GORHAM — The Southern Maine Symphony Orchestra’s upcoming concert will feature the world premiere of “The Lost Art of Steam Heating” — a new piece by composer and teacher Travis M. Ramsey — for orchestra and two cast-iron radiators.

The orchestra performance, conducted by Robert Lehmann, will begin at 8 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 27, at Gorham Middle School.
Besides Ramsey’s work, the varied program will culminate in Modest Mussorgsky’s “Pictures at an Exhibition.” Also on the program are Felix Mendelssohn’s “Fingal’s Cave Overture” and three rollicking “Slavonic Dances” by Antonin Dvorak.

“The Lost Art of Steam Heating” is a seven-minute piece inspired by the old house Ramsey, a 2003 graduate of USM’s School of Music, and his wife purchased in Malden, Mass., in 2007.

“We awoke many nights to the startling noises produced by an old steam heating system — radiators that hissed like demented teapots, pipes that banged loud enough to shake the floors, and a 1937 steam boiler … that roared like a lioness in heat,” Ramsey said.

The piece is performed by a standard orchestra, but calls for unusual percussion instruments, including two old radiators, plus the sound of a lion’s roar.

How will the radiators be played? “Each radiator is to be struck with small metal hammers or heavy beaters,” Ramsey explained. “Percussionists should be able to locate three distinct sounds on the radiator: a high-pitched tone by striking the radiator on its top where the ribs connect; a low-pitched, ringing tone by striking the sides of the ribs; and a dull, dead tone by striking the legs or the valve at the bottom.”

The work borrows its title from a book by Dan Holohan that the couple used to tune up their heating system. Ramsey said he “is happy to report that entire system — radiators, pipes, and all — purrs like a kitten.”

Since graduating, Ramsey has been commissioned to write pieces for the Choral Art Society, the Cape Elizabeth High School Jazz Band and Wind Ensemble, and the Casco Bay Concert Band. He is pursuing a master’s degree at Boston University while teaching music in Revere, Mass.

Concert tickets are $6, $3 for seniors and students. Call 780-5555. Gorham Middle School is on Weeks Road.


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