George Lopez will perform Beethoven’s Fifth Piano Concerto with the Midcoast Symphony Orchestra. Courtesy photo

The Midcoast Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Rohan Smith, presents two concerts dubbed “Welcome Back!” one at 7 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 23 at Gendron Franco Center in Lewiston and another at 2:30 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 24, at the Orion Performing Arts Center in Topsham.

Pianist George Lopez will perform Beethoven’s Fifth Concerto, “Emperor.” The concerts also feature “Pines of Rome” by Ottorino Respighi, “Fanfarria” by Tania León and “Lyric for Strings” by George Walker.

While the orchestra has offered a handful of outdoor pops concerts during the COVID-19 pandemic, this will be the first time the orchestra has returned to its regular concert series at its indoor homes in Topsham and Lewiston since January 2020. Smith said the time away has changed the way he approaches music.

“I myself now hear music differently, more vividly and personally than before,” Smith said. “The pandemic has made us realize that what we lost for a time is more meaningful to our lives than we could ever have imagined.”

Lopez has been featured around the globe as recitalist, soloist with orchestra, and collaborator. He is the Beckwith Artist in Residence at Bowdoin College and conducts the Bowdoin College Symphony Orchestra. He received critical acclaim for his interpretation of Bach’s Goldberg Variations at the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam and performed the complete Beethoven Piano Concertos in two concert seasons. He has performed three of these concertos with Midcoast Symphony Orchestra over the years.

“It’s been the amazing music of Beethoven that got me through the last 20 months of isolation,” Lopez said. “If  anyone could be the face of depression, it’s Ludwig. He was severely abused as a child, deaf as an adult, his face disfigured from smallpox, and he spent his whole life looking for love which he never found. How he found the courage not only to survive but to create some of the most powerful music in history is incredible! With the concerto, his strength has become mine.”

Topsham audience members are invited to attend a free pre-concert talk by Maestro Smith from 1:30 to 2 p.m. before the Sunday concert. He will share his thoughts on the music, old and new, to be performed.

The two short pieces by modern composers are part of the orchestra’s advancement of musical diversity. Each program this season has one or two contemporary works, including music by Maine-based composers, women and other underrepresented groups.

All Midcoast Symphony Orchestra’s musicians and staff members are fully vaccinated against COVID-19. Audience members must wear masks to attend concerts, which will be at reduced capacity to allow for social distancing. Check the orchestra’s website at MidcoastSymphony.org for updates on COVID protocols.

Tickets are $22 in advance, $25 at the concert, free for ages 18 and under and for college students with identification. Audiences are encouraged to purchase tickets in advance at MidcoastSymphony.org or by calling (207) 846-5378.

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