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UMPI, City of Presque Isle and local organizations team up to offer Fourth Annual “Music in the Park” Series

Riverside Park in Downtown Presque Isle will once again be filled with music on Sunday afternoons this summer as the City of Presque Isle, the Presque Isle Downtown Revitalization Committee and the University of Maine at Presque Isle host the Fourth Annual “Music in the Park” Series.

This year’s music series kicked off on Sunday, July 10 and will continue with concerts on Sunday, July 17, 24 and Aug. 7, 2011.

The free concert series, which attracted average crowd sizes of about 200 people per show last year, includes shows ranging from Peruvian music to African drumming. 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 began this year with a concert by Spirit Family Reunion, an up-and-coming group steeped in the tradition of Woody Guthrie, dusty boots, and worn acoustic instruments. The band blended traditional music with other genres, including folk, zydeco, and gospel. The opening act for the group was local musician Travis Cyr, a self-proclaimed “cosmic acoustic Americana folk-rock spaz-grass psychobilly string-breaking song-writing enthusiast.”

The music continues on Sunday, July 17, with a performance by singer-songwriter Martha Gallagher, who glides from wailing blues and Latin grooves to classical inspirations and jazz. Her instrument of choice: a harp. She will be preceded by an opening act featuring local musicians Melbourne Smith, Frank Grant and Doug Drew. The three will come together with banjo, fiddle and guitar to bring new sounds to familiar numbers.

On Sunday, July 24, Dos Miguels plus One will present “A Midsummer’s Afternoon Ritmo,” featuring Michael Wingfield on congas and percussion, Michael Shea on keyboards and Brien Sandstrom on bass. The Afro-Latin jazz and funk performance always gets the crowd up on its feet and encourages audience involvement. The opening act will be by Mark Shaw and the Airwaves. The group will perform blues-based and familiar standards, and treasured tunes from the archives.

In addition to the July 24 performance, Michael Wingfield will offer a community workshop from Noon to 3 p.m. on Saturday, July 23, focused on Afro-Cuban percussion. Participants will work on a piece to present during the intermission of Sunday’s show. Conga drums, shekeres, claves and cowbells will be provided. The workshop will be held at the Riverside Park building and cost is $20 per person at the door. To learn more, please call Carol Ayoob at 768-5903.

The Music in the Park series wraps up on Sunday, Aug. 7, with Inkas Wasi, which brings the music of the Inka people from their homeland to the U.S. and all over the world. The group performs dances of the Andes with great technical skill and fervent energy. Inkas Wasi will be preceded by opening act Hoss & Lurleen, a duo involved in international online recording collaborations. Hoss von Liederhosen played for rhythm and blues giant Joe Cook and rockabilly legend Sleepy LaBeef. Lurleen Lumpkins has directed a gospel chorus and sang the national anthem at an international cricket match.

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 Riverside Park building close by. 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 has received support from major sponsors MMG Insurance and the University of Maine at Presque Isle. Several small business owners and individuals also have given contributions to make this year’s concerts a success.

Citadel Broadcasting 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.

“The people and businesses of Presque Isle have really pulled together to once again make this concert series happen,” Ayoob said. “We’re getting closer to our fundraising goal, but we still need more donations in order to ensure that all four performances are able to happen. Still, I’m confident that with the excellent support this community is known for we’ll be able to present the region with another summer full of great music.”

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.