Go and do

WHAT: Androscoggin Valley Community Orchestra concert

WHEN: 3 p.m. Sunday, May 3 WHERE: Franco-American Heritage Center

TICKETS: $7, $6 for seniors, free to students; available at the door

Musical bloodline AVCO will perform music composed by the great-great uncle of an orchestra member

LEWISTON – To say that music runs in the family only begins to tell the story of an Androscoggin Valley Community Orchestra flutist and an upcoming concert.

Generations later and an ocean apart, Sally Grube and nine other wind instrumentalists will perform a piece composed by her great-great uncle, who also happened to be a student and close friend of Franz Liszt.

The concert scheduled for Sunday, May 3, at the Franco-American Heritage Center, will open with Suite in D Major composed by Grube’s ancestor, Arthur Bird.

An obscure composer in the United States, but better known in Europe where he spent most of his adult life, Bird came into Grube’s life a few years ago while she was helping her parents move. She came across a small biography of the composer, then dug a little deeper and eventually purchased a recording of one of Bird’s pieces.

“I was fascinated that I had someone who composed music,” said Grube. “Not just someone who composed music but composed good music. My initial reaction was that I wanted to share it.”

Grube brought her recording of the Suite in D Major to fellow AVCO musicians and proposed that they play it. They agreed and began tracking down the score.

“The music was really quite delightful,” said Barbara Oliver, who plays the cello and is a driving force behind the local orchestra. “We have a really strong woodwind section and we love to feature them.”

Born in Massachusetts in 1856, Bird went to Germany in 1875 to study organ, according to the London-based wind ensemble Kaleidoscope Wind’s Web site. He became closely associated with Liszt and composed more than 100 works, but three in particular for winds. Married to a wealthy woman in 1888, Bird made his life in Germany and its classical music circles.

The musical bloodline continued with Bird’s niece, who played violin in chamber ensembles in the Boston area. Grube’s mother played cello and brought her into the musical fold with piano lessons at age 5. In fifth grade, Grube took up the flute.

“Music has always been a big part of my life,” said Grube. “After college, I played occasionally. I got back into it because of my daughter.”

Her daughter, now 19 and studying Celtic fiddling at a Pennsylvania college, joined the Androscoggin Valley Community Orchestra while in high school at the urging of her teacher, Greg Boardman, explained Grube.

Grube, cajoled by her daughter to also join, is now in her fourth year with the orchestra.

Besides his renowned influence on local musical talent, Boardman has longstanding ties to the orchestra as its first conductor 20 years ago, noted Ted Walworth, bassoonist for the orchestra and one of its first members.

Walworth recalls rehearsing and performing in various places throughout Lewiston and Auburn and has long had the ambition of having the orchestra play at the Franco center. Local schools, churches, and currently Schooner Estates have generously provided free space for the orchestra, but the acoustic quality of the Franco is a musician’s dream, said Walworth.

A surgeon by profession, Walworth started with the clarinet as a child but quickly switched to the more exotic bassoon. He describes music as his “other life” and eagerly speaks about it. He described the Bird piece as a cross between Brahms and Debussy.

“It’s a lot of fun to play,” said Walworth. “(A) because it’s interesting and (B) because it gives the wind section a lot to do.”

After the double wind quintet, the orchestra will perform Vivaldi’s Concerto in C Major for Piccolo, featuring Alicia Gamow as a soloist.

“The piece is a little bit of a novelty because how many times do you get to hear a piccolo solo?” said Walworth.

The orchestra will complete the concert with the full-bodied orchestral arrangement of Modest Mussorgsky’s “Pictures at an Exhibition.” The composition was originally a virtuoso piano piece dedicated to a close friend and artist but has since been arranged in various orchestra scores. Extra musicians, including percussionists from Buckfield High School and several extra brass musicians will join the regular orchestra of about 40 members, said Oliver.

“This is a total orchestral chestnut,” said Walworth. “In one sense, we have no business playing it. The piece is three times bigger than we are, but that’s never stopped us before.”


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.