Former Bangor Symphony Orchestra conductor dies aged 97

BANGOR, Maine — Friends and Colleagues of Alumni Bangor Symphony Orchestra Bandleader Peter J. Re says the city’s iconic music organization owes much of its success to the high standards it set half a century ago.

Re, 97, died Sunday at the Maine Veterans Home in Scarborough. He conducted the 120-year-old symphony from 1964 to 1975.

“Everyone at the Bangor Symphony Orchestra was saddened to learn of the passing of Peter Re this week,” band executive director Brian Hinrichs said in an email Wednesday. “He is widely credited with ushering in the modern BSO – a professional orchestra that maintains a strong community orientation. As a conductor, educator and composer, Maestro Re has left an indelible impact on countless musicians, students and audiences.

The symphony will honor Re – pronounced Ray – when it opens its 121st season on Sunday, October 9, performing one of his compositions – ‘Celebratory Overture’.

“Chances are there won’t be a Bangor Symphony today without Peter Re,” said Norman Minsky, a Bangor lawyer and philanthropist who served as the symphony’s president from 1969 to 1970.

Minsky said that before Re came along, most people who attended the symphony did so because they felt compelled to support her. After he arrived, people started to see an improvement and came “because they wanted to go”.

“He came to every symphony event,” Minsky said.

Re and his 70-year-old wife, Elizabeth, whom everyone called Betty, lived in Waterville, but made frequent trips to Bangor. She was still driving. Betty Re died two years ago.

Peter Re never liked to eat before a show and instead preferred to attend after-show dinners hosted by symphony fans.

Minsky said he was a “charming, charming, gracious individual” and that his leadership helped make the orchestra “a pleasure to listen to”.

Billy Miller, a retired pharmacist from Bangor, has been a percussionist in the symphony orchestra since 1957. He remembers being involved in the search for a new conductor who brought Re to Bangor. The symphony recruited Re, Miller said, sending him a tape of the orchestra playing and asking him to come to Queen City.

“He took us to another level,” Miller said. “It was like magic. The orchestra sounded so much better just at that first rehearsal under Peter.

Re retired as professor emeritus from Colby College in 1986 after teaching music there for 35 years. He regularly put on performances of the Bangor Symphony in college, combining two of his greatest passions. A New York native, Re attended the Julliard School and earned degrees from Yale and Columbia Universities before taking Colby’s job.

Family and friends of Re will gather for a remembrance from 5-7 p.m. Friday at the Veilleux Funeral Home at 8 Elm Street in Waterville. A Christian burial mass will be held Saturday at 11 a.m. at Notre-Dame de Waterville Catholic Church.

Follow Nick McCrea on Twitter at @nmccrea213.

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