Quoddy Voices, a Downeast community chorus, takes the stage on Friday, May 19 (7 pm) and Sunday, May 21 (3 pm) at Eastport Arts Center, with Here In Maine, a celebration of the many musical flavors of our home state. The joyful and varied program will conclude the tenure of the group’s beloved director, John Newell, who will retire from choral conducting this spring, while remaining active with his many other musical pursuits.
After opening with the official “Maine State Song” the chorus will perform “An Anthem of Praise”, composed by Supply Belcher, known as the ‘Handel of Maine.’ Following are three songs that originated in Maine’s Shaker communities, including the classic “Simple Gifts.”
Popular ‘ditties’ of the state are represented by the upbeat “Maine County Song”; the 1922 hit “Away Down East in Maine,” sung by soprano soloist Jenny Gillies; and the irrepressible, hoppy “University of Maine Stein Song.”
An ensemble led by Bill Johnson will perform the nostalgic “Portland Town,” a song of coming home from the sea. Next, the singers will present two pieces composed in celebration of the Gulf of Maine’s herring by Anna Dembska. Jaunty logging song “The Shanty Boys,” will get toes tapping, then the group will sing three pieces inspired by the waters around us, including the “Penobscot Water Song,” composed by Gabriel Paul.
A group of settings of poems by famous Maine poets will include two with text by Henry W. Longfellow: “Voices of the Night,” with a flute solo by Nancy Asante; and “Snow-Flakes,” composed and conducted by Gene Nichols. The treble voices will contemplate Edna St. Vincent Millay’s “Afternoon on a Hill.”
Concluding the program is a medley of famous songs from the musical Carousel, a Rodgers and Hammerstein hit set on the Maine coast. Featured soloist is Kayla Heckart. Director Newell’s fond memories of learning these pieces as a youth spurred him to put them on his finale program. “The story is one with some very dark moments, but that ultimately brings hope” noted Newell.
Quoddy Voices is a constituent group of the Eastport Arts Center, with dedicated members who hail from all over our region to make music together. The group’s talented accompanist is Jane Lanctot. Beginning with the fall 2023 season, the conducting baton will pass to the well known local ‘Music Man’ Gene Nichols, who led the UMaine Machias Chorale for many years, as well as performing with a wide variety of musical groups and teaching music at the university for 35.5 years. Nichols is singing with the choir for the Here in Maine program; the group is very excited to have him poised to lead the way forward.
Suggested donation for the concert is $15; students 17 and under will be admitted free of charge. The Eastport Arts Center is at 36 Washington Street, Eastport, and at www.eastportartscenter.org, and is handicapped-accessible. EAC abides by the State of Maine CDC COVID guidelines, revisiting our policy monthly. At this time, the use of masks in our building is optional.