Out & About: Darius Rucker rolls into the Cumberland County Civic Center

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It might be called a case of Saturday night fever. The upcoming arts and entertainment calendar mostly revolves around hot happenings this Saturday evening.

The top-drawing event will be Darius Rucker’s concert at the reopened Cumberland County Civic Center in Portland. Rucker, the newest member of the Grand Ole Opry, is a red-hot country star.

Also in the Nashville vein is the DePue Brother Band, classified as “progressive bluegrass.” Portland Ovations brings this genre-stretching sextet to the University of Southern Maine’s Portland campus.

For its spring program, Portland Ballet has an interesting program mostly comprising modern dances and contemporary choreography. It’s titled “Bolero to Bayadere” and will be performed in Westbrook.

There are two non-Saturday items in this week’s picks of the tix. This Friday, classical bassoonist Wren Saunders will lead a chamber music concert on the USM Gorham campus. On Tuesday, PORTopera will present a concert built around three outstanding women singers.

Darius Rucker

“Rock me, Mama, like a wagon wheel.” That’s the intro to the chorus of “Wagon Wheel,” a song that earned Darius Rucker the Grammy Award for Best Country Solo Performance in January. The Grammy capped an amazing ride for Rucker, whose meteoric rise to the top of country charts began only six years ago.

This Saturday Rucker rides into Portland for a concert at the renovated Cumberland County Civic Center.

Rucker’s success is doubly surprising. First, he enjoyed prior stardom in the rock music world as lead singer with Hootie and the Blowfish. Second, he’s one of only two African-Americans to reach the pinnacle of the country music world: an artist who can boast of both a solo Grammy Award plus election to the Grand Ole Opry. (The first was Charley Pride in the 1980s.)

Since re-starting his career as a country artist in 2008, Rucker has recorded three CDs on the Capitol label and has charted with all of them. The newest is 2013’s “True Believers,” which recently sold its 500,000th copy, earning “gold” certification from the Recording Industry Association of America.

Catch Darius Rucker at the Cumberland County Civic Center at 7 p.m. March 29. Call 775-3458.

DePue Brothers Band

“Progressive bluegrass” is a descriptive phrase that’s enthusiastically adopted by an all-acoustic ensemble that’s being hosted this Saturday by Portland Ovations. But the talents of the DePue Brothers Band extend far beyond the genre’s traditional boundaries.

Several members are prominent in classical and jazz ensembles, plus the band includes a drummer – a no-no in traditional bluegrass. And this non-traditional background shows in their music.

Based in Philadelphia, the DePue Brothers Band has been together for 10 years. They’ll be promoting their latest CD, “Weapons of Grass Construction,” which features a number of send-ups of popular songs, completely reworked for their signature style.

Catch this concert at 8 p.m. March 29 at Abromson Community Education Center, 88 Bedford St. on the University of Southern Maine’s Portland campus. Call PortTix at 842-0800.

Portland Ballet

A potpourri of dance, from classical to contemporary, will be offered this Saturday when Portland Ballet Company closes its season with a program titled “From Bolero to Bayadere.”

Company members and guest artists will present an inspiring evening of classical and contemporary ballet that includes established audience favorites by resident choreographer Nell Shipman, a brand new setting of “Bolero” by Joseph Jefferies and PBC’s first staging of “The Kingdom of the Shades” from “La Bayadere.”

Jefferies’ exciting new setting of Maurice Ravel’s “Bolero” explores aspects of femininity, beginning with a woman’s primal simplicity to her ability to embrace all aspects of life while maintaining her individuality within the structure of society.

Two performances are slated at the Westbrook Performing Arts Center (at the Westbrook Middle School on Stroudwater St.) on March 29 at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. Call 800-838-3006.

Wren Saunders and colleagues

One of the most appealing aspects of the University of Southern Maine School of Music faculty concert series is the opportunity to hear unusual combinations, a point that is underscored by this Friday’s program.

Wren Saunders, a bassoon virtuoso who joined the faculty this past fall, will lead a classical chamber music concert that features her instrument in a variety of settings, collaborating with fellow profs and guest artists.

Saunders is a USM graduate and earned a master’s degree at the New England Conservatory of Music. Saunders is principal bassoonist with the Bangor Symphony Orchestra – where she was a concerto soloist in 2007 – plus she plays with the Orchestra of Indian Hill in Massachusetts.

Joining Saunders will be Robert Lehmann, violin; Matt Watras, viola; William Rounds, cello; George Calvert, bass; Tom Parchman, clarinet; John Boden, horn; and George Lopez, piano.

Lehmann, Rounds, Parchman and Boden are USM artist faculty, while Watras, Calvert and Lopez are well-known Maine musicians.

Catch “An Evening of Chamber Music” at 8 p.m. March 28 at Corthell concert hall on the University of Southern Maine Gorham campus. Call the music box office at 780-5555.


For two decades, PORTopera has been a mainstay of Maine’s artistic community, producing classical opera with nationally and internationally acclaimed musicians and directors. This summer, PORTopera will produce Giuseppe Verdi’s “Rigoletto” July 23 and 25 at Merrill Auditorium.

As part of the run-up, PORTopera is holding a fund-raising concert on Tuesday. Kate Aldrich, Ashley Emerson and Suzanne Nance will appear in a program titled “Maine’s Divas Come Home” on April 1. The concert will include arias, ensembles by a diverse selection of composers.

Recognized for her strong acting ability and versatility, Maine native Kate Aldrich is a member of PORTopera’s advisory board and was the first Maine native to fill a principal role in one of PORTopera’s major productions.

Ashley Emerson from Bangor is well known for her enthusiastic stage presence. She has been involved in PORTopera’s Maine Emerging Artists Program and her first mainstage performance was in PORTopera’s production of Lucia di Lammermoor.

Suzanne Nance was formerly host of Maine Public Radio’s popular classical music show. Known for her exceptional range, comedic timing, and ability to captivate an audience. Nance has appeared with Chicago’s Intimate Opera Company and at various events around the world.

Catch “Three Divas Come Home” at 7:30 p.m. April 1 at the Abromson Community Education Center, 88 Bedford St. on the University of Southern Maine’s Portland campus. Call PortTix at 842-0800.

Sidebar Elements

Darius Rucker is a major country star with a slew of chart-topping hits and honors. He plays the Cumberland County Civic Center this Saturday, March 29.