2017 Back Cove Contemporary Music Festival
The ninth annual Back Cove Contemporary Music Festival, sponsored by the Portland Conservatory of Music, presented three concerts of exciting new chamber music from April 7-9, 2017. Featuring performances by some of Maine’s top musicians, including the Portland String Quartet, the Portland Piano Trio, Mark Tipton’s Les Sorciers Perdus, pianist Bridget Convey, and more, the festival showcased new music by nearly twenty composers from northern New England, many of whom were in attendance to meet the audience and talk about their pieces.
IN THE PRESS:
Concert Review: Back Cove Festival highlights what’s in vogue (Press Herald, 4/10/17)
Festival Review: Back Cove Festival opens on a high note (Maine Classical Beat, 4/7/17)
FRIDAY, APRIL 7, 7:30 PM, WOODFORDS CHURCH SANCTUARY
The festival began with a major U.S. premiere, Elliott Schwartz’s String Quartet No. 3, “Portrait for Deedee,” his last major work before he passed away last year. The Portland String Quartet, a long-time champion of new music, performed the work. Also on the program was another tribute to Schwartz, a piece by Mark DeVoto for organ and piano, featuring Harold Stover on the Woodfords Church organ. Soprano Elisabeth Marshall joined Stover in a setting of the Lord’s Prayer by Delvyn Case. Stover also performed organ works by himself and Eric Sawyer. The rest of the program showcased the Portland Piano Trio, presenting new pieces by Stephanie Ann Boyd, Delvyn Case, Francis Kayali, and Nancy Gunn.
SATURDAY, APRIL 8, 2:00 PM, WOODFORDS CHURCH SANCTUARY
The Saturday afternoon program featured more tributes to artistic giants lost in 2016: Bill Matthew’s string quartet “Lux aeterna” for Maine dance legend Marcy Plavin, solo piano pieces by John McDonald for composer Elliott Schwartz and soprano Phyllis Curtin, and a performance by UMaine and UMF students of pieces by the avant-garde pioneer Pauline Oliveros. The concert also included chamber music for strings, winds, piano, and solo guitar by John Newell, Bruce Fithian, Vineet Shende, Gregory Hall, Jesse Feinberg, and Colby College students Liam Butchart and Colleen Wright, and songs by Francis Kayali. Several fine student musicians from the Portland Conservatory also performed. Karger student Liesl Quigley sang a rendition of Jessica Piazza’s poem, “In the Room,” while Leah Israel performed W.H. Auden’s “Funeral Blues.” Piazza, upon hearing Quigley’s performance, commented “I love her voice! I thought it was really beautiful and she did the work justice.”
SUNDAY, APRIL 9, 2:00 PM, SPACE GALLERY
The focus on Sunday was music with spoken word, a tie-in to National Poetry Month. Former Maine Poet Laureate Betsy Sholl read several of her jazz poems in collaboration with musicians Gary Wittner and Jim Cameron, and Mark Tipton’s quartet Les Sorciers Perdus performed with Downeast poet Alan Brooks. Philip Carlsen offered a setting for string trio of a long, contrapuntal poem by Robert Bringhurst, a work in which the musicians spoke while they played. In “Jet-Pack for One,” Beth Wiemann combined her bass clarinet playing with an electronic reading of a wry poem by Miriam Gamble. Josh Newton narrated his “Commedia,” which also featured flutist Nicole Rawding. Gustavo and Gaelyn Aguilar, aka Tug, offered a mixed-media piece about their “Who Eats at Taco Bell?” project, and the program concluded with an audience-participatory electronic/video work by Bill Matthews.