Summer in Maine is many things. Tourists, lobster rolls, and trips to the ocean or lake are just a few of the activities attracting travelers to this place which is home to approximately 1 million. Of course, there are summer festivals like…ahem…The Moxie Festival.
There are also music festivals. And summer concerts. And fiddle camps. And chamber music carefully nestled among pine trees or along the bay.
Handy surprised me on Saturday and asked if I wanted to go to a concert in Portland. Cheap Trick and Peter Frampton. Wow! Talk about a throwback to the days of the turntable. Using his special powers of finding good things for less, Handy scored some amazing seats for this concert and we had a good time kicking around Portland before and after the show. The rain held off until after midnight and our safe return to the epicenter of the Moxie universe.
But it did rain on Sunday, all day long.
Nevertheless, I managed to get my act together by 2:00 p.m. to attend a musical event I’d penciled in on my calendar. It was the first summer organ concert at the Basilica in Lewiston.
Although I sang from the choir loft behind the amazing Casavant organ during the Easter vigil service, I was not aware of the instrument’s provenance. According to the concert program, the organ was built by Casavant Frères in St. Hyacinth, Quebec. This Canadian company, founded in 1879, builds and restores pipe organs around the world. The Basilica’s organ was dedicated on October 4, 1938.
As noted in the Sunday afternoon concert program:
“The French Canadians who made Lewiston their home and Saints Peter and Paul their church in the late 19th century attached great value to music and the arts. In pursuit of excellence, they hired one of North American’s greatest organ builders, Casavant Frères, to create an instrument that would fill their new edifice with glorious sound.”
Glorious sound, indeed.
As the gorgeous music swept through the building, my heart filled with joy and pride at the commitment and likely sacrifice made by so many French Canadians before my time. As music director Scott Vaillancourt noted in his remarks about construction of the Basilica (including but not limited to the Casavant organ) “it is a profound statement of the depth of their commitment to their faith.”
The performance featured noted organist Randall Mullin on the Casavant, accompanied by the Norumbega Ensemble, a group of talented musicians who play brass instruments. The selections spanned the end of the Renaissance era with a piece by Jan Sweelink, to a J.S. Bach fugue, then on to more contemporary organ pieces by Ralph Vaughan Williams and Craig Phillips.
What a contrast to the Cheap Trick – Peter Frampton concert! Not better or worse, just different.
I’m not well-versed about organ music, but the concert piqued my curiosity and I’m looking forward to attending the next concert and learning more about the instrument.
Concerts at the Basilica are free and open to the public.
Mark your calendar!