Out & About: Music of many styles, formats

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The upcoming weeks are notable for a variety of concerts featuring music of many styles and formats. These include a symphony orchestra, a jazz orchestra, a woman who leads a string band and a woman who plays many instruments.

Portland Symphony Orchestra launches its 2015-2016 classical season with two performances of a program focusing on a pair of B’s: French composer Hector Berlioz and German composer Ludwig van Beethoven. That happens Oct. 11 and 13.

For its Oct. 15 concert, the Portland Jazz Orchestra will feature the music of Frank Sinatra.

Two female musicians will appear with their bands within the week. The Alison Brown Quartet will visit Portland on Oct. 10, while Loreena McKennitt and her backing musicians will follow on Oct. 14.

Plus the Portland Conservatory of Music is starting its 2015 Noontime Concert Series.

Portland Symphony Orchestra

Let’s start with a bang. That’s the motivation behind the Portland Symphony Orchestra’s first program of its 2015-2016 season, scheduled for two performances, Oct. 11 and 13. The biggest bang will be a performance of Hector Berlioz’s “Te Deum,” a massive work for symphony orchestra and many voices.

The orchestra will be joined by tenor Rene Barbera and the Boston Children’s Chorus, the Choral Art Society and members of the Vox Nova Chamber Choir. The piece will also heavily feature the Kotzschmar Memorial Organ.

The PSO continues its three-year project of performing all nine symphonies by Ludwig van Beethoven, the revolutionary 19th-century German composer. His Symphony No. 1 (the PSO is not performing them in numerical order) launched the revolution in 1800, breaking many of the established rules of composition, and creating new ones that became accepted standards.

Portland Symphony Orchestra presents “Beethoven and Berlioz” at Merrill Auditorium at Portland City Hall at 2:30 p.m. Oct. 11 and 7:30 p.m. Oct. 13. Call PortTix at 842-0800.

Portland Jazz Orchestra

In a couple of months, the music world will mark the 100th anniversay of the birth of Frank Sinatra. The Portland Jazz Orchestra will get a jump on the celebration on Oct. 15, when it devotes its entire monthly concert to music of “The Chairman of the Board.”

Sinatra’s long career began in the 1940s with two of the Big Band jazz orchestras led by Harry James and Tommy Dorsey, and his first solo albums were based on that Swing Era sound.

The 18-piece Portland Jazz Orchestra has been a fixture of the Port City’s cultural life since 2004, performing a monthly concert at One Longfellow Square. The PJO is led by Chris Oberholtzer, the director of jazz studies at the University of Southern Maine School of Music. Most of the other 16 men and one woman are also USM profs, guest artists or otherwise connected to the school.

When I attended the September concert, Oberholtzer announced that he had hired a “special guest artist” to sing the Sinatra parts, but promised to keep the name under wraps. Oberholtzer’s general idea is to re-create the celebrated 1966 “Sinatra at the Sands” live recording with the Count Basie Orchestra.

Catch the Portland Jazz Orchestra’s “Tribute to the Chairman of the Board” at 8 p.m. Oct. 15 at One Longfellow Square, corner of State and Congress in Portland. Call 761-1757.

Alison Brown Quartet

Ever hear the joke about the blond banjo picker with degrees from Harvard College and the University of California? It’s no joke. That’s one way of looking at banjo virtuoso Alison Brown, who visits Portland this Saturday with her eponymous string band.

Grammy Award winner is another way of thinking about her. So is collaborator with Alison Krauss, Michelle Shocked and Bela Fleck. Brown is releasing a new CD on Friday, titled “Song of the Banjo,” and her Portland concert will draw heavily from its song list.

It’s a compilation of American standards, with an emphasis on her own banjo interpretation. She’s hoping to make listeners hear the banjo in a new way. “Most listeners don’t know how to hear what a banjo is doing,” she commented. “But in the context of a familiar tune they are able to hear the voice of the instrument, and understand what’s unique about how it’s played.”

Dave McLaughlin’s HEPTUNES presents the Alison Brown Quartet at 8 p.m. Oct. 10 at the State Street Church, 159 State St. in Portland. Call 603-560-6694.

Loreena McKennitt

Singer Loreena McKinnett has been one of Canada’s top artists for three decades, winning a pair of Juno Awards – usually described as the “Canadian Grammys” – and traveling the world with her band. Her sometimes breathy, always hunting soprano voice makes a perfect match for the very intriguing and often exotic material that she chooses.

She’s currently on tour in a smaller trio format, which garnered her a 2012 Grammy nomination for “Troubadours on the Rhine.” The tour visit Portland Oct. 14.

In addition to her voice, McKennitt also plays several instruments, including harp and bouzouki, a middle eastern guitar-like instrument with a pear-shaped body and long neck.

Joined by two longtime collaborators, this atmospheric evening will feature music and tales inspired by McKennitt’s far-ranging journeys in pursuit of the history of the Celtic people – from the Sufis in Istanbul, to the Berbers in Morocco, to Delphi in Greece, to the Irish mystical poems of William Butler Yeats and classical writers such as William Shakespeare and Alfred Lord Tennyson – all of which have informed her passionate and sometimes mystical musical expression.

Catch Loreena McKennitt at 7:30 p.m. Oct. 14 at Merrill Auditorium at Portland City Hall. Call PortTix at 842-0800.

Portland Conservatory of Music

If you work in downtown Portland and want to add a little culture to your lunch hour, the Portland Conservatory of Music’s long-running free Noontime Concert Series will fill the bill. The 2015 fall series begins Oct. 8 and runs through Dec. 17.

These concerts feature faculty at the school, and showcase the diversity of styles it embraces. The fall schedule was recently announced by Jean Murachanian, the organization’s newly named executive director. Here’s the pre-Thanksgiving lineup: Oct. 8, Diane Walsh (classical piano); Oct. 15, Wren Saunders (classical and contemporary bassoon); Oct. 22, Music’s Quill (medieval and baroque duo); Oct. 29, Abitare (classical violin and cello duo); Nov. 5, VentiCordi (classical violin and oboe duo); Nov. 12, Ray Cornils (pipe organ); and Nov. 19, Castlebay (folk duo).

All are free. The schedule is 12:15-12:50 p.m. Thursdays at the historic First Parish Church, 425 Congress St. in Portland. Call the Conservatory at 775-3356.

Loreena McKennitt, a two-time Juno Award winning singer, will appear Oct. 14 at Portland’s Merrill Auditorium.