A memorial concert of new music by nine composers honors the late long-time dean of Maine composers Elliott Schwartz. The benefit concert, which supports the Fall 2020 Back Cove Contemporary Music Festival, takes place on January 18th at 7:00 pm at the Portland Conservatory of Music, located on the 3rd Floor of Woodfords Congregational Church.
While audience members sit in the hallway, some of Maine’s finest concert pianists play the nine pieces simultaneously in separate practice rooms. On piano are Melsen Carlsburg, Bridget Convey, Jesse Feinberg, George Lopez, Gulimina Mahamuti, Chiharu Naruse, Steven Pane, and James Parakilas. The sounds come from many different directions and bathe listeners in the adventurous music of composers from Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts and Indiana.
Like Elliott Schwartz’s wide-ranging musical personality, the highly varied pieces include the theatrical elements of Josh DeScherer’s “Rituals of Competition, Coordination, and Cooperation” and Miho Sasaki’s “Spark,” which re-creates the pressure many professional musicians experience of having to learn difficult music at the last minute. For Sasaki’s piece, they won’t receive their scores until they sit down to play.
Some pieces create a kind of practice-room collage of earlier music, such as the many Beethoven piano sonata fragments in Philip Carlsen’s “Dem ESCHART von Brunswick gewidmet,” or the Vaughan Williams and Thomas Tallis quotations in Michael Schelle’s “Psalm of These Days.”
Concert-goers hear narrative pieces like Francis Kayali’s “Voyage of the Back Cove Fleet” and Harold Stover’s “Voyager Rag,” while Nancy Gunn’s “888” and Josh Jandreau’s “Curving Flowers Shimmering Fire” evoke a meditative trance or immerse the listener in echoes. Finally, Bill Matthews’s “Aviary” brings us into a world of birdsong, with the pianists playing the imagined calls of such fanciful creatures as the “Hooded Waderbird” and the “Grassgreen Wren” while electronic and sampled twitterings emerge from the audience’s cell phones.
The benefit concert is a harbinger of the new music that the Back Cove Contemporary Music Festival showcases biannually for the greater Portland community.
Tickets are $20 and can be purchased online at Eventbrite, or at the door. A reception, where attendees can meet the performers, follows the concert. For further information, email Philip Carlsen, the Director of the Back Cove Festival, email@example.com.