Out & About: Music festivals the top attractions

  • Mail this page!
  • Delicious
  • 0

There are some wonderful choices available on southern Maine’s midsummer calendar of events.

One of my personal favorites is the Ossipee Valley Music Festival, an alfresco gathering of dozens of performers and many hundreds of their fans. Acoustic and roots are two of the common themes that bind the artists, who will hold forth in South Hiram through Sunday.

The Bowdoin International Music Festival is nearing the end of its six-week run in Brunswick. New music will be featured this weekend, while the three weekly concert series finish Monday through Friday.

Also in Brunswick, Maine State Music Theatre just opened its third show of the 2016 season, a sensationally good professional production of “Fiddler on the Roof,” the multiple Tony Award-winning musical that for many years held the record for longest-running show on Broadway.

Ossipee Valley Music Festival

Traditional American music from a variety of diverse traditions is the common theme behind the Ossipee Valley Music Festival, which runs this weekend in South Hiram.

Ossipee Valley was started in 1999 by music aficionado Bill Johnson as a bluegrass festival, but he’s expanded in several creative directions over the past half-dozen years and now embraces a much wider variety of styles. All told, about two dozen solo artists and ensembles are scheduled for 2016. Johnson books a combination of national acts and local performers.

Bluegrass remains a key part of the festival, with Michael Cleveland and Flamekeeper exemplifying the top tier of national talent, and the New England Bluegrass Band as the top local act. Mile Twelve and the Claire Lynch Band represent more modern twists on the old-time genre, while The Bag Boys (a Boston foursome that nowadays includes two bag girls) provide many humorous angles.

Traditional country is the shtick of the Caleb Klauder Country Band, while the John Jorgenson Gypsy Jazz Quintet ventures farther afield in another distinctively American genre. Ghost of Paul Revere is top string band ensemble hailing from Maine’s Saco River valley.

Ossipee Valley has always prominently featured women artists. Among the top choices for 2016 are Sarah Jarosz, a Texas singer-songwriter, and Lula Wiles, a trio female singer-songwriters from Boston, all of whom hail from Maine.

Ossipee Valley Music Festival runs Thursday evening, all day Friday and Saturday plus half-day Sunday at the Ossipee Valley fairground in South Hiram.. Music plays on two and sometimes three outdoor stages. Bring your own chairs. Plus there are activities for children and several food vendors, with choices ranging from jambalaya to a chicken dinner put on by a local church. Visit OssipeeValley.com.

Bowdoin International Music Festival

The Bowdoin International Music Festival has a bit more than a week left to run, and it approaches its Aug. 5 finale with a yearly spotlight on contemporary composers this weekend. Billed as the Gamper Festival of Contemporary Music, it has been a Bowdoin fixture since 1965.

Gamper comprises three evenings devoted to living composers, a number of whom are current or former festival faculty. Some of the pieces performed are actually written during the festival. Curator is Derek Bermel. Here’s the lineup:

“Bowdoin Recap” (July 28) features the music of composers who have been connected to the festival and Bowdoin College over the years, from Kaija Saariaho and Sebastian Currier to Elliott Schwartz and Vineet Shende. Schwartz has been a fixture of the Maine music scene since 1964. He is often dubbed “the dean of Maine composers.”

“Musical Rebirth” (July 30) creates context through a look back at the seminal work of composers such as Steven Stucky, Henri Dutilleux and Ursula Mamlok.

“Landscapes Reinvented” (July 31) showcases the work of dynamic musical voices that continue to reinvent the tradition of composition including Elliot Cole, Andreia Pinto-Correia and John Harbison.

The three weekly series wrap up the festival on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Aug. 1 the Jupiter Quartet concludes the Monday series, which is entirely devoted to string quartets, with a three B’s lineup of composers: Ludwig van Beethoven, Bela Bartok and Johannes Brahms. The Wednesday Upbeat! series concludes on Aug. 3 with a concert that includes a work by one of America’s top women composers, Joan Tower, a Bard College professor who is a festival faculty guest artist this summer.

The final notes will sound on Aug. 5 as the Festival Friday series ends with works by Claude Debussy, Tower and Beethoven.

With the exception of Aug. 5, all concerts take place at 7:30 p.m. in Studzinski Hall on the Bowdoin College campus in Brunswick. The Friday concert is slated for 7:30 p.m. at Crooker Auditorium at Brunswick High School. Call 373-1400 or visit BowdoinFestival.org.

‘Fiddler on the Roof’

There are a handful of musicals that I simply adore, shows that I’ve seen over and over again in the past 30 years. When one of them pops up on a theater company’s season, I approach it with both hope and a little bit of fear. I hope that the production will please my experienced palate, and fear that maybe something will disappoint.

I’m pleased to report that Maine State Music Theatre’s current professional production of “Fiddler on the Roof” fulfills all my hopes and dispels all my fears.

From the famous first scene – a textbook example of how to start a big Broadway show with a bang – to the silent and poignant denouement, MSMT’s “Fiddler” is an evening to relish and remember.

Set in czarist Russia, circa 1905, “Fiddler” tells the story of a poor Jewish dairyman, his wife and five daughters and the rural village they call home. Revolution is in the air, and expulsion of the Jews is part of the story. But the dairyman’s struggles with his faith and family represent the absolute apex of humanity.

The book was written by Joseph Stein, based on stories by Sholem Aleichem. Jerry Bock composed the music and Sheldon Harnick penned the lyrics. It was a huge hit on Broadway in the 1960s and remains at the core of the canon of American musical theater.

Broadway veteran Bill Nolte is the key in this production, deftly balancing the funny and sad aspects of the central character, while Susan Cella perfectly complements him as wife. Wonderful comic roles include Charis Leos as a matchmaker, and Erick Devine as an elderly butcher. MSMT’s “Fiddler” is directed by Gary John La Rosa, whose immense experience helming this show is audible and visible throughout this wonderful production.

Maine State Music Theatre presents “Fiddler on the Roof” through Aug. 6 at Pickard Theater on the Bowdoin College campus. Call 725-8769 or visit MSMT.org.

Ghost of Paul Revere is one of many Americana-roots bands playing at the Ossipee Valley Music Festival, which runs through July 31 in South Hiram.

0