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Out & About: Portland Symphony’s new commission: ‘The Telling Rooms’

Eckart Preu, the Portland Symphony Orchestra’s new music director, will make his first appearance this weekend, leading a program that includes a newly commissioned work co-produced with a Portland literary arts organization.

Eckart Preu, Portland Symphony Orchestra’s music director designate, will make only one appearance during the 2018-2019 season before taking over as the full-time maestro next fall. On Jan. 27 and 29 he will lead the PSO in a program that features a newly commissioned work that involves a southern Maine literary arts organization.

The Telling Room is a Portland-based nonprofit that provides a showcase for young storytellers and poets between the ages of 6 and 18. Three of them – Aubrey Duplissie, Husna Quinn and Eliza Rudalevige – have written poems that have been set to music by composer Michael-Thomas Foumai.

The composer is a Hawaiian who has won numerous awards for contemporary music who states that his inspirations come from film, literature and storytelling. The piece to be premiered by the PSO is titled “The Telling Rooms.” Fourmai describes it as a triptych, with each of the three parts based on a poem, with titles “The Happiest Color,” “Dressed in Red” and “Ink Wash.”

The program begins and ends with familiar works of the symphonic canon by a pair of Russian Romantic composers. The opener will be Piotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s “Romeo and Juliet Overture Fantasy,” which is “arguably the most sublime love music ever composed,” according to PSO program annotator Mark Rohr.

The big work will be “Scheherazade,” a huge symphonic poem composed by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov. It was inspired by the stories of the “Thousand and One Arabian Nights,” as told by the eponymous central character.

The program will be presented twice at Merrill Auditorium at Portland City Hall: Jan. 27 at 2:30 p.m. and Jan. 29 at 7:30 p.m. PSO Executive Director Carolyn Nishon tells me that the pre-concert discussion will be led by Preu with composer Foumai and two of the three Portland poets participating.

Call PortTix at 842-0800.

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