New York singer-songwriter Paul Loren keeps a busy schedule, but when he has the opportunity to perform songs by the legendary Paul Simon, he finds a way to say yes.

“Paul Simon has this kind of beautiful blend of great melody with lyrics that work well on their own as poetry or literature,” Loren said. “That’s a really rare combination. So many wordsmiths are married to melody, but if you read Paul Simon lyrics, there is a world of imagery that exists there.”

Loren and two other vocalists will join the Portland Symphony Orchestra for a pair of performances this weekend featuring Simon’s work. It’s the fourth of five Pops concerts produced by the symphony this season. The Saturday evening and Sunday matinee shows at Merrill Auditorium will include 19 songs written by Simon, ranging from folk ballads he recorded in the 1960s with Art Garfunkel to his South African-inspired solo offerings in the 1980s.

Eva Tartaglia, the symphony’s artistic operations director, said Pops shows are often a bridge for audiences who might be unfamiliar with symphonic music.

“They can hear music they know presented in a familiar way, but they’re also hearing it live with 70 musicians on stage, which can be quite special,” she said.

Simon, who turned 80 last year, has been a fixture in pop music for close to six decades. His most recent album was released in 2018, but he’s most associated with the music he made with Garfunkel, some of which is forever linked to the 1967 film “The Graduate,” and his early solo work in the 1970s. The Portland Symphony shows will lean heavily on both, including “Bridge Over Troubled Water,” “The Boxer” and “Me and Julio Down By the Schoolyard.”


Loren said his favorites in the program are “Still Crazy After All These Years” (“A song that works well in any setting,” he said) and “Homeward Bound.”

He will be joined by vocalists Daniel Berryman and Emily Drennan, both of whom have national theater credits and have been featured soloists with other orchestras, including during Paul Simon shows.

The Portland Symphony Orchestra will be led by guest conductor Walt Straiton, a longtime educator and conductor who has produced concert events featuring artists like Burt Bacharach and Neil Sedaka, among others, and has guest conducted orchestras across the country.

Tartaglia said for the symphony’s musicians, who mostly train on traditional or classical music, Pops concerts offer “a fun departure from what is generally a pretty serious rehearsal process.”

As a singer, Loren said having a full symphony behind him adds weight to his vocals.

“I’m influenced as a singer by what I hear around me,” he said. “So, it informs the decisions I make vocally by bringing me to a more emotive place. I mean there’s something about hearing the strings roaring in ‘The Sound of Silence,’ as I sing that song and the brass behind me that take me way further into the song than if I was with a four- or five-piece rock band.”

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