Paulus: Huge Forces at Work

Paulus Sea Portraits NBSO 2 b logo red

On November 21, the New Bedford Symphony Orchestra (NBSO) presents Stephen Paulus’ Sea Portraits conducted by David MacKenzie.

Sea Portraits premiered in October 2004 and was originally commissioned in honor of the NBSO’s 90th birthday season, led by then music director Philip Rice. This season’s concert introduces a new, accompanying multimedia element. NBSO CEO and President David Prentiss explains, “For our 100th anniversary performance, we have commissioned [celebrated photographer and motion graphics artist] John Robson to create a visual media presentation that intertwines with Stephen Paulus’ music to produce an experience of sound and sight that celebrates not only the sea, but our own centennial as well.”

Paulus, after finishing the work, briefly described his inspiration. “If you look out over the sea, you get the feeling that there are these huge forces at work, making everything happen.” The 22-minute piece is set in four movements – “Sunrise,” “Sailing,” “Storm,” and “Moonlight on the Sea,” — which Paulus noted as being “pictorial, if not literal.” The movements are distinguished by contrasting textures and musical colors intended to cPaulus Sea Portraits NBSO 1apture the essence of the town of New Bedford’s history with and relationship to the sea. Robson describes the experience of creating images to accompany Paulus’ score. “I was thrilled and scared to take on a visual media project… Tackling the project from lots of different approaches in a way that can create movement and passion to the music, I dug in and started to collate images…FroPaulus Sea Portraits scorem the plankton to whales, to dugout canoes to tall ships. [It’s] a stream of consciousness in color, shape and form [that] combine to intertwine with [Paulus’] beautiful piece to be performed by the Symphony for a magical night.”

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