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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 23, 2014

PSO opens its 90th season with restored Kotzschmar Organ

Written by: Bob Keyes
Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Press Herald file photo

Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Press Herald file photo

The Portland Symphony Orchestra celebrates its 90th season with the return of a 102-year-old organ and a 27-year-old guest.

With maestro Robert Moody at the podium, the orchestra opens its season at Merrill Auditorium at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday with the “Organ and Chorale Spectacular.”

The centerpiece is Leoš Janáček’s “Glagolitic Mass,” which will feature municipal organist Ray Cornils performing on the restored Kotzschmar Organ. The pipe organ was installed in 1912 and fully restored over the past two years.

It will be the second major event for the refurbished city organ in days. On Saturday, Cornils and the Friends of the Kotzschmar Organ christen the newly installed organ with their own gala.

The PSO opener is all about heritage, community and collaboration. The Choral Art Society and pianist Henry Kramer, 27, who grew up in Cape Elizabeth, will perform Beethoven “Fantasia” for piano, chorus and orchestra.

Over the next three seasons, the orchestra will perform all nine Beethoven symphonies, starting in January 2015 with Symphony No. 6, “Pastorale.” “Fantasia” foreshadows the series.

Kramer began preparing for the piece in the spring, when he accepted the invitation.

“I never knew the piece that well,” said Kramer, who will get his doctorate in music from Yale University in the spring.

“Every time I heard it, it seemed kind of strange to me, because it is strange. It starts alone with the piano, then the orchestra comes in, but very timidly. The piece evolves into a glorious finale where chorus comes in, and it’s joyous.”

The orchestra also will perform Dvorak’s “Humoresque,” which appeared on a program in the orchestra’s first season.

“We wanted to find a way to connect this year’s opening concert to the concert that got this whole organization started 90 years ago,” said Lisa Dixon, the orchestra’s executive director. “Throughout the season, we’re looking to celebrate the past of the Portland Symphony and celebrate the present and celebrate the future.”

On May 2, Moody will welcome back three past music directors. Paul Vermel, Bruce Hangen and Toshiyuki Shimada, for a season-ending gala. Moody called the gathering “a great way to celebrate the orchestra’s past, present and future.”

The orchestra will spotlight contributions from past music directors by inviting each to conduct a piece of his choosing. Vermel will conduct Beethoven’s “Egmont Overture.” Hangen chose Respighi’s “Fountains of Rome,” and Shimada will lead Hindemith’s “Metamorphosis.” Moody will conduct one of the best-known pieces of classical music, Strauss’s “Also Sprach Zarathustra,” a small portion of which opens the movie “2001: A Space Odyssey.”

Vermel led the orchestra from 1967 to 1975; Hangen was music director for a decade, from 1976 to 1986. Shimada took over in 1986, and was at the helm for 20 years. Moody succeeded Shimada in 2008.

Portland Symphony Orchestra’s 90th Season Opening Concert: Organ & Choral Spectacular

WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Tuesday
WHERE: Merrill Auditoruim, 20 Myrtle St., Portland
HOW MUCH: $31 to $81, PortTix; 842-0800
INFO: portlandsymphony.org

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