Thursday, May 23, 2024

Mary Bichner of Box Five plans an October tour of the five U.S. cities Edgar Allen Poe called home. The events, with guest bands and Poe-inspired songs, begins Oct. 5 in Somerville. (Photo: Teri Rambo)

Happy death day, Edgar Allen Poe.

That isn’t until Oct. 7, but the weeks of warning gave classical-meets-pop ensemble Box Five time to line up dates and bands for a multi-city tour of the East Coast celebrating the acclaimed American author’s life and works. And it gives fans of Box Five, of its various guest performers and of Poe himself time to get their schedules in order.

From Oct. 5-15, starting with Boston, Box Five will assemble a concert in every U.S. city Poe called home — moving on to New York (Oct. 6), Baltimore (Oct. 13), Richmond, Va., (Oct. 15) and Philadelphia (Oct. 16) — and invite local and nationally touring ensembles to perform new, specially composed musical works inspired by the author’s short stories and poems in addition to their regular repertoire.

At the end of each concert, the ensembles will collaborate on a sewn-together musical performance of one of Poe’s most famous poems, “The Raven,” Box Five leader Mary Bichner said Sunday, with each act setting three to six of the stanzas to music and perform them.

The Poe-inspired works, especially “The Raven” as performed by a multitude of bands, could have a life beyond this tour, said Bichner, envisioning putting the performances together for at least an EP.

“I’ve been a huge fan of Poe since I was a teenager,” she said, praising his beautiful phrasing, word choice and rigorous attention to unique rhyming structures — a writer able to be moving and impressive technically at the same time. “Among poets, it’s a little bit of a cliché to like Poe, but he’s a cool guy. I really like his stuff.”

He also gets a bad rap as simply being spooky, Bichner said, although by touring in a month dominated by Halloween she’s at least a little complicit in making the connection.

But she can’t be blamed for Poe dying in October, nor for taking advantage of the sunken-galleon set that will be onstage for another production when Box Five and friends have their premiere performance at The Somerville Theatre. It just means the songs she’s writing for the Somerville performance — the first being setting his “To Helen” to original music — will have a nautical theme.

Box Five combines Mozart-inspired chord progressions with bratty Brit rock hooks into a musical succotash they like to call “classipop” (“And they look darn adorable while doing so,” Bichner said). An intriguing angle for connoisseurs: Bichner has perfect pitch and synesthesia, meaning she literally hears color and sees sound, which she said adds “a rainbow of nuance” to the  band’s intricate musical landscape. She’s also able to add impeccable accents (German is a favorite) to the invariably witty patter she gives between songs.

Taking part in the 8 p.m. Oct. 5 show at the historic Somerville Theatre with Box Five will be What Time Is It Mr. Fox?, Why Are Those Girls SO LOUD it’s cos we’re jewish, Molly Zenobia and Alexandra Day. Special guest appearances by performance artists Karin Webb and Jill Gibson of Axe to Ice Productions are also planned.

Tickets are $11 for this all-ages show are available at the box office of the Somerville Theatre, 55 Davis Square, Somerville, between 4 and 8 p.m. daily or by visiting the theater website. For information, click here.

This post used significant amounts of information from a press release.