Judy Collins and the music of Billy Joel and Elton John highlight the pops concert lineup for the Portland Symphony Orchestra in 2014-15, but Portland’s cultural community has its eyes on something much bigger.
The 2014-15 concert season marks the symphony’s 90th, and the orchestra will celebrate by bringing back a trio of past music directors with a season-ending gala on May 2, 2015. Paul Vermel, Bruce Hangen and Toshiyuki Shimada will join maestro Robert Moody on the Merrill Auditorium stage for the occasion.
Moody called the gathering “a great way to celebrate the orchestra’s past, present and future.”
The orchestra will spotlight contributions from past music directors by inviting each to conduct a piece of his choosing. Vermel, whom Moody met for the first time on Monday night at a concert in Chicago, will conduct Beethoven’s “Egmont Overture.” Hangen chose Respighi’s “Fountains of Rome,” and Shimada has yet to name his desired piece. Moody will conduct one of the best-known pieces of classical music, Strauss’s “Also Sprach Zarathustra,” a small portion of which opens the movie “2001: A Space Odyssey.”
Vermel led the orchestra from 1967 to 1975; Hangen was music director for a decade, from 1976 to 1986. Shimada took over in 1986, and was at the helm for 20 years.
Moody succeeded Shimada in 2008.
Moody announced details of the festive season Tuesday night at an event at Holiday Inn by the Bay, attended by supporters, friends and musicians.
The music director wore a walking boot for Tuesday’s announcement, the result of a skydiving accident. His jump went fine, he said, until the landing, when he broke his leg. The adventure was part of a Christmas gift, he said.
The orchestra begins its 90th season Sept. 30 with the return of the Kotzschmar Organ and municipal organist Ray Cornils.
It will be the second major event for the refurbished city organ in a matter of days. On Sept. 27, the Friends of the Kotzschmar Organ, the nonprofit arts group overseeing the organ’s two-year, $2.6 million restoration, will christen the newly installed organ with its own gala.
The opening concert on Sept. 30 will feature several blockbuster pieces of music, including Dmitri Shostakovich’s “Festive Overture,” which the composer wrote in 1954 to mark the anniversary of the Russian October Revolution, and Beethoven’s “Fantasia,” written for piano, chorus and orchestra.
The Choral Art Society and young Maine pianist Henry Kramer of Cape Elizabeth will join the orchestra for this concert, which also will feature Cornils on the restored organ for Czech composer Leo Janacek’s “Glagolitic Mass.”
As part of the 90th season, the orchestra will perform three of Beethoven’s nine symphonies: Nos. 3, 6 and 7. Moody said the orchestra would perform the entire nine-symphony cycle over three seasons.
Singer Judy Collins will join the orchestra for pops concerts April 25-26, 2015. On Feb. 7-8, 2015, the orchestra will perform with the music on Elton John and Billy Joel. Neither star will join the orchestra, but the PSO will salute their cultural contributions by performing their songs.
The symphony’s concert manager, Joe Boucher, will sing the songs in a program called “Piano Men.” A rock singer, Boucher developed the program, which he has performed once before in Portland but not with the PSO.
Other pops concerts include the music of the band ABBA and a Big Band celebration.
Additional highlights of the 90th season include guest appearances by pianists Conrad Tao on Oct. 26 and Kevin Cole on Feb. 15 and 17, 2015; violinist Jennifer Frautschi on Jan. 25 and Jan. 27, 2015; and vocalists Sarah Jane McMahon on March 8, 2015, and Storm Large on April 19 and April 21, 2015.
The annual “Magic of Christmas” holiday concerts will be Dec. 12-21.