Out & About: Halloween happenings, roots music happens
Treats only. No tricks. That's what's in store this weekend when Friends of the Kotzschmar Organ and Portland Ballet celebrate Halloween with their own special happenings. The former is planning a screening of the silent film "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde" at Merrill Auditorium, accompanied by Scott Foppiano on the mighty Kotzschmar Memorial Organ.
The latter is planning a Halloween "Spooktacular," an afternoon of terpsichorean treats choreographed by Nell Shipman and performed by members of the company.
Let's look at a pair of happenings in Portland with a common theme of North American roots music, hosted by One Longfellow Square. The James Montgomery Blues Band is the headliner on Oct. 30 and Le Vent du Nord, a folk foursome from Quebec, visits Nov. 6.
Friends of the Kotzschmar Organ
Every year around Halloween, the Friends of the Kotzschmar Organ screen an old-time silent horror film with an appropriately scary musical accompaniment performed by a nationally known keyboard artist.
This year's FOKO program, scheduled for Oct. 30, revolves around "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde," a film based on the famous 19th-century novelette by Robert Louis Stevenson. The familiar plot is a classic: A brilliant English physician experiments with powerful chemical potions that unleash his dreadful alter ego, a murderous fiend who haunts and terrorizes London's nether world.
This year's accompanist is Scott Foppiano, who hails from Memphis, Tenn., and has been playing theater organs for two-plus decades. Foppiano boasts much experience as a concert recitalist, silent film accompanist and recording artist. He's got four solo CDs to his credit, with another currently in the works.
The Kotzschmar Memorial Organ is one of the artistic gems of Maine and one of our state's mechanical wonders, boasting more than 6,800 pipes and over a hundred miles of electrical wiring. The Mighty Kotzschmar has been a fixture of Merrill Auditorium at Portland City Hall since 1912. For the past two decades it's been maintained by FOKO. The group is also responsible for a number of programs that showcase the huge instrument.
WMTW television newscaster Shannon Moss will host the evening. Costume parade is scheduled for 7 p.m. with the silent film screening at 7:30. Call PortTix at 842-0800.
"Vicious," "Savage," "Appalling," "Cadaverous," "Beastly," "Sinister" and "Monstrous." Those are some of the stage names adopted for Saturday by the dancers of Portland Ballet. The occasion is Portland Ballet's annual "Halloween Spooktacular," an afternoon of terpsichorean treats that's choreographed by "Nasty" Nell Shipman and performed by members of the company.
Shipman is Portland Ballet's resident choreographer as well as a principal dancer and instructor. She's created six pieces for Saturday's performance.
Musical selections for the "creepy concert" include works by Dmitri Shostakovich, Hector Berlioz, Giacomo Puccini and others. Spooky-themed pieces include "Night of the Living Dolls," "Love at First Bite" (about vampires), "Danse Macabre" and others.
Dancers from Portland Ballet Company and Portland Ballet's C.O.R.P.S. program will show off their scarier sides in "cadaverous" costumes. C.O.R.P.S. is a pre-professional program for dancers of high school age, and includes Portland Ballet's top talents.
Portland Ballet was founded in 1980 by Eugenia O'Brien, who still serves as the company's artistic director – and a mainstay of Maine's cultural scene.
All ages are encouraged to attend the concert and to come in costume. A costume parade will be held during intermission.
Portland Ballet's "Halloween Spooktacular" is scheduled for 2 p.m. Oct. 31 at John Ford Auditorium at Portland High School, 284 Cumberland Ave. Call Portland Ballet at 772-9671.
James Montgomery Blues Band
One Longfellow Square is the venue for two upcoming acts that epitomize the roots movement in music. First up is this Friday, when the James Montgomery Blues Band visits the intimate little concert hall, getting top billing in an evening described as a "Blues Extravaganza."
Montgomery, a native of Detroit and longtime resident of Rhode Island, has been playing and recording Chicago-style blues since high school. He's best known for playing the harmonica ("harp") and for collaborations and tours with the Allman Brothers, James Cotton and B.B. King. He's even given a harp lesson to Mick Jagger of Rolling Stones fame.
Jim Taricani, writer for Rhode Island Monthly, explains Montgomery's appeal in live concerts: "His voice is clear and gutsy. His on-stage personality is engaging. His eye contact with audience members reminds you of the great nightclub performers, singers such as Frank Sinatra or Tony Bennett who make you feel as if they're singing only for you. When Montgomery is blasting a solo on the harp, you can almost see him enter that other level of being. His eyes close, his hands are tightly wound around the harmonica that is pressed against a microphone that is touching his lips."
Catch the James Montgomery Blues Band and the "Blues Extravaganza" at 8 p.m. Oct. 30 at One Longfellow Square (corner of Congress and State) in Portland. Call 761-1757.
Le Vent du Nord
Le Vent du Nord is a four-man band from Canada that's made its mark as a champion of the traditional Quebecois-Acadian folk style – with appropriate modern twists. Formed in 2002, Le Vent du Nord has recorded five CDs, including a 2004 Juno Award-winner and another which copped top honors at the 2005 Canadian Folk Music Awards.
"La Part du Feu" is the most recent, released earlier this month. The band is currently supporting that CD with a long North American tour that motors through the Port City Nov. 6, stopping at One Longfellow Square.
The four guys perform on a number of instruments with remarkable virtuosity and fluidity. Their instruments include an electronic keyboard and bass, but Le Vent du Nord notably excludes a big drum kit. Most songs are performed in French. Although rooted in traditional French-Canadian styles, Le Vent du Nord occasionally ventures a bit farther afield, sometimes showing influences of jazz, country and Celtic.
"They are well grounded by heritage and experience in the music of French Canada and ready to make that music in a way that speaks to modern day." writes Kerry Dexter in Dirty Linen, folk music's monthly bible. "All in all, it's a wild ride through the energy of French-Canadian music, with just enough of the quieter side of things to catch your breath and prepare you for the next round of flying fiddle notes, hurdy-gurdy circles, and stories in song."
Catch Le Vent du Nord at One Longfellow Square (corner of Congress and State) in Portland at 8 p.m. Nov. 6. Call 761-1757.