If you’ve never worked closely with a music group, you might not be able to imagine all of the discussions, decisions and considerations that have to be pondered when thinking about a series of concerts. Recently, I have had the great pleasure of working with the DaPonte String Quartet as they choose the music they will play for the next few months.
They discussed guest artists, composers, eras and periods, they discussed audience reactions and expectations, marketing implications, and time of year. They discussed emotional journeys and the composers’ intentions. They had fun playing with words to accompany the music in the form of program notes and series titles; exploring which new works to undertake, and remembering a favorite piece that will take the spotlight again. All these decisions, everything that had to be considered, eventually came together with one clear direction. And that direction presents you with a wonder-filled lineup to enjoy from now through spring of 2020.
First up is November’s series, “All A-Twitter,” featuring Beethoven’s “Op.132.” Many of you may remember this piece from the recent CD, “Pathways to Healing.” This piece has been called a haunting treasure, and it is one of the string quartets composed by Beethoven late in his life. He had been deaf for many years and some people speculate that the music of his inner ideas was even stronger during this late period. Also on the November program: Haydn’s masterpiece “Op. 33” (nicknamed “The Bird”), which features bird-like tone painting and gypsy influences; Sculthorpe’s “String Quartet No. 8” with its thrilling Asian influences will close out these concerts.
March brings our tribute to Maine’s Bicentennial. “Maine’s 200th: Music of Early Maine” includes pieces collected into a program which is designed to give audiences a taste of the influences of Maine’s early heritage. DaPonte will be joined by guest artist Eric LaPerna, percussionist. When DaPonte learned about the notated songs of Membertou (c. early 1500s-1611), a major shaman-chief of the Mi’kmaq nation, the idea for this program began to percolate. What diversity of music might there have been as so many different peoples explored, fished, and colonized Maine’s rocky coast and European influences began to permeate the land? Fragments of elegant china, unearthed at archaeological sites such as Fort Pemaquid, illustrate how some European newcomers insisted upon bringing a few familiar comforts of home. Music would most certainly have been such a comfort. But there is only a scant trace of documented music from northeastern North America in this early period, making the written record of Membertou’s songs, and one young colonial bachelor’s dance book found in Topsham, so valuable.
We know that music played a vital role in indigenous communities, that European sailors sang chanteys to accompany their work, and that all communities blessed their watercraft with traditional music. Noblemen and naval captains would likely have heard the latest music played in the grand houses of Europe. French Jesuit missionaries brought their musical liturgy and passed it on to new generations of Catholics. Publications of the latest English dance tunes sold like hotcakes when they arrived in Boston in the 18th century. But aside from such generalities, we can only speculate about what music might have been in the air, crossing the seas, “earworms” perhaps, of the people who lived in what we now call Maine so many generations ago. This program highlights significant events along Maine’s pre-statehood timeline (from the 16th to early 19th centuries), with selected music to share some of the cultural influences. We hope you will enjoy hearing the enormous musical evolution wrought by such diversity and social change.
Spring 2020 brings us to “Heartbreak Hotel” and songs of love stories with a broken twist. For this intriguing concert series, we will be joined by guest artist Emily Birsan, soprano. A selection of Renanissance songs will be followed by Bartok’s “String Quartet No. 1,” suffused with the yearning and passion of unrequited love; and finishing with Schoenberg’s “Op. 10.” Schoenberg’s Quartet has the soprano plunge from her highest register to her lowest, amidst the words “kill this longing, close the wound! Take this love from me, give me thy peace.” Indeed your heart will check in, but will not check out with this concert.
November “All A-Twitter” concert information: Brunswick - UU Church - Sunday, Nov. 3 at 2 p.m.; Newcastle - St. Patrick’s Church - Sunday, Nov. 10 at 3 p.m.; Portland - Maine Jewish Museum - Thursday, Nov. 14 at 7 p.m.; and Rockport - Opera House - Saturday, Nov. 23 at 2 p.m.
For more information/complete schedules, visit www.DaPonte.org