Top picks: Jewel, Cherish the Ladies

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Female musicians take the top two spots on this week’s picks of the tix. The top act is Jewel, a singer-songwriter who has sold multiple millions of records over the past 18 years. She will play Merrill Auditorium this Sunday.

Cherish the Ladies is an all-female ensemble that plays traditional Irish music. They’ll visit Portland’s One Longfellow Square on Saturday.

Oratorio Chorale has scheduled its annual late-winter concert this weekend. The featured composers will be Antonin Dvorak and Benjamin Britten. Two performances are slated: Saturday in Brunswick and Sunday in Falmouth.

University of Southern Maine theater and musical artists will open a very funny operetta this weekend. “Die Fledermaus,” one of the best-known comic works of the Viennese school of the late 19th-century, starts a two-weekend run in Gorham.


It’s hard to believe that it’s been nearly two decades since Jewel Kilcher burst upon America’s contemporary music scene. Professionally known by her first name only, Jewel still sounds fresh and fascinating and she remains a major musical figure. She’s coming to Portland’s Merrill Auditorium this Sunday.

Of all Jewel’s multi-million-selling singles and albums, the one that most deeply affects me is “You Were Meant For Me,” a song she co-wrote in 1995 with former bandmate Steve Poltz.

Detailing a young woman’s inability to come to terms with a failed relationship, the song peaked at No. 1 on Billboard’s Adult Contemporary chart. Characterized by Jewel’s plaintive soprano voice singing an extremely thoughtful lyric, the song led her first CD, “Pieces of You,” to an astonishing 12 million units sold. At the time that was tops for a debut album. “You Were Meant For Me” remains a staple of Triple-A radio.

Between 1995 and 2011, Jewel recorded 10 original albums that racked up total sales of 27 million; this year she’s releasing a “Greatest Hits” compilation. Several recent albums have appealed to a cross-over audience of country music fans. She’s also enjoyed a thriving television career, including hosting and judging several shows. Her biggest-ever audience came in 1998, when she sang the national anthem at Super Bowl XXXII.

Catch Jewel at 7:30 p.m., Sunday, March 10, at Merrill Auditorium at Portland City Hall. Call PortTix at 842-0800.

Cherish the Ladies

For most of the 20th century, Irish music was the nearly exclusive province of males, with the Chieftains and Clancy Brothers serving as exemplars of the tradition.

A quarter-century ago, Irish-American musician and impresario Mick Moloney decided to hold a concert series in New York featuring some of his female friends from this country. Those sold-out concerts grew into a permanent musical ensemble that’s still thriving today.

They adopted “Cherish the Ladies” – the title of a popular Irish jig – as their moniker. Two of the original fivesome are still with the group: flutist Joannie Madden and guitarist Mary Coogan. The former, the leader of the ensemble, was born in New York and later won the All-Ireland championship on flute and tin whistle. Madden also had a street named for her in her home borough of the Bronx.

Among later additions to the group, accordionist Mirella Murray is also an All-Ireland champ. Although Cherish the Ladies started with an American-born lineup, current membership includes women who hail from both sides of the Atlantic. They maintain a busy concert schedule in this country and Europe, with occasional visits to more distant countries.

Repertoire is heavily oriented toward instrumentals, like the Chieftains’ works, with some vocal selections in the tradition of the Clancy Brothers. Over the past quarter of a century, Cherish the Ladies has released 15 albums, beginning with a self-titled recording in 1985. The most recent foray into the studio produced “Country Connections” in 2011.

Catch Cherish the Ladies at 8 p.m., Saturday, March 9, at One Longfellow Square, at the corner of State and Congress in Portland. Call 761-1757.

Die Fledermaus’

A gala ball at a royal palace, a husband hoping for a fling and a case of mistaken identity are the principal ingredients for one of the most popular operettas ever written. Plus, there’s an elaborate scheme for revenge for an acute case of social embarrassment and a final chaotic denouement that takes place in the city jail in Vienna.

Written by Johann Strauss II, “Die Fledermaus” (“The Bat”) is a tuneful, frothy champagne glass of musical and visual bubbly that has been delighting audiences on both sides of the Atlantic for nearly a century and a half. Strauss and his many operettas epitomized merry Vienna in the late 19th-century, and “Die Fledermaus” is his masterpiece.

For the next two weekends, the University of Southern Maine will present “Die Fledermaus” at its Gorham campus, in a quadrennial joint production of the School of Music and the Department of Theatre. Actors, singers, musicians, scenic designers, costumers and technical staff will be young men and women who aspire to professional careers in music and theater.

Drama professor Assunta Kent will direct the stage action, voice professor Ellen Chickering will direct the singers, and Rob Lehmann, who heads the school’s strings program, will conduct the orchestra.

Catch this tuneful and hilarious operetta at Russell Hall on the USM Gorham campus. Performances are scheduled for 7:30 p.m. on March 8, 9, 13, 15 and 16. There is a 5 p.m. performance on Sunday, March 10. Call the Theatre Box Office at 780-5151.

Oratorio Chorale

The Mid-Coast-based Oratorio Chorale, directed by Peter Frewen and accompanied by organist Ray Cornils, will present “Rejoice,” its late-winter program, twice this weekend.

The largest work will be Antonin Dvorak’s “Mass in D,” his only setting of the Mass that survives to the present. The other three pieces date from the 20th century: Igor Davies’ “Prayers from the Ark,” Benjamin Britten’s “Rejoice in the Lamb” and Randall Thompson’s “Alleluia.”

Frewen notes that Thompson was a pre-eminent American choral composer and his “Alleluia” is constructed around the single word of the title. “Alleluia” was composed in 1940 on assignment from Boston Symphony Orchestra maestro Sergei Koussevitsky, who used it for the inauguration of the Berkshire Music Center at Tanglewood.

Accompanying the Oratorio Chorale will be Ray Cornils, a Brunswick resident who is best known as the top artist at the keyboard of Portland’s famous Kotzschmar Memorial Organ.

Two performances are slated: 7:30 p.m., Saturday, March 9 at the Seventh-Day Adventist Church, 333 Maine St. in Brunswick, and at 3 p.m., Sunday, March 10, at the Falmouth Congregational Church, 267 Falmouth Road in Falmouth. Call the Chorale at 798-7985.

Sidebar Elements

Cherish the Ladies is an all-female ensemble that specializes in traditional Irish music. The ladies visit One Longfellow Square in Portland this Saturday.