Out & About: Never too late for Kennebec Early Music Festival

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We’re approaching the end of Maine’s all-too-short summer season of arts and entertainment, but there’s still plenty to come in the few weeks remaining. Among the seasonal late-starters is the Kennebec Early Music Festival, only in its second year. Six concerts are slated for two venues along the historic Kennebec River.

Deertrees Theatre is counting the days until its late-August seasonal shutdown, but there’s plenty packed into the last two weeks in Harrison.

On Friday, the Heather Pierson Acoustic Trio will make a joint appearance with a duo sporting a rather extraordinary name: Ordinary Elephant.

On Aug. 16 Deertrees presents “Women of Song,” a concert by three Maine singer-songwriters.

The Sebago-Long Lake Music Festival wraps up its five-week run on Aug. 14 with artistic director Mihae Lee and four new faces.

Kennebec Early Music Festival

Readers of this page two decades ago may recall my periodic grousing about the dearth of early music performances in Maine, with “early” being roughly defined as European classical music before 1750.

Has that changed. Maine now boasts several fine early music ensembles, a pair of week-long festivals that focus on Johann Sebastian Bach, plus two more general early music festivals.

Among this latter category, the latest is the Kennebec Early Music Festival, which enters its second season Aug. 14. Organizer and artistic director is George Bozarth, a professor of music at the University of Washington and a noted scholar specializing in the development of keyboard instruments.

I met Bozarth some years ago when he was presenting a series of early music concerts at a historical society in Sanford. He and his wife recently purchased a summer home in Bath, and this new music venture is an indirect result.

Performers will include wife Tamara Friedman, who teaches harpsichord, pianoforte and piano in Seattle. Others are harpsichordist Linda Skernick, violinist Susanna Ogata, cellist Sarah Freiberg and clarinetist Thomas Carroll. Emphasis will be on period performances on period instruments.

The format is three programs, each with its own catchy theme, performed over a six-day span, once at the Maine Maritime Museum in Bath and once in a Phippsburg church. The series concludes Aug. 19.

For performance schedules and venue info, visit KennebecEarlyMusicFestival.org.

Heather Pierson and Ordinary Elephant

This Friday I’m looking forward to attending a concert performed by one of my favorite Maine musical ensembles, plus one that’s new to this state this summer.

Headliner is the Heather Pierson Acoustic Trio, comprising the namesake singer-songwriter-guitarist, bassist Shawn Nadeau and multi-instrumentalist Davy Sturtevant. I met them some years ago at a music festival and have been a fan ever since.

Most intriguing, at least in terms of the name, is Ordinary Elephant. This musical beast comprises the husband-wife team of Pete and Crystal Damore, a pair of southerners who met at an open mic in Texas and teamed up both musically and maritally.

She plays guitar and sings lead, while he plays claw-hammer banjo. They have a resonant, old-fashioned sound and appearance that delights aficionados of traditional country music like myself. Song selection is a mix of old-time covers and self-penned pieces.

In their half-dozen years together, they’ve won a slew of awards. Most recently and most important was Artist of the Year at the Folk Alliance International’s 2018 annual meeting in Kansas City, Missouri.

Currently, the Damores are RV full-timers, meandering around the country playing in all sorts of venues. I’m glad they’ve motored into Maine this summer.

Catch the Heather Pierson Acoustic Trio plus Ordinary Elephant at 7:30 p.m. Aug. 10 at Deertrees Theatre and Arts Center, 156 Deertrees Road in Harrison. Call 583-6747.

‘Women of Song’

Another personal favorite singer-songwriter is teaming up with two kindred Maine spirits for an evening of music titled “Women of Song.”

I’ve been a fan of Ronda Dale for several years. A native of the Piedmont region of Virginia, she is rooted in old-fashioned American music, but she uses that rich heritage as an artistic springboard rather than a crutch in crafting her own tunes.

Sisters in spirit are Emilia Dahlin and Sorcha Cribben-Merrill. The former grew up in suburban Boston with a background in classical piano. She switched to guitar and began writing her own songs 12 years ago. Wielding a voice that defies her diminutive frame, coupled with strong storytelling sensibilities, Dahlin has carved out her name as a unique songstress.

Cribben-Merrill composes stirring music steeped in blues, folk, jazz and soul. She pleases audiences throughout New England and beyond with a sultry, jazzy voice of surprising power and presence.

Catch “Women of Song” at 7:30 p.m. Aug. 16 at Deertrees Theatre and Arts Center, 156 Deertrees Road in Harrison. Call 583-6747.

Sebago-Long Lake Music Festival

Now in her third year as artistic director of the Sebago-Long Lake Music Festival, Mihae Lee has yet to make a significant change to the 46-year-old institution. But that situation changes on Aug. 14, the finale of the five-week concert series at Deertrees Theatre and Arts Center in Harrison.

Five musicians are slated to play. Lee, who has been a stellar pianist with the festival since 1995, will handle the keyboard duties, of course, but for the first time since assuming the director’s mantle, every one of her four colleagues has been recruited by her. Aside from herself, not one of the festival’s longtime players will appear.

Artistic house cleaning? Hardly. Lee is launching what she hopes will be a long-term collaboration with Chestnut Hill Concerts, a similar series of summertime classical chamber music performances in her home state of Connecticut.

A few weeks ago I had a long chat with Lee, and she explained that her motivations are twofold. First, she wants to expose more musicians to the charms of playing in the Lake Region, which will make future recruitment easier. Second, she plans to repeat this concert in Connecticut – a move that will save money (rehearsal time) for both organizations.

For the final program in the series, Lee has selected works by Claude Debussy, Zoltan Kodaly and Antonin Dvorak. Cellist will be Ronald Thomas, who also serves as Chestnut Hill’s artistic director. Violinist Catherine Cho and violist Todd Phillips will be making their Deertrees debuts. Violinist Tien-Hsin Cindy Wu has been here before; she started in 2016, the year Lee took charge.

Catch the finale of the 2018 Sebago-Long Lake Music Festival at 7:30 p.m. Aug. 14 at Deertrees Theatre and Arts Center, 156 Deertrees Road in Harrison. Call 583-6747 or visit SLLMF.org.

Singer-songwriter Heather Pierson will appear Friday, Aug. 10, at Deertrees Theatre and Arts Center in Harrison. She’ll play with her eponymous acoustic trio plus a duo calling themselves Ordinary Elephant.

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