A spellbound audience of children, their parents and caregivers, thrilled to the story of Abby Burgess, introduced and performed by dramatic reader, Laura Harris. Ms. Harris had introduced the instruments, Antoaneta Angelova & Mina Lavcheva, Violin I and II; George Calvert, bass; Jim Kennedy, cello; Jean Alvord, viola, one by one as the audience settled into their out-of-doors seating on the grounds of the Kennebunk Free Library. The musicians were to perform dramatic background music for a true story set at a lighthouse on the Maine Coast in the 19th century. The music reminded me of the impressionist music, “La Mer,” by Claude Debussy (1862-1918). The narrator, Laura Harris, was delightfully engaging, obviously an actor of professional stature. The instruments blended dramatically to describe and support the stormy action of the script. The performing artists who are members of the Portland Symphony Orchestra interpreted the score with a perfection that could make only a positive lasting impression on the young audience.
Several in the back row decided to join the “standing room only” line at the rear of the area. I slipped into one of the back seats and allowed myself to become mesmerized along with the children. This was not your typical weekend kiddie concert playing down to children. It was music that appeals to the basic instincts, programmed by the Portland Symphony for String Quintet recognizing that children respond to basic rhythms and sounds of life, albeit classical style, before they are channeled into one form of music or another by peer pressure, limitations of access or environment. The composer of the musical setting for the story is Delwyn Chase.
“Program music” that can also be called Impressionist, is descriptive of specific scenes. It is both a clever and sensible choice with which to introduce new audiences to classical music. Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827) introduced program music during the romantic music era with his Symphony No. 6, the Pastoral Symphony, describing scenes in nature. Composers of the baroque and classical periods offered what was solely music for music’s sake. Both modern and contemporary music for orchestra, soloist or ensemble, if of a “serious” nature, are referred to as “classical music.”
Performances of this outstanding KinderKonzert continue through August 7 at various Maine locations. It is highly recommended not only for youngsters, but also for people in their second childhood. (I am an octogenarian, and I was charmed by the presentation). You can learn more about the Portland Symphony summer tour at their website.
The writer donated this review in loving memory of the late Edith Germane Hurd, classical music lover of Martha’s Vineyard. She was the last teacher to serve eight grades in a one-room schoolhouse in New Hampton, New Hampshire, 1947-48. Her birthday is August 8. It also honors the memory of the late Dr. J. Norman Wilkinson, a founding collaborator at the organizational meeting in the spring of 2006 called to establish Classical Voice North of Boston. The brainstormers enlarged the concept to cover New England. Norman’s principal career was in theater at the University of Maine, Orono. He was a lover of classical music and served on Classical Voice of New England’s Board of Advisors for the rest of his life. Both teachers no doubt continue to support the spirit of Performing Arts of New England with unseen guidance.