Out & About: Music of multiple styles, sources

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There’s quite a variety of music coming up in and around Portland.

The biggest item, both in terms of ticket sales and ultimate significance, will be the Portland Symphony Orchestra’s Sunday Classical concert. The program entirely comprises works from the German-speaking world, and the conductor, German-born Eckart Preu, is one of the finalists for appointment as the next PSO music director.

Classical guitarist Lily Afshar hails from Iran. She’ll be the first guest artist to be featured this semester at the University of Southern Maine School of Music.

The late Townes Van Zandt was a musical misfit from Texas, a troubled pioneer of so-called “outlaw country.” Not-so-troubled Maine musician Seth Warner has assembled a Van Zandt tribute concert that will be presented in Portland March 8.

The Portland Conservatory of Music’s ongoing Dimensions in Jazz series begins its spring concerts on Friday with a tribute to the late Maine jazzman Steve Grover.

Portland Symphony Orchestra

The biggest musical question in the Port City this spring concerns the next maestro of the Portland Symphony Orchestra. After sorting through more than 200 candidates to replace outgoing maestro Robert Moody, three finalists were selected. One of the three men will be on the podium this Sunday afternoon when the PSO presents a program of compositions drawn from the incredibly rich German-speaking musical world.

Eckart Preu was born and trained in Germany, and has extensive European experience. But in recent years he’s been primarily involved with American orchestras, including two on the West Coast. He’s been seen here in Portland once already, conducting the first Pops! program of the season.

The afternoon opens with a symphonic fantasy by Alexander Zemlinsky, a German composer who was a contemporary and associate of a veritable who’s who of much better known fellow composers of the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

The big piece on the program will be Johannes Brahms’ Double Concerto for Violin, Cello and Orchestra. Brahms was the most popular and influential German composer of the late 19th century. Two stellar soloists have been engaged: violinist Caroline Goulding and cellist Joshua Roman.

The afternoon will conclude with “On the Beautiful Blue Danube,” a much-celebrated composition by the Austrian “Waltz King,” Johann Strauss, Jr.

Catch the Portland Symphony Orchestra at 2:30 p.m. March 4 at Merrill Auditorium at Portland City Hall. Call PortTix at 842-0800.

Lily Afshar

A native of Iran who became the first woman in the world to earn a doctorate in guitar performance will be the next offering of the Warren Memorial Visiting Artist Series at the University of Southern Maine School of Music.

Acclaimed as one of the world’s foremost classical guitarists, Afshar’s unique life story finds expression in her art, blending excellent formal training in the U.S. and Europe with the rich cultural heritage of Persia. The result brings audiences an extraordinary cross-cultural experience.

From her early life in Tehran, daughter of a family with ancient roots in the northern region of Azerbaijan, Afshar’s passion for her instrument shows up in a fresh approach to the standard classical guitar repertoire as well as music that is new and different.

Afshar is a tenured professor and head of the guitar program at the University of Memphis Rudi E. Scheidt School of Music. She has arranged, published and recorded music for the guitar, and regularly conducts guitar master classes in conjunction with her U.S. and international tours.

Catch Lily Afshar at 7:30 p.m. March 6 at Corthell Hall on the University of Southern Maine’s Gorham campus. Call the music box office at 780-5555.

Townes Van Zandt tribute

New Year’s Day 2018 marked the 21st anniversary of the death of Townes Van Zandt, a singer-songwriter from Texas who left an indelible mark on American folk and country music, especially the subgenre of “outlaw country.”

Between 1968 and 1994, Van Zandt released 10 albums, plus an additional four posthumous collections of his music have been issued, most recently five years ago. In addition to his own releases.

Many of Van Zandt’s songs depict lonely, troubled characters, and many see his music as a reflection of his own troubled life, which was marked by depression, bipolar disorder, alcoholism and heroin addiction.

On March 8 Van Zandt’s music and memory will be honored with a tribute concert led by Seth Warner and five bandmates. Warner is a very talented Mainer who is on the applied music faculty at Bates College. His band appears frequently in southern Maine and New Hampshire venues. Warner has titled this concert “Highway Kind,” after a Van Zandt song of that name that was released in 1971.

Catch Seth Warner’s “Highway Kind” tribute to Townes Van Zandt at 8 p.m. March 8 at One Longfellow Square, corner of Congress and State in Portland. Call 761-1757.

Dimensions in Jazz

Jazz enthusiasts from Maine and far afield were saddened to learn of the death of Steve Grover in July of 2016. Grover was known to many through his roles as a professor of music at the University of Maine’s Augusta campus, his annual teaching gigs at the Maine Jazz Camp and through a world-renowned composition: “Blackbird Suite,” a collection of songs that won the 1994 Thelonius Monk Institute of Jazz competition.

Two of Grover’s best friends and colleagues are putting together a tribute concert this Friday to honor his memory and perpetuate his art.

Paul Lichter knew him for 30 years; he runs the Dimensions in Jazz concert series at the Portland Conservatory of Music, which will host the “Steve Grover Birthday Bash” this Friday. Tony Gaboury is a jazz musician who played with Grover for 40 years; he’s assembled Friday’s program and will be one of the performers. Proceeds will benefit the Maine Jazz Camp.

While drums were Grover’s primary instrument, he was also a skilled pianist, a skill that helped him when composing.

Here’s the lineup for Friday’s concert. Clarinetist Brad Terry and guitarist Peter Herman will play selections from “Blackbird Suite,” Grover’s best-known composition. The Cape Elizabeth High School Jazz Combo will play another set of Grover tunes. Lichter notes that involving young players in the show helps to extend Grover’s influence to a new generation.

A trio comprising saxophonist David Wells, guitarist Gaboury and a drummer will perform “The Garden Above,” which is Gover’s only extended composition for jazz trio.

Catch the “Steve Grover Birthday Bash” at 8 p.m. March 2 at the Portland Conservatory of Music, 202 Woodford St. Call 828-1310.

Lily Afshar, who hails from Iran, is the first woman to earn a doctorate in guitar performance. She’ll be the featured guest artist for the University of Southern Maine School of Music’s March 6 concert.