Out & About: Old-time music in 3 concerts

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As if by magical alignment of the stars, no fewer than three upcoming concert programs feature old-time music in several genres.

The Boston Camerata, a pillar of the Hub’s vibrant early music community, will visit Portland on Saturday. The program showcases music from Renaissance Spain, a time and place defined by swirling cross-currents of Christian, Jewish and Muslim cultures.

St. Mary Schola, a Maine-based early music ensemble that showcases works and composers of the Renaissance and Baroque periods, will perform a pair of concerts this weekend: Friday in Portland, and Saturday in Falmouth.

Switching genres, 317 Main Community Music Center is hosting its annual Maine Acoustic Music Festival this weekend. Among its several events is a faculty concert on Saturday in Portland. Six 317 teachers will be performing in genres that include traditional Franco-American, traditional Irish and American bluegrass.

Maine State Ballet is staging its premiere of “Le Corsaire,” a spectacular swashbuckling terpsichorean romantic comedy, for three weekends in Falmouth, beginning this Saturday.

Boston Camerata

Boston has been nicknamed The Hub for more than a century, and one reason the city continues to justify that proud sobriquet is its prominence in early classical music. Since the 1960s, Boston has been a center of scholarship and performance of music that dates from medieval times through the Baroque.

One of the city’s top ensembles is the Boston Camerata, which started in 1954 as part of the Museum of Fine Arts – which wanted to showcase its period instrument collection – and later became an independent organization that produced an annual subscription concert series, a long string of recordings and a worldwide touring schedule.

Boston Camerata’s performances, which combine a distinguished roster of singers and specialists in early instruments, are renowned for their blending of spontaneity and emotional commitment with careful research and scholarship.

The Camerata is also known for its many collaborations with other organizations. Among the most acclaimed is the Sharq Arabic Music Ensemble, an Egyptian trio that specializes in instrumental and vocal works of North Africa and the Levant. The two groups have been performing together since 2000, and have made several recordings.

This Saturday, Portland Ovations is hosting this fascinating combination for a concert titled “Sacred Bridge,” which focuses on the cultural cross-currents present in Spain in the late middle ages. During this period, Christians, Jews and Muslims all inhabited the country.

Weaving together the shared musical pasts of the Jewish, Christian and Muslim faiths in medieval Spain, “Sacred Bridge” conveys the poignancy and hope of intersecting cultures that remains relevant today. Jewish minstrelsy and folk songs, Christian psalms set to music, Gregorian and Koranic chants all find new meaning when performed alongside one another.

Portland Ovations presents the Boston Camerata with the Sharq Arabic Music Ensemble at 4 p.m. March 28 at the Abromson Community Education Center, 88 Bedford St., on the University of Southern Maine Portland campus. Call PortTix at 842-0800.

St. Mary Schola

St. Mary Schola is a leading musical ensemble from southern Maine that specializes in music of the pre-Classical era. Featuring both period instruments and voices, it is directed by Bruce Scott Fithian, a longtime professor at the University of Southern Maine School of Music.

I have attended several of the Schola’s concerts in recent years and have always been pleased.

This weekend the Schola is presenting the first of its two scheduled spring programs. Titled “Vows and Visions,” Fithian’s selections focus on the thorny subject of war. The principal focus is on the biblical story of Jephtha, a fierce warrior whose deeds, both good and lamentable, are recounted in chapters 11-12 of the Old Testament’s Book of Judges.

Two treatments of the story will be performed. First will be a 17th-century version of the full musical drama by the Italian composer Giacomo Carissimi. It will be followed by excerpts from George Frederic Handel’s oratorio, “Jephtha.”

Other works, by Johann Sebastian Bach, John Blow, Guillaume Dufay and Claude Goudimel, are also slated.

Two performances of “Vows and Visions” are scheduled: March 27 at 7:30 p.m. at St. Luke’s Cathedral, 143 State St. in Portland, and March 29 at 4 p.m. at the Church of St. Mary the Virgin, 43 Foreside Road in Falmouth. For more info, visit stmaryschola.org.

Maine Acoustic Music Festival

For the past 11 years, one of the driving forces in our state’s cultural life is the 317 Main Community Music Center. Based in an old house at 317 Main St. in Yarmouth village, the center has provided basic instruction and advanced level coaching for Mainers of all ages.

This weekend the Center is producing its annual Maine Acoustic Music Festival, which draws high school-age instrumentalists and vocalists from all over the state for three days of classes, rehearsals and performances. Six genres will be showcased: Irish, Singer/Songwriter, Franco-American, “Old Time,” Bluegrass and “Newgrass.”

On Saturday evening the festival’s faculty – most of whom teach at 317 Main – will perform a public concert in Portland. All are professional musicians who appear frequently in southern Maine as soloists and members of ensembles.

Featured will be Joey Abarta (Irish), Maeve Gilchrist (Singer/Songwriter), Eric Favreau (Franco-American), Jack Devereux (“Old Time”), Matt Witler (Bluegrass) and Wes Corbett (“Newgrass”).

Catch the Maine Acoustic Music Festival faculty concert at 8 p.m. March 28 at One Longfellow Square, corner of State and Congress in Portland. Call 761-1757.

‘Le Corsaire’

Pirates, romance, dancing and sword fighting will all be presented with comic panache when Maine State Ballet opens its new production of “Le Corsaire” this weekend in Falmouth.

“Le Corsaire” (“The Pirate”) represents a treasure trove of virtuoso dancing and swashbuckling comedy that revolves around Conrad, a dashing pirate, and his love for Medora, a beautiful harem girl. Staged by artistic director, Linda MacArthur Miele, this exotic tale journeys through a tapestry of captive maidens, rich sultans, sword fights and rescues.

The production boasts a cast of 90 performers plus $30,000 worth of new sets and costumes by designer Gail Csoboth. This fanciful ballet, which was originally produced in France in 1856, perfectly showcases the terpsichorean talents of MSB’s company dancers.

Ten performances are scheduled at Maine State Ballet’s studio theater, at 348 U.S. Route 1 in Falmouth: March 28 at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m., March 29 at 2 p.m., April 3 at 7 p.m., April 4 at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m., April 10 at 7 p.m., April 11 at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. and April 12 at 2 p.m. Call 781-3587.

Sidebar Elements

Boston Camerata, a pillar of the Hub’s early music community, will be visiting Portland this Saturday, performing a concert that showcases a multi-cultural offering of works from Spain in the Renaissance.