CHARLOTTE COUNTY – Since 2007, the Passamaquoddy Bay Symphony Orchestra has provided musicians from various communities with a place to come together and play the music they love.
One of the orchestra’s objectives it’s maintained since the beginning is to offer musicians a place to practice and perform with one another.
“I think we have (accomplished that goal),” said co-founder and conductor Trond Saeverud in an email to the Courier. “Just the fact that we are still playing – after COVID and many other challenges – demonstrates how much the orchestra means for us.”
Saeverud offered that although meeting concert goals is important, the ultimate focus is always ensuring rehearsals are both enjoyable and satisfying.
“I’m very happy that members keep confirming that this is working,” he said.
The diverse group of musicians ranging from 15 to 85 years of age includes members from Washington County in Maine, and Charlotte County in New Brunswick. Many members decided to pick their instruments up again after more than 30-year hiatuses, playing throughout their retirement.
June Gregory has been part of the orchestra for 11 years, eight of which she’s been the president of the board. Gregory plays the flute and piccolo, which she learned during her time in school. When she joined the orchestra, she hadn’t played in nearly 40 years.
“That happens with a lot of our musicians,” she said. “It’s really a very unique opportunity.”
The opportunity is possible because of the Eastport Arts Center (EAC). Although the orchestra is a constituent of the centre, functioning independently, the members benefit greatly from the EAC.
“Eastport Arts Center and Trond are why we exist,” said Gregory.
The broad age range among members encourages communication between age demographics that otherwise would have little to no exposure to one another.
“It contributes to our understanding of each other,” said Gregory.
Every season, the orchestra plays new work by composers in Maine. In the future, Saeverud is hopeful to feature work of New Brunswick composers.
“We are always inviting new string players where there are no entry requirements and no auditions. Wind and brass is a little more complicated, as those are solo parts, and we need some documentation of playing ability and experience – but we make it easy,” said Saeverud.
The upcoming performances on Dec. 2 in Eastport, Dec. 3 in Machias, and Dec. 4 in Calais are set to include a Tchaikovsky symphony. More information will be available closer to the performances.
Energy and excitement can be expected from the orchestra’s performances.
“We play an intense, passionate, and also beautiful Tchaikovsky symphony and a fun version of The Tempest (Shakespeare),” said Saeverud. “Both can be enjoyed as stories, with quickly changing moods, landscapes, events … you can watch us give all we’ve got.”
Many musicians begin the profession for the adrenaline rush, Saeverud explained.
“I certainly did,” he said.
The orchestra can be enjoyed by everyone, regardless of your knowledge of music. It offers an experience that removes a person from their virtual connection to the world and reacquaints them with other time periods, bringing to life a different world of entertainment.
“I am aware that roughly one per cent of the population likes classical music, but that is still a good crowd if all show up,” said Saeverud. “But it would be great if others would give it a try.”
For more information on the Passamaquoddy Bay Symphony Orchestra, visit www.eastportartscenter.org.