One of the first large events in Maine to be canceled at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 was the Maine Science Festival in Bangor, which was supposed to begin six days after the first confirmed case of the virus was detected in Maine.
Two years later, after lots of waiting and a whole lot of Zoom, an in-person Maine Science Festival will return for five days beginning on March 16 — including the long-awaited full premiere of Lucas Richman’s symphonic work “The Warming Sea,” the festival’s commission from the Bangor Symphony Orchestra.
Executive director Kate Dickerson has spent the past two years wondering what it all meant for her event, which attracts thousands of youth and adults to Bangor to learn about the sciences in Maine, and have fun while doing it.
But she’s also watched carefully as an unprecedented amount of scientific advances have unfolded right in front of our eyes as the pandemic progressed.
“It has been downright inspiring to think about the ways that people from all these disparate areas have come together to solve a pressing problem,” Dickerson said. “It gives me a lot of hope for the future. And it’s definitely been a lot of fodder for topics for the festival.”
One of the other urgent concerns facing humanity is climate change, and “The Warming Sea” — now more than four years in the making — deals with that topic head on. Composer and BSO music director Richman spoke with climate scientists throughout the state in order to inform his symphonic work, which was slated to premiere in March 2020.
Unfortunately, neither the 2020 nor 2021 in-person premieres were able to happen. In Fall 2020, the BSO recorded the first movement of “The Warming Sea” and shared it as a YouTube video, featuring the orchestra with local choral group Divisi and the Pittsburgh Youth Chorus.
On Saturday, March 19, however, an audience will finally get to see and hear the real thing, in full, in person, with the accompanying visual presentation.
“I’m trying not to kind of ‘pre-experience it’,” Dickerson said. “Two years have made all the things Lucas and I talked about during the creation of this even more obvious and transparent. I’m incredibly excited to have the opportunity to talk about climate change in a way that’s different from how most people have talked about it.”
The festival will kick off Wednesday night with a science trivia night at the Sea Dog Brewing Company in Bangor, followed on Thursday by an art opening at the Bangor Public Library and a presentation on the science of beer, also at the Sea Dog. On Friday night, there’s the popular 5-Minute Genius event, set for 7:30 p.m. at the Bangor Arts Exchange, featuring six innovative Maine scientists presenting their work, followed by questions from the audience.
Saturday is the big day, with a multitude of panels, workshops and presentations at the Cross Insurance Center in Bangor, on topics ranging from dog psychology to the history of pandemics, as well as hands-on science experiments and the annual Maine Invention Convention, an engineering competition for middle school students.
In the evening on Saturday, the Hudson Museum at the Collins Center for the Arts at the University of Maine in Orono will host two exhibits before the 7 p.m. concert at the Collins Center, which is a ticketed event ($25 for adults, $10 for students). The performance will kick off with remarks from Gov. Janet Mills, a panel discussion and short documentary on the making of “The Warming Sea,” followed by the concert and a talk back session. The festival wraps up on Sunday with four more presentations throughout downtown Bangor.
For more information and a full schedule of events, visit mainesciencefestival.com. All events other than “The Warming Sea” are free and open to the public, with proof of vaccination for those age 5 and up, or a negative test in the past 48 hours. Masks are required.