Out and About: Music festival and romantic comedy top picks

  • Mail this page!
  • Delicious
  • 0

There’s no excuse for staying home this weekend, as a number of excellent choices are offered for aficionados of music and theater.

On the musical end of things, the Portland Conservatory of Music has three days of concerts, master classes and educational programming running Friday through Sunday. It’s the Seventh Annual Portland Early Music Festival, curated by professor Timothy Burris.

In the theater department, “Things My Mother Taught Me” is a wonderfully offbeat romantic comedy that runs through this weekend in Lewiston. It’s the first offering of the 2018-2019 season at The Public Theatre of Lewiston-Auburn.

Combining music and theater in a very experimental fashion is the shtick with “35mm: A Musical Exhibition,” a collage of photographic art and performance art. That’s happening three times this weekend at the University of Southern Maine School of Music in Gorham.

Portland Early Music Festival

Will Portland evolve into a significant center of early classical music? When I first started covering the Maine music scene two decades ago, that question would have been totally risible, producing laughs, guffaws and snickers.

But that unfortunate situation has dramatically changed for the better over the years, as several early music ensembles have become established in southern Maine and at least four concert series have sprung up since 2010.

The first and broadest of these is the Portland Early Music Festival, a three-day celebration of the formative period of European classical music, generally dated between the Renaissance and the early 19th century. Curated by professor Timothy Burris, a lutenist of international distinction, the festival is produced by the Portland Conservatory of Music.

The seventh annual edition is slated for Oct. 26-28, and I’m anticipating attending at least a couple of the concerts.

Each day features a different ensemble and thematic focus. On Friday, Grand Harmonie, an ensemble formed by flutist Sarah Paysnick, will present five flute trios written by five composers between 1750 and 1800. Paysnick is a Boston musician who won the National Flute Association’s Baroque Artist award in 2009. She performs with several Boston-area early music groups.

On Saturday the featured ensemble is the Sylvia Berry Collective, formed around the eponymous fortepianist. Accompanied by violin and cello, Berry will perform a number of trios by four composers. The least-commonly played piece on the program was written by German-born Johann Schobert, a somewhat shadowy figure who worked in Paris in the 1760s.

Sunday’s concert will be given by Ensalada, a trio comprising three Mainers: violinist Lydia Forbes, cellist Myles Jordan and lutenist-guitarist Burris. The title of their program is “Chamber Trios of the 18th and 19th Centuries.” This program includes a sonata by Isabella Leonarda, an Italian woman about whom few biographical details are known. It is also the only piece written by a woman to be performed over the festival’s three-day span.

As an aside, while researching this event, I visited the conservatory and had a long chat with executive director Jean Murachanian, who took the top job about three years ago. Under her leadership the conservatory has grown enormously, expanding its roster of offerings and increasing the number of students, teachers and other participants by double-digit percentages each year. The conservatory has become a major force on the Maine music scene.

The Portland Conservatory of Music, 202 Woodford St., presents the seventh annual Portland Early Music with 7 p.m. concerts Oct. 26-27 and 4 p.m. Oct. 28. Call 775-3356.

‘Things My Mother Taught Me’

I’ve been an admirer of Chris Schario’s artistic directorship – shared with wife Janet Mitchko – at the Public Theatre of Lewiston-Auburn since the 1993-1994 season, when the pair first appeared on the Maine theatrical scene. In particular, I love the many offbeat romantic comedies that seem to define their legacy.

They’ve picked another great one to kick start the 2018-2019 season: Katherine DiSaviano’s “Things My Mother Taught Me,” which opened this past weekend and runs through Sunday.

Here’s the setup. Gabe and girlfriend Olivia are moving into a new apartment and Gabe plans to propose marriage as soon as they are settled. But the situation gets extremely unsettled, thanks to several happenings. Foremost among these is the unexpected arrival of Gabe’s parents. And then Olivia’s.

The two mothers are hyperactive domineering types, while both husbands play second fiddle to their wives.

Comic chaos ensues from this multi-compounded triangular relationship. But like most romantic comedies, the forces that bind us together prove far stronger than the forces that drive us apart.

Director Mitchko has assembled a brilliant, fully professional cast of seven, with Kelsey J. Nash and Caroline Portu playing the romantic pair, while MarTina Vidmar and Donnah Welby take the roles of the two overbearing women and Bill Van Horn and Mark S. Cartier play their subservient husbands. Glenn Anderson has some fine moments as the apartment building’s Polish immigrant manager.

The Public Theatre of Lewiston-Auburn, 31 Maple St. in Lewiston, presents “Things My Mother Taught Me” through Oct. 28 with 7:30 p.m. performances Oct. 25-27, 3 p.m. Oct. 27 and 2 p.m. Oct.. 28. Call 782-3200.

‘35mm: A Musical Exhibition’

Intersectional, interdisciplinary and multimedia are three of the hottest buzzwords in modern music. And this weekend’s project of the musical theater program at the University of Southern Maine School of Music is an exemplar of those multifarious concepts.

Titled “35mm: A Musical Exhibition,” this program marries photography, drama and music into a single – and singular – presentation that will be performed Friday, Saturday and Sunday on the school’s Gorham campus.

The show is built on a foundation of 16 still images of different people taken by photographer Matthew Murphy. These will be projected for the audience to view. Composer Ryan Scott Oliver has written 16 songs inspired by these photographs, to be performed by about a dozen singers and a six-piece band.

Each photo inspires a unique song, moments frozen in time, a glimmer of a life unfolding, a glimpse of something happening. “This production is part concert, part exhibition, part poetry jam and part performance art,” director Ed Reichert explained. “It’s an intricately woven collection of stories that reimagines what the modern American musical can be.”

Reichert adds that the show can also be thought of as a song cycle, in which the unifying theme is provided by the visual cues in the photos.

Three performances are scheduled for Corthell Hall on the University of Southern Maine’s Gorham campus: Oct. 26-27 at 8 p.m. and Oct. 28 at 2 p.m. Call the music box office at 780-5555.

“Things My Mother Taught Me” is a romantic comedy that’s playing through this Sunday at The Public Theatre of Lewiston-Auburn.

0