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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: October 7, 2015

PSO season begins this weekend with Dvorak, Beethoven and Berlioz

Written by: Bob Keyes
Robert Moody is the Portland Symphony Orchestra’s conductor and music director.

Robert Moody is the Portland Symphony Orchestra’s conductor and music director.

Robert Moody and the Portland Symphony Orchestra begin another season together on Sunday with grand intentions.

Moody, the orchestra’s music director and conductor, chose music by Dvorak, Beethoven and Berlioz to open the season because they’re among his favorite composers, and he wanted to give the season a rollicking start. The program repeats on Tuesday, with both concerts at Merrill Auditorium.

The centerpiece is Beethoven’s first symphony. Over three seasons, the orchestra will play all nine of Beethoven’s symphonies, and this is the beginning of year two of the Beethoven cycle.

Moody didn’t want to program the Beethoven symphonies in order. Last year, he chose Nos. 3, 6 and 7 because they represented Beethoven at his mature self. “Now we get to back to the beginning to see where the genesis of his compositional greatness came from,” he said. Plus, he joked – sort of – that he took a cue from “Star Wars” and decided to start telling the Beethoven story in the middle, then jump around chronologically.

Moody is an unabashed fan of “Star Wars.”

After intermission, the program closes with Berlioz’s “Te Deum,” which will feature a chorus, children’s choir and tenor soloist René Barbera. The piece also calls for the “rhapsodic” use of an organ, and there’s no better organ than the Kotzschmar to create grandness, he said.

This season marks the first for Carolyn Nishon as executive director. She began the job in September, earning a promotion after the departure of previous executive director Lisa Dixon French.

Among other things, this season is notable for the orchestra’s collaborations with community organizations, she said. The opening concerts includes three guest choruses, and the second concert, “Enchanted Favorites” on Nov. 10, will features dancers from Portland Ballet and costumes designed and made by students in Maine College of Art’s department of textile, fashion and design. “We’re always open to community collaboration,” Nishon said. “We’re a strong proponent of the ‘stronger together’ motto. The more arts organizations can work together, the stronger we are for the city and for the state.”


WHEN: 2:30 p.m. Sunday and 7:30 p.m. Tuesday
WHERE: Merrill Auditorium, 20 Myrtle St., Portland
TICKETS: $32 to $82 through PortTix; 207-842-0800 or

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