Melissa Reardon, artistic director of the Portland Chamber Music Festival. Courtesy of Portland Chamber Music Festival

Melissa Reardon, artistic director of the Portland Chamber Music Festival, said returning to live performance has been nourishing for body and soul. “I liken it to having a drink of water after you have been parched. It feels fulfilling and enriching to play music again,” she said.

Reardon, who lives in New York, performed earlier in the summer at Kneisel Hall in Blue Hill and at a festival in the other Portland, in Oregon, and will soon be back in Maine. With Reardon at the helm, the Portland Chamber Music Festival returns with a truncated schedule of in-person concerts after performing virtually last year because of the pandemic.

The festival begins with a benefit concert at 5 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 15, at Cove Street Arts that features Reardon and Jennifer Elowitch, the festival’s founding director, performing together on viola and violin, along with the harp-and-guitar duo of Bridget Kibbey and João Luiz.

The festival moves to Hannaford Hall on the University of Southern Maine Portland campus for concerts at 7:30 p.m. Aug. 19 and Aug. 21. The theme of the program on Aug. 19 is “Homecoming,” with music of celebration and commemoration by Indian-American composer Reena Esmail, the French composer Guillaume Connesson and others. The Aug. 21 program is built around the idea of “Revelations,” with program details to be shared after the music has been performed.

Keeping the program a secret from those attending the concert is not about trickery or to create a guessing game, but to encourage the audience to simply listen without preconception and to reflect in the moment, she said. Some music will be familiar, some perhaps not. “Revelations” is a celebration of being together and sharing music in real time, Reardon said.

“That communication you can have with your audience, that feeling of sharing music in a space with other people, is unlike anything else,” she said. “We didn’t fully appreciate that energy before we lost it. People talk about how we try to recreate that energy in some way when we are making a recording, that we imagine we are communicating through the microphone. But that palpable shared space with other human beings, there is not a substitute for that. That experience of conveying music in real time – it is ephemeral and then it is gone, the music is there more for a moment and it passes on – is worth celebrating.”

Other musicians performing this year are violinists Tai Murray and Hao Zhou, cellist Raman Ramakrishnan, flutist Alex Sopp, and clarinetist Todd Palmer.

At her previous festivals this summer, Reardon said musicians, who were all vaccinated, formed a bubble among themselves and their families and performed for audiences who were masked. They will take the same approach in Portland, with a small, tight circle of musicians and their families, and plenty of space for masked audience members to spread out comfortably at Hannaford Hall.

It’s going to be fun, she said. Among her musician friends, everyone is talking about how they are playing with a heightened sense of excitement and thrill “and with a full heart and a giving quality. People are playing with so much conviction and so much fire. They really want to communicate with audiences again.”

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.

filed under: