Summer pick-up orchestra plays at UNE in Portland

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PORTLAND — For orchestral musicians, summer can now mean music to their ears.

The University of New England has started a Summer Reading Orchestra, a one-of-a-kind opportunity for orchestral musicians to play and learn new pieces in a relaxed setting.

Deirdre McClure, an adjunct professor of music and conductor of the summer orchestra, said the concept is to expand people’s repertoires in a more casual manner.

“Summer is a time to be relaxed and have some fun, and during the regular season I conduct groups that prepare and do a concert at the end of the year,” McClure said. “We don’t get a chance to sight read and play.”

She compared it to a group reading through a Shakespeare play, where everyone takes a role and reads aloud.

“We’re not rehearsing for a concert, we’re just playing the notes of these great pieces,” she said.

The sessions, which meet every other week, will play different pieces each time, including Beethoven, Mozart, Haydn and Brahms.

“There will be five different sessions with different music in it,” McClure said. She said they will begin with the classic era, which includes string and wind instruments, before eventually moving on to the more the romantic repertoire, which requires a bigger band.

“I designed the repertoire to get increasingly more difficult and larger,” she said.

The sessions, which cost $10 each, are designed for “high-functioning amateurs or semi-professional” musicians who studied orchestral music in college and wanted “to dust their cello off,” or current orchestral students returning home for the summer. McClure said beginners likely would not be able to keep up.

The sessions take place at the Ludcke Auditorium on UNE’s Portland campus, at 719 Stevens Ave. The first session was held on June 29, and the final one is scheduled for Aug. 10. They typically run from 6-8 p.m., and McClure said people are welcome to come listen.

“People don’t usually have a chance to look at the interior of piece of music,” she said. “They listen to a well-produced and well-rehearsed piece.”

McClure said the hardest part has been getting the word out, since she is not regularly connected with the musicians she is seeking. But she remains optimistic that they will come.

“There’s 250,000 people who live in this area,” she said. “It would be shocking if there weren’t 60 orchestral players who weren’t interested in this.”

McClure said interested musicians should bring their own music stands. She will provide sheet music, and post the repertoire on the orchestra’s Facebook page.

If enough people start coming, McClure said she will look into hiring a string quartet with violinists, a cellist and a violist, to be permanent members of the orchestra.

“The main engine in orchestral music is the main violins, voila and cello,” she said. “The rest of the orchestra would play along with them. That’s my goal.”

Colin Ellis can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or Follow him on Twitter: @colinoellis.

Reporter covering the Portland Public School District as well as the town of Falmouth for The Forecaster. Can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or