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Two new musical experiences are slated for May 4 and beyond, and both are connected to Portland’s First Friday Art Walk. The most impressive will be a mass parade of musicians from Monument Square to Congress Square, led by Daniel Bernard Roumain, a composer and violinist who’s best known for creating cross-genre sonic and visual experiences. Credit Portland Ovations for this freebie happening.
The Portland Bach Experience also launches this Friday and continues through Sunday – and much further beyond. The PBE represents choral director Emily Isaacson’s novel way of packaging and presenting the music of Baroque composer Johann Sebastian Bach.
The DaPonte String Quartet wraps up its 2017-2018 subscription season with five concerts in five cities and towns in a geographical swath between Portland and Rockport.
They’re marching on Congress Street this Friday. But please leave your “Impeach!” and “Lock Her Up!” signs in the garage. This march is strictly musical. And it’s part of Portland’s First Friday Art Walk.
(Of course, if you want to march with a sign saying “I Love Portland Ovations,” executive director Aimee Petrin will be pleased as punch because her organization is sponsoring this event.)
Here’s the deal. Daniel Bernard Roumain is an innovative composer, thrilling violinist and fierce arts advocate. His specialty is non-traditional packaging and presentations. Known for signature violin sounds infused with myriad electronic and urban music influences, Roumain takes his genre-bending beyond the stage and into the streets.
At 5 p.m. Friday, he’ll perform briefly in Monument Square, then walk west up Congress Street. Groups of musicians of many different stripes will be stationed along the way at places like Maine Historical Society, Maine College of Art, Mechanics Hall, Think Tank, Portland Downtown, Flea for All, Empire and so on. Like a pied piper, Roumain will invite each group to march with him, and continue up the street.
When the procession reaches Congress Square Park, he’ll stop and organize a community musical jam.
That’s it. And it’s free. You can call Portland Ovations at 773-3150 for more info, but tickets are not needed.
The “En Masse” parade is not the only cross-genre game in town on Friday. The Portland Bach Experience launches at about the same time at the other end of the Arts District. Plus it continues through Sunday.
The PBE’s general concept is to re-imagine presentations of the music of Baroque composer Johann Sebastian Bach and others of his time – the first half of the 18th century – in ways that better relate to today’s audiences.
The artistic director is Emily Isaacson, an up-and-coming musical mover and shaker who’s currently best known for her impressive leadership of the Oratorio Chorale.
For the past two years she was also involved with the Portland Bach Festival. Now she’s on her own, but the PBE is incorporating some of her ideas from that prior festival.
The future of classical music is at stake, Isaacson believes. And she believes that she’s an artist with the vision and energy to successfully usher it into a brave new digital world.
“Let me be clear; I care deeply about this art form,” Isaacson told me last week. “It has transformed my life and the lives of so many others. But we live in a world where the top music award, the Pulitzer Prize, was given by unanimous decision to a rapper, Kendrick Lamar. To treat this music the same way it has been presented for the last 50 years is a recipe for extinction. I am interested in giving this music life in the digital age.”
Isaacson envisions the PBE as an ongoing venture. For its inaugural season, events are scheduled for May, June and September. She told me that an April event – likely an opera – will be presented in 2019.
The “May Festival,” as she calls it, starts on Friday with two ensembles. First is the Warp Trio, comprising the classical threesome of piano, violin and cello. This New York-based group has some radically different ideas on what the future of classical music will sound like and look like.
The second is the Arneis Quartet, which has a more traditional look, but a similarly adventurous philosophy. This Boston-based string quartet performs an eclectic range of programs from standard to contemporary, including commissions of new works and interdisciplinary collaborations. They bring their energetic approach and programming to both traditional and non-traditional venues.
Friday the Warp Trio will be based at One Longfellow Square, giving a talk and demos as part of the Portland’s First Friday, followed by a full evening concert with DJ Nate Tucker. Isaacson describes this Friday evening concert as the “Bachanalia Experience.”
“I am interested in bringing to Portland the cutting edge of music in America,” she added. “My generation thinks that the classifications of “jazz,” “classical” and “pop” are unnecessary. Music is a giant, interconnected ecosystem, and we are interested in mining all of its expressive qualities. The ‘Bachanalia Experience’ provides an opportunity to showcase these groundbreaking ideas.”
The Arneis Quartet will perform free pop-up concerts at the Portland Museum of Art early Friday evening, followed by a full salon concert at a private West End residence later in the evening. Another salon concert is slated for Saturday. (Details to be given upon ticket purchase.)
The PBE’s May activities wrap up midday Sunday with free mini-concerts at Bayside Bowl.
Altogether, six PBE events are scheduled for this weekend. Visit PortlandBachExperience.com for details.
The next two weekends bring the DaPonte String Quartet’s 2017-2018 subscription season to a close with a program titled “Obsessions,” to be performed five times in five cities and towns. Three works, each employing “obsession” in a different fashion, are scheduled.
Hugo Wolf’s “Italian Serenade” is a light-hearted look at young men smitten by love, while Bela Bartok’s Quartet No. 2 is a reflection of his obsession with the folk music of his native Hungary. Franz Schubert’s Quartet No. 15, written in the last year of his tragically short life, evokes the adjectives “enormous,” “massive” and “monumental.”
Here’s the schedule: May 5 at 4 p.m. at St. Columba’s Church, 32 Emery Lane, Boothbay Harbor; May 6 at 3 p.m. at the Unitarian Church, 15 Pleasant St., Brunswick; May 10 at 7:30 p.m. at the Maine Jewish Museum, 267 Congress St. in Portland; May 11 at 7 p.m. at the Rockport Opera House, 6 Central St., Rockport; May 13 at 3 p.m. at the Lincoln Theater, 2 Theater St. in Damariscotta. Call 529-4555.
Emily Isaacson is a choral conductor who is launching a new musical venture this weekend: The Portland Bach Experience.