pnms-outabout-010709 Singer Carlene Carter gets things back on track

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It’s over. The annual onslaught of holidays – and the associated hiatus on the regular arts and entertainment calendar – is now behind us, and the normal levels and types of activities are beginning to resume after nearly six weeks of dormancy.
Among the first up is the Jan. 11 concert by Carlene Carter, scion of country music royalty, at One Longfellow Square. Carter’s been battling personal demons for years, but her current album, “Stronger,” reflects an optimistic, going-forward outlook.
The Portland Symphony Orchestra’s Classical Tuesday series resumes Jan 13. Pianist Orion Weiss will be the featured guest artist.
Two days later, PCA Great Performances resumes its 2008-2009 schedule with Teatro Lirico d’Europa’s traveling production of “Aida,” Giuseppe Verdi’s monumental opera about love and politics in ancient Egypt.
Creative American women comprise the common bond between two otherwise unrelated musical acts the following weekend. At the University of Southern Maine School of Music, drummer Terri Lyne Carrington is the featured guest artist for a series of events Jan. 17-18.
Sweet Honey in the Rock is an all-female African-American sextet that has specialized in Gospel music for the past 35 years. They’ll appear Jan. 18 in Portland.
SUBHED-Getting ‘Stronger’
Singer/songwriter/guitarist Carlene Carter is a scion of Nashville royalty. Her father was Country Music Hall of Fame inductee Carl Smith and her mother was June Carter Cash, of the legendary Carter Family, a pioneering musical group from the 1930s. Her stepfather was her mother’s second husband, Johnny Cash, one of Nashville’s best-known and best-loved megastars. Carter appears this Sunday at One Longfellow Square in Portland.
Her lineage certainly helped launch her Nashville career, but her long-lasting success is based entirely on her own talent. Like many of country music’s top creative forces, Carter has written and sung about life’s basic values, heartaches and vicissitudes – often based on a mega-dose of personal experience.
Her basic shtick was transforming the celebrated Carter name and its distinctive Appalachian sound into a new direction that combines traditional elements with contemporary flourishes. Her lengthy career began in the 1970s and peaked with “I Fell in Love,” a chart-topping album and single that also won a Grammy nomination for Best Female Country Vocal Performance.
Beginning in the late 1990s, Carter’s well-publicized personal troubles and run-ins with the law somewhat eclipsed her talents for a decade. But those demons are now history, she avers. As evidence, she points to her 2008 album, “Stronger,” which features mostly self-penned songs that highlight the 53-year-old star’s recovery from personal turmoil and her upbeat outlook on life.
Catch Carlene Carter at an 8 p.m. concert at One Longfellow Square in Portland (corner of Congress and State) on Jan. 11. Call OLS at 761-1757.
SUBHED-Portland Symphony Orchestra
Despite classical music’s preponderance of 18th and 19th century compositions, some of the genre’s best-loved creative geniuses worked in the 20th century. This Tuesday, Portland Symphony Orchestra Music Director Robert Moody has packaged two iconic modern works into the Jan. 13 concert, continuing the 2008-2009 season’s Tuesday Classical series.
First up is George Gershwin’s Concerto in F for Piano and Orchestra. Less famous than “Rhapsody in Blue” – Gershwin’s best-known concerto – this work also features the composer’s uniquely American sound, which results from the creative infusion of jazz elements into classical music’s traditional pattern. Guest artist will be Orion Weiss, a globe-trotting pianist who performed magnificently two years ago as a last-minute PSO soloist substitute.
To close the concert, the PSO tackles Dmitri Shostakovich’s famously explosive condemnation of Russia’s Stalin era: Symphony No. 10 in E Minor. Written shortly after the death of the Soviet dictator, the work is characterized by unstoppable fury and passion that reflects and summarizes that bleak and terrifying period. Hearing it live is quite an experience.
Catch the Portland Symphony Orchestra at 7:30 p.m. Jan. 13 at Merrill Auditorium at Portland City Hall. Call PortTix at 842-0800.
The conflict between love and politics is a fertile field for classical tragedy, and one of the most powerful operas ever written is squarely based on that high-voltage source of dramatic energy.
Giuseppe Verdi’s “Aida,” set in ancient Egypt and based on a fictional story that was written by a curator of antiquities, pits conquering Egypt against the royal family of defeated, subjugated Nubia. The Egyptian army’s military hero is in a romantic pinch: He must marry Pharaoh’s daughter, but he’s fallen in love with the Nubian princess. Dramatic and musical sparks fly in a passionate, tragic outburst that is the special province of Italian grand opera.
PCA Great Performances presents Teatro Lirico d’Europa’s bus-and-truck production of “Aida” at 7:30 p.m. Jan. 15 at Merrill Auditorium at Portland City Hall. Call PortTix at 842-0800.
SUBHED-USM School of Music
Jazz drummer Terri Lyne Carrington will be the guest artist for an upcoming series of workshops and concerts on the Gorham campus of the University of Southern Maine School of Music. Carrington, a professor at Boston’s Berklee School of Music, will culminate her weekend residency at USM with a 7 p.m. faculty-student concert Jan. 18 at Corthell Hall.
Carrington is an acclaimed drummer, composer, producer and clinician who has had an extensive touring career of more than two decades with luminaries like Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter, Al Jarreau, Stan Getz, David Sanborn, Joe Sample, Cassandra Wilson, Clark Terry and Dianne Reeves.
Sunday’s concert opens with the student combos performing the first half and continues with Carrington and USM’s jazz faculty. Call the music box office at 780-5555.
SUBHED-Sweet Honey in the Rock
One of this country’s most distinctive musical elements is represented by Sweet Honey in the Rock, a Grammy Award-winning acappella sextet of African-American women with deep roots in the sacred music of the black church – spirituals, hymns and gospel – plus jazz and blues.
Sweet Honey in the Rock was formed in 1973 by Dr. Bernice Johnson Reagon, a civil rights activist who was directing a choir in a black church when she conceived of a spiritual ensemble that would sing out against oppression and exploitation. Honors over the years include the 1988 Grammy for Best Traditional Folk recording.
Sunday’s concert honors the 80th anniversary of the birth of civil rights leader the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King.
Catch Sweet Honey in the Rock, a presentation of PCA Great Performances, in Merrill Auditorium at Portland City Hall at 7 p.m. Jan 18. Call PortTix at 842-0800.

pnms-outabout-010709.jpgJazz drummer Terri Lyne Carrington will be the featured artist in a series of events at the University of Southern Maine School of Music for the weekend of Jan. 17-18.