This weekend has a number of intriguing concerts featuring a variety of music.

Top billing goes to the Indigo Girls, a Grammy Award-winning pair of singer/songwriters who have been singing and writing together since their high school days. They visit Portland’s Merrill Auditorium on Sunday.

April is the busiest month on the University of Southern Maine School of Music public performance calendar, which is chock-full of faculty and student concerts. Top billing this weekend goes to one in the Faculty/Spotlight Series – an evening featuring music penned by faculty composers – slated for this Friday.

The University of Southern Maine Chorale, directed by professor Robert Russell, will take the stage the following evening. And USM’s top jazz prof, Chris Oberholtzer, leads the Portland Jazz Orchestra, which plays at One Longfellow Square on Tuesday.

Indigo Girls

A quarter century is a long time for a music duo to stay together, but that’s the story of Amy Ray and Emily Saliers. Those two names are almost unknown to the general public, but their “Indigo Girls” brand name is one of the brightest and most recognizable monikers among contemporary singer-songwriters.

The two folk-rockers first got together in high school in Georgia and perfected their duo act a few years later after college. The secret is their distinctive chemistry. “The Indigo Girls personify what happens when two distinct sensibilities, voices, and worldviews come together to create something transcendently its own,” explains Rolling Stone magazine. “Amy Ray’s a lapsed goth girl with an astringent cynicism; Emily Saliers is the pop optimist with the taste for jangle.”

Over the years they’ve released 11 albums, mostly on the Epic label, and won one Grammy, the 1990 honor for “Best Contemporary Folk” recording. They’ve been among the top draws on the Lilith Fair tours and the college concert circuit.

Great Northeast Productions presents the Indigo Girls at 7:30 p.m. Sunday, April 19, at Merrill Auditorium at Portland City Hall. Call PortTix at 842-0800.

USM Faculty Composers’ Concert

Contemporary works in the classical tradition plus jazz will be featured on Friday when the University of Southern Maine School of Music presents a concert entirely devoted to its faculty composers.

On Friday, April 17, these artists will be spotlighted on a single concert organized by professor Daniel Sonenberg. The evening features two world premieres; styles include art song, solo piano and several works for live musicians plus recorded sound.

Six current faculty members will be represented: Tom Bucci, Bruce Fithian, Nancy Gunn, Scott Harris, Tim O’Dell and Sonenberg. Joseph Packales, who died last fall, was a longtime professor; he will be memorialized with three movements of “Lucidae,” a large suite for solo piano that reflects the composer’s fascination with the cosmos.

The works by Gunn and Sonenberg represent the school’s new Digital Music Studio; excerpts from recorded sounds will be interpolated into the performance. Gunn’s “Harbor” will include sounds recorded on a Portland pier and digitally manipulated. Sonenberg’s “Eating Babies” revolves around the recorded sounds of a midnight feeding of infant triplets.

Harris, director of the school, teaches theory, ear training, music analysis, history and composition. During his tenure the school has experienced enrollment growth as well as growth in private support. His works have been heard in recent performances in New York, Boston and Portland. Harris’ art songs on Friday’s program are part of a larger set of vocal quartets that are modeled on Johannes Brahms’ “Liebeslieder Waltzes.”

“I had long adored Brahms’ ‘Liebeslieder Waltzes,’ a work for vocal quartet and two pianists,” explains Harris, “and I wanted to create a piece in a ‘popular’ style for the same ensemble. The Shakespearean-era love lyrics I found – neither particularly serious nor particularly lofty – seemed to be ideal texts for such a work. I hope this piece is a bit of a romp to perform and to hear – the musical equivalent of a calorie-laden dessert.”

Catch this contemporary concert at 8 p.m. April 17 at Corthell Hall on the University of Southern Maine’s Gorham campus. Call the music box office at 780-5555. And the calories won’t all be in Harris’ music: A meet-the-musicians reception follows.

USM Chorale

The University of Southern Maine Chorale, directed by professor Robert Russell, is one of the school’s largest ensembles. It will perform an early evening concert on Saturday, April 18.

The centerpiece of the program is John Rutter’s “Requiem,” a beautifully lyrical choral work in Latin and English accompanied by a small instrumental ensemble. It is an adapted musical setting of the Catholic Requiem Mass; its seven movements are Requiem Aeternam, Out of the Deep, Pie Jesu, Sanctus, Agnus Dei, The Lord is my Shepherd, and Lux Aeterna. Completed in 1985, Rutter’s “Requiem” is one the famous choral works of modern times.

Other shorter works will complete the program. “With a Lily in Your Hand,” by Eric Whitacre, is an excerpt from a three-part work based on a poem by Federico García Lorca. The music beautifully mimics butterflies, fire, and water. Contemporary Canadian composer R. Murray Schafer wrote “Epitaph for Moonlight,” based on an exercise on pitch he gave to his seventh-grade students. “Epitaph” captures the feeling of moonlight through music.

Catch this concert at 5 p.m. April 18 at Corthell Hall on the University of Southern Maine’s Gorham campus. Call the music box office at 780-5555.

Portland Jazz Orchestra

The University of Southern Maine School of Music’s top jazz professor, Chris Oberholtzer, is the artistic director of the Portland Jazz Orchestra, which performs Tuesday, April 21, in its namesake city. Although it’s not one of the official USM ensembles, it includes a number of artists connected to the school. Plus other music educators: The PJO comprises professional musicians, many of whom are both performers and teachers in New England.

Started in 2004, the PJO is an 18-piece jazz group that performs a variety of traditional and contemporary big band literature. The PJO enjoys playing works written by its own members – such as Craig Skeffington, Willie Johnson, Chris Humphrey and Terry White – in addition to literature composed by a variety of jazz artists that include Tom Kubis, Matt Harris, Bob Mintzer, Bill Holman and Maria Schneider. The PJO also performs classic works from the big band libraries of the Count Basie Orchestra, Woody Herman Orchestra and the Stan Kenton Orchestra.

One Longfellow Square (corner of Congress and State in Portland), presents the Portland Jazz Orchestra at 8 p.m. April 21, part of its every-Tuesday jazz series. Call OLS at 761-1757.

Sidebar Elements

outabout.jpgUniversity of Southern Maine School of Music professor Dan Sonenberg will be among six current faculty composers whose works will be featured April 18 at the Gorham campus. (Mary Snell photo)
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