Now in its 30th season, the Midcoast Symphony Orchestra performs shows in Lewiston and Topsham Jan. 11-12. Contributed

TOPSHAM — The Midcoast Symphony Orchestra is kicking off its 30th season with an effort to get youth animated about the world of classical music.

In its presentation this weekend of “Children’s Tales and Cartoon Classics,” selections are “aimed at introducing and educating young people to the amazing colors and characteristics of the symphony orchestra,” said Rohan Smith, the orchestra’s conductor and musical director. “The real goal of this concert is to bring in young kids, and inspire, excite and inform them, and get them really interested in music.”

He hopes the experience will lead them to pursue an interest in music, if only just through coming back to future concerts.

Smith, who teaches music at the Phillips-Exeter School in New Hampshire, noted the importance of classical music in the education of youth and of eliminating its sometime-stereotype as being highbrow and elitist.

“This is a profound art which develops human skills and collaboration at a very deep level,” he said. “Enormous skills of self discipline.”

One incentive to attend: Youths 18 and younger, or college students with identification, get into shows for free.

“Children’s Tales and Cartoon Classics” takes the stage at the Gendron Franco Center in Lewiston at 7 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 11, and at 2:30 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 12, at the Orion Performing Arts Center in Topsham. The two featured pieces – “Peter and the Wolf” by Sergei Prokofiev and “The Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra” by Benjamin Britten – will be narrated by Midcoast Symphony Orchestra member Caroline Cornish and her daughter, Eleanor Kmack.

The no-charge “Meet the Instruments” session runs prior to the Topsham event, from 1:15-1:45 p.m., during which audience members can check out the musicians’ instruments up close.

The show also offers well-known pieces used in classic cartoons, such as “Overture to William Tell” (or “Bugs Bunny Rides Again”) by Gioachino Rossini, “Ride of the Valkyries” (or “Kill the Wabbit”) by Richard Wagner and “Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2” (or “Rhapsody Rabbit”) by Frank Liszt.

30 years of music

With offerings ranging from classical to modern periods, the 90-member orchestra plays in Lewiston and Topsham. Its all-volunteer members hail from south of Portland up along the coast to Rockland and from Augusta to the Lewiston-Auburn region.

Starting as a chamber group in 1990 with stringed instruments only, the group has grown to include brass instruments as well to become a symphony orchestra. Its expansion from about 20 string players three decades ago to about 90 members today has “been fantastic,” said John Teller of Georgetown, an oboe player and orchestra member for more than 20 years, as well as its former executive director.

Teller said the orchestra is “keeping culture alive in a community.”

“I do it because I’m so interested in classical music, and … if you don’t have good groups performing it, it’s going to die,” Teller said. “And it shouldn’t die; it stood all these years with all these wonderful composers … but it has to be performed.”

Tickets for “Children’s Tales and Cartoon Classics” can be bought in advance for $22 at or at Gulf of Maine Books in Brunswick, Now You’re Cooking in Bath, the Book Review in Falmouth and Gendron Franco Center. Tickets cost $25 at the concert for adults.

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