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Bob Keyes

Bob Keyes has written about the arts in Maine since 2002. He’s never been much an artist himself, other than singing in junior high school chorus and acting in a few musicals. But he’s attended museums, theaters, clubs and concert halls all his life, and cites Bob Dylan as most influential artist of any kind since Picasso. He lives in Berwick.

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Posted: November 6, 2017

A lyrical evening of ‘Music from the Heart’ in South Portland

Written by: Bob Keyes
Jennifer Elowitch Photo by Walter van Dyk, courtesy of Portland Chamber Music Festival

Jennifer Elowitch
Photo by Walter van Dyk, courtesy of Portland Chamber Music Festival

Expect an emotional evening of music if you’re attending Saturday’s concert of the Portland Chamber Music. Artistic director Jennifer Elowitch is building the program around two cantatas by Johann Sebastian Bach.

“We named the concert ‘Music from the Heart’ because for many classical musicians, including me, Bach is absolutely fundamental,” she said. “I can’t imagine any music that expresses emotions as deeply and spiritually as this music.”

Jonathan Bagg Photo courtesy of Portland Chamber Music Festival

Jonathan Bagg
Photo courtesy of Portland Chamber Music Festival

Bach cantatas remain among his most beloved compositions. A cantata refers to a piece of music for vocals and instruments. Bach wrote secular and sacred cantatas, and more than 200 survive. Elowitch, who is one of nine performers at Saturday’s concert, selected a secular cantata, “Non sa che sia dolore” (or “He knows not what sorrow is”) and soprano-alto duet from “Jesu, der du meine Seele,” a sacred piece.

The rest of the program includes music by Dvorak, Vivaldi and Frank Martin. “The other through-line in all the pieces is lyricism,” Elowitch said. “The evening features lots of flute, violin and voice, three of the most lyrical instruments we have, and all of the repertoire for the evening features these singing qualities.”

Saturday’s concert at Congregation Bet Ha’am in South Portland is also among the largest presented by the Portland Chamber Music Festival, with nine performers. It will be presented in collaboration with Electric Earth Concerts of Peterborough, New Hampshire. Electric Earth will repeat the concert with the same musicians in New Hampshire on Sunday.

Laura Gilbert Photo courtesy of Portland Chamber Music Festival

Laura Gilbert
Photo courtesy of Portland Chamber Music Festival

Among the nine musicians performing this weekend, four are artistic directors of music festivals or musical ensembles in the region, including Jonathan Bagg and Laura Gilbert from Electric Earth. If nothing else, that speaks to the depth of classical music in the area, said Alice Kornhauser, the festival executive director. “I think it says something about the New England music community,” she said. “All of them lead very different organizations, with different missions and different structures. But the organizations are all part of the larger community and the larger chamber music world.”

The cross-pollination that occurs when artistic leaders from different organizations get together leads to new ideas and collaborations, Kornhauser said, evidenced by the repeating concerts this weekend in Portland and Peterborough.

Portland Chamber Music Festival, “Music from the Heart”

WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Saturday
WHERE: Congregation Bet Ha’am, 81 Westbrook St., South Portland
HOW MUCH: $40
INFO: pcmf.org/special-events

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