Out & About: Sebago-Long Lake Music Festival opens

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Another week and another music festival cranks up. That’s the way life ought to be. That’s certainly the way life is in southern Maine, where more than a dozen music festivals dot the summertime calendar.

On July 17, the 46th annual edition of the Sebago-Long Lake Music Festival gets going at the nationally recognized historic Deertrees Theatre and Arts Center. I’ve attended nearly all of Maine’s music festivals, and this one is a major personal favorite. This year also marks the third season under the direction of pianist Mahae Lee, and she’s beginning to make her own mark on the venerable five-week concert series.

Two local favorite musicians are teaming up with friends for upcoming gigs in Portland. On Saturday, Portland singer-songwriter-guitarist Ronda Dale will partner with flutist Carl Dimow. Dale will be introducing a new song, and since Dimow helped her write it, his participation is doubly appropriate.

Mandolin virtuoso Joe K. Walsh teaches in Boston, but he plays a lot of Maine gigs. On July 18 he’s inviting guitarist Scott Nygaard and bassist Zoe Guigueno for an evening concert.

Sebago-Long Lake Music Festival

For the past 45 years, a group of nationally recognized classical musicians has gathered in the middle of Maine’s lake region for a series of public concerts known as the Sebago-Long Lake Music Festival. For most of those years, the venue has been the nationally recognized historic Deertrees Theatre and Arts Center, set on a forested hillside above Crystal Lake in Harrison.

I’ve been a regular attendee for close to 20 years and always look forward to the experience.

Festival musicians are string, wind, keyboard and vocal artists of the highest caliber – experienced and respected professionals who come year after year because they enjoy playing chamber music together. They perform with precision and passion, and communicate a joy in music-making which is infectious.

Participating artists come from all over the country, and have, in recent years included principal players from the Minnesota Orchestra, the Chicago, Cincinnati, Detroit, Indianapolis and Portland symphonies, the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the Orpheus and St. Luke’s chamber orchestras and the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra in addition to many well-known chamber musicians.

For many years the festival was directed by Laurie Kennedy, the longtime first violist with the Portland Symphony Orchestra. Although she resigned as director two years ago, she remains on the roster of two dozen artists who will be performing in Harrison in 2018.

This year the 46th edition of the festival opens on July 17. It’s also the third season that it’s been directed by piano virtuoso Mihae Lee, a 20-plus year veteran of the festival. Lee also runs a winter festival in Connecticut, where she lives. This year she’s planning a cross-collaboration with another Connecticut concert series, intending to simultaneously broaden the programming and cut costs.

I had a long chat with Lee a few weeks ago. She felt that the festival board of directors emphasized continuity when they picked her from several candidates for leadership. She also felt that experience directing another concert series in a major music market was a plus.

The Sebago-Long Lake Music Festival opens with a four-work concert that features pieces by Gioachino Rossini, Claude Debussy, Johann Nepomuk Hummel and Johannes Brahms.

The Sebago-Long Lake Music Festival is scheduled for five consecutive Tuesday evenings at 7:30 p.m. at Deertrees Theatre and Arts Center, 156 Deertrees Road in Harrison: July 17, 24, 31, Aug. 7 and 14. Call 583-6747 or visit SLLMF.org.

Ronda Dale and Carl Dimow

A little more than two years ago I became aware of the very talented singer-songwriter Ronda Dale, who had been living and performing in Portland for a few years, mostly with Truth About Daisies, an original music ensemble.

In May of 2016, Dale released her first solo album, which I much admired. I’ve seen her several times since in a number of different formats, including a trio of female singer-songwriters.

Most recently she’s been collaborating with Carl Dimow, who plays flute, bass flute and guitar with a number of groups, including Portland’s own klezmer band and Maine’s only Brazilian choco ensemble. The result of their musical partnership will be on display this Saturday in Portland when the two kindred souls play at One Longfellow Square on Saturday.

According to Dale, the special appeal of Saturday’s concert lies in the contrasting styles of the two musicians.

“I am a wandering soul with deep country roots and a big black woman inside who likes to rip-roar gospel and blues,” she explained. “Carl is a world-class multi-instrumentalist and a gentle, highly sensitive, deeply emotional musician willing and able to be fully present in the moment. He is bringing dimensions to my own songs and the covers we are presenting which I could not imagine achieving on my own.”

Dimow also helped Dale finish a new song that’s slated for her next album, and it will be debuted on Saturday. She says it’s based on a long RV journey undertaken with a New York friend in mid-life crisis, and the song deals with the difficulties of reconciling the conflicting concepts of giving up on the past and starting anew.

For part of the evening, Dale and Dimow will be joined by John Clark on upright bass and Nancy 3 Hoffman on accordion.

Catch Ronda Dale and Carl Dimow at 8 p.m. July 14 at One Longfellow Square, corner of Congress and State in Portland. Call 761-1757,

Joe K. Walsh and friends

He’s both a professor and a professional. That’s a quick summary of the musical career of Joe K. Walsh, mandolin wiz and member of bluegrass royalty.

As professor, he teaches mandolin at Boston’s famed Berklee College of Music. As a professional, he’s played alongside Bela Fleck and has been a member of a number of bluegrass bands and toured for years with the Gibson Brothers, an act that repeatedly copped Entertainer of the Year from the International Bluegrass Music Association.

Walsh is a frequent visitor to Maine, and next week he’s visiting and concertizing with some friends. These are Scott Nygaard, flatpick guitar virtuoso, Grammy Award winner and editor of Acoustic Guitar magazine, and bassist Zoe Guigueno, recently named a member of Della Mae, the all-female bluegrass fivesome from Boston.

I’ve attended several of Walsh’s past “and friends” concerts in Portland, and I’m already reserving tickets for this one.

Catch Joe K. Walsh and friends at 8 p.m. July 18 at One Longfellow Square, corner of Congress and State in Portland. Call 761-1757.

The Sebago-Long Lake Music Festival returns to Deertrees Theatre in Harrison for its 46th season on July 17.

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