NEW GLOUCESTER — “The Maine Festival of American Music: Music as a Form of Worship” at Sabbathday Lake Shaker Village, 707 Shaker Road, will run from Wednesday through Saturday, June 19 to 22. The festival provides a rare opportunity to experience Shaker music and history in the context of the wider world of classical and folk music, while also celebrating American musicians, composers, historians and craftsmen.

The Shakers host the festival, with all six concerts taking place in their 1794 Meeting House, one of Maine’s most beautiful and acoustically superb venues for vocal and instrumental performances.

On opening night, Wednesday, June 19, the Portland String Quartet will perform at 7 p.m. George Walker’s “String Quartet No. 1” (1946) will be presented in honor of Juneteenth, the oldest known celebration commemorating the ending of slavery in the United States.

Bates College Professor Emeritus Bill Matthews will comment on his work and the quartet’s performance of his “Lux Aeterna” in memory of Marcy Plavin (1950). The quartet will conclude the evening with a performance of George Whitefield Chadwick’s “String Quartet No. 5 in D Minor” (1898-1913). Tickets are $20 for adults and free for students.

Kevin Siegfried and the Portsmouth Singers will perform at 7 p.m. Thursday, June 20. He will lead the singers in a program of Shaker and other early American music. The concert intersperses Siegfriedʼs powerful choral arrangements of Shaker songs with original Shaker songs performed in unison. Audience participation is encouraged.

Between songs, Shaker Brother Arnold Hadd will share personal and historical insights about the Shaker songwriters and the past and present relevance of the songs in Shaker life. Tickets are $20 for adults and free for students.

A Master Class performance will take place from 3 to 5 p.m. Friday, June 21. Workshop Day at the festival brings student and adult amateur players to Shaker Village to study movements from the literature with the Portland String Quartet. Emphasis on American composers and arrangement of Shaker hymns will be included in the culminating Master Class. The performance is free and open to the public.

Don Roy Trio & the Arnott Fiddlers will appear at 7 p.m. Friday, June 21. National Heritage Fellows and local Franco-American musicians Don and Cindy Roy present the Don Roy Trio. Roy’s fiddling is crisp and straightforward. He will perform a mid-20th century folk and fiddle music with vibrant step dancing by pianist Cindy Roy and bassist Jay Young. Joining the trio are their apprentices, young musicians Rossby, Elsie and Oliver Arnott, the next generation of Franco-American fiddlers. Tickets are free, but advance reservations are recommended.

Shaker music will be on the schedule at 1:30 p.m. Saturday, June 22. As a prelude to Saturday night’s Portland String Quartet concert, Shaker leader and historian Hadd will lead in the Shakers’ chorale response to the last seven words spoken by Christ. Audience participation is encouraged. In keeping with a Shaker practice that the Gospel be free for all, the concert is free, but advance reservations are recommended.

The Portland String Quartet will conclude the series at 7 p.m. Saturday, June 22. Members will play Franz Joseph Haydn’s “The Seven Last Words of Christ — String Quartet Op. 51” (1787). Although there have been many adaptations for chorus and solo voices, it was intended as a purely instrumental work with narration prior to each “word.” Hadd will provide narration and comments. Tickets are $20 for adults and free for students.

Shaker music, received mostly by spiritual inspiration rather than deliberate composition, is a product of one of America’s most unique communal religious experiences. The majority of Shaker songs originate from the mid-19th century and have been preserved by the Shakers through oral tradition.

There were at one time in excess of 25,000 Shaker songs and, today, as many as 1,000 remain a part of the active repertoire of the Sabbathday Lake Shakers. One of these living songs, “Simple Gifts” has achieved lasting significance outside of the Shaker Church. Written originally in 1848 by Maine’s Elder Joseph Brackett, “Simple Gifts” in its best known adaptations has been used by Aaron Copland to create “Appalachian Spring” and by Martha Graham for her avant-garde dance performance, “The Shakers.” By its quintessential nature, this song ties together the performances presented throughout the Maine Festival of American Music.

Tickets can be purchased at the Shaker Museum Visitors’ Center, online for no additional charge at maineshakers.com or by phone at 207-926-4597.

For more information about Sabbathday Lake Shaker Village Museum and Library, visit www.maineshakers.com or follow on Facebook at www.facebook.com/sabbathdaylakeshakervillage.


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