You can become immortal for the price of a Buick — if you find the right composer and commission the right work, like the Portland Ballet and Kirt Mosier’s “Legend of Sleepy Hollow.” I picture the young and beautiful Elise Gavard every time I play the Chopin Berceuse.

In another musical bargain, 100 people hear great music, played live by world-class musicians, every week throughout the concert season, for a total of about $8,000.

The latter deal refers to the Noonday Concert Series, presented at 12:15 p.m. every Thursday at the First Parish Unitarian Universalist Church in Portland and produced by the Portland Conservatory of Music.

The concerts are free and open to the pubic. Any donations accepted at the door go to the Ruth Glazer Scholarship Fund, said Carol Elowe, interim director of the conservatory.

The $8,000, which comes from corporate donors and the Maine Community Foundation, goes to expenses such as program printing and a (very) modest stipend for the performers. First Parish Church donates the space, which has excellent acoustics for the soloists and chamber ensembles that appear on most of the programs.

“Hardly anyone turns us down, unless they have a conflict with the date,” Elowe said. “The quality of the performances has become well-known, and most musicians are happy to join us.”

New talent is auditioned, usually on tape, by the conservatory, and the first performance is gratis as a donation to the cause.

The Noonday Concert series was the brainchild of the late Ruth Glazer, vocalist and wife of noted pianist Frank Glazer, who will perform the season’s final concert on April 7.

“She had seen the success of a similar series in New York and thought that it would be ideal for downtown Portland. I’ll never forget standing out with her on Monument Square, 15 years, ago, passing out flyers for the first series,” Elowe said.

The Noonday Concerts are also known for their variety. In addition to traditional soloists, duos and trios, the venue has been home to a steel drum band, a marimba player, a Celtic harpist, a jazz saxophonist and the Royal River Philharmonic. The largest group to perform was the girl’s choir, Musica De Filia.

“It also gives soloists an additional opportunity to perform with others,” Elowe said.

Programs generally last about 45 minutes, “not too long for the attention span of a child,” Elowe said, although most of the audience now appears to come from the surrounding office buildings.

Attendance varies between 65 and 100, although the church has room for many more. Elowe wonders if the concerts might also be an opportunity for midday excursions from local retirement communities, who generally send buses to Portland Symphony Orchestra concerts and other classical events.

Although it did not affect the scope of the program, last year was the first time Noonday Concerts fell short of its full $8,000 budget, due primarily to the bad economy. So if anyone want to become an angel

Contents of the Noonday Concert programs are posted on the conservatory’s website: www.portlandconservatory.net/events.html

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

[email protected]