PSO returns to the stage this weekend – with a live audience


Eckart Preu may feel a little uncertain when the Portland Symphony Orchestra returns live in front of a live audience on Sunday night for the first of three outdoor summer concerts at Old Orchard Beach.

“I did an event with real people in the same room, and I played the piano, but this will be the first concert with an audience since March 2020, and I don’t even know what it looks like anymore,” a declared Preu. , the musical director of the orchestra, who will conduct the concert on Sunday. “In many ways, it will be a rediscovery of physical things, mental things and interpersonal things, and musical things. We have been closed for a year and a half and we have to get out of this protective shell. “

Eckart Preu will conduct the Portland Symphony Orchestra on Sunday night at the first of three outdoor summer concerts in Old Orchard Beach. Shawn Patrick Ouellette / Personal photographer

The orchestra will perform at 6 p.m. on Sunday at the Seaside Pavilion in Old Orchard Beach, a covered open-air pavilion. It has 1,400 seats, 900 of which are available for concerts this summer to encourage social distancing. Masks are recommended for those attending concerts, and mandatory in washrooms and certain other spaces.

The orchestra will be back at the Pavillon de la Mer for concerts on July 10 and 17. The series includes a classical, family and pop concert. Sunday’s concert, titled “Eckart Leads Beethoven”, will feature Symphony No. 3, the “Heroic” Symphony, which Beethoven wrote in memory of a “great man”. Preu dedicates Sunday’s performance to the heroes of the pandemic. The Discovery Series family concert, “Musical Tales”, with guest conductor Tara Simoncic, will begin at 2:30 pm on July 10. The Pops Concert, at 7:30 pm on July 17, features music by John Williams from the “Jaws” films, the “Star Wars” series and more, with guest conductor Morihiko Nakahara.

The PSO has recorded several concerts inside the Merrill Auditorium, without an audience, since the pandemic and made them available for streaming. Summer concerts at Old Orchard Beach will not be broadcast. Preu described the orchestra’s transition to digital programming as “an organizational feat, but there is no substitute for live performances for people. We can sense the energy of the audience, and sharing that energy is crucial to the experience. We wanted to bring this back, carefully. The main thing is to be back in the community, to get out of our room and play for the people.

Playing in an outdoor pavilion will add to the drama. “When you remove the walls, something happens to your psyche,” he said. “Your mind opens up and the experience is different. This is why summer festivals are so popular. Nature and the experience of being outdoors is an integral part of who we are.

Preu said he plans to discuss the orchestra’s next season from the podium on Sunday and couldn’t share details ahead of time. The orchestra will officially announce its plans on Monday.

To be on the safe side, non-Aeolian artists will wear masks, but no longer sit on each other. Wind performers, who cannot wear masks, will be seated 6 feet apart, but without the clear plastic dividers they performed behind for the streaming concerts in Merrill. “It was hard to get along in those booths,” said Preu, “so it will be a big step forward to be able to communicate again. Communication is essential in music. If you take that away because of the distance, we can make it work. It still sounds good, but now it will be – “Whoa! This is what we can do!” It will be a fun experience.

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