The 80th birthday of one of Maine’s most distinguished composers, Elliott Schwartz, will be celebrated in grand style when the Portland Conservatory of Music presents the 8th annual Back Cove Contemporary Music Festival on Friday and Saturday, April 8 and 9. Nearly thirty of Schwartz’s composer friends have written new one-minute pieces in his honor, most of which are based on a musical theme derived from the letters of Schwartz’s name. These pieces, known collectively as the “ESCHART Variations,” will be 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. The “ESCHART Variations” will also be printed up in a musical Festschrift book, including bios and reminiscences of the composers, available for purchase at the festival and through the Portland Conservatory.
The Back Cove Contemporary Music Festival concerts will take place at Woodfords Church on Friday, April 8, at 7:30, and Saturday, April 9, at 3:00 and 7:30. A reception after the Saturday afternoon concert will give audience members an opportunity to mingle with the composers and musicians. In addition to a variety of other chamber works by composers from Maine and New England who will be present at the festival, the programs include five pieces by Schwartz: “Prelude, Memorial, and Aria” for cello and piano; “Dialogue No. 1” for solo contrabass; “Four Mobiles for David” for percussion and electronics; “”The Facebook Chronicles” for chamber ensemble; and “Music for Audience and Soloist.”
Admission to each concert is $15, $10 for seniors, and free for children and students with ID. Tickets and location information here. For further information, contact the interim festival director, Philip Carlsen, or visit the Portland Conservatory website.
The festival’s three concerts will also feature recent works by a varied group of New England composers, many of them former students of Schwartz’s who will be present at the festival to perform their music. The performer/composers from Maine include Portland organist Harold Stover, SPACE Gallery music programmer Peter McLaughlin, the compositional improvisation duo of Gregory Hall and Jesse Feinberg, pianist George Lopez, and 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.