LEWISTON – There will be a reunion at Bates College next weekend. And you’re invited.

The festive affair will take place at 8 p.m. Friday, April 30, on stage at the Olin Arts Center when noted fiddler Greg Boardman will perform with other gifted instrumentalists from his musical sojourns. Together, they will celebrate the release of his new CD, “The Divine Waltz.”

Boardman, an Auburn resident who works as a string music teacher for both the Lewiston School Department and Bates College, moved from his native Massachusetts to Maine more than 30 years ago when he enrolled as a freshman at Colby College in Waterville.

At that point, he was a teen rock guitarist; but before long he was turned on to bluegrass and “old-timey” music by a banjo-playing Colby classmate Chris Prickitt. This opened the door to meeting several stalwarts on Maine’s traditional music scene, including veteran fiddlers Ben Guillemette, Otto Soper and Simon St. Pierre. After three years as a music major at Colby, Boardman put his guitar aside, found himself a fiddle, left campus and moved into a cabin in the woods of central Maine where he practiced the vintage dance tunes he heard at the hands of his newfound mentors.

It was the mid-1970s, a fertile time for “unplugged” music in central Maine, and Boardman quickly found many compatriots among both his former college colleagues and a growing flock of “back-to-the-landers” who had come to Maine to enjoy a simpler, laid-back way of life. Several folk bands emerged, including the Northern Valley boys, led by Boardman and Prickitt. Eager to give their fans a chance to dance to their rousing jigs, reels, waltzes and polkas, the musicians sought out Dudley Laufman, a practiced country dance caller from New Hampshire. He showed them the ropes of playing for the old-time dances and equipped them with the calls for New England contra classics.

Boardman joined forces with several other young Maine “revivalist” folk musicians, formed the Maine Country Dance Orchestra, and started a regular monthly public dance at the old Bowdoinham Town Hall, which ran from 1976 until just a few years ago. It is still fondly remembered among Maine’s folk dance and music crowd as the “granddaddy” of dances, serving as a catalyst for the many other dances in southern-central Maine in years since.

Then another door opened. About 1977, Boardman was playing with his dance band cronies at the Buttermilk Hill Festival in Belgrade when the conductor of the college-community orchestra in Farmington invited him to join that ensemble.

This set Boardman on the classical music track, and he decided to enroll at the University of Southern Maine, where he studied viola with Julia Adams of the Portland String Quartet, earning a music performance degree in 1984. He came to Auburn four years later to lead the public school string program. In 1994, he took on the same position for the Lewiston School Department, where he now teaches violin, viola, cello and string bass to hundreds of children in grades 4 through high school.

He was an important figure on the area’s classical music scene throughout the ‘90s, performing with the Maine Chamber Ensemble and directing the Androscoggin Valley Community Orchestra for several years.

Through all this, Boardman kept active as a folk musician, continuing to explore and pay tribute to Maine’s unique regional musical heritage, the roots of which extend into the Canadian Maritimes and Quebec. He made his first recording of such music in 1980, a cassette tape of songs and dance tunes titled “Wayworn Traveller” which featured Prickitt among other musician friends. Ten years ago, he released his debut CD, “Century Reel,” followed in 1998 with “In Came a Fiddler” and, in 2001, “Chantons,” a Franco-American song collaboration with Michael Parent. (Unbeknownst to most, Boardman is one-quarter Franco himself; his paternal grandmother was a LeClerc, born in Canada.)

On “The Divine Waltz,” Boardman plays fiddle, viola and guitar on an eclectic collection of 14 tunes he composed. He describes the music as couched “more or less in the traditional Down East style,” but listeners will hear nuances of both his classical training and his formative rock dalliances. It is music, he says with a smile, “acoustically delivered with a chamber-rock edge.”

Joining Boardman on stage for his upcoming concert at Bates are many of the musicians who accompany him on the disc. Contemporaries from his early days on the Maine folk scene are Prickitt, banjo player and now a member of the band Evergreen; fiddler Ellen Gawler of Ladies of the Lake; and pianist/accordionist Beth Borgerhoff of the Bardezbanian Middle East Ensemble. From Timbrel, Boardman’s own contra dance band for the past two decades, are Peter Sturtevant on guitar, Jeff Taylor on bass guitar, and Mike Hansen on percussion.

Boardman’s three sons will also contribute their talents to the occasion, with Isaac taking time out from his film studies at Rockport College to play guitar at the concert; Ethan, a junior at Edward Little and a member of the local rock band Contra playing djembe (hand drum); and Aidan, a seventh-grader at Auburn Middle School, adding rhythm on electric bass.

Other representatives of the “next generation” to share the stage are fiddler Jessie Gagne-Hall, a senior at Bates and a Boardman protege, and her classmate Mike Roberts, who will chip in on string bass and dobro. Adding some vocal texture to the program are members of the Bates folk chorus Northfield.

A donation will be requested at the door for the April 30 concert. The Olin Arts Center Concert Hall is located on the Bates College campus at 75 Russell St. in Lewiston. FMI: call 786-6135.


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