And now for something entirely different. The April 6 concert of the Portland Symphony Orchestra with guest conductor Alfred Savia, music director of the Evansville Philharmonic Orchestra, promises to be a fascinating exploration of the unusual in the company of world-renowned percussionist Dame Evelyn Glennie.

The polyrhythmic performances on her Web site would make Gene Krupa sit up and take notice. Dame Evelyn is billed as the “first person in musical history to successfully create and sustain a full-time career as a solo percussionist.” She is also a jewelry designer, motivational speaker and political lobbyist (for the cause of musical education in the U.K.).

Glennie will appear as a soloist in two works: a Konzertstuck by Askell Masson (1982) and “Snowblind” (2002) by British composer Joe Duddell.

The Konzertstuck has become one of Glennie’s signature works, and she has performed it with major symphony orchestras all over the world, including the Cleveland Orchestra, the National Symphony Orchestra and the Royal Philharmonic.

The piece is based on a rhythmic motif over the meters 2/4, 3/4, 3/4, 2/4 and 3/4, and a tone row of six notes that remains constant throughout.

“Snowblind” for solo percussionist and ensemble explores the possibilities of tuned percussion, including the vibraphone. One British critic found it fascinating and “beautifully judged,” while another called it “overextended.” We shall see, but I could listen to just plain drumming all night.

Speaking of drumming, the concert will end with Ravel’s “Bolero,” which the composer called “my masterpiece. Unfortunately it contains no music.” Its most striking feature, aside from the oft-repeated theme, which changes key once, is the hypnotic effect of the complex underlying rhythm.

A couple of seasons ago, I greatly enjoyed Joan Tower’s subversive “Made in America,” written under the Ford Made in America program, which gives small orchestras the opportunity to present works commissioned from “established American composers of international repute.” “Made in America” was premiered in Maine by the Midcoast Symphony Orchestra.

The second composition originating from the Ford program, Joseph Schwantner’s “Chasing Light,” will receive its Maine premiere as the first piece on the April 6 program.

The composer said that ” ‘Chasing Light’ draws its spirit, energy and inspiration from the celebration of vibrant colors and light that penetrate the morning mist as it wafts through the trees in the high New England hills. Like a delicate dance, those images intersected with a brief original poem that helped fire my musical imagination.”

In addition to the Ravel, the classics will be represented by the Beethoven Symphony No. 8 in F Major, Opus 93, a short and cheerful work that is not as popular as the other eight.

When his pupil Carl Czerny asked Beethoven why it was played less than the Seventh, he replied, “because the Eighth is so much better.”

Christopher Hyde is a musician and writer who lives in Pownal. He can be reached at:

[email protected]


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