Androscoggin Valley Community Orchestra will perform works by Schumann, Händel and a Bates College professor


LEWISTON — Themed “A Celebration of Local Musicians,” the Androscoggin Valley Community Orchestra’s concert on Sunday, May 2, will feature several collaborations.

The program will bring together family members; a student and a teacher; and a composer from Bates College and a local musician.

The concert will take place at 3 p.m. at the Franco-American Heritage Center.

The orchestra, under the direction of Paul Ross, will open with the Schumann Symphony No. 2 in C major, Opus 61, by Robert Schumann; followed by “Music for the Royal Fireworks,” by Georg Friederic Händel.

The concert will conclude with “Double Concerto for Violin, Viola and Orchestra,” by William Matthews, the Alice Swanson Esty Professor of Music at Bates College.

“We always feature a member of our orchestra in a solo capacity at the spring concert,” said Sally Grube, an AVCO member. “This year, we will not only be featuring Hannah Rodrique, who is a senior at Lewiston High School, but she will be joined by Greg Boardman, who is a Lewiston High School string teacher and a well-known traditional fiddler.”

Rodrigue will play violin and Boardman will play viola in Matthews’ double concerto.

Boardman said Rodrigue has an extraordinary talent for playing stringed instruments, including mandolin, guitar and banjo. Her interests in classical music expanded to encompass traditional fiddle styles, he added.

Boardman and Rodrigue participate in a master/apprentice relationship under a grant from the Maine Arts Commission.

The double concerto by Matthews reflects the heritage of New England and Franco- American fiddling. It includes “Shoeshop Jig” and “Androscoggin Valley Breakdown,” as well as themes based on such well-known fiddle tunes as “Marie’s Wedding” and “Isabeau s’y promène.”

Boardman was AVCO director at the time the piece was created and collaborated with Matthews on some parts of the violin-viola concerto.

The Matthews composition was first played by the Portland String Quartet at Bates in 1999. Ross, AVCO’s artistic director and conductor, played cello for that concert.

“There’s some great interplay between the solo instruments and the orchestra,” said Boardman.

Performing in Händel’s “Royal Fireworks Music” portion of the concert will be three generations of a Minot family.They are Donna Berry (grandmother) who plays cello, Katy Sperl (daughter) who plays viola, and Katy’s 10-year-old son Bradley, who also plays cello.

Händel composed “Music for the Royal Fireworks” in 1749, under contract by Great Britain’s George II to celebrate the end of the war of the Austrian succession (known as King George’s War) and the signing of the treaty of Aix-la-Chappelle in 1748.

AVCO’s concert is not likely to repeat the spectacular and catastrophic circumstances at the original event more than 260 years ago. For a week, throngs of Londoners watched construction of a massive “machine,” basically a wooden castlelike structure at a park, from which the fireworks would be launched.

To ease tensions in the city, 12,000 tickets were sold for a rehearsal of Händel’s music, which ended with a 101-cannon salute and caused a massive traffic jam of carriages that blocked London Bridge for three hours.

Then, on a rainy show night, the planned aerial spectacle fizzled. The 410- by 114-foot “machine” caught fire and burned to the ground. A witness said there was a stampede as the fire grew, but, “very little mischief was done, and but two persons killed.”

The composer had originally asked for a 100-piece orchestra so it could be heard above the aerial din. He settled for 24 oboes, 12 bassoons, nine horns, nine trumpets and three kettledrums, which was a colossal collection of musicians for that time.

It’s not known how Händel’s music meshed with the fireworks fiasco.

Schumann’s Symphony No. 2 also had an unusual origin in 1845.

In his later years, Schumann suffered from serious mental and physical problems, and in a letter to Felix Mendelssohn, he wrote, “Drums and trumpets in C have been blaring in my head. I have no idea what will come of it.”

The essentials of the symphony were composed in about three weeks, and those sounds are heard in the opening fanfare and recurrence of the motif near the finale.

Go and do

WHAT: Androscoggin Valley Community Orchestra concert

WHEN: 3 p.m. Sunday, May 2

WHERE: Franco-American Heritage Center, 46 Cedar St., Lewiston

TICKETS: $6, students admitted free

MORE INFO: Call 783-1585

Hannah Rodrigue plays with the Androscogging Valley Community Orchestra at a rehearsal for the ensemble’s spring concert on May 2.