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November 14, 2013

All about Newburyport

Chamber Music Festival features five pieces inspired by Newburyport

The Newburyport Chamber Music Festival has always made a point of celebrating the Newburyport region and everything that makes it unique.

This weekend, five commissions doing just that will be brought together in one concert at a new venue: Newburyport City Hall.

“It’s in kind of the spiritual epicenter of Newburyport,” said David Yang, artistic director of the festival.

In addition to three previously performed pieces — “Awake and Shine” for acoustic guitar and string quartet by Peter Gilbert, “Captain Samuels Speaks to the Sea” for string trio and narrator by Melissa Dunphy, and “Three Tenses of Light” for string quartet and chorus by Andrea Clearfield — the event will also include a newly expanded piece and a world premiere.

Kile Smith’s “Plain Truths” is a lengthy piece for baritone, string quartet and chorus based on writings by prominent Newburyporters, including 19th-century novelist Harriet Prescott Spofford, abolitionist William Lloyd Dexter and 18th-century merchant Lord Timothy Dexter.

For this concert, called “A Sense of Place,” he has added two new movements to the 2011 work, one that will be preceded by live narration by journalist and writer Bill Plante. “Homing In” is based on a poem by Plante that recalls the Newburyport of his youth in the 1920s and ’30s.

The second new movement is called “Remembering Meho?” and was written by Tom Coleman for a book of town reminiscences.

Meho “lived on Fair Street and was a local handyman,” said Jane Niebling, executive director of the festival.

“Plain Truths” will spotlight soloist Randall Scarlata — “He’s a bona fide star,” Yang said — along with the Candlelight Chorale, which will also sing on “Three Tenses of Light.”

The world premiere is called “Demonstrations,” a “kind of political piece” that was written and will be performed by Kenneth Woods, a cellist in Yang’s string trio. The music is unusual in that it incorporates the electric guitar, in particular a “famous local” one, Yang said.

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