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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 17, 2015

Chamber festival begins ‘Salon Series’ of house concerts with sold-out show Saturday

Written by: Bob Keyes

In the early days of the Renaissance, small groups of musicians gathered in palace chambers to perform music for royalty.

Other than the royalty part, the Portland Chamber Music Festival goes back to its earliest roots on Saturday when it introduces its Salon Series of house concerts. Musicians will perform an early-evening concert in a private home in Portland’s West End for a small group of ticket-holders.

It’s an experiment and an extension of the festival’s ongoing series of concerts at SPACE Gallery in Portland. Those concerts are more relaxed than the two weeks of concerts that occur during the actual festival each August. The Salon Series takes that concept to another level, by putting musicians and patrons together. Only about 40 tickets were available for Saturday’s concert, which is sold out.

“House concerts are a natural for lots of reasons, not least of which is playing music in people’s homes is literally how chamber music evolved,” said the festival’s executive director, Alice Kornhauser. “There is simply nothing like the experience of being a few feet away from world-class artists playing the bejesus out of a great piece of music.”

Saturday’s concert features Charles Dimmick, concertmaster of the Portland Symphony Orchestra, festival co-founder and artistic director Jennifer Elowitch, Russell Wilson and Miriam Bolkosky. Elowitch planned a program to coincide with the quiet of Thanksgiving. She is calling it “Elegies, Lights and Lullabies.”

“We thought it would be nice to have an experience of deep emotional resonance and peace through music before the insanity of the holidays really kicks in,” Kornhauser said.

The composers whose music is featured on Saturday are Jewish, and two died in the Holocaust. The musicians will perform a string quartet written by Erwin Schulhoff, a string trio by Gideon Klein and George Gershwin’s “Lullaby for String Quartet.” The pieces were written in the first half of the 20th century, between 1919 and 1944.

Saturday’s concert is the first in what organizers hope will be a continuing series. It’s part of a larger trend that is finding performers taking their art directly to patrons in casual settings. There will be wine and appetizers, and the musicians will mingle with audience members before and after their performance.

Portland Chamber Music Festival Salon Series

WHEN: 5 p.m. Saturday
WHERE: A private home in the West End, Portland
TICKETS: $70; sold out

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