Riverside Park in Downtown Presque Isle will once again be filled with music on Sunday afternoons this summer as the City of Presque Isle and the University of Maine at Presque Isle host the Fifth Annual "Music in the Park" Summer Concert Series.
This year's music series will feature one show per month throughout the summer, kicking off on Sunday, June 10, and continuing with concerts on July 8, and Aug. 12, 2012.
The free concert series includes shows ranging from Indie Jazz Afro Groove to Texas Country music. Each Sunday afternoon performance features a main act as well as an opening act, giving the community a chance to hear some of the region's finest up and coming local singers and musicians.
Music in the Park begins this year with a June 10 concert by Northern Caravan, a Houlton-based music and dance group that plays a mixture of gypsy flavored music from Eastern Europe, the Middle East, the Mediterranean and other countries. As is traditional, a belly dancer – Stacey Maclem – will interpret the music through the artistic expression of dance. Flowing colors and clap-along music characterizes this entertaining band.
The opening act for the group is Mark Shaw and the Airwaves. The group will perform blues-based and familiar standards, and treasured tunes from the archives.
The music continues on Sunday, July 8, with two main acts -- Wesley Allen Hartley and the Traveling Trees, and Brown Bird. The first act, a Portland, Maine-based group with a "Texas country shade chair band" vibe, features Hartley's distinctive Texas drawl on lead vocals as they perform everything from old-time country with indie pop tinges to alt-country. Brown Bird, a Rhode Island-based folk duo, is an up-and-coming roots music collaboration with the stark sounds and styles of Eastern Europe.
They will be preceded by an opening act featuring Travis Cyr and the Strings of Calamity. Cyr is a self-proclaimed "cosmic acoustic Americana folk-rock spaz-grass psychobilly string-breaking song-writing enthusiast."
The Music in the Park series wraps up on Sunday, Aug. 12, with a jazz trio led by vocalist/composer Pyeng Threadgill. She will be accompanied by Maine's own Tyler Wood on keyboards and Evan Pazner on drums. With Threadgill's vibrant, caressing vocals and her band's rolling rhythms, listeners will be enveloped in the clouds and put under a spell.
The opening act for this concert will be Tess Collins, a Caribou native, who is home from a 6-month performance tour in Asia. Collins is a jazz vocalist who performs everything from pop and soul to country and R&B. She has had the pleasure of opening for Grammy-award winning artist Dionne Warwick.
The concerts this year will run from 1-4 p.m. Food vendors will be on site offering snacks and drinks and people are encouraged to bring their lawn chairs and blankets with them to enjoy a relaxing Sunday afternoon at the park.
If weather is unfavorable, the concerts will be held at the University of Maine at Presque Isle's Campus Center. Even if there is rain, concert-goers are encouraged to bring their lawn-chairs and blankets to the indoor show, and show their support for the musicians who work hard and travel far to entertain and share their artistry.
Event coordinator Carol Ayoob said the Music in the Park Series already has received support from major sponsors MMG Insurance and the University of Maine at Presque Isle, and support from others is expected. Several small business owners and individuals also have given contributions to make this year's concerts a success.
Cumulus Radio has offered again this year to promote performances throughout the series on all three of its radio stations.
In 2008, the Music in the Park series was offered for the first time thanks in great part to a $7,500 grant from the Maine Arts Commission. Local donations and sponsorships helped to cover the costs of the $10,000 series, which featured six consecutive Sunday afternoons of music. Since then, especially because of a strong community desire to see the series return, funding has been raised through donations and sponsorships so the event can continue.
"This is our 5th year organizing this concert series at Riverside Park in downtown Presque Isle," Ayoob said. "There has been a nice little arts community forming over the last couple of years, and Music in the Park is an arm of this movement. I start getting calls of interest in the early spring from musicians and performers – the series has become quite popular with musicians and fans. We troubleshoot a tough economy by cutting back to only three concerts this year, as we experienced a difficult time raising funds last summer for the four concerts. We are hoping that our new schedule is accommodating to other summer events, and that cutting back to three concerts is more manageable for our community sponsors."
If you would like to be a Music in the Park sponsor or make a contribution toward the concerts, which are free, please call Carol Ayoob at 768-5903. You may also mail a check, designated for "Music in the Park," directly to Patty Jandreau, PI Parks and Recreation Department, 270 Main St., Presque Isle, ME 04769.