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International Tourism: Portland, Maine Bach Festival will help put city on map as classical music destination - by Bob Keyes

City of Portland Maine
Lewis Kaplan, co-founder and longtime artistic director of the Bowdoin International Music Festival, plans to launch an early summer classical music festival in Portland that will celebrate the music of Johann Sebastian Bach and add to Portland’s growing reputation as a destination for classical music.

The inaugural Portland Bach Festival will run June 19-24 at churches in Portland and Falmouth. One concert, “Bach and Beer,” will be scheduled outdoors on the waterfront and feature Portland craft beers.

“I just started thinking, ‘I want to do more,’ ” said Kaplan, 82, who left Bowdoin after 50 years, during which he made the festival a leader in the education and refinement of young musicians from around the globe. “I am not retired, and I thought … Portland would be a very good place to do it, that the time was right.”

Portland will now be able to boast a summer full of classical music: the Bach festival in June, PORTopera in July and the Portland Chamber Music Festival in August. In addition, the Portland Symphony Orchestra’s reputation as a regional orchestra continues to grow, and the chamber festival is expanding to year-round programming.

Kaplan, senior professor of violin and chamber music at The Juilliard School, has had a long-term love affair with Bach. The festival will include four performances in baroque and modern styles, along with lectures and master classes.

There will be collaborations among musicians from Maine, New York and Europe, as well as performances by two Maine-based chamber vocal ensembles, the Oratorio Chorale and the St. Mary Schola.
Concerts are scheduled for The Episcopal Church of St. Mary on Foreside Road in Falmouth and the intimate Emmanuel Chapel at St. Luke’s Cathedral in Portland.

Appropriate performance spaces are key to the festival’s success, said Kaplan, who lives in New York and Brunswick.

“We live in a crazy world, and that is not an outrageous statement,” he said by phone from New York. “The idea of performing in a sanctified area and people finding peace and solace with some of the greatest music ever written, is reason enough to make this festival.”

Emily Isaacson, artistic director of the Oratorio Chorale, will serve as associate artistic director of the festival. She is a Brunswick native who now lives in Portland.

The festival will enrich the cultural offerings of the city, she said.

“Portland has become a world-class city, and a world-class city deserves world-class art,” Isaacson said. “People are coming to our state to see the incredible landscape, to enjoy the charm of our cobblestone streets and to dine in our fabulous restaurants. We want them to come for world-class music as well.”

Kaplan agreed. “The New York Times just wrote about Portland as a food destination,” he said. “Many of my friends in New York are looking for a reason to come to Portland.”

The festival benefits from Kaplan’s contacts in the music world. As he did when he ran the Bowdoin festival, he has recruited a dozen “major performers” from the United States and Europe, including Ariadne Daskalakis, a baroque and modern violinist from Germany; John Ferrillo, principal oboist for the Boston Symphony Orchestra; and Beiliang Zhu, who won the first prize and the Audience Award at the International Bach Competition in Leipzig in 2012.

Maine performers are Bruce Fithian, a tenor and director of the St. Mary Schola; organist Ray Cornils; and Amanda Hardy, first oboist of the Portland Symphony. The Oratorio Chorale will serve as choir in residence.

“We want to be measured against any of the top performers in the world,” Kaplan said. “These concerts had better be damned good from the start. That’s our standard.”

Kaplan said the festival will become an annual event.

Read more: Portland Bach Festival will help put city on map as classical music destination - The Portland Press Herald / Maine Sunday Telegram

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