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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: September 22, 2015

Portland String Quartet introduces its newest member: cellist Patrick Owen

Written by: Bob Keyes
Cellist Patrick Owen

Cellist Patrick Owen

For the second time in three years, the Portland String Quartet is integrating a new musician.

Founding cellist Paul Ross has retired, leaving the quartet with two of its original four members. The Portland classical music institution begins its 47th season on Sunday by welcoming its newest member, Patrick Owen.

“When Paul decided it was time to leave, we were obviously going to continue on. We were enthused,” violinist Dean Stein said. “We made the decision that there would always be a Portland String Quartet.”

Added violist Julia Adams, “Ronnie and I were not ready to stop.”

Ronnie is Ronald Lantz, a violinist. He, Adams, Ross and the late Steve Kecskemethy began the quartet in 1969. Until 2012, when Kecskemethy got sick and bowed out, the group never had a member change.

Ross departed last year, citing fatigue. The quartet filled his spot with four guest cellists last season, and from that group chose Owen as its newest member. He’s a 40-year-old Midwesterner, who now lives in Boston. His girlfriend, who also is a musician, is from Maine, and knew the Portland String Quartet through its summer educational programs.

She also works in a music store in Boston, and was surprised when Ross inquired about selling his cello. “Well that’s interesting,” she told Owen. “I wonder who they’ll pick.”

They picked Owen based on his musical abilities and personality. He blended well with the group when he performed with them last year, and got along with them outside of music.

“They’re so easy to work with,” Owen said, “and yet at the same time they have such a strong commitment to what they’re doing. It makes it fun and rewarding.”

Owen grew up in Michigan, the son of musical parents. His dad made his living as a chemist, but played the cello as a kid. His mother taught music in public schools. Among other things, he has been assistant principal cellist for the Charlotte Symphony Orchestra and principal cellist of the Colorado Music Festival. In Boston, he is the cellist of the Ellipsis Trio, and is a frequent guest with the Boston Philharmonic, Boston Lyric Opera and others.

He received his bachelor’s from the Eastman School of Music, his master’s from Juilliard and his doctor’s from Boston University.

His decision to accept the offer to join the quartet hinged partly on the quartet’s desire to play challenging music, he said, citing Mozart’s String Quartet No. 23 in F-major on Sunday’s program. He called it “the Everest of chamber music. I really look forward to the repertoire.”

Also on Sunday’s program is a piece by Ravel and Norman Dello Joio’s “Lyrical Interludes.” The quartet commissioned Joio to write the piece and debuted it in 1998. Sunday will mark the second time the PSQ has performed it.

The LARK Society for Chamber Music presents a five-concert chamber music series that features the Portland String Quartet, as well as VentiCordi and the Lantz/Kargul Duo. The LARK Society supports chamber music by organizing and promoting Portland String Quartet concerts. It takes it name from the first letter of the last names of each founding member.

Portland String Quartet season-opening concert

WHEN: 2 p.m. Sunday; preconcert lecture at 1 p.m.

WHERE: Woodfords Congregational Church, 202 Woodford St., Portland

TICKETS: $22, $20 for seniors, free for 21 and younger or students

INFORMATION: 207-761-1522 or larksociety.org

SEASON SCHEDULE: Nov. 8; Dec. 6; Feb. 14, 2016; April 24, 2016

OTHER UPCOMING chamber music concerts:

PCMF@SPACE: 7:30 p.m. Sept. 29, SPACE Gallery, 534 Congress St., Portland. The Portland Chamber Music Festival continues its contemporary chamber series, with “Sounds Unseen.” The program includes two pieces by Latvian composer Peteris Vasks, as well as works by Alfred Schnittke, Arvo Part and the not-so-contemporary composer Bach. Musicians include violinist Magnus Boye Hanse, cellist Steven Walter and pianist Mathias Susaas Halvorsen; $15; pcmf.org

DECOMPRESSION CHAMBER MUSIC: 6 p.m. Oct. 5, One Longfellow Square, 181 State St., Portland. Now in its seventh season at One Longfellow, Decompression presents informal, end-of-the-workday concerts that last about an hour. The upcoming concert features guest cellist Colin Carr for Schubert’s two-cello String Quintet in C. He’s performed across the world, including with the Royal Philharmonic and the BBC Symphony. The ensemble includes Priscilla Hayes Taylor, Emily Rideout, Colin Davis and Piotr Buczek.

DAPONTE STRING QUARTET: The ensemble welcomes fall with its “Leaf Peeper” concert, featuring music by Mozart, Mendelssohn and Schulhoff. Concerts will be at 4 p.m., Oct. 10 at Ocean View Grange, 435 Port Clyde Road, Tenants Harbor; and 3 p.m. Oct. 11 at Wells Reserve at Laudholm, 342 Laudholm Farm Road. Tickets cost $20 for Tenants Harbor, $25 for Wells; daponte.org

The DaPonte begins its regular concert season in November, with concerts in Portland, Brunswick, Damariscotta, Boothbay Harbor and Thomaston.

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