Out & About: Musical acts times 2

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Two seems to be the magic number that links this weekend’s picks of the tix.

On Friday in Gorham, the University of Southern Maine School of Music’s Faculty Concert series resumes with a program comprising multiple duos. The common thread is cellist William Rounds, who has created an intriguing program that features a number of guest artists.

A pair of mostly female acts are heading into Portland. On Friday it’s the Gawler Family Band, a rootsy outfit from the Penobscot Bay area. Four of the six members are women, and they front the group.

Cherish the Ladies pulls into town the following night. Six women front this New York-based Irish ensemble that’s now in its 33rd year.

Singer-songwriter Richard Shindell, who lives in Buenos Aires, will perform on March 1.

USM Faculty Concert Series

In Gorham, students have resumed classes for the spring semester, and the University of Southern Maine School of Music’s long-running Faculty Concert Series is also resuming. This Friday the featured artist is cellist William Rounds, who is also a member of the Portland Symphony Orchestra and plays frequently with the Boston Symphony.

Rounds has assembled an interesting program featuring variations of the theme of “pairs.” Titled “Pairs: A Program of Duos,” the concert comprises a number of duos with various other instruments.

Here are three: USM alumna and former voice faculty member Elisabeth Marshall will present a collection of poems by Anne Bradstreet with music by James Kallembach. PSO principal oboist Amanda Hardy is featured for a performance of a duo for oboe and cello by Marilyn Zupnick. Rounds will perform the famed duo for bass and cello by Gioachino Rossini with PSO principal bassist Joseph Holt.

Perhaps the most interesting item of the evening is a work by contemporary Argentinean composer Osvaldo Golijov. Titled “Omaramor,” it is a fantasy on a song popular in Argentina in the 1930s. It’s technically a work for solo cello, but Rounds describes it as a duet with himself, employing enigmatic twists and turns as the tango theme slowly emerges.

Along with the distinctiveness of each work, the novelty of these seldom-heard combinations makes this a most compelling program. Rounds also notes that three of the four items to be heard Friday evening were written within the past two decades, making them especially relevant to today’s audiences.

Catch “Pairs: A Program of Duos” at 8 p.m. Feb. 23 at Corthell Hall on the University of Southern Maine Gorham campus. Call the music box office at 780-5555.

Gawler Family Band

The family band that plays together stays together.

That’s one message gleaned from the Gawler Family Band. The sextet is also an institution; the family’s musical celebration of rural lifestyle and values has been a fixture of life in the Penobscot Bay region for decades. This Friday the Gawler Family Band ventures to the shores of Casco Bay for a somewhat rare urban appearance.

I caught their 2017 Portland appearance and I was greatly impressed by their musicality and stage presence. This is a fun bunch.

The band is built around a husband-wife team. John and Ellen Gawler have been active in Maine music circles since the 1970s, and are co-founders of the Maine Country Dance Orchestra.

The other members are the couple’s three adult children, Molly, Edith and Elsie, plus Edith’s husband, Bennett Konesni. Three of the six play the fiddle, which gives the consort a distinctively different aural ambiance. Other instruments include banjo, cello, guitar, harmonica and washboard. The band is a mainstay of Maine contra-dances, festivals and old-time country music happenings.

The band’s music is rooted in the land, and song selections frequently hark back to the American folk music revival of the 1960s, including covers of Woody Guthrie’s “Hard Travelin’” and Pete Seeger’s “Golden Thread.”

Catch the Gawler Family Band at 8 p.m. Feb. 23 at One Longfellow Square, corner of State and Congress in Portland; call 761-1757.

Cherish the Ladies

Traditional Irish music has traditionally been the domain of men. Think Chieftains and Clancy Brothers. Thirty-three years ago, a distaff side ensemble formed with the intention of challenging that dominance and changing the way audiences perceive Irish music.

That’s the back story behind Cherish the Ladies, an ensemble that motors into Portland this Saturday, part of this enduring consort’s umpteenth international tour.

Under the leadership of All-Ireland flute and whistle champion Joanie Madden, who was cited by The Irish Voice as one of the 25 most influential Irish-Americans of the past quarter century, this ensemble creates an evening that includes a wonderful blend of virtuoso instrumental talents, beautiful vocals, captivating arrangements and stunning step dancing.

Co-founder Madden has been with the group from the beginning. She certainly has an eye and ear for talent: Cherish the Ladies has been the career-launcher for others who have gone on to solo success. These include Eileen Ivers, Winifred Horan, Cathie Ryan, Heidi Talbot, Liz Knowles, Aoife Clancy and Deirdre Connolly.

The ensemble’s discography is impressive. Beginning with an eponymous 1985 album, Cherish the Ladies has recorded a total of 17 LPs, EPs and CDs.

Catch Cherish the Ladies at 8 p.m. Feb. 24 at One Longfellow Square, corner of Congress and State in Portland; call 761-1757.

Richard Shindell

“An enigmatic singer-songwriter whose work veers from the bitterly comic to the profoundly spiritual.”

That’s the way Jason Ankeny, writing for AllMusic, describes Richard Shindell, an artist who’s visiting Portland on the first day of March.

Shindell is a writer whose songs paint pictures, tell stories, juxtapose ideas and images, inhabit characters and vividly evoke his fascinating fictional worlds along the way, thereby expanding our sense of just what it is a song is or ought to be.

He’s been writing since the late 1980s, and his reputation was hugely enhanced when Joan Baez covered three of his songs in a 1997 CD and subsequently toured with him. His own most recent album – “Careless,” released a year ago – is the focus of his current North American tour.

The album impressed Lee Zimmerman, reviewer for No Depression. Zimmerman comments: “Richard Shindell’s reputation as a singer and songwriter has elevated him to the upper echelon of today’s folk vanguard, but on his new album – aptly entitled ‘Careless’ – he takes a more spontaneous approach typical of someone who seems intent on defying his formula.”

Catch Richard Shindell at 8 p.m. March 1 at One Longfellow Square, corner of Congress and State in Portland; call 761-1757.

Cellist William Rounds will be the featured artist this Friday in Gorham when the University of Southern Maine School of Music resumes its 2017-2018 Faculty Concert Series after the midwinter break.