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Bob Keyes

Bob Keyes has written about the arts in Maine since 2002. He’s never been much an artist himself, other than singing in junior high school chorus and acting in a few musicals. But he’s attended museums, theaters, clubs and concert halls all his life, and cites Bob Dylan as most influential artist of any kind since Picasso. He lives in Berwick.

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Posted: September 16, 2016

Concert to End Gun Violence comes to Congress Square

Written by: Bob Keyes

Portland’s social justice choir leads a concert on Sunday that its members hope will help curb gun violence.

“We are singing to honor the dead and energize the living,” said Betsey Remage-Healey, concert coordinator. The free Portland concert, from noon to 3 p.m. Sunday in Congress Square, is one of 150 that are part of the Concert Across America to End Violence.

The Phoenix Chorale will lead a lineup of performers that includes Lyle Divinsky, Gina Alibrio, Wes Covey, Ronda Dale and Pihcintu, Portland’s immigrant choir.

Artistic director Deirdre Mclure directs the Phoenix Chorale during rehearsal in Portland. Photo by Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

Artistic director Deirdre Mclure directs the Phoenix Chorale during rehearsal in Portland. Photo by Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

The Phoenix Chorale, under the direction of Deirdre McClure, sings concerts to raise money for a variety of progressive causes. Sunday’s concert, which is free, is designed to raise awareness, Remage-Healey said. She noted that Mainers face a ballot question in November related to background checks for gun sales.

The concert is co-sponsored by Maine Gun Safety Coalition, Maine Moms Demand Action, Remembering Darien and the Friends of Congress Square Park.

“The park is such a wonderful, inspiring venue,” she said. “Our thought was to have this concert in a space that would engage people who might not already be engaged with the issue.”

With about 20 members, the Phoenix Chorale will sing songs honoring those who have died, as well as upbeat songs that offer comfort and hope. Mayor Ethan Strimling will speak, along with the mother of a gun-murder victim, Judi Richardson, and Nick Wilson, executive director of the Maine Gun Safety Coalition.

At the concerts across the country, performers include Jackson Browne, Rosanne Cash and Kenny Loggins.

Artistic director Deirdre McClure said she was challenged to find music appropriate for this concert. “We decided to have it outdoors and in a public space, and I would normally choose upbeat music. But this is not a celebration, rather we are honoring victims of gun violence and their families,” she said.

She realized a whole genre exists for exactly this purpose: Requiems. She chose the Lacrymosa from the Mozart Requiem, and the rest fell into place.

Not all pieces are in that category. Some songs offer hope, including Harry Belafonte’s “Turn the World Around” and “We Will Remember Them” by Elizabeth Alexander, based on a Hebrew prayer.

Concert Across America to End Gun Violence

WHEN: Noon to 3 p.m. Sunday
WHERE: Congress Square, Portland

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