WATERVILLE — The final Colby Symphony Orchestra concert of the season this weekend is being dedicated to the late Peter Ré, a Waterville professor, composer, pianist and conductor of the orchestra for many years.

Ré was 97 when he died last July 24. Ré’s “Celebratory Overture” will open the event and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s “Requiem in D Minor” will close the concert to be performed at 7:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday at Lorimer Chapel on the Colby campus. The concert, conducted by Jinwook Park, is free and open to the public.

Jonathan Hallstrom, Colby music professor, composer and longtime friend of Ré, said the event has been in the planning for nearly a year and the orchestra has been rehearsing six weeks.

“The idea is, we will celebrate Peter’s life with the ‘Celebratory Overture’ that he wrote — which seems appropriate — and pay tribute to him in an appropriately somber way with the Mozart Requiem, which is probably one of the most famous and oft-performed in repertoire,” Hallstrom said Tuesday. “I know for a fact that it was a favorite of Peter’s. It’s a very serious work, but at the same time, there are movements of it that are very uplifting and inspiring and there are movements that are, appropriately, sad.”

Park also directs the Colby College Chorale and Colby-Kennebec Choral Society for the Mozart piece.

Ré, who founded both groups, joined the Colby faculty in 1951 and retired in 1986. In 1974, he succeeded professor Ermanno F.G. Comparetti as conductor of the Colby Symphony. Ré, who by all accounts made the Colby music department a viable academic unit on campus, created the Colby Summer School of Music and started the Colby Piano Institute. He also conducted the Bangor Symphony.

Born in Little Italy in New York City, Ré studied at Juilliard School of Music, earned a bachelor’s degree from Yale University and a master of fine arts’ degree from Columbia University. He also served in the U.S. Army and met his wife, Elizabeth, there. She was in the Women’s Army Corps at the time. They had seven children and were married 69 years until her death in 2014.

While at Yale, Ré was a student of composer Paul Hindemith, and they became good friends.

Ré’s son, Peter Ré Jr., said Tuesday that his family is touched that their father is being recognized in the weekend concerts.

“I know the family is really very, very happy and honored that Colby is honoring Dad because he brought so much to Colby through the music program,” Ré Jr. said.

He recalled that his father brought Hindemith and his wife to Colby many years after Hindemith selected Ré as one of a handful of his students at Yale.

“I have a picture somewhere that my mother took of my father meeting Mr. and Mrs. Hindemith at the Waterville train station,” Re Jr. said. “He came to Colby to lecture or for a concert or something.”

He remembered fondly that the Hindemiths visited their house in North Belgrade. As the parents had lunch, Peter Jr. played violin and his brother, John, the cello, in what they referred to as “table” music.

“We played a little bit and after lunch, Mrs. Hindemith came over and gave myself and my brother a hug and she slipped a five dollar bill into my hand.”

While he was serious about music, the elder Ré also had a keen sense of humor. Peter Jr. recalled that when his father conducted the Colby chorus, he would take a bow and turn around to face the chorus, which would start giggling.

“He’d be in a tux or formal tails and catch his bow tie on his Adam’s apple and waggle it up and down,” Peter Jr. recalled.

He said he expects several family members will attend the concerts this weekend, which also will feature Ralph Vaughan Williams’ “Concerto for Oboe and Strings,” with Colby senior Lucas Lam performing an oboe solo; and Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s “Violin Concerto, Opus 35,” featuring violin soloist Jacqueline Betz, also a Colby senior and student of Park, who teaches violin and viola at Colby.

Hallstrom, a violinist, jazz guitarist and former chairman of Colby’s music department, succeeded Ré as Colby’s orchestra conductor and Ré welcomed him and helped him to get on his feet during his first year. They developed a close friendship. Hallstrom, who often was invited to Re’s home for music and dinner, said Ré was a marvelous cook and loved to create traditional Italian meals.

Hallstrom, who describes Re as a great teacher, conductor and mentor, will speak before the concerts Saturday and Sunday. He said Ré was commissioned to write the “Celebratory Overture” on the occasion of the Bangor Symphony Orchestra’s 100th anniversary in 1996. Hallstrom conducted the piece at Colby many years ago.

“It’s a very bright, exciting, upbeat piece that also is a very challenging piece, particularly for the winds and the brass,” he said. “It’s got big wind parts and trumpet fanfare.”

Amy Calder — 861-9247

[email protected]

Twitter: @AmyCalder17


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