by Bob Keyes
Not too many years ago, the best classical music in Maine in the summer could be found anywhere but Portland. Maine’s most revered music festivals occurred on the midcoast, from Brunswick to Blue Hill. The coast of Maine still offers some of the best festivals, but increasingly Portland is giving classical music lovers who live here or who visit a reason to cheer.
In June, the former artistic director of the Bowdoin International Music Festival debuts a new event, the Portland Bach Festival. It runs June 19-24, with performances at the Episcopal Church of St. Mary on Foreside Road in Falmouth and the intimate Emmanuel Chapel at St. Luke’s Cathedral in Portland. Other events will be at Ocean Gateway and the East End Community School.
Lewis Kaplan, who departed Bowdoin after 50 years as artistic director in 2014, will direct the festival with assistance from Emily Isaacson, artistic director of the Oratorio Chorale.
“Bach has always been a real love of mine,” said Kaplan. “I am not retired. What would I want to do? Naturally, Bach came to mind.”
Musicians from around the world will perform, many of whom Kaplan has worked with during his half-century of teaching at the Juilliard School in New York. There will be masterclasses and kids concerts during the day, and performances in the evenings. There’s a Bach and Beer event at Ocean Gateway, as well as a community sing-along.
Kaplan’s goal is to create a festival that keeps Portland music fans close to home — at least through June. He plans to make it an annual event.
There’s more music on the calendar in Portland, too.
PORTopera (portopera.org) presents a fully-staged version of “Carmen” July 27 and July 29 at Merrill Auditorium. Stephen Lord conducts. The Portland Chamber Music Festival (pcmf.org) hosts a series of concerts at Hannaford Hall on the University of Southern Maine Portland campus, Aug. 11-20. This summer marks the 23rd season for the festival.
Here are other festivals across Maine this summer.
Bowdoin International Music Festival, Brunswick: June 25-Aug. 6;bowdoinfestival.org
Kneisel Hall Chamber Music School and Festival, Blue Hill: June 25-Aug. 5;kneisel.org
Salt Bay Chamberfest, Damariscotta, Aug. 9-20; saltbaychamberfest.org
Sebago-Long Lake Music Festival, Harrison, July 12-Aug. 9; sllmf.org
Bar Harbor Music Festival, July 3-31; barharbormusicfestival.org