Musicians captivate donors


FARMINGTON – They stood nearly stock-still, eyes narrowed and lips pursed in concentration. The only thing moving was their hands. Just seeing their faces, you’d never believe the music they made.

When the 14- and 16-year-old Smith Brothers started to play, suit-clad knees started bobbing, fancy shoes started tapping, and some of the 20-some-odd hospital donors listening even began humming along with the tunes.

“How many trophies from fiddlin’ competitions do you have at home?” asked one audience member. “If I learn guitar, will my hair start to curl like yours?” came another question for eighth-grade guitar player Shane Smith, 14, who with his fiddling brother Jay, 16, has spent the past six years gracing stages all over Maine with the sometimes raucous, sometimes quietly melodic bluegrass tunes that originated in these parts – and in mountain towns far south of here, years ago.

The Smiths played Thursday night at Franklin Memorial Hospital at the end of a reception put on by President Richard Batt to honor 45 of the hospital’s biggest donors.

Following the Smith’s concert, Jay’s classmate Hannah Sloane-Barton, 16, took the stage to play a different kind of fiddle music. Still bluegrass, the tunes she chose were slow and haunting. And as she played, staring off into space, not a person moved. The music she chose was mostly Celtic, she said, and much originated just north of here, in Canada, in fishing villages where daily struggles often outweighed joy.

Both Sloane-Barton and the Smith Brothers received checks and standing ovations at the end of their concerts. When they turned to leave the hospital’s Bass Room, they all became teenagers once again – talking about baseball and school work, looking a little sideways at their beaming parents.

But all three also will continue on as musicians, fitting in practice between sports games and choral rehearsals, studying classical violin and guitar at Mt. Blue, applying to schools with prestigious music programs, playing gigs and festivals all over Maine on school vacations. Jay and Hannah just received scholarships for a string camp this summer at Boston’s Berklee School of Music.