Portland performance: Artist, organist to draw out Kotzschmar notes

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PORTLAND — Peter Krasinski may not be pulling out all the stops on the restored Kotzschmar organ next month at Merrill Auditorium, but he is looking forward to some musical fun.

“I did give a concert here before the restoration. It is so satisfying to see the organ has kept its character, but it is extremely healthy now,” he said during a Feb. 18 rehearsal for two early March shows.

On Sunday, March 1, Krasinski will provide the music for an afternoon interactive show called “Kids, Kartoons & Kotzschmar.” On March 10, he will accompany two silent films, “A Child of the Ghetto” and “The Golem,” in a program collaboration with the Maine Jewish Film Festival.

In the first event, Krasinski will join city resident and artist Christina Siravo in a nautically themed show where she will sketch cartoons as he plays selections from the Gilbert and Sullivan light operas “H.M.S Pinafore” and “Pirates of Penzance.” Krasinski will also accompany “The Boat,” a short Buster Keaton silent film.

“They have a camera and project it on the big screen. I will pretty much draw it from the top of my head. People like to see the freehand drawing,” Siravo said.

Siravo, an artist who sells on her website and works in a variety of media, said she keeps it basic for “Kartoon” shows, with ink drawings using black markers.

“I have a set of ideas I work with, usually, I think about the things kids really enjoy, mermaids and animals,” she said. “I might draw the pirate as a cat.”

Before the show, children are invited to answer questions on the Friends of the Kotzschmar Organ Facebook page to help Krasinski and Siravo create a new story in pictures and music.

Krasinski, a Brookline, Massachusetts, resident who plays around the world, said he is eager for Sunday’s multi-media program. The show begins at 3 p.m. and children 12 and under are admitted free with someone who has bought a ticket. Pre-show activities, including tours and demonstrations, begin at 1:30 p.m.

“One of my missions for a long time has been to introduce the pipe organ to the general public, it is such a wonderful instrument,” Krasinski said. “Once people experience it, then tend to fall in love with it.”

The Kotzschmar organ was dedicated in 1912 at the new City Hall, rebuilt after a 1908 fire. It is named for musician Hermann Kotzschmar, a German native who lived in Portland from 1849 until his death in 1908.

According to the Friends, Kotzschmar’s childhood friend, Cyrus H. K. Curtis, bought the organ for the city to honor Kotzschmar’s memory.

In 2012, the organ was disassembled and shipped to Tolland, Connecticut, for a restoration and cleaning by Foley-Baker, a company that specializes in pipe organ reconditioning. The organ was re-christened in a concert last September.

The “Kids, Kartoons and Kotzschmar” show gives Krasinski a chance to explore the varied tones and sounds of the restored organ with a light touch. The organ simulates percussion, tambourines and woodwinds.

“The organ is definitely the most mechanical of instruments. It takes a great amount of skill to make it musical, but it is possible to improvise,” he said.

Accompanying “A Child of the Ghetto” and “The Golem” on March 10 allows Krasinski to indulge in one of his passions.

“What makes it come alive is the audience and the music,” he said. “To be able to be free enough to do that live makes the experience a shared one.”

Krasinski memorizes the silent films he accompanies, but said he never plays the same music twice. He described playing with silent movies as a “Catch-22,” because he does not want to overshadow screen action or comedy, but still wants to express the versatility of the organ.

Siravo has performed in the Gilbert and Sullivan productions and said she began singing along when Krasinki played selections in rehearsal. She teaches cartooning to children at Breakwater and Waynflete schools, and loves being a part of the Kotzschmar collaboration.

“What I really like is I get to interact with the kids before and after,” Siravo said Feb. 19. “It is nice, because I mostly work solo, I don’t get to share it so much.”

David Harry can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 110 or dharry@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @DavidHarry8.

Sidebar Elements


Organist Peter Krasinksi rehearses on the Kotzschmar organ at Merrill Auditorium in Portland on Feb. 18. “I like to get to know the instrument intimately, sort of like a conductor gets to know his orchestra,” he said.

Organist Peter Krasinki will collaborate with cartoonist Christina Siravo for the Sunday, March 1, “Kids, Kartoons & Kotzschmar” program at Merrill Auditorium, and provide musical accompaniement for silent films in the Maine Jewish Film Festival on March 10.

Portland artist Christina Siravo works at her home Feb. 19. On Sunday, March 1, she will draw as organist Peter Krasinski plays the Kotzschmar organ at Merrill Auditorium.

A sample of artist Christina Siravo’s work.

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Portland City Hall reporter for The Forecaster. Baltimore native, lived in Maine since 1989. A journalist since 2005, covering much of Cumberland and York counties. I joined The Forecaster in 2012.