Out & About: New era at Bowdoin International Music Festival

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The pace of the summer arts and entertainment season continues to quicken this week, with an abundance of music and theater.

Perhaps the biggest story of the summer is the dawn of a new era at the Bowdoin International Music Festival in Brunswick. After half a century at the helm, founding artistic director Lewis Kaplan stepped down in 2014, and this summer marks the beginning of the co-directorship of Phillip and David Ying.

This past winter, pianist Frank Glazer died only a few weeks shy of reaching the century mark. His legacy will be honored on Friday with a memorial concert in Portland.

Straw-hat theater is in full swing. Arundel Barn Playhouse, an archetype of the genre, opened its season with a fine professional production of “Nunsense A-Men!”

Lyric Music Theater of South Portland offers an hilarious community production of “Lend Me A Tenor.”

Bowdoin International Music Festival

Among the numerous classical music festivals held in Maine each summer, the biggest one (by far) is in Brunswick.

The Bowdoin International Music Festival was founded in 1965 by violinist Lewis Kaplan, a Juilliard professor, and the late Robert K. Beckwith, the longtime chairman of Bowdoin College’s music department. Kaplan remained at the helm through the festival’s 50th season last summer, when he stepped aside and handed the reins to Phillip and David Ying.

The Yings are brothers grew up in suburban Chicago and today form the nucleus of the Ying Quartet. Phillip Ying is a viola virtuoso and brother David Ying plays cello.

The BIMF faculty numbers about 55, mostly top professors from conservatories around the world. There are about 240 students, who range in age and ability from pre-conservatory to post-graduate. They receive instruction and coaching in strings, piano and winds. Like their teachers, BIMF students hail from all corners of the globe. This year, four are from Maine: sisters Hannah and Morgan Flanigan of Yarmouth, Christopher Staknys of Falmouth and Teal Vickery of Rockland.

The co-directors have been guest artists and instructors at BIMF for about a decade, and they promise no big changes to the festival’s format, its mission or its roster of internationally renowned artists and instructors. The Yings have been especially emphatic in their support of BIMF’s longstanding support of contemporary composition.

From the concertgoer’s point of view, BIMF comprises three principal concert series plus a number of subsidiary or special-purpose events. Festival Fridays, July 3-Aug. 7, are the flagship concerts, performed at Brunswick High School. The Upbeat! series is held every Wednesday, July 1-Aug. 5, while the Monday Showcase series will feature two string quartets. Both the Monday and Wednesday series are held on the Bowdoin College campus.

In addition to the three principal concert series, there is also the Gamper Festival of Contemporary Music, held during BIMF’s fifth weekend, and numerous concerts given by advanced students under the Artists of Tomorrow rubric. Plus there are a number of free concerts given at various Midcoast locations.

For the complete rundown on BIMF programming, artists and venues, call 725-3895 or check out bowdoinfestival.org.

Glazer memorial concert

Maine lost one of its musical icons last January, when pianist Frank Glazer died only three weeks before reaching his 100th birthday.

A native of Wisconsin, Glazer’s long professional playing career began in New York in the 1930s and continued into 2014. Among his lasting accomplishments, Glazer was the founder of the Saco River Music Festival in Cornish, and for the past 35 years he was artist in residence at Bates College in Lewiston, where I’ve attended many of his recitals.

This Friday one of his students will be performing a memorial concert at the Portland Conservatory of Music. Glazer taught at the conservatory since its inception and frequently performed there.

Duncan Cumming, a native Mainer who studied with Glazer at Bates and now teaches in New York, will be the featured artist. Cumming will play a number of Glazer’s favorite works.

Catch the Frank Glazer memorial concert at the Portland Conservatory of Music, 202 Woodford St., at 7:30 p.m. on June 26. Call 775-3356.

‘Lend Me A Tenor’

Farce has always been a tradition of summer theater, and South Portland’s Lyric Music Theater is jumping into the act with a fine community production of one of the greatest of the genre: Ken Ludwig’s “Lend Me A Tenor.”

Set in 1934, the plot revolves around the Cleveland debut of Tito Merelli, the greatest operatic tenor of his generation, and the uproar he causes when he takes ill on the day of his performance of Giuseppe Verdi’s “Otello.”

Like all farces, it’s way too complicated to encapsulate in a few words. Let’s simply skip to the penultimate scene, where there are two scantily clad women running between multiple doors in a hotel suite, frantically pursued by two men in blackface and wearing massive Afro wigs and Othello costumes.

Ludwig’s farce was nominated for nine Tony Awards and won three. Lyric’s community production is a scream. I’ve seen “Lend Me A Tenor” quite a few times, and Lyric’s production is definitely one of the best.

Lyric Music Theater, 176 Sawyer St. in South Portland, presents “Lend Me A Tenor” through June 28. Call 799-1421 or visit lyricmusictheater.org.

‘Nunsense A-Men!’

Another layer of nonsense has been added to “Nunsense.” That’s the take-away from Arundel Barn Playhouse’s first offering of the 2015 season: a wonderful production of Dan Goggin’s “Nunsense A-Men!”

All regular theatergoers – and most other people who haven’t been living under a rock for the past 30 years – know about “Nunsense,” a funny and tuneful Off-Broadway musical that debuted in 1985. It’s been a mainstay of professional and amateur companies ever since.

“Nunsense” has been so successful that Goggin – who wrote the book, music and lyrics – created no fewer than eight follow-up shows to capitalize on the popularity of his original.

“Nunsense” revolves around the Little Sisters of Hoboken, who run the Mt. Saint Helen’s Catholic high school. Goggin has said that he was inspired to write “Nunsense” based upon his own fond memories of the nuns who taught him in school.

“Nunsense A-Men!” is one of Goggin’s variants that hews almost perfectly to the original, with the exception that all five nuns are played by men. There’s no explanation for this oddity. They’re definitely not in drag and they do nothing that disrespects the original concept. They’re just male nuns.

Arundel Barn Playhouse presents “Nunsense A-Men!” through June 27. Call 985-5552 or visit arundelbarnplayhouse.com.

Sidebar Elements

Phillip and David Ying, two brothers who comprise half of the Ying Quartet, begin their leadership of the venerable Bowdoin International Music Festival this season.