Strings is a group of classically trained musicians who are exploring new ways to address modern audiences, with a special focus on Maine. They’ll appear this Saturday in Portland.

Soggy Po Boys is an old-time jazz ensemble from southern New Hampshire. The seven “boys” will visit Portland on March 27.

Portland Symphony Orchestra

The Portland Symphony Orchestra’s upcoming Tuesday Classical series concert will feature three of the most gifted composers of the 19th century, all of whom are connected to Robert Schumann. Titled, “The Schumann Circle,” the program features works by Schumann himself, wife Clara and their mutual friend, Johannes Brahms, who was a young and unknown composer when he first associated with the couple.

The PSO could also (but for some reason they don’t) promote this concert as a celebration of Women’s History Month. Not only is Clara Schumann’s Piano Concerto one of the pieces to be performed, but two women will be featured on the stage. Guest maestro is Ruth Reinhardt, a native of Germany and graduate of the Juilliard School. She was assistant conductor of the Dallas Symphony, and has guested on the podiums of the Seattle Symphony, the San Diego Symphony and has honed her conducting skills for a summer at the Boston Symphony’s Tanglewood Festival.

Piano soloist will be Diane Walsh, herself a Juilliard grad who has enjoyed a long career as both globetrotting performer and pedagogue at New York’s Mannes School of Music. Retired after 32 years at Mannes, she now lives in Portland, where she is active in Maine’s music scene.

In addition to Clara Schumann’s Piano Concerto, the concert will begin with Brahms’ “Tragic Overture” and conclude with Robert Schumann’s five-movement “Rhenish” Symphony. Music critics aver that the latter is a programmatic piece, but the composer never revealed the actual narrative and setting. It received its unofficial “Rhenish” title because Clara Schumann’s diary revealed that her husband was picturing life along the Rhine River as he wrote it.

I eagerly anticipate this event. Over the years I’ve heard all three pieces played live on various concerts and countless recordings, but the PSO’s upcoming triple treat represents a real trifecta.

The Portland Symphony Orchestra presents “The Schumann Circle” at Merrill Auditorium at Portland City Hall at 7:30 p.m. March 26. Call PortTix at 842-0800.

Palaver Strings

Numerically smaller than a symphony orchestra and far larger than a string quartet, Palaver Strings is a small chamber ensemble that formed in 2014 in Boston. Now in its fifth season, the 14 members of Palaver have established their ensemble as a forward-thinking musical unit with a mission rooted in community and creative programming, often targeting non-traditional audiences.

Palaver has performed at the Kennedy Center, Carnegie Hall and has toured the east and west coasts of this country. Palaver has been the resident ensemble at the Boston Center for the Arts since 2017, and continues an ongoing residency at Bay Chamber Concerts in Rockport. Palaver intends to further extend its Maine footprint by additional performances and by opening the Palaver Community Music School in Portland this spring, with the goal of making high-quality music education accessible to students of all cultural backgrounds.

Among the pieces scheduled for Saturday’s performances are a number of lullabies that were composed in cooperation with expectant mothers.

Catch the Palaver Strings at 8 p.m. March 23 at One Longfellow Square, corner of Congress and State in Portland. Call 761-1757.

Soggy Po’ Boys

If Mainers want a real-feel spring in late March, they need to travel a thousand miles south. But if you can’t afford the time or money for the trip, try an evening of old-time New Orleans jazz with the Soggy Po’ Boys on March 27.

Hailing from southern New Hampshire Soggy Po’ Boys is a seven-member jazz combo that recreates Crescent City-style jazz for audiences in New England and beyond.

Born on a snowy Fat Tuesday night of 2012, the Soggy Po’ Boys have been perfecting their craft of Big Easy music every Tuesday evening in their hometown of Dover. In addition to the standing gig, this New Orleans-flavored septet performs more than 100 shows per year, in clubs, festivals, concerts and parades.

Catch the Soggy Po’ Boys at 8 p.m. March 27 at One Longfellow Square, corner of Congress and State in Portland. Call 761-1757.

Palaver Strings, a Boston-based ensemble, is developing a strong following in Maine. The 14 musicians will play an intriguing program this Saturday in Portland.

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