Out & About: Dance, Dallahan and dreams of vegetables

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Like a vegetable garden in August, Maine’s performing arts calendar offers a number of delectable pickings in music and dance. VentiCordi, which ranks as Maine’s most eclectic classical ensemble, has a pair of concerts coming up in Brunswick and Kennebunkport; among the pieces on the program is one about the nocturnal dreams of vegetables.

Maine State Ballet’s annual August offering is a double bill. First is a tale about the can-can, the notoriously risque dance of France in the 19th century. It’s followed by scenes from “Raymonda,” a famous 19th-century Russian ballet. Eight performances are slated over the next two weekends in Falmouth.

On Sunday, One Longfellow Square in Portland hosts Dallahan, an Irish traditional foursome.

Maine State Ballet

Two very different dances from late 19th-century Europe will be combined into a double bill for Maine State Ballet’s annual August concert. The biggest will be “Can-Can Parisien,” a high-kicking show that’s based on the scandalous (by 19th-century standards) dance that was popular in Montmartre music halls.

It is set in a fashionable Parisian cabaret, where guests are enjoying the lively nightlife. A wealthy tourist bursts upon the scene, intent on having a good time. He is quite smitten with some of the ladies in the establishment, but so is a powerful aristocrat. Love and jealousy provide the horsepower behind the brawl that erupts. Peace is restored and all ill-will evaporates when the vivacious can-can is performed.

Artistic director Linda McArthur Miele describes “Can-Can Parisien” as “the most raucous and rowdy piece in Maine State Ballet’s ever-growing repertoire.”

Following intermission, ballerina Elizabeth Dragoni will be the prima in excerpts from the classic ballet “Raymonda,” an 1898 collaboration between two Russian creative geniuses, composer Alexander Glazuvnov and choreographer Marius Petipa. Miele has added new choreography, and a beautiful set of new costumes by Gail Csoboth will be seen for the first time.

Eight performances of this double bill will be presented Aug. 11-20 at Maine State Ballet’s Lopez Theater, 348 Route 1 in Falmouth. Performances times are Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 7 p.m. plus 2 p.m. matinees on Saturday. Call 781-7672.

Dallahan

Irish ensembles have been a staple of the American folk scene since the 1960s, with the Clancy Brothers and the Chieftains being the pioneers. Others have followed, each seeking a creative niche.

Tops in the past couple of years is Dallahan, a foursome who burst on the United Kingdom folk scene a few years ago. Among Dallahan’s claims to uniqueness: The band is based in Edinburgh, Scotland.

This past April Dallahan released its second CD, and the four guys are now on their second North American tour, which visits Portland this Sunday.

The new CD is titled “Matter of Time” and it forms the basis for their 2016 tour concerts. Reviewing the album for Folk Music U.K., critic Neil McFadyen commented:

“A Scottish band with Irish roots, and strong Hungarian influences; a collection of exceptional young talent – every one of them award winners and nominees; a track record that encourages high expectations. Those expectations, not surprisingly, have been met. The assured performances on this album rival those of any professional trad musician, songwriter or tunesmith with far more experience to draw on. Within those widely varying influences, Dallahan have created a sound that unifies, rather than exemplifies the regional differences, offering something new, distinct and infinitely appealing.”

One Longfellow Square, corner of State and Congress in Portland, presents Dallahan at 7 p.m. Aug. 14. Call 761-1757.

VentiCordi

Many Mainers cultivate gardens, and August is a big month for harvesting. But how many gardeners have ever wondered about the nocturnal dreams of their beloved vegetables?

Poet Maggie Anderson is one who has, and one of her works provides the central conceit behind a contemporary composition that will be featured at the next pair of concerts by VentiCordi.

VentiCordi, Latin for “winds-strings,” is co-directed by oboe virtuoso Kathleen McNerney and violinist Dean Stein. For each concert, McNerney and Stein invite fellow professionals to play a captivating variety of works. I’ve attended a number of their concerts during their eight seasons, and I relish variety and humor that they bring to the proverbial table.

The most interesting item on their next program is “Vegetable Dreams.” Anderson is the longtime director of the Wick Poetry Program at Kent State University in Ohio and has published five volumes of her own work and edited others. “Dream Vegetables” is a set of six poems first published in 1986.

Composer Stephen Michael Gryc, a friend of McNerney, was inspired to set these six poems to music. His work is scored for clarinet, violin, five-octave marimba and a reader-reciter. Let Gryc explain the rest:

“I met Maggie Anderson while we were both fellows at the MacDowell Colony in Peterborough, New Hampshire, during the summer of 1988. I was instantly drawn to her work and told her of my interest in setting her poems about the dreams of vegetables as they grow in the garden. The poems are certainly whimsical and clever, but they are also beautifully crafted, full of evocative imagery and ripe for musical use.

“I felt that the clearest way to project the text was to have the vocalist speak rather than sing the words. The rhythmic setting of the text is exact to ensure complete coordination between the voice and the three instruments. I am very enthusiastic about the instrumental combination of clarinet, violin and marimba. Even though each instrument produces sound in a different way, providing variety, they are all constructed predominantly of wood and are capable of blending together their rich sounds, especially in their darker, lower registers.”

What do the vegetables dream about? According to Anderson, summer squash dream about exposure, tomatoes fret about falling, cabbages have nightmares, radishes battle insomnia, potatoes have recurrent dreams, and corn wants to fly.

I chatted with McNerney at a recent VentiCordi concert, and she told me that she’ll be the reciter for “Dream Vegetables.” She treasures the opportunity to present something so delightfully and deliciously whimsical. “It’s a hoot,” she said.

The overall program title is “Music Feeds the Soul,” and other composers represented include Nathan Daughtrey, Darius Milhaud and August Klughardt. Instrumentation encompasses oboe, violin, piano, clarinet, marimba and voice. Gryc will be present at both concerts to talk about “Dream Vegetables.”

VentiCordi presents “Music Feeds the Soul” at two locations: Aug. 17 at 7 p.m. at the Unitarian Universalist Church, 15 Pleasant St. in Brunswick, and Aug. 18 at 7 p.m. at the South Congregational Church, 2 North St. in Kennebunkport. Visit VentiCordi.com.

“Raymonda” is a classical Russian ballet that will be offered for the next two weekends at Maine State Ballet in Falmouth.

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