The Portland Symphony Orchestra announced its 90th anniversary season on Tuesday evening at the Holiday Inn By The Bay to a rapt audience of devotees and admirers of classical music, eager to hear what’s in store for the 2014-2015 season.
“I would say the very close second of the job of music director is to program a season,” said Maestro Robert Moody, who stood before guests in good cheer despite leaning on a cane with his leg in a cast, the result of a skydiving injury. “It’s very collaborative and I’m constantly asking for ideas. It’s my great responsibility and great joy to bring these ideas together to make the season … the most right for Portland, Maine, and the most exciting.”
Symphony-goers, no doubt, will be thrilled with the coming season, which includes the announcement that the PSO will perform all nine of Beethoven’s symphonies over the next three years.
“Nine for the ninetieth…that’s what kept going through my mind,” said the music director, explaining that the PSO will perform three of the composer’s symphonies per season. “We are really thinking of this as a Beethoven celebration, with lots of ancillary programs.”
Other highlights for the upcoming season include guest appearances by 19-year-old concert violinist and composer Conrad Tao, a young American composition competition for composers under the age of 30, a lively PSO Pops! series and the introduction of opera.
“I’m overwhelmingly excited that we can pull this off,” said Moody, regarding Poulenc’s Dialogues of the Carmelites, featuring vocalist Sarah Jane McMahon. “It will be a marquee event for the PSO.”
With his affable and engaging style, Moody guided the audience, which sat lecture-style through the clearly charted overview of each concert, saving perhaps the best for last.
“We wanted to do something very special for the ninetieth anniversary, so we’re doing another concert,” he announced, the excitement rising in his voice. “The Ninetieth Anniversary Gala concert will feature past PSO conductors Paul Vermel, Bruce Hangen and Toshiyuki Shimada… to celebrate the past, present and future.”
As guests gathered around Moody after his presentation, the enthusiasm was palpable.
“I think our orchestra is just about as good as any orchestra I’ve ever heard,” said Bruce Erwin Johnson, who lives in Portland and is a volunteer in the PSO office. “It’s a whole energy that is just fantastic!”
“To me, Robert is an absolute gift,” said Judie Clough, a resident of South Portland and a volunteer usher for the PSO. “He’s the greatest thing that has happened to Portland.”
Paul Le Blond of Portland, who attended with his companion Christine Bougie, also of Portland, was thrilled to meet the conductor and say hello.
“We go to a lot of the Pops concerts,” said Bougie. “We kind of dabble.”
“I’m excited for Mamma Mia!” Le Blond chimed in, mentioning the Mamma Mia and More – The Music of ABBA PSO Pops! concert scheduled for October.
Sandra Pablo, who lives both here in Portland and on the windward side of the island of Oahu in Hawaii, was joined by her newly acquired friend, Mary Palmer of Kennebunk.
“I was very involved with the Honolulu Symphony for many years, and I needed to be in a city with a symphony,” said Pablo about living in both places. “I’m thrilled to be a supporter and partner of the PSO.”
John Tanzer, principal timpanist with the PSO, took a moment with PSO trustee Jim Konkel.
“There is very much a family sense with this orchestra,” said Tanzer, speaking to the audience during Moody’s unveiling of the coming season. “One of the strengths of the PSO is that we collaborate, we’re all in this together and we all have the same goals.”
No where is that spirit better represented than with the PSO Pops! concert Piano Men: The Music of Elton John & Billy Joel, which will feature PSO concert manager Joe Boucher on piano and vocals.
“I’m thrilled that I get the chance to do this,” explained Boucher, clearly elated by the prospect. “My career is in technical theater, and this is the biggest thrill I could ask for!”
For more information on the 90th Anniversary Season of the Portland Symphony Orchestra, please visit www.portland symphony.org.
Margaret Logan is a freelance writer who lives in Scarborough. She can be contacted at: