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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: June 25, 2015

11 classical music concerts featuring incredible talent and summer music magic

Written by: Bob Keyes
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Musical performance soars when artists create moments of shared exhilaration with their audience. Those moments may exist only briefly, perhaps within a movement of a symphony or a single piece of music that’s part of a larger concert program. If we’re lucky, the moment lasts all concert long.

Regardless, we know it when it happens. More a feeling than a tangible thing, it begins on stage and rolls out across the audience like a summer storm, unleashing power, awe and mystery.

It happens a lot in Maine, particularly in the summer. We’re lucky to live here, because really good performers like visiting us, especially in July and August. We get the chance to see and hear the finest musicians in the world in an environment where they can relax, collaborate and stretch their creative muscle.

Lobster helps too.

We picked 11 concerts where we think magic will happen.

“Engaging the Spirit of Shaker Music”

7 p.m. Friday (June 26), Maine Festival of American Music, Sabbathday Lake Shaker Village, New Gloucester.
Tickets & info: $20; 926-4597 or maineshakers.com/maine-festival-of-american-music

Why go? Chris Moore, director of music education at 317 Main Community Music Center in Yarmouth, uses early Shaker songs as a starting point for writing new Shaker music. Moore, multi-instrumentalist Matt Shipman and their students will perform as part of the larger Maine Festival of American Music, hosted by the Portland String Quartet.

“Stars and Stripes Spectacular,” Portland Symphony Orchestra and Melissa Manchester

July 4, Eastern Prom, Portland
Tickets & info: free; july4thportland.org

Why go? Melissa Manchester joins Robert Moody and the PSO for the patriotic program, which also includes the area’s best fireworks show. If you don’t mind crowds and enjoy a festival atmosphere, this one can be a lot of fun. VIP tickets are available.

“The Fat Knight,” Suzanne Nance and John McVeigh

July 9-10, Stonington Opera House/Burnt Cove Church
Tickets & info: $50; 207-367-2788 or operahousearts.org

Why go? Soprano Suzanne Nance and Tenor John McVeigh, two of the finest voices in Maine, sing standards and arias by Cole Porter, Noel Coward and Johann Strauss. Technically, Nance, no longer lives in Maine. We lost her to Chicago, where she hosts a radio show and maintains a robust singing career. But she comes home often, and McVeigh is a confirmed Mainer. In a quiet setting known for its acoustics, Nance and McVeigh may never sound better.

Portland Symphony Orchestra, Yarmouth Clam Festival

July 18, North Yarmouth Academy
Tickets & info: free; clamfestival.com

Why go? The PSO helps the clam festival celebrate its 50th anniversary with an outdoor concert on the NYA lawn. Dave Mallett and the Mallett Brothers Band also perform, setting up this night as one of intrigue and possibilities.

Acadia National Park Outdoor Concert, Bar Harbor Music Festival

July 22, Blackwoods Campground Amphitheatre, Otter Creek
Tickets & info: free; 207-288-5744 or barharbormusicfestival.org

Why go? Why not? A free concert at Acadia National Park is enticing enough, and this summer marks the 43rd time it’s happened. It’s a long and proud tradition, as music director Francis Fortier leads the festival’s string orchestra with guest cellist Clara Yang.

“Jewish Roots”

July 28, Sebago-Long Lake Music Festival, Deertrees Theatre, Harrison
Tickets & info: $25, 21 and younger free; sllmf.org

Why go? Eliot Bailen’s “Perhaps a Butterfly” highlights an evening of Jewish music. Bailen has played cello at the festival since 1994, and wrote this piece in memory of the children of the Nazi concentration camp at Terezin in what is now the Czech Republic. He sets to music four poems written by those children, choosing them for their humor, musicality and poignancy.

“Tosca,” PORTopera

July 30, Merrill Auditorium
Tickets & info: $41 to $130; 207-842-0800 or porttix.com or portopera.org

Why go? Conductor Stephen Lord and director Dona D. Vaugh lead a cast of established and emerging opera singers through what is being billed as “a dramatically staged concert.” The orchestra will perform on stage to accompany the singers’ acting and movement. Tony Award-winning lighting designer and Portland resident Christopher Akerlind will create the stage effects for the Puccini opera.

Latitude 41 & Friends

July 30, Bay Chamber Concerts, Rockport Opera House
Tickets & info: $10 to $45; 236-2823 or baychamberconcerts.org

Why go? Latitude 41 thrilled audiences the last time they were here, and this year’s program includes music by Elliot Carter, Haydn and Brahms.

Festival Fridays

Aug. 7, Bowdoin International Music Festival, Brunswick
Tickets & info: $40; 207-373-1400 or bowdoinfestival.org

Why go? This concert features the 2013 composition “Seven Seascapes” by Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Kevin Puts, who will attend. Portland Symphony Orchestra maestro Robert Moody will lead the Bowdoin Festival Orchestra through a three-piece Tchaikovsky sampling, but the goose-bump potential lies with a performance of Aaron Copland’s “Appalachian Spring.” Moody will conduct an ensemble anchored by Frank Huang on violin. Huang has a long history with the Bowdoin festival and is concertmaster designate of the New York Philharmonic. It’s one of the best jobs in classical music, and one of the most influential. Huang begins his duties with the Phil in September, but we get to hear him first.

Opening Night Celebration

Aug. 13, Portland Chamber Music Festival, Portland
Tickets & info: $30; 800-320-0257 or pcmf.org

Why go? See above. After teaching and performing at Bowdoin, Huang is resident artist for opening weekend of the Portland Chamber Music Festival. Among the pieces he will perform is Alan Fletcher’s “Dreams of Rain,” written in response to climate change by the president and CEO and of the Aspen Music Festival. Also performing will be Kristen Lee, recipient of the Avery Fisher Career Grant awarded by the Lincoln Center, which recognizes outstanding young musicians with promising solo careers. Lee and Huang are on the Aug. 16 program, as well.

Festival Concert

Aug. 14, Salt Bay Chamberfest, Darrows Barn, Round Top Farm, Damariscotta
Tickets & info: $30; 207-522-3749 or www.saltbaychamberfest.org

Why go? Salt Bay founder and artistic director Wilhelmina Smith pairs New York Philharmonic principal percussionists Daniel Druckman and Markus Rhoten for a program of music by the Steve Reich Quartet and Bartok. There is great potential in accomplished musicians performing in a converted cow barn on the banks of Great Salt Bay. Food trucks and wine add to ambiance.

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