Tim Gillis

Tim Gillis

On stage at 12: Django By The Sea festival features guitar prodigy

A musical prodigy takes the stage at the second annual Django By The Sea festival in Kittery and Portsmouth on Oct. 6-9.

 

 

Henry Acker, a 12-year-old guitarist from Massachusetts, will be strutting his stuff with Mes Amies at the Thursday night kick-off party in New Hampshire. Jason Anick, founder of the festival, discovered him at the jam sessions during the inaugural event and invited him to play along this time ‘round.

 

“I first met Henry last year,” Anick said. “He’s an incredible musician. His dad said he started tuning in when he was around 9 years old, when his father was listening to Django Reinhardt. He could hear it and play it back on guitar. Now he already has a lot of the basic elements of a great musician – technique, tone, repertoire, improvisation – things that people usually develop in their 20s. We’re excited to have him at the festival. A lot of people will be blown away.”

 

Although only playing guitar for three and a half years, Acker has achieved this early success by practicing every day with his father and inspiration, Victor Acker. His instructor is Frank Vignola, part of Les Paul’s later quartet. Father and son met the maestro at a concert at the Regatta Bar in Cambridge when Henry was just beginning to play. “Vignola announced that he was about to play “Nuages,” a Django song,” Victor recalled this week. “I gave Henry a high five, which Vignola saw and invited him to come up and join him. The audience went wild; they thought he was a plant.”

 

Henry Acker has since strummed with Bucky Pizzarelli and Julien Lage, and considers Stochelo Rosenberg, Bireli Lagrene, and Olli Soikkeli other major influences. Soikkeli is from Rhythm Future Quartet, Anick’s band that will feature at the festival along with John Jorgenson, a multiple Grammy-winner.

 

A seventh-grader at Duxbury Middle School, Henry plays in the jazz band. His classmates are yet to fully appreciate his guitar talents, Victor said. “It’s kind of an odd genre for seventh-graders.”

 

Henry first played live at an open mic at the Catbird Café in Weymouth, Mass. “He had been playing for a while, had learned some tunes, so we thought we’d see how he’d do live. The whole room erupted.” Since then, Henry has played at Capitol Theatre in Salt Lake City, and will be picking strings in Seattle and Colorado next year.

 

Music takes up much of his time, but Henry also loves to spend time at the beach, go fishing, and unwind with “a little bit of gaming,” his dad said. “He leads a pretty normal life.” Henry just learned “Ornithology,” a tune by Charlie Parker. He plans to videotape it and send it to Vignola, who is in Cuba right now.

 

Gypsy Jazz is a unique blend of Eastern European melodies, Parisian Musette, Spanish Flamenco and American Swing that was created and perfected by guitarist Django Reinhardt, violinist Stephane Grappelli and their fellow Gypsy musicians in the cafés of Paris during the 1930s and 1940s. Today, Gypsy Jazz is one of the most distinctive and widely enjoyed jazz hybrids on the music scene, spawning popular Django Festivals around the globe, including Seattle, San Francisco, Chicago, New York City, and now Kittery.

Anick was pleased with last year’s two-day festival, and is expanding the lineup and locations this time, with a kick-off party Thursday night at the Book & bar in Portsmouth, where Acker will perform. Next come three days of concerts and workshops at the Kittery Dance Hall, as well as Djam sessions at the nearby Buoy Art Gallery (attached to Black Birch restaurant).  

 

“We are hoping for nice weather,” Anick said. “We want people playing outside, and to have gypsy jazz surround the area.”

 

Django By The Sea | Thursday through Sunday, Oct. 6-9 | Kittery Foreside | Tickets for Friday’s and Saturday’s performances at The Dance Hall are $25 in advance/$30 at the door for a single night. Sunday’s Dance Party is $15 in advance/$20 at the door. You can also purchase a 2-night pass for $40 or a 3-night pass for $55. A limited number of $100 VIP passes are available, which include brunch with the artists on Sunday and a donation to The Dance Hall (a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization). For tickets, visit TheDanceHallKittery.org or DjangoByTheSea.com | Django By The Sea is sponsored in part by Bavarian Autosport, Kennebunk Savings Bank, York Hospital, Davis Family Foundation, People’s United Bank and White Heron Tea & Coffee Community.

  • Published in Music

Audio overflow: Waking Windows takes over Portland venues

Waking Windows takes over Congress Street this Saturday, Oct. 1. The all-day audio arts festival hits nine venues with music, comedy and a lit crawl, and runs from noon to the waking hours.

 

The literary (pub) crawl was curated by Nat Baldwin, a writer and bassist for Dirty Projectors. Wife and husband scribes Noy Holland and Sam Michel will read from their works, as will Portland’s poet laureate Gibson Fay-LeBlanc, multi-genre writer Megan Grumbling, and several others. Annie Russell hosts the comedy stop that features Gary Petersen and W. Will Green, as well as “Cringe! A Night of Hilarious Humiliation” with audience participation. The musical lineup offers an eclectic mix of about 50 bands.

 

“I think it’s a special thing for Portland,” says Peter McLaughlin, music programmer at SPACE Gallery. “Portland has had an absence of this kind of event, a music and arts festival that encompasses several venues. It’s taking over a downtown area to create an urban festival. We’re able to have a lot of up-and-coming local bands, a perfect fit for the city.”

 

High note

 

Born in Israel and based in New York City, headliner Yonatan Gat will shred on guitar at Geno’s Rock Club. He played there in 1997 with Monotonix, an “Israeli garage trio.” Last year he teamed up with Brazilian bassist Sergio Sayeg and drummer Gal Lazer to play at SPACE. They are fresh from the release of their latest record, Director, which blends Brazilian psychedelic punk, maniacal Afrobeat rhythm, and American free-form jazz. The music is born of their geographic roots, and borne up by their live shows, performed in the middle of the audience instead of on a stage. They alone are worth the price of the festival pass.

 

“We set up on the floor,” Gat said from New York City this week. “We do that because our show is improvised. By setting up on the floor, we can have a more direct communication that doesn’t happen in an obvious way — more of a subconscious way. We ask the audience what song we should play next.”

 

Music is a communicated experience, and being in the crowd is more of an experience. He feels the only excurse to play on stage is if the space makes it absolutely necessary.

 

“Even when we play bigger venues, we still set up in the middle to achieve a direct line to the people, to create an atmosphere,” he said. “It’s like a game of ping pong, between the performer and the audience.”

The comparative power of playing live, in and amongst the people, fuels his belief that part of the music industry is drastically changing, perhaps dying.

 

“Music is losing its meaning. It’s being pushed towards a free commodity. Recorded music is losing its entire value. People are talking about not buying music anymore,” Gat said. “But live music stays strong. A big concert or a smaller one, part of being on the floor is to be able to feed off that feeling.”

 

Their concerts are completely improvised. “Five minutes before a show, we look at each and decide how we are going to start. But we don’t know what song we’ll play next. Sometimes a song is 100 percent composition. We compose in front of the audience. Really just the song that suits the moment.”

 

The creation is a flexible show where every night is completely evolving for the band, and an onstage experience for the audience, part of the composition.

 

“That’s why we like a place like SPACE or Geno’s,” he said. “Good music is a self-discovery journey. One of most important reasons we are in this world is to know ourselves. I don’t look at music as a pre-conceived and conceptual art project. It’s a lifelong project of getting to know yourself."

 

Also of note:

 

“Mal Devisa is to me one of the most exciting acts playing the festival,” says McLaughlin. “She has an absolutely incredible voice, spine-chilling. She can silence any room. She’s played SPACE twice and truly melted hearts each time. Some of the most momentous applauses I've heard in the room. She opened up a sold-out show for What Cheer Brigade here in August, and the crowd demanded an encore. Wouldn’t let her leave the stage. ... For the opener! That never happens. You’ll be hearing a lot about her and she won’t be playing rooms as small as SPACE for long. I’d put good money on it.”

 

Details:

 

Waking Windows audio arts festival | Saturday, Oct. 1 (noon-1:00am) | Kick-off party at SPACE Gallery on Friday, Sept. 30

Musical acts: Vetiver, JEFF The Brotherhood, Death Vessel, The Luyas, The Huntress and Holder of Hands, Rough Francis, Pile, Mal Devisa, Micah Blue Smaldone, Nat Baldwin, and Yonatan Gat.

Venues: SPACE Gallery, Empire, Geno’s Rock Club, Blue, Tandem Coffee & Bakery, Congress Square Park, One Longfellow Square, & The Jewel Box.

SPACE, Tandem, One Longfellow, and Congress Square Park are open to all ages. Geno's, Empire, Blue, and The Jewel Box are 21+.

Tickets: $25 Day Pass to access all venues. Individual venues have varying ticket prices.  Visit www.WakingWindows.com for details. Friday night kick-off party is $5 or free with a festival pass.

  • Published in Music

Greater Portland Landmarks lauding locals: Awards honor passion

Recipients of the Greater Portland Landmarks 2016 Preservation Awards were scheduled to be honored Wednesday, Sept. 28 at the Maine Irish Heritage Center, one of 12 organizations and people being recognized.

 

 

“They have a true faith, to believe it would be possible,” Hilary Basset, executive director of GPL since 2000, said of the heritage center. “The people there are so committed, so enthusiastic, so hardworking. They have a true passion and belief and have accomplished extraordinary things. They are a good example of how people take an idea and run with it.”

 

MIHC, formerly St. Dominic’s Church, along with Meetinghouse Lofts in South Portland, the Clifford Residences, and the Press Hotel, are noted for their adaptive reuse projects.

 

“Construction began on St. Dominic’s Church in 1888 and was completed in 1893. For over one hundred years, the church was an important fixture in Portland’s Irish community. By the end of World War II, St. Dominic’s congregation had more than 4,000 members,” according to the MIHC website. “The Catholic Diocese closed the church in 1998, despite community protests and efforts to keep it open. The city of Portland acquired the church complex and later sold the buildings separately. In 2003, the Maine Irish Heritage Center purchased and began operating out of the church.”

 

Since then, a volunteer force at MIHC has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars to heat the sanctuary, and expand the Joseph E. Brennan archives and the John Ford Center. They recently received a grant from the Irish government to hire an executive director, but that sole paid position is buffeted by a small crew of dedicated workers freely giving of their own time and talents.

 

Basset, who previously helped raise $1.3 million for the Portland Observatory restoration, said GPL has been giving the awards for more than 25 years to locals engaged in preserving some of the city’s iconic landmarks.

Other winners this year include the Danish Village Arch relocation effort in Scarborough.

“The arch is all that’s left of a Danish village from 1929, an area of tourist cottages reenacting a real village. The rest of the complex was demolished, but the arch was saved by the town of Scarborough,” Basset said. “It’s a story that wouldn’t have an opportunity to be told without the arch still being there.”

 

Also in line to receive kudos are Frank and Sharon Reilly, praised for their work with the Friends of Lincoln Park, repairing pathways, implementing a program of events, and installing a contemporary sculpture, a metal piece by artist Judith Hoffman in partnership with TEMPOArt from Portland. It’s the first commission with a temporary installation in the city, a metal work with a rust-colored patina, sculpted in the form of houses, stacked like blocks, called “the American Dream.”

 

Two reuses of schools will be honored – the Roosevelt School in South Portland was converted into 19 condo units and the Nathan Clifford School has been transformed into 22 apartments.

 

The awards also recognize smaller projects, like the cast iron work on Mechanics’ Hall done by StandFast Works Forge in Parsonsfield and the repaired balconies above the CVS building across Congress Street.

 

Diane Davison is being honored twice, as an individual and for her work with the Friends of the Eastern Promenade. Davison, who moved to Munjoy Hill nearly 25 years ago, began getting involved right away. She initiated April Stools Day and Community Cleanup, removing dog waste as well as litter from local parks and neighborhoods. Six years ago, she helped resurrect the summer concert series on the prom, bringing music back to the bandstand.

 

“We’ve had a fabulous response,” Davison said of the concerts. “This year’s average was 700 people per show. There were eight concerts, every Thursday in July and August, with local musicians like Primo Cubano, the Maine Academy of Modern Music, and Blues Prophets. We try to have a variety of genre to make everybody happy.”

 

In 2009, the Friends of Eastern Promenade improved the park’s trail network, linking the Fort Allen Trail to the Eastern Prom trail below it. In 2010, on the other end of the park, they worked on the Loring Memorial Trail, “which takes folks from the top of the park to the Back Cove Trail, connects with the Bayside Trail and the Eastern Prom Trail, creating a complete loop on the Eastern Prom,” Davison said.

 

More recently, they completed work on Fort Allen, just in time to celebrate the 2014 bicentennial. “It’s a premier location in the city, with duck boats, horse-drawn carriages, weddings, and trolleys,” she said, adding that she was aware of the restoration award, “but the personal award blew me away.”

 

Next up, the group will be working on the Jacob Cousins Memorial Restoration Project, on the border of Fort Allen Park. It’s a tribute to Corporal Cousins, of the US Army (C328th infantry) killed in action at Meuse-Argonne, France, in 1918. He was the first soldier of Jewish faith from Portland to die in battle during WWI. “We’ll be giving it a more dignified setting,” she said. “You now have to stand on the road to see the monument.”

Davison is the chair of the Portland Parks Commission, an advisory board to Portland City Council and staff, for all things related to parks and open spaces.

 

“From the big open historic parks to the pocket parks, these places are really on the radar these days,” she said. “This is the reason people want to live here, for the park experience in an urban setting.”

 

All Award Recipients

 

PRESERVATION LEADERS:

■ Diane Davison, Friends of Eastern Promenade

■ Sharon & Frank Reilly, Friends of Lincoln Park

■ John Turk, Architect and Preservation Advocate

 

RESTORATION PROJECTS:

■ Fort Allen Park, Portland

■ Danish Village Arch Relocation, Scarborough

■ Iron Details at Mechanics Hall & W.T. Grant Block, Portland

 

REHABILITATION PROJECTS:

■ Merrill Memorial Library, Yarmouth

■ George S. Hunt Block, 66o Congress, Portland

 

ADAPTIVE REUSE PROJECTS:

■ Meeting House Lofts, South Portland

■ Maine Irish Heritage Center, Portland

■ Nathan Clifford Residences, Portland

■ Press Hotel, Portland

Farmer's market meals: Outing provides ingredients, people add the spice

We wandered into the Farmers’ Market on Monument Square last Wednesday, tasked with finding a day's worth of meals from the produce here and at the Deering Oaks Saturday market. My friend was going to help with the grocery lists, shopping and cooking, so everything seemed in good stead. Breakfast for me usually consists of coffee and cigarettes so the notion of eating well for at least 24 hours was a fresh idea.

Dick Piper, of Piper Ranch in Buckfield, was setting up shop. A retired construction worker, Piper started farming 17 years ago. He and his wife, Lynn, have been selling at the market for the last six years. She has a commercial kitchen called Lynn's Good to Go.

“She's the boss,” he said, referring to his wife but implying my friend as well, I could tell.

I told him about the assignment and asked for suggestions on the main meat. The Pipers raise cows, pigs, chickens and quail, born on their farm. They sell quail and quail eggs to Boda restaurant in Portland. They buy the chickens in Maine and have them shipped when they’re a day old.

“I go to the post office and pick up a hundred of them,” Piper says. I imagine that scene and decide to go postal, choosing chicken and asking him for a recommendation. He suggested half chickens, “The Martha Stewart Special.”

A customer named Kati Christoffel was browsing the nearby stands for that night's dinner, entertaining guests from out of town. Originally from Albany, N.Y., she moved to Portland last December from northern Maine, and has been hitting the farmer's markets regularly since then. She doesn’t buy all of her groceries on visits here, but could easily see making a meal of it.

Ryan and Meg Mitchell run South Paw Farm, located in Freedom. They have been selling at the Portland markets for seven years. From them, I bought red potatoes, leeks, garlic, onions, summer crisp lettuce, tomatoes and cucumbers, several of the main ingredients for lunch and a few sides for dinner.

Josh Berry, executive chef, and Matt Duley, assistant chef, of the Union Restaurant at the Press Hotel, were shopping for the end-of-season rush. They say the nearby farmer's market is a weekly necessity, to stock up on the freshest ingredients for their new restaurant. Berry is a Maine native, and worked in Switzerland and Italy before coming home.

The market has a constant connection between youth and experience, bringing together modern sensibilities on healthy cuisine and age-old experience of drawing out the earth’s best bounty. Eddie Peterson is a fourth generation farmer with Beckwith's Farm, started by his grandfather. They've been selling at the Farmer's Market since 1978. Customer Susan Walsh, from Melrose, Mass. is vacationing on Peaks Island. She was perusing the vegetables at Beckwith’s stand and gave us some ideas for a novel salad, a spring mix with fresh berries perhaps, or a Caprese.

Cashed out, we looked to refrigerate and reorganize at Saturday’s market.

Deering Oaks was a typical swirl of farmstands and sellers, shoppers with strollers, dogs straining at the leash. There was one inexplicable sight: a woman with a tie-died shirt and a red Make America Great Again baseball hat.

David Koubek has worked the Good Shepherd’s Farm in Bremen for five years and has brought his produce to the Deering Oaks Farmer's Market for the past two. From him, we bought freshly milled bread called “Harvest Basket,” made with potato, caramelized onion and garlic. We got fresh eggs from the stand run by Tourmaline Hill Farm in Greenwood, between Norway and Bethel.

We were looking in vain for mozzarella for our lunch idea when we stumbled upon a cool source for distinctive food and flavors at the Fresh Start Farm stand, run by farmers whose lives provide quick and simple rejoinders to the baseball hat.

Cultivating Community, the Portland-based food co-op and education program since 2001, is partners with Fresh Start Farms stands, selling vegetables from local, shared gardens of the immigrant and refugee farm collective. From them, I bought a bag of fresh garlic, tiny potatoes and collared greens.

Rebeka Tombe, originally from Sudan, has lived in Portland for 16 years. She and her husband, John Yanga, have worked their farm for eight years. Christine Pompeo, of South Sudan, has farmed for five years, and lived in Portland for 10. “I started with a little garden, for my family only,” she said, “And then I thought, ‘This is a good business.’ All of my family are farmers.”

 

Products of the Produce:

Breakfast: eggs over medium on braised collard greens, thinly sliced on a biscuit (inspired by Bayou Kitchen), and roasted tiny potatoes

Lunch: tomato, mozzarella (we got at the grocery store) and basil with olive oil on Harvest Basket bread – a Caprese sandwich

Dinner: Roasted Chicken (New York Times recipe) in a big roasting pan. Roast chicken and potatoes after they’ve been marinated with olive oil, sriracha, and cumin. Halfway through, we added leeks tossed with olive oil, salt, pepper, and lemon zest. After roasting to a crisp, golden brown, we drizzled yogurt with grated garlic over hot chicken, potatoes, and leeks. Topped off with arugula and fresh dill. Finally, a drizzle of whisked lemon juice and olive oil over greens, completing the perfect one-pan meal.

Bon appétit!

Botto's Bakery anchors East Deering: Longtime business adjusts to changing tastes

When the Korean War ended in 1953, Bob Mathews returned home and began working for Joe Botto, founder of Botto’s Bakery.

 

Mathews managed the store until 1983 when he bought it from Botto, keeping the name with the aim of maintaining the neighborhood knowledge of its fresh bread.

 

“When my grandfather retired in 2000, he was still here all the time,” says Jessica Mathews. That year, Bob transferred ownership to his sons, Steve and Bob, Jessica’s father. She joined full-time last year after a major occupational shift.

 

Jessica, who expanded the pastry side of the business last May, had been a social worker for seven years, working in Massachusetts. “I was super burned out and decided to go to culinary school,” she says of Le Cordon Bleu in Boston, which closed last year. “I had always cooked and baked, but I never dared risk opening my own business. I always swore I would never work at the bakery, but I needed a change, and the idea that I could do this as a living, something I did as a hobby – well, I have to love what I do.”

 

Her father and uncle also love their work, as can be evinced by their long hours at the bakery, baking late into the night and covering shifts when workers call out. And their dedication has paid off. They number their wholesale accounts around 300, including buyers from Kennebunk to Lewiston and out into the Sebago Lakes region.

 

Now they are pushing to get the word out about the retail side of the business, making sure local customers know what other baked offerings they have.

 

“A lot of people know we do bread. They come in and say, ‘I didn’t know you made pastries,’” Jessica said. Their Washington Avenue location sees a lot of foot traffic from the neighborhood and the morning commute. The storefront business, with a quaint design and a couple of tables and chairs, has tripled since they expanded and upgraded their equipment in 2002, she added. They now bake everything in-house, switching from offering a few frozen items.

 

“Since Jessica joined, we’ve expanded everything,” Bob says. “She got us on social media, and the response has been a really great way to reach people who never knew we were here. It used to be if you thought Botto’s, you thought bread.”

 

Steve and Bob start the day at 4 p.m. and work through the night, finishing up around 6 a.m. “There are not too many bakers left who work our schedule,” Steve said.

 

When they arrive, they collect orders, print out the recipes, and start the mixing process. Although they make similar products each night, the orders vary in volume.

 

They have had the same storefront since 1960, when the grandfather would meet up with friends who stopped by after church. “Sundays were always busy,” Steve remembers. “Churchgoers from St. Pius, St. Peter’s, and the Cathedral would come by and get Italian bread for their Sunday dinner.”

 

 

One thing that has changed over the years is now customers are far more interested in artisan bread. They see competition in this area from the area’s several micro bakeries like Standard, Scratch and Rosemont Deli.

 

“Over the last 20 years, it has changed like night to day. Back then, we didn’t slice one thing,” Bob says. “Italian rolls, hot dog rolls – that used to be 90 percent of the business. Now we make loaves of wheat, marble rye, sourdough.”

 

This new taste for healthier foods has necessitated the change, but the bakers don’t sweat the adaptation.

 

“Portland has such a youthful scene right now,” Jessica says. “It’s great because we're not located in the Old Port. In East Deering, this is it in terms of scratch-made bakeries.”

 

They make the cannoli fresh to order, using straight butter, not margarine or shortening.

 

“It’s more expensive, but it just tastes better,” Jessica said. Next month, they are going to start making cannoli shells.

 

That commitment to taste has a long history with the Mathews’ family, a third generation business that’s rare these days.

 

“At one point Steve, Bob, my grandfather, and I were all working here,” Jessica said. Bob's wife's, MaryBeth, handles all the account. In the summertime, there are as many as nine Mathews on the payroll. The tradition seems here to stay. With area food businesses closing, they have picked up a lot of accounts.

 

“And Portland is such a foodie city,” Jessica says. “So we always have that.”

†he Peruvian connection: Portland artist to join indigenous art exhibition

Portland artist Mei Selvage has been invited to participate in an Intercontinental Biennial of Indigenous and Millennial Arts exhibition in Piura, Peru. The Chinese native will travel there from Oct.10 to 20.

 

She met Jorge Ivan Cevallos, the founder and director of the exhibit, while attending a First Friday event at the Portland Public Library last year. Bruce Brown, curator emeritus at the Center for Maine Contemporary Art, had encouraged her to attend the exhibit opening. Cevallos, also known as Crazy Horse, was with the exhibit as it traveled from Toronto, Canada, and Jessheim, Norway, before stopping in the Port City. It showed in Chicago this year.

 

“I am collaborating with Jorge on an art installation related to inter-connection,” she said of the work, entitled Five Elements, five works on 12-inch x 12-inch canvases in acrylic that depict space, earth, wind, fire and air. “In addition, I plan to interview some indigenous artists when I am in Peru. They are doing some really amazing artwork, but they’re little known to the English-speaking world. I would like to help them and be a cultural bridge.”

 

Inty Ñan, or Path of the Sun, as the conference and exhibit is known this year, is co-sponsored by The Indigenous School of the Arts Community of Learning and Foundation in Ecuador and the Cossio Del Pomar Arts Association in Peru. The philosophy behind it is rooted in the belief that the “vast traditions of the millenarian (or thousand year) cultures make up one of the most valuable living heritages of humanity,” according to the call for submissions. “Despite being of inestimable social value, it is one of the riches most rapidly disappearing, due to such factors as general extinction and failure to create new talent, disloyal appropriation, imposition of foreign uses and customs, and intolerance and alienation.”

 

In creating the biennial, Cevallos wanted art to be inspired by the millenarian culture, and came up with the idea of a combined exhibit and arts performance, which began conservatively in 2004 with a pilot project on a small scale, meant to set up n Native America Musical Opera, named Ayahuashca, by the Canadian-Ecuadorian musician and composer David West.

 

 

“We could have started at once on the international biennial, but considering its implications, we decided to give it a try first,” said Cevallos. “We officially invited artists in 2006, with the first edición, that took place in Quito, Ecuador.” The biennial exhibit, now in its sixth incarnation, is “like a festival, with art exhibitions, cooking displays, workshops, performance artists, craft food, and a medicine fair,” said Selvage, who hopes with Cevallos that the traveling gallery will return to Maine in the future, but that is uncertain.

 

“We are looking for a partner and sponsorship to go back to Portland. We would love to, and also we know that the Portland community will appreciate our visit,” Cevallos said. “We would like to do it in the summer of 2018, but it is still just a dream.”

 

American artists Scott Hill-Oneida, a painter, and Roy Kady, a Navajo weaver with join Selvage in Peru. The Portland-based painter was born in Sichuan, China. She moved to Missoula, Mont., in 1997, to attend the state university there where she studied business administration, graduated, and was hired by IBM. She moved to Portland in 2010. Currently working as a research director at Gartner, Selvage is the inventor of more than 30 patents.

 

 

Selvage and Cevallos are working on a collaboration project. Her paintings provide the inspiration for his poetry. The title of their installation is “Thread by Thread, We Connect,” which comes from a Chinese phase. The concept is about the “interconnectedness” for indigence people all over the world.

 

 

“Even though we don't often see and feel these connections, they exist nevertheless. It is also a Buddhist concept,” Selvage said. “As far as the art work goes, I made a Chinese accordion book including my ink painting. The covers are traditional Chinese fabric, and I add a strip of Peru fabric, which you gave to me. The top circle uses Peru fabric, too. I still need to stitch a mudra using red threads to match with the threads connecting the top and the bottom part.”

 

Selvage’s work encourages Cevallos to invite more artists like her who are incorporating their native culture and heritage into their creations.

 

“We have not yet had the chance to expand the invitation to many more Native American artists, due to the lack of money to make sure that their work will go all the way to South America,” Cevallos said. “As we all know, the United States has an enormous diversity of Native Nations, full of talent in all the fields of the arts. We wish at some point to find the sponsorship to make this happen. Meanwhile we hope to keep visiting this beautiful country with the Travelling Gallery.”

  • Published in Art

Health through art: Maine Music & Health taps musical interest to spur well being

Students in Jean Davis’s ninth grade Gorham High School English class were assigned a research paper on a topic of their own choosing. It just had to be something they were interested in.

 

 

“I chose teaching music to blind and deaf children,” recalls Kate Beever, founder of Maine Music & Health, when reflecting on her occupational roots. “We interviewed people for the paper, and I discovered that music therapy was a whole field in healthcare.”

 

 

She’s pursued that healthy interest ever since, studying music at the University of Southern Maine and working for Frank Glazer, who was a pianist of international renown and longtime Bates College artist-in-residence. After college, Beever moved to New York City and received her master’s degree in Music Psychotherapy from N.Y.U. She returned to Maine to open MM&H, working with clients of all ages with health issues like cancer, autism, cerebral palsy, depression and dementia. Still motivated by that childlike desire to share the fruits of her first research paper, Beever sought to enlarge the audience.

 

She created a conference to bring like-minded health-through-art advocates together, to share vignettes, best practices, and integration ideas. The aim of the Creative Health Conference, now in its third year, “is to spread the word about arts therapy, educate the public, and help medical professionals incorporate the arts into healthcare,” she said. Speakers this year include Carla Tanguay, from Modulation Therapy in Bar Harbor, who will discuss music therapy for people in hospice care, as well as dance therapist Dr. Maryam Mermey, of Morning Glory Arts Therapy in Manchester, who will present a workshop on working with people in a spiritual dimension. Jamie Sylvestei of ArtVan gives a talk on mobile arts therapy in under-resourced and urban neighborhoods.

 

“Music therapy has been around since World War II,” Beever said. “They started using music therapy with returning soldiers who had PTSD, and then started discovering the correlation between music and the brain. It’s an effective way to work with people's emotions.”

 

Arts therapists work with people with brain injuries, trauma, developmental disabilities, even at-risk teenagers at correctional facilities. “There’s a huge range of where these therapies work,” she said. “It’s complimentary (or integrative) health; you wouldn’t stop going to your doctor or taking medications. But arts therapy speeds up the recovery process.”

 

A 15-year-old girl we will call Alicia offers a good example. Alicia was living in a shelter. She’d just found out she was pregnant, but she didn’t want to work with a social worker. She had a lot of boundary issues, and did not trust people who said they would help her. “Even working with me, one-on-one for the first three sessions, she was basically silent,” said Beever, who then tried to guess — based on Alicia’s age and where she was brought up and furthermore, what music she might like.

 

“The stuff I played for her (hip-hop) was way off,” Beever laughs. “She suggested Aerosmith and the Rolling Stones. I printed off lyrics to 'Dream On' and 'Gimme Shelter' and we listened to them. We rewrote some of the lyrics to capture her own dreams.”

 

 

The transformation was not immediate, but Alicia’s progress was. “I had a guitar and keyboard and taught some of the basic chords of the songs. She started on keyboard but then really took to the guitar. That’s when I noticed her first smiling. When she started playing the instruments and learning some notes, she completely changed. She started showing up on time. She walked straighter. And she started greeting everyone in the office.” One more reminder of the benefits of an all-encompassing healthcare approach.

 

Success stories like this one will be shared at the Creative Health Conference, Saturday, Oct. 15 at the USM Lewiston Campus, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Attendees get continuing education credits. For more information and to register for the conference, visit mainemusicandhealth.com/catconference.

  • Published in Music

'A better connection': Bulgaria Redux brings vibrant dance to Mayo Street

When Mayo Street Arts began its International Heritage Music Series four years ago, they set a high standard for performance value, attendance and community enthusiasm.

 

 

Kabile, the Bulgarian husband and wife team of Nikolay and Donka Kolev, played traditional songs and instrumentals and romped in the historic Danish church, drawing the packed house from their seats to join them in dance.

 

In September, the duo returns to Mayo Street with their new incarnation, Bulgarika, which includes Vassil Bebelekov and Dragi Dragnev, instrumental specialists in the Bulgarian bagpipe, shepherds flute, large drum and keyboards. The Kolevs are award-winning performers from folk music conservatories in Bulgaria.

 

“The series started because of Kabile,” says Blainor McGough, Mayo Street executive director and founder with her husband, Brian Arlet. “They were one of the first international concerts, so we made the decision to bring them back. People still talk about that show, which went from a concert with people packed in the benches to this swirling mass of dancing. They started on the stage, as big part of the Bulgarian tradition, and then walked down into the room. People were dancing around them in circles.”

 

Matthew Schreiber, a musician and friend who now lives in New Orleans, had recommended the group; and McGough said the show was a turning point for the East Bayside performance venue, exhibit space, and community center. “There was a range of people from the neighborhood — kids, grown-ups and a pocket of people who are into Balkan dance.” The latter group, associated with Downeast Friends of the Folk Arts (DEFFA), craves the music of Bulgaria, known for hauntingly expressive melodies, fascinating irregular rhythms and fiery dance tempos. And the Kolevs were inspired by the night, as well.

 

“We like to be among the people. That’s a better connection,” Donka said, who specializes in Bulgarian folk music and dance from Trace, the region of southern Bulgaria, northeastern Greece, and part of Turkey. “The most popular dance and easiest to learn is the Pravo Horo. It’s in 2/4 time. What is different in Bulgarian music is the rhythm. For example, a 7/8 dance called Ruchenitsa, a 9/8 dance called Daichovo Horo.”

 

Professional musicians in Bulgaria, the Kolevs moved to the United States in 1995, and found an immediate audience. “We were surprised but felt good they were interested,” she said.

 

 

Donka sings. Nikolay plays the traditional Bulgarian instrument the gadulka. She started in music at age 5. He started at age 10. Their paths converged when they attended a special folk school with a musical specialty, to learn about Bulgarian folk and traditions. They fell in love, were married and moved to the U.S. They began performing across the country in 1996 and are now on their 13th nationwide tour.

 

The Bulgarika concert is part of the International Heritage Music Series. “Based on the idea that music is inherent to strengthening community in cultures around the world, the series celebrates regional music and dance traditions," according to a grant report. “Performances will showcase leading artists in Arabic folk music, French and El Salvadorian violin music, Scandinavian choir music and more.” Mayo Street Arts receives funding from the Davis Family Foundation and the Brooks’ Family Foundation, which support local and international music.

 

 

Each year, the series offers eight to 12 international concerts from Sept. to May, with the summer months devoted more to children’s programs and puppet shows. Musicians have hailed from such places as Scandinavia, Burundi, Turkey, Romanian and Brazil.

 

“International music reflects the neighborhood here, and the population we have been working with,” McGough said, and she expects a big crowd again for Bulgaria Redux.

 

International Heritage Music Series: Bulgarika | Sunday, Sept. 18 | Mayo Street Arts, 10 Mayo St., Portland | 7:30-8:15pm concert; 8:15-8:30pm intermission; 8:30pm dancing | For more info, visit mayostreetarts.org

  • Published in News

Rybeck on the Port City: Portland-born novelist explores legacy of places

Benjamin Rybeck was born in Portland and grew up in Falmouth. He went to the University of Southern Maine before moving to Arizona at age 23. It took that move away from his hometown to be able to use the Port City as inspiration for his first novel, The Sadness.

 

“When I was in high school, as soon as I was able to drive, I would go as often as I could to Portland,” he said. Especially moved by what were his three favorite places to research and work – Casco Bay Books, The Movies on Exchange Street, and Videoport – Rybeck has a major character echo the author’s own lament about their closings.

 

“All of these places were my haunts, especially Videoport and Movies on Exchange. I have loved movies for so long, reading books came late and secondary to me. All of these places closed while I was writing the book, so the process became elegiac in a way I did not intend. Their closings were my own sadness, in a way.”

 

Rybeck did not work continuously on the novel since he left town in 2006, but the germ of a book came 10 years ago. The Sadness is about Kelly Enright, traveling from Arizona to Portland, where she grew up, on a quest to find her long-gone father and perhaps avail herself of some of his reputed money. It opens with her twin brother, Max, a struggling filmmaker and his search for Evelyn, the onetime solo star of his unmade movie. Evelyn has gone missing, and Max puts up fliers and tries to find her, retrace her last known late-night Old Port sojourns.

 

 

“The Evelyn character arose from both real-life events in Portland and a fictional person who came from the creation of book,” said Rybeck, who knew a lot of people who knew her, but never did himself. “When I started writing the book, there was a girl who had gone missing in Portland and beyond the natural sadness, there was also an element where I felt like my life had passed her by.”

 

By the novel’s conclusion, Kelly has realized her quest to find their father is mismotivated and pointless. It takes a deus ex machina, for her to see that the journey she has to go on is to essentially forgive her mother, or at least understand her. She’s holding on to this image of her father and understands she can use him if she finds him. In doing so, she ignores her mother’s late-life wish, that Kelly take care of her brother, a reclusive loser with rising anger issues.

 

 

“Through a chain of events, Kelly realizes she’s just as fucked up as Max and had been pursing this selfish thing, alienating her brother and mother in the process. The change only comes Kelly finds herself where her mother died,” he said.

 

Rybeck uses a multi-genre point-of-view, incorporating multiple character angles, footnoted interviews (some real, some mock), diary entries and letters from deceased characters – a process he calls metatext.

 

“The book is about ghosts, that’s the first thing on Kelly’s mind when she drives in to Portland. There are three major characters who are missing. They cast a massive shadow of everything. As a writer try to create them to be as deeply felt as the characters who are there.” For example, Rybeck uses Evelyn’s journals to a get a sense of her. The current version of metatext serves two purposes – to get Max’s voice into the book early and also to produce soundtrack elements, something you can’t do in a novel but can do in a film.

 

 

The book was researched in Portland (“hauntingly”), and Rybeck drew upon native friends, like the Portland poet Michael Macklin, a custodian and poetry guru of the students at Waynflete, and Rick Russo. He also emulated the work of writers of international renown like Jonathan Lethem and David Foster Wallace, each of whom has also employed multi-genre works to comparative success. “I’m a huge fan of Lethem, an influence on the book and me as a writer. In every book, he tries to do something new. And Wallace and Rick Russo, both writers I love, went to the University of Arizona,” said Rybeck who got his post-grad degree there. “I hope my writing is some sort of middle ground between them.”

For more about The Sadness, stop in Longfellow Books or visit http://www.longfellowbooks.com/book/9781939419705

  • Published in Books

Get your groove on: Jaw Gems testing new album at PHOME Friday

A few years ago, when Jaw Gems played Tuesday nights at Local 188, the crowd was so packed into the Congress Street restaurant that patrons couldn’t really dance so much as groove in the spot they were standing. Luckily for them, the popular band designs their music more for the mind than an external exhibition. They’ve left that weekly gig and returned to the studio to produce their second album, Heatweaver.

 

 

The electronic beat-makers of pulsating rhythms now bring their ensemble to the Portland House of Music and Events on Friday, Aug. 26, moving to the bigger venue with the hope of drawing their loyal following, as well as new fans looking for a unique sound.

 

Jaw Gems is composed of Hussan Muhammad and Tyler Quist, both on keyboard and samplers; D.J. Moore plays drums, and Andrew Scherzer is on electric bass. Each of them plays in at least two different bands, but this is their main project and focal point for playing live.

 

“I’m a classical pianist,” Muhammad said in an interview last week. “It’s an important part of every day, and it’s important to me to be able to play it.”

 

This Friday, they’ll be introducing songs from the new CD, a year and half-long endeavor of making beats and finishing the others’ individual ideas.

 

 

“It’s a creative process. One of us bring a beat, the other three say, ‘Cool – we have a place where we can take that.’ We all start in an individual place and then refine it collectively,” said Muhammad, from Cincinnati, Ohio, where he met Blakhi in middle school. The best-selling beatmaker influenced his move from classical to hip-hop instrumentals. (Blakhi will be one of the opening acts Friday night, along with Altered Gee, a duo on keys and drum/beat, and Condor, a Boston-based synth-rock band.)

 

Muhammad moved to Maine two years ago to study English at Bowdoin College. There he met Scherzer, a DJ at the college radio station, WBOR. They connected with Quist and Moore at the University of Maine at Augusta and moved their act to Portland.

 

“Because we were all listening to instrumental hip-hop like J Dilla, people pointed us out to each other,” Muhammad said. He delights in writing, one time even sharing a journal trade with a stranger for reading on board a long flight, but there are no lyrics to a Jaw Gems’ song. Now live, the band is focused on the challenge of entertaining a large crowd without vocals.

 

“Without words, people have more of an ability to feel whatever it makes them feel. Lyrics sometimes, because they’re very direct, they make you feel only that. Purely instrumental music lets you flow inside the music more,” he said. “It’s not just background music. You can be focused on an instrumental show and very deep inside your own mind. We’ve always just tried to play grooves that feel good to us, captivate us. When we’re lucky, that translates to the audience too and provides sounds that make your head nod.”

 

The drummer Moore provides the backbone of the music. “If you just listen to him in a room, it will be more than enough,” says Muhammad. “We decorate that with two keyboardists and a bass player, and try to create something that feels good to people, and feels good to us.”

 

Moore says that “making music is how we chill, and the album naturally unfolded once we were all committed to being in the same place together for some time.”

 

The band name came from the grill that several hip-hoppers sport, lighting up their smiles with faux gold dentures. “We had been playing a lot of hip-hop covers and wanted a fun name with bright imagery,” Quist said. “It started to ring after a while.”

At the performance, Jaw Gems will be playing a lot of pieces from their new release so people who haven’t heard them before will get a good sense of what the album sounds like, a densely layered work — headphone music — and the band admits that much of the new music recordings, finely tweaked in the studio, will be tested when they bring them out live.

 

“It’s exciting to find a different way to play a song. People who have the album can listen to that, but to play it differently live is something I think about all the time,” Muhammad said. “We can only play so many keyboards at once. In the studio, you can layer an unlimited amount of sounds. You can’t have that many keyboards live, so it’s a process of finding how to reimagine and rework the songs in a compelling way, given what you have at your disposal – two hands and two feet.”

 

Jaw Gems has played at the Brooklyn Bowl and the Boston Fuzztival, held at the Middle East. They will also be doing a round with Lettuce on Sept. 21 in Providence at Lupo’s Heartbreak Hotel, and have upcoming gigs at The Tralf Music Hall in Buffalo and the Sinclair in Cambridge.

 

But the real challenge is to perform in Portland, for their followers and new listeners. According to Muhammad, the band has few frets about the local show. “We worry more about the creative process. We hope people enjoy it and then listen to it again and again. The most important thing now, though, is to stay inspired and play good music for people, have fun on the stage.”

 

Jaw Gems at Portland House of Music and Events | Friday, Aug. 26 at 8:30pm | Along with Blakhi, Altered Gee, and Condor | http://www.portlandhouseofmusic.com/events/

  • Published in Music
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