After 22 months the Midcoast Symphony Orchestra (MSO) conducted by Rohan Smith, returns to the stage in a concert series dubbed “Welcome Back!” on Saturday, Oct. 23 at 7 p.m. at Gendron Franco Center in Lewiston. Audience favorite pianist George Lopez will perform Beethoven’s 5th Concerto, the “Emperor.” The concert also features the lively and evocative Pines of Rome by Ottorino Respighi. New this season each we are adding one or two shorter works by contemporary composers to each concert series. This concert will include “Lyric for Strings” by George Walker and “Fanfarria” by Tania León, a fanfare featuring the MSO brass section. George Lopez has been featured across the globe as recitalist, soloist with orchestra, and collaborator. He is the Beckwith Artist in Residence at Bowdoin College and conducts the Bowdoin College Symphony Orchestra. He received critical acclaim for his interpretation of Bach’s Goldberg Variations at the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam and performed the complete Beethoven Piano Concertos in two concert seasons. He has performed three of these concertos with MSO over the years. George Walker had a distinguished and award winning career as a performer, teacher and composer. In 1956, he became the first black recipient of a doctoral degree from the Eastman School of Music as well as an Artist Diploma in Piano. He composed over 90 works for orchestra, chamber orchestra, piano, strings, voice, organ, clarinet, guitar, brass, woodwinds, and chorus. His works have been performed by virtually every major orchestra in the United States and by many in other countries. In 1996 he became the first black composer to receive the coveted Pulitzer Prize In Music for his work, “Lilacs for Voice and Orchestra”, premiered by the Boston Symphony. In 2015 Fanfare Magazine described him as “one of the greatest composers of our time.” Tania León is Cuban born and has also had a distinguished and highly awarded career as a teacher, conductor, composer and major advisor to arts organizations. She has been a guest conductor with, and her compositions have been commissioned and performed by, major symphonies throughout the U.S. and abroad. Her awards are too numerous to list, but include the Pulitzer Prize in Music in 2021 for her orchestral work “Stride”, commissioned by the New York Philharmonic. She received a 2008 Pulitzer Prize nomination for “Ácana”, and both a Grammy nomination for “Best Contemporary Classical Composition” and a Latin Grammy nomination for “Best Classical Contemporary Composition” in 2012 for “Inura”. All MSO musicians and staff members are fully vaccinated against COVID-19. Audience members will be required wear masks to attend concerts, which will be at reduced capacity to allow for social distancing. Check the orchestra’s website at www.midcoastsymphony.org for updates on our latest COVID protocols. Tickets are $22 in advance, $25 (cash or check) at the concert, free for ages 18 and under and for college students with ID. Seating is being restricted so audiences are encouraged to purchase tickets in advance at www.midcoastymphony.org or by calling 207-846-5378. Season tickets are available for $70 and include a free guest ticket. Unused tickets from MSO’s 2019-2020 season may be exchanged for a Classical Season concert.