Chamber Music in the Maine Woods

If you’re ever in Downeast Maine in the summertime, and you love classical music, you owe it to yourself to take a side trip down to the small town of Hancock, and take your chamber music in the unique setting of the Pierre Monteux School and Music Festival.

The intimacy of the setting has no comparison.  The concert hall is a big green barn with windows, a raised stage at one end, and seating for about 225 in folding chairs on the wooden floor.  The shape of the roof and the building create a unique acoustical soundbox with no bad seats.

The best seats, of course, are those in the front row, where the closest of the musicians are performing a mere 20’ or so away.  The expressions on their faces, the swaying of their heads bodies with the flow of the music from their fingertips, the inner smiles and jubilant expressions—these add a depth and meaning to the performance that is simply not available in a large, formal concert hall.

Throughout the month of July, chamber music holds court every Wednesday.  The performers are serious students of the form, drawn from universities from around the US, as well as from other nations.  The programs—chosen by the students themselves—are as rich and varied as the concept allows, and that is saying a lot.

By way of example, the program for July 26, 2017 included Beethoven, Mendelssohn, and Dvorak from the old school, Ravel, Bohme, and Coleridge-Taylor with their freer stylings, and a contemporary piece from Anthony Plog.  There were violas and violincellos galore, and virtuoso violins from Allion Salvador and Judith Kim.  Brass quintets and sextets, harp (Caitlin Thorn) and horn, and appearances from our friends on oboe (Mickey Hansen) and bassoon (Jamael Smith).

Every performance was met with thunderous applause, and several with standing ovations for the excellent work.  The musicians themselves are in the school all summer, performing in local churches and events, as well as in the full-orchestra Sundays in the summer.

This is truly an experience that cannot be found anywhere else.  Come to Maine and see!

Review by David Hirzel