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Quoddy Voices' 'Here in Maine' Concerts a Delight; Retiring Director Honored at Reception

John Newell, hard-working steward of the Quoddy Voices community chorus, retired from his role as Director after the group’s spring concerts on May 19 and 21. Nearly 150 attended the weekend performances, which included diverse musical material, all related to the state of Maine: Shaker tunes, shanties, Native American water songs, settings of works by Maine-born poets, and a nostalgic spin through Rogers and Hammerstein’s Carousel, remembered by Newell as a favorite learned during his youth.

All photos by Jude Kempe.

The singers garnered some laughs and sing-along participation with their renditions of “The Maine County Song” and the University of Maine “Stein Song,” as well as soloist Jenny Gillies’ lively rendition of “Away Down East in Maine” and the concert finale, “Roll the Old Chariot Along.”

A set of pieces celebrating Maine laborers included songs of Gulf of Maine herring written by Anna Dembska of Camden; folk hit “Portland Town”, performed by a small ensemble with Bill Johnson directing; and a rousing rendition of “The Shanty Boys”, an 1840s lumberjack song complete with bass solo by Steve Koenig.

On the contemplative side, a trio of pieces which set poems to music included Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's "Voices of the Night", including a flute solo by Nancy Asante; and "Snow-flakes", composed and conducted by Gene Nichols, who was welcomed as incoming Director for Quoddy Voices. The treble voices' "Afternoon on a Hill," from the poem by Edna St. Vincent Millay, completed this group.

The Carousel medley was a crowd favorite, boosted by soprano soloist Kayla Heckart’s “Mr. Snow” and bass soloist Ed Jordan’s feature in “Blow High, Blow Low”, and capped off by an ecstatic “June is Busting Out All Over.”

Following the Sunday concert, singers presented Newell and accompanist Jane Lanctot with gifts of appreciation, and Steve Koenig gave a tribute to Newell’s talents, encouraging him to consider joining the group as a singer in future. A festive reception followed.

Many tributes to Newell may be read here. Special thanks to our May concert volunteers: Jude Kempe, photography; Bernie Cecire, lights, sound and video; and Joanne Carney, Pat Scott and Ed Scott, box office. Quoddy Voices rehearsals will resume in the fall, and all singers are welcome to join the group.


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