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Out & About: Music festivals, concerts galore

Lifestyle

Out & About: Music festivals, concerts galore

Music festivals and concerts abound throughout the Maine summer, and a bumper crop in a variety of styles is coming up soon.

The Saltwater Celtic Music Festival runs July 14-15 in Brunswick. The promoters bill it as New England’s most important Celtic musical event of the summer.

In Harrison, the Sebago-Long Lake Music Festival opens its 40th season on July 17. It’s a showcase for artists of national caliber, with a definite slant toward Maine audiences.

Two concerts this Saturday are especially noteworthy. Singer-songwriter Maia Sharp will perform in Portland, while C.J. Chenier and his Red Hot Louisiana Band appear in Buxton.

Saltwater Celtic Music Festival

The newest music festival on Maine’s long summer arts and entertainment calendar is happening this weekend in Brunswick. The Saltwater Celtic Music Festival is slated for a two-day run at Thomas Point Beach, a familiar site on an inner recess of Casco Bay that hosts several other major summer events.

One admission ticket covers all the acts, which run from midday until early evening July 14-15. It also covers swimming and various amenities.

Festival organizers have booked acts from all the Celtic lands: Ireland, Scotland and the Maritime Provinces of Canada. Plus there’s a couple of Maine and New England artists as well. Here’s the lineup: Enter the Haggis, Black 47, Screaming Orphans, Makem & Spain Brothers, Carbon Leaf, Searson, Sprag Session, Chrissy Crowley, Maine Celtic Scene, Press Gang and Maeve Gilchrist. The exact schedule wasn’t set a press time.

The organizers bill this festival as New England’s most important Celtic musical event of the summer. It’s also an alfresco event: Bring lawn chairs, sunscreen and bug spray.

Running roughly parallel to the official festival is a series of “fringe” events at various venues in southern Maine.

Thomas Point Beach is on Meadow Road, near Cooks Corner, in Brunswick. Visit www.saltwaterfest.com.

Sebago-Long Lake Music Festival

If there’s a single cultural affair that most truly epitomizes my vision of summer arts in Maine, its the annual Sebago-Long Lake Chamber Music Festival, which opens July 17 at Deertrees Theatre on a hill above the village of Harrison.

The setting certainly exemplifies laid-back summers in Maine: The 350-seat theater, built in 1936 by a vacationing opera impresario on a hillside deer run, is a fine example of the rustic Adirondack style executed in rose hemlock harvested on the site.

The Sebago-Long Lake Music Festival, playing Tuesdays July 17-Aug. 14, is now in its 40th season. Artistic director is Laurie Kennedy, longtime principal violist with the Portland Symphony Orchestra. Many of the festival’s patrons are also PSO regulars.

Each summer Kennedy invites about two dozen professional colleagues from around the country for a five-week series of concerts that focus on tried-and-true composers with an occasional modern work added for balance.

For the first two weeks, Kennedy has slated a pair of the PSO’s first-chair instrumentalists. Principal bassoonist Janet Polk will be featured in the July 17 concert, while PSO concertmaster-first violinist Charles Dimmick will play the following week.

Concerts begin at 7:30 p.m. at Deertrees Theatre and Cultural Center on Deertrees Road, a mile outside Harrison Village. First-timers beware: Bring clothing appropriate for Maine evenings; Deertrees has neither heat nor air conditioning. Call 583-6747 or visit www.deertreestheatre.org.

C.J. Chenier and his Red Hot Louisiana Band

Zydeco is a uniquely American musical form that’s characterized by a lightning-quick propulsive two-step beat with melodies anchored by the accordion and rhythms set by the washboard. Zydeco is as much a cultural symbol of Louisiana’s Creole culture as Tabasco sauce, so it’s no surprise that the son of the King of Zydeco calls his backup musicians the Red Hot Louisiana Band.

C.J. Chenier is the son of Clifton “King of Zydeco” Chenier, one of the art form’s pioneers and best-known figures. Since his father’s death in 1987, C.J. Chenier has been carrying on the mission and tradition of bringing the rural bayou country music to the world.

You can catch them this Saturday at the Saco River Theater, where impresario Pat Packard has booked C.J. Chenier and his Red Hot Louisiana Band into her venerable performing space in Buxton’s village of Bar Mills.

Haven’t heard of the Saco River Theatre? That’s likely because it was recently renamed. Formerly known as the Saco River Grange Hall – its century-old agricultural provenance is unmistakable – the intimate performing space was recently renamed at the request of the national Grange organization. I’ve been attending summer musical and theatrical events there for close to 20 years and I enjoy every visit.

Saco River Theatre, 29 Salmon Falls Road in Bar Mills, presents C.J. Chenier and his Red Hot Louisiana Band at 7:30 p.m. July 14. Call 929-6472.

Maia Sharp

In the musical marketplace, singer-songwriter Maia Sharp suffers from a bit of split identity. Within the music biz, she’s known as tunesmith and lyricist who boasts a platinum list of singers – artists such as Cher, Bonnie Raitt, Dixie Chicks, Tricia Yearwood and Art Garfunkel. She’s the daughter of country songwriter Randy Sharp, so she undoubtedly knows something about the lack of limelight.

Also less known, unfortunately, is her considerable skill as an interpreter of her own material. Maybe that half of Sharp’s marketing equation will change this fall, when she embarks on a national concert tour as Raitt’s opening act. Meantime, Mainers can learn about Sharp’s vocal and interpretive abilities when she appears in concert this Saturday at One Longfellow Square.

Raitt’s voice can be heard on several tracks of Sharp’s 2008 CD, “Echo.” It’s a thoughtful and tuneful look at the ins and outs of relationships of various kinds from several perspectives. “Death By Perfection” is one of the most interesting cuts, while “John Q. Lonely” offers an intriguing perspective of a life without a commitment to another.

On Saturday, Sharp will be promoting her newest album, “Change the Ending.” The first cut on the CD was recently released as a single: “Me After You,” is a driving, tuneful take on the emotional cost of a romantic breakup.

The entire CD, Sharp’s fifth, is scheduled for release at the end of August. Critic Dan Harr, writing for Nashville Music News, said “the new album reaffirms Sharp’s gift for capturing the subtleties and shades of gray that characterize relationships.”

Veteran singer-songwriter Garrison Starr will open for Sharp on Saturday, plus she’s part of the backup band.

Catch Maia Sharp at One Longfellow Square, corner of State and Congress in Portland, at 8 p.m. July 14. Call 767-1757.