Maine Pro Musica, a thirty-two piece orchestra based in Rockport, Maine, performed at Studizinski Recital Hall last Saturday afternoon in the final show of their four-concert summer tour.
Saturday’s program consisted of traditional classical works by child prodigies spanning several genres. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s “Overture to the Marriage of Figaro,” Ludwig van Beethoven’s Piano Concerto, no. 3, op.37, and Felix Mendelssohn’s Symphony No 4, op.90, were performed.
Started in 2008 by conductor Janna Hymes, Maine Pro Musica offers a diverse range of musical programming. The company’s mission is to excite and engage audiences while simultaneously educating them about the material.
“Let’s face it, this music was written so long ago, and as time goes on, that disconnect is becoming wider and wider. If people aren’t familiar with it, we try to make it very comfortable so that everyone will love it,” said Hymes.
Hymes says her goal is to broaden the appeal of classical music; she hopes to dissolve the barrier that so often exists between orchestra and audience.
“I talk from the stage about the music, but in a way that anybody will relate to,” Hymes said.
She familiarizes works by explaining both their historical context and Maine Pro Musica’s approach to the material.
Hymes says she is aware that many students are simply not interested in classical music, but believes a bit of open-mindedness could change this attitude.
“If any of those people came to the concert,” Hymes said, “I’m convinced they’d be turned around. There’s nothing like seeing a live orchestra. When you see them onstage and excited and playing, that’s infectious.”
When the concert started, it was easy to see what Hymes meant. Instead of diving headfirst into the music, as many orchestras do, Hymes chose to open the concert by enchanting the audience with passionate descriptions of the pieces to come. She began with an animated explanation of “Marriage of Figaro’s” “mischievousness, trouble, and excitement.”
Studizinski filled with energy when the orchestra began to play. Hymes’ lithe and vivacious direction encouraged an exuberant rendition of “Marriage of Figaro” from her equally lively players.
Although the quality of the entire performance was excellent, the real highlight was watching the enthusiastic exchange between Hymes and her musicians.
Beethoven’s Piano Concerto was similarly enjoyable, surpassing the first piece only due to the addition of solo pianist Chiharu Naruse. Naruse earned a standing ovation from the audience for her vigorous performance.
The second standing ovation followed the day’s final piece, Mendelssohn’s Italian Symphony. Hymes’ account of Mendelssohn’s motivations for writing the “happiest piece of music ever written” made the piece especially moving.
Now that Bowdoin is familiar with her orchestra, Hymes hopes to extend the group’s inclusive approach beyond the stage and begin working directly with the music department.
“I hope this is an ongoing relationship,” Hymes said. “If there are composition students and faculty, if there are performers that we could somehow integrate together, I would really, really like to take it a step further.”
Hymes says this offer is unique to the Bowdoin music department.
“I’ve just heard really great things about different music happening at Bowdoin,” said Hymes. “We’re not really making the college circuit. This is such a prestigious school, so this is a really fantastic thing for us.”
Although Maine Pro Musica’s summer tour has concluded, they will perform their annual Holiday Pops concert in Camden, ME in mid-December.
More information can be found on the orchestra’s website, mainepromusica.org.