Classical music festivals are staging a comeback this season

David and Phillip Ying, on cello and viola, are co-artistic directors of the Bowdoin International Music Festival and members of the Ying quartet. Photo by Tim Greenway

Classical music, both works from master composers and more contemporary, will be in abundant supply artists this summer in Maine.

The Bowdoin International Music Festival will feature dozens of performances, including many free shows, throughout July and into early August.

The festival’s subscription series includes 20 concerts at either Studzinski Recital Hall on the Bowdoin campus or Crooker Theater at Brunswick High School. The series kicks off July 27 with a performance by the Ying Quartet, led by festival co-artistic directors Phillip and David Ying. Additional performances by Jupiter String Quartet, Ariel Quartet and many more professional musicians are scheduled as well.

Free shows include nearly two dozen in the Young Artist Series, performed by festival students from around the world at Studzinski Hall, and 12 community concerts at locations from Falmouth to Boothbay Harbor.

The full schedule is available online at bowdoinfestival.org.

Pianist Henry Kramer will perform at the Portland Chamber Music Festival. Photo by Grittani Creative

Another well-known festival – the Portland Chamber Music Festival – includes four main programs in August at Hannaford Hall on the University of Southern Maine campus. The performances will feature the East Coast Chamber Orchestra, the festival’s first-ever ensemble in residence, joined by pianist Henry Kramer and several other world-class musicians playing work composed by Schubert, Brahms, Tchaikovsky and more.

The festival also will host its annual benefit show on Aug. 7 at Cove Street Arts and will host the trio “Time for Three” (Nick Kendall, Charles Yang, violins/vocals; Ranaan Meyer, bass/vocals) on Aug. 19 at One Longfellow Square.

The full schedule and a description of each show is available online at pcmf.org.

Music Director Eckart Preu conducts the Portland Symphony Orchestra at the Seaside Pavilion in Old Orchard Beach. Photo courtesy of the Portland Symphony Orchestra

The Portland Symphony Orchestra will move outside for three shows in late June and July at the Seaside Pavilion in Old Orchard Beach. The June 25 show will present Beethoven’s Concerto in D major for violin and orchestra and Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 5 in E minor. On July 2, Maine folk band Schooner Fare will perform selections from its catalog with the orchestra, and on July 9, the orchestra will present “The Music of Star Wars.”

For the seventh year (the event was canceled in 2020), the Bach Virtuosi Festival, directed by Lewis Kaplan, will bring the baroque music of composer Johann Sebastian Bach to Portland for a week in late July and early August. Performances will be held at St. Luke’s Cathedral, Synagogue Etz Chaim and the Portland Museum of Art’s Great Hall. Kaplan co-founded the Bowdoin music festival and was its artistic director for a half century. The full schedule is online at bachvirtuosifestival.org.

Another Bach-themed festival, the Portland Bach Experience, has several shows lined up for the first half of June, including many free concerts. Founder Emily Isaacson first launced the festival in 2017 as a way to challenge preconceived notions about classical music. This year, there will be 17 events from May 31 through June 12 in communities from Kennebunk to Brunswick. The schedule is available online at portlandbachexperience.com.

Finally, the Sebago-Long Lake Music Festival will perform on Tuesdays between July 12-Aug. 9 at Deertrees Theater in Harrison. The festival’s 50th anniversary will feature a variety of 25 musicians, including violinist Jennifer Elowitch, who was the founder of the Portland Chamber Music Festival.


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