Most of us grew up expecting our local librarian to shush us, not to encourage loud, boisterous behavior among the stacks. But this is happening, as more and more Maine libraries are hosting free concerts and music series. Jazz bands play ragtime, bluegrass groups play blistering banjo tunes and appreciative crowds applaud with vigor. It’s another example of how libraries are evolving to meet the needs of their communities, providing learning experiences way beyond what’s found in books.
“The concerts help connect the public with the library as a destination for cultural enrichment,” said Susan Samberg, deputy director of the South Portland Public Library. “It’s another way to engage people and help the library do some community building.”
The kind of music being played at local libraries varies from rock and folk to classical and jazz, from bluegrass to Brazilian Choro music. Some libraries have monthly series, like in South Portland and Portland, while others host concerts or performances throughout the year. The Prince Memorial Library in Cumberland offers a sort of coffee house within a library with its Saturday morning Music and Muffins series. Many include an educational component, where the musicians talk about their music and their instruments. Some blend literature and music, like an April series at Curtis Memorial Library in Brunswick called Poetry and Music.
Here’s a look at some of the free concerts and musical events at local libraries this spring.
MUSIC AFTER HOURS
The South Portland Public Library’s After Hours music series is in its sixth year. On the second Saturday night of the month during the school year, the library’s main reading room is filled with rows of chairs and music fans. Performances by local groups this year have included The Hanz Araki Band (Irish music), Doc’s Banjo Band (ragtime), Marc Chillemi Trio (jazz) and Old Eleven (bluegrass). Crowds are usually 75 to 100 people.
On Saturday, the Maine Marimba Ensemble will set up seven wooden marimbas and one drum kit for a 7 p.m. show. The group uses its marimbas – basically, xylophones – to perform music from the African nation of Zimbabwe. This will be the third time the Maine Marimba Ensemble has played the South Portland library.
“It’s a great way for us to interact with an audience, to talk about the marimbas and answer questions,” said Jacob Wolff, a group member and marimba builder.
Other upcoming concerts in the After Hours series include the Hadacol Bouncers (Chicago-style jazz) on May 12 and Choro Louco (Brazilian Choro music) on June 9.
Maine Marimba Ensemble, 7 p.m. Saturday, April 14. South Portland Public Library, 482 Broadway, South Portland; southportlandlibrary.com
SATURDAY MORNINGS ROCK
The Portland Public Library has been hosting a Saturday morning family-friendly concert series, called The Kids Are Alright, for the last three years in its Rines Auditorium, about once a month during the school year. The series is organized by the Maine Academy of Modern Music, a music education organization that has classes, groups and other programs for young musicians.
The idea behind The Kids Are Alright was to give parents with young children an opportunity to see some great local musicians, while exposing the kids to live music. The concerts feature a question-and-answer session and an instrument “petting zoo” for the kids to have a hands-on experience. Crowds average about 150 people.
The next concert in the series, on May 5, will feature Chas Lester and the MAMMoth Rock Chorus. Lester is a MAMM instructor who sings and plays drums and the chorus could include, if everyone shows up, as many as 60 young voices. Songs will range from old Beatles tunes to more contemporary pieces by Imagine Dragons or White Stripes.
Chas Lester and the MAMMoth Rock Chorus, 10:30 a.m. May 5, Portland Public Library, 5 Monument Square, Portland; portlandlibrary.com
MUSIC AND MUFFINS
The Prince Memorial Library in Cumberland hosts concerts, and serves breakfast treats and coffee, one Saturday a month from September to May with its Music and Muffins series. In March, the library hosted a Celtic music concert with more than 70 people in attendance. On April 21, Maine singer-songwriter Dan Merrill will perform, followed by Choro Louco on May 19. Choro Louco is a five-member band that plays Choro, Brazilian music with a 100-year-old history. The instruments include guitar, flute, bass flute, mandolin, bongos, pandeiro (a Brazilian hand drum) and cavaquino (small Portuguese string instrument).
Dan Merrill, 10 a.m. April 21, Prince Memorial Library, 266 Main St., Cumberland; princememorial.org
A POEM, THEN A SONG
The Curtis Memorial Library in Brunswick is hosting the Poetry & Music series in April for National Poetry Month. Each Friday at noon, local poets read and a local musician or group plays, while people contemplate what they’ve heard. Friday’s session includes poet Maryli Tiemann and harp music by Louise Gephart. April 20 will feature poets from People Plus’s Write On Writers group and classical guitar music from Brian Cullen. On April 27, the library’s staff will share favorite poems, and Dave Bullard will play guitar.
Poetry & Music, noon Friday, April 13. Curtis Memorial Library, 23 Pleasant St., Brunswick; curtislibrary.com.
The Wells Public Library is hosting an Earth Day concert on Wednesday morning. Folk singer and guitarist Matt Loosigian will sing funny songs about the ecology and being green.
Matt Loosigian, 10:30 a.m. Wednesday, April 18. Wells Public Library, 1434 Post Road, Wells; wellslibrary.org