Tuesday, March 9, 2010


GRAND STATE OF MAINE ~ proudly we sing
To tell the glories of the land,
To shout it till the rafters ring.
Should fate unkind - send us to roam,
The scent of the fragrant pines,
The tang of the salty sea - Will call us home.

Oh, Pine Tree State,
Your woods, fields and hills,
Your lakes, streams and rock bound coast
Will ever fill our hearts with thrills,
And tho' we seek for and wide
Our search will be in vain,
to find a fairer spot on earth

The song was written by Roger Vinton Snow and adopted as the official state song in March of 1937. Mr. Snow was a Portland native who got his primary and secondary education in the public schools. There is considerable written about him (available on the internet, of course) including an extensive interview for the Portland Press Herald in 1999.

Maine has a very rich music history going back to the Penobscot and Passamaquoddy Indians. A gentleman known as the "Handel of Maine", Supply Belcher (1751-1836) compiled a "book of tunes" and organized the first choir in the Maine. The oldest continually active symphony in the country is the Bangor Symphony Orchestra. Portland also has a fine symphony, is home to the Choral Arts Society, the Portland String Quartet and the DaPonte String Quartet. And then there are two opera companies, The Portland Opera Repertory Theatre and OperaMaine.

On the lighter side and current are One Longfellow Square which presents music, poetry, writing and dance; and the St. Lawrence Performing Arts Center a beautiful renovated stone church on Munjoy Hill.

Throughout the state there are groups who continue to keep traditional cultural music alive. The Maine Indians still teach their children the dances and music of their various traditions; The Stockholm and New Sweden for Swedish music; the French-Maine communities across the state from the Upper St. John Valley to the Acadian area all the way south to the Lewiston-Auburn and Biddeford areas - all celebrate their musical heritage.

There have been long established groups that have become well known locally and nationally. The Meddiebempsters of Bowdoin College, the Bates College all-male Manic Optimists, The Freewill Society at Bates College, Schooner Fare are some. If Jazz is your choice, there is the MidCoast Jazz Society; the Maine Festival in Brunswick, the Boothbay Harbor Jazz Festival. Maine hosts several Blue Grass festivals during the summer also.

Popular music (so called!) finds several venues for bands that play funk, rock, metal, etc. You would find Rustic Overtones, Ray Lamontagne, The Elliotts,
Jeremiah Freed in these places. Actually, L.L.Bean Discovery Park also features concerts by some of these groups.

I will share something with you - one of the best kept secrets in Maine - a great group of musicians plays every Thursday morning from 9:00 to 10:30 a.m. right on Forest Avenue in Portland. Free to the public via the side door entrance to Starbird Music Mall.

We are the STARBIRD L.I.F.E. PLAYERS. Drop in, have a cup of coffee and listen to the senior hobby organists play their favorite songs from the good old days.

"If you were blessed with the gift that allows you to play an musical instrument, always play it with your heart, so you can extend your blessing to those who are listening." Joan Baez

Keep a song in your heart and keep the music playing.


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