August has arrived, and that brings goldenrods, earlier sunsets and cooler temps. It also brings a pair of long-standing annual music festivals to the Port City.
Friends of the Kotzschmar Organ produce Orgelfest, which runs Tuesdays in August. A string of guest artists will command the keyboard of the mighty instrument, with the final concert in the series reserved for Portland municipal organist Ray Cornils.
Approaching the quarter-century mark is Portland Chamber Music Festival, which runs two weeks beginning August 10 and ending August 19. About two dozen world-class musicians will take the stage to perform classical music of several subgenres.
You could call it a one-night music festival. On Friday Portland’s One Longfellow Square offers a triple bill of roots artists, led by Hannah Daman and the Martelle Sisters.
Irish tenor Ronan Tynan will perform Friday and Saturday in Arundel at the Vinegar Hill Music Theatre.
For more than a century, the massive pipe organ in Portland’s Merrill Auditorium has been one of the city’s cultural treasures. It was built in 1912 and formally dedicated in August of that year to the memory of Hermann Kotzschmar, a German-born musician who was a pivotal figure in the city’s cultural life from 1849 until his death in 1906.
The organ was donated to the people of Portland by Cyrus Curtis, the publisher of the Saturday Evening Post and one of the richest and most influential men of his era. Curtis grew up in Portland, and Kotzschmar was his boyhood music teacher.
Every August, Friends of the Kotzschmar Organ, a private non-profit support group, hosts a concert series to mark the anniversary. Called Orgelfest (“orgel” is German for organ), it comprises a series guest performers plus a few other events. This year’s Orgelfest runs through August 22.
Orgelfest programming runs a spectrum from classical to theatrical (silent movie accompaniment) to pops, and the guest artists are distinguished organists from around the U.S. and around the world. For the Aug. 22 finale the star performer will be Ray Cornils, who has been the city’s official municipal organist for 27 years. He’ll be joined by the Kotzschmar Festival Brass. Cornils will be retiring at the end of 2017, so Aug. 22 will mark his final Orgelfest performance.
On Aug. 12 the Friends will host public tours of the instrument; you can get behind the impressive facade of pipes and actually walk inside the massive windbox. The instrument currently includes eight divisions, 104 ranks and 7,101 pipes. Two divisions are over the ceiling of the auditorium.
Cornils and the guest performers he selects choose repertoire that showcases the Kotzschmar’s truly awesome capabilities.
Concerts take place at 7:30 p.m. Tuesdays through August 22 at Merrill Auditorium at Portland City Hall. Call PortTix at 842-0800.
For nearly a quarter-century the Portland Chamber Music Festival has been an August highlight of life in the Port City, featuring about two dozen guest musicians under the artistic direction of Jennifer Elowitch, a violin virtuoso who grew up on the West End. I have attended at least one concert every year since the festival’s 1994 inception, and it’s definitely become part of my life.
Festival artists represent some of the most dynamic performers, educators, composers and arts leaders in the classical music world. They include current and past members of major opera companies, symphony orchestras and conservatory professors.
For 2017 Elowitch has invited back two pianists with local connections who made their festival debuts last year: Cape Elizabeth native Henry Kramer and Portland resident Diane Walsh.
The schedule comprises four main concerts, Thursdays and Saturdays starting Aug. 10 and ending Aug. 19. For each concert, Elowitch’s programming hews to a reliable formula: two or three works by well-known classical composers plus one piece by a contemporary.
The 2017 season features masterpieces of the chamber music repertoire from the 18th century to the present. Highlights include Classical compositions by Felix Mendelssohn and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Romantic works by Johannes Brahms, Antonin Dvorak and Edward Elgar and contemporary pieces by Jessica Meyer, Mario Davidovsky, Brett Dean and David Bruce.
For the Aug. 19 season finale, resident festival artists will be joined by four local musicians for Dvorak’s exquisite Serenade for Strings, creating the largest chamber ensemble of the season, numbering 12 musicians on stage.
Performances are slated for 7:30 p.m. Aug. 10, 12, 17 and 19 at the Abromson Community Education Center, 88 Bedford St. on the University of Southern Maine’s Portland campus. Call 800-320-0257 or visit PCMF.org.
Three roots acts in one evening: That’s what’s up this Friday at One Longfellow Square in Portland. A triple bill is scheduled, topped by guitarist-singer-songwriter Hannah Daman and the Martelle Sisters.
Daman is a Portland resident who got started in the music business in Scotland. In 2016 she teamed up with two other local musicians, violinist Megan and mandolinist Francesca Martelle, who have infused added string texture and spirit to Daman’s original tunes.
The Western Den is the collaborative work of Deni Hlavinka and Chris West, who combine their voices in lush harmonies with intriguing musical textures to produce a sound all their own. Their musical texture includes male and female voices, guitar, fiddle and trumpet.
Honeysuckle is a progressive folk act that blends older influences and traditional instrumentation with modern effects and inspiration. Comprising Holly McGarry, Benjamin Burns and Chris Bloniarz, Honeysuckle frequently performs in the Boston area and surrounding cities in New England.
This intriguing triple bill is slated for 8 p.m. Aug. 4 at One Longfellow Square, corner of Congress and State in Portland. Call 761-1757.
One of the most televised voices on the planet will perform in person this Friday and Saturday, as Vinegar Hill Music Theatre hosts Ronan Tynan in concert.
Tynan’s superb voice first came to the world’s attention in 1998 with the PBS special, “The Irish Tenors.” The success of that telecast led the three men to five more PBS specials plus eight CDs (and counting).
In addition to performing with his two Irish Tenor-mates, Tynan also pursues a solo career. Together with a backing band, Tynan excels in a vast repertoire that ranges from sacred to contemporary pop tunes. His venues have included cathedrals, the White House and major sporting events such as the World Series and Stanley Cup playoffs.
Catch Ronan Tynan at 8 p.m. at Vinegar Hill Music Theatre, 53 Old Post Road (just off Route 1) in Arundel. Call 985-5552.
Hannah Daman and the Martelle Sisters will be the top act this Friday when Portland’s One Longfellow Square presents a triple bill of rootsy singer-songwriters.