2016 Back Cove Contemporary Music Festival


In April 2016, we held our eighth annual Back Cove Contemporary Music Festival, a joyous weekend of concerts in honor of one of Maine’s most distinguis hed composers, Elliott Schwartz. You can learn more about the 2016 Festival by checking out the programs from all three concerts, and viewing videos that one of the musicians recorded of nearly all the festival performances.


Celebration at Back Cove Honors Elliott Schwartz (Maine Classical Beat)
Back Cove Contemporary Music Festival Celebrates Elliott Schwartz (Portland Press Herald)

At the 2016 Back Cove Contemporary Music Festival, over two dozen of Schwartz’s composer friends wrote new one-minute pieces in his honor, most of which were based on a musical theme derived from the letters of Schwartz’s name. These pieces, known collectively as the “ESCHART Variations,” were premiered by a festival ensemble consisting of violinist Dean Stein and oboist Kathleen McNerney, the co-directors of Venti Cordi, as well as flutist Krysia Tripp, cellist Philip Carlsen, and pianist Chiharu Naruse, many of whom are faculty members of the Conservatory.

EschartVariationsThe festival’s three concerts featured several pieces by Schwartz himself, as well as recent works by a varied group of New England composers, many of them former students of Schwartz’s who were present at the festival to perform their music. The performer/composers also included Portland organist Harold Stover, SPACE Gallery Music director Peter McLaughlin, the compositional improvisation duo of Gregory Hall and Jesse Feinberg, and pianist George Lopez. There were many faculty members from Maine colleges, including Dan Sonenberg and the Composers Ensemble from USM, Beth Wiemann and Philip Silver from the University of Maine, Jon Hallstrom from Colby, Frank Mauceri from Bowdoin, Bill Matthews from Bates, Josh DeScherer from Kennebec Valley Community College, and Gustavo Aguilar from the University of Maine at Farmington.

Elliott Schwartz taught at Bowdoin College for more than forty years, and has also held visiting residencies at the University of California (Santa Barbara and San Diego), Ohio State University, Harvard, Oxford, and Cambridge. His music has been performed by leading orchestras around the country, including the Minnesota Orchestra, Cincinnati Symphony, Milwaukee Symphony, and St. Paul Chamber Orchestra. He has appeared as composer-lecturer at many international venues, from Paris to Tokyo. He has written or edited four books on musical subjects, and has had many of his compositions released on LP and CD. Serving in important leadership positions with national music organizations, including as president of the College Music Society, Schwartz’s generosity, curiosity, and enthusiasm for music have touched the lives of many people.