The musicians at Space on Friday night will play a little rock ‘n’ roll, and on Saturday, they’ll play classical.
Charles Yang and Peter Dugan have active solo careers in classical music and are in town this week to perform with the Portland Chamber Music Festival. They also perform as a duo, playing pop and rock songs on violin and piano. On Friday, between classical concerts, they’ll play as a duo at Space. The Boston Globe describes Yang as someone who “plays classical music with the charisma of a rock star,” and the Wall Street Journal called the two a “classical-meets-rock-star duo.”
Festival artistic director Melissa Reardon said the Friday night concert is a chance for people to experience another side of chamber music. The musicians might play anything from the Animals to Ariana Grande, the theme from “Rocky” or Aretha Franklin’s “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman.”
Dugan is a frequent guest host of the National Public Radio program “From the Top,” and Yang has hosted and performed on the program, as well. Yang also is a member of Time for Three, which mixes Americana, modern pop and classical music.
“The term ‘chamber music’ sometimes feels limiting in some ways. Chamber music is really about sharing music, often in an intimate setting, and the communication is a dialogue between the musicians on stage,” Reardon said. “Charles Yang and Peter Dugan compose their own music and they’re also interested in rock and pop tunes. We thought this was a great way to feature these artists in a different musical context. This is a way that we can expand what it means to hear chamber music and what (the festival) is able to offer.”
The Friday night program, “Chamber Pop @ Space,” is a new offering of the festival, which is in its 26th year. This is first festival since founding director Jennifer Elowitch stepped down. It also includes concerts on Thursday and Saturday at Hannaford Hall on the University of Southern Maine’s Portland campus and a family concert on Sunday morning, as well as concerts Aug. 15 and 17 at Hannaford Hall.
Space and Hannaford offer musicians and audience members different kinds of experiences, and both are appealing for different reasons and in different ways, Reardon said. “Space is different because there are art installations, and it’s a smaller space. By virtue of that, it’s more intimate, and there is a bar in the space, so there is that element to it, as well. It’s a smaller stage, and the atmosphere lends itself to a slightly more casual feeling. By having more intimacy and the art installations, that makes the vibe a little more funky,” she said. “Hannaford Hall is a beautiful space and intimate by concert hall standards, but still a more traditional, concert-hall feeling.”
Among the musicians performing at the festival this year are Nick Kendall, a violinst who is also a member of Time for Three with Yang; cellist David Requiro, who won first prize in the Naumburg International Competition; clarinetist Todd Palmer, a three-time Grammy nominee and longtime festival collaborator; Nick Eanet, who won a Grammy for lifetime achievement in 2011 and was concertmaster of the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra for many years; and at least four Avery Fisher Career Grant winners: violinists Alexi Kenney and Tai Murray, composer and cellist Clancy Newman and clarinetist Alexander Fiterstein.