LEWISTON – An interesting mix of familiar and unusual is the formula that works best for the Maine Music Society. And that’s exactly what is in store for upcoming MMS presentations through next May.

Highlights in November and December are the 11th annual “Battle of the Blends,” a celebration of a cappella music by six regional groups; and the acclaimed biennial presentation of George Fredric Handel’s “Messiah.”

The new year will bring programs that feature chorus and percussion in March and a May concert of rarely heard music from French opera composer Charles Gounod. “One of my pleasures is to bring out works that people don’t get to hear,” said Peter Frewen, artistic director of the Maine Music Society. According to him, concerts scheduled for late winter and early spring will be “challenging to perform but enjoyable to partake in.”

Groups performing in the Nov. 6 “Battle of the Blends” are Integration By Parts, MIT/Wellesley Toons, Mt. Blue Voices, Soundstage 7, University of Southern Maine Chamber Singers, and !zing.

The concert will begin at 7:30 p.m. at Lewiston’s United Baptist Church. Tickets are $17.50 in advance; $20 at the door.

This is the year for Maine Music Society’s biennial performances of the ever-popular Handel’s “Messiah,” which have consistently won high acclaim. Joining the Maine Chamber and the Androscoggin Chorale Dec. 4 and 5 will be soloists Susan Strickland, soporano; Sara Sturdivant, alto; and two new voices, Richard Gammon, tenor; and John Adams, bass. The Dec. 4 concert will begin at 7:30 p.m. at John Ford Auditorium, Portland High School.

The biennial “Messiah” concert scheduled for 3 p.m. Dec. 5 will take place at the Franco-American Heritage Center at St. Mary’s in Lewiston. “It’s a wonderful space for this music,” Frewen said. “This powerful unfolding of the Biblical story of death and redemption, sacrifice and love, offers a two-hour meditation on the true spirit of the season.”

Members of the public will get a chance to raise their voices along with the Maine Music Society’s Androscoggin Chorale and the Maine Chamber Ensemble Dec. 17 at a “Messiah” singgalong. The program will begin at 7:30 p.m. at St. Joseph’s Church in Lewiston. Tickets are $5 for everyone.

In March, the Androscoggin Chorale will perform two American works for chorus and percussion. They are Vincent Persichetti’s “Winter Cantata” and Dominck Argento’s “I Hate and I Love.” Frewen said these works create intriguing new dimensions for the choral experience. One, for flute and marimba and women’s voices, atmospherically sets Japanese haiku on winter’s landscape. The other unrestrainedly catalogues love’s passions as voiced by that most modern of Roman poets, Catullus. Two percussionists array a panoply of sounds to underscore the full gamut of emotion contained in the title poem, “I Hate and I Love.”

Also on the program is John Rutter’s “Five Childhood Lyrics (1973), which are a kind of homage to the world of children.” Rutter said he chose rhymes and verses remembered from his earliest years and set them to music as simply as he could, though the last of the five, which uses a familiar nursery tune, contains a certain amount of tongue-in-cheek elaboration. The lyrics include “Monday’s Child,” “The Owl and the Pussycat,” “Windy Nights,” “Matthew, Mark, Luke and John,” and “Sing a Song of Sixpence.” This concert is scheduled for March 5 in South Paris (location yet to be determined) and March 6 at the Franco-American Heritage Center at St. Mary’s, Lewiston.

In mid-May, The Maine Music Society will present the last major composition of French opera composer Charles Gounod (“Faust,” “Romeo et Juliette”). It is the sacred trilogy “Mors et Vita” (“Death and Life”), a vast conception that begins with a setting of the Requiem. Rarely heard, this work offers the chance to experience grand feelings in an operatic style.

Soloists are Danielle Vayenas, Jennifer Hansen, Richard Gammon and Peter Allen. They will be joined by pianist Bridget Convey and the Androscoggin Chorale for this work of spiritual transcendence. Performances will be May 14 at Woodfords Congregational Church, Portland, and May 15 at the Franco-American Heritage Center, Lewiston.

The Maine Music Society’s annual L-A Garden Tour will take place July 16. Tickets are $10 in advance; $12 day of the tour.

Advance concert tickets are $15 for adults, $14 for seniors; $17.50 at the door. Student tickets are half-price. Children 12 years old and younger will be admitted free when accompanied by an adult. Tickets are available at Lewiston and Auburn Hannaford and Shaw’s supermarkets, Mr. Paperback and Mainely Drumz in Lewiston and Starbird Music in Portland. For more information, call the Maine Music Society at 782-1403 or visit its Web site at www.mainemusicsociety.org.


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