December 9, 2012

Maine Observer: Singing together warms Maine's long winter

And there is no lack of opportunity in our towns and villages, says a recent transplant from Vermont.

Mainers boast that they have more days of sunshine than Washington, D.C. They use that to counter claims that winter in Maine is a dreary time. Mainers I have met, while proud of their Vitamin D potential, still quietly bemoan what a dreary time winter is.

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I have noticed a potential remedy, not often spoken of. Almost everyone I know belongs to at least one community singing group, usually more. All of these groups are coming out of the cranberry bogs now with Christmas concerts, and there are a myriad of choices each weekend, and even during the week. A local high school just performed "White Christmas." A highly-regarded group gave a fine performance of an excellent program last Sunday afternoon at 3, only marginally disrupting the Sunday TV football schedule. The YMCA group gives its performance Wednesday evening, and Westport's traditional community concert comes off next Sunday afternoon, followed by punch and cookies in the town hall.

A perusal of the community listings in the local papers reveals that if one wanted, one could join and rehearse with groups each night of the week.

I remember someone describing singing as an art form in which we could all participate. Mitch Miller? At Sunday's performance we did have many opportunities to sing along to many of the old favorites, and those were only the invitations. Doughty souls sang along even without prompting. Such is the season, and such is the independence of Mainers.

There's singing, and there's also community theater. Many groups lurk in the small towns, putting together shows of traditional vehicles, as well as creating original shows, like the one in Damariscotta several years ago about keeping Walmart out of town. Funny, yet pointed, the show worked. A couple years later, when Walmart made a run at building in the town, the townspeople came out in force and kept them out. Theater with social purpose. Life imitates art.

There's an old church in Bath that serves as a community center -- The Chocolate Church. It hosts a community amateur variety show, I think, every two years. Folks can do whatever they want, as long as it takes under four minutes. That protects the audience. It sounds like a bucket of fun, and I think about singing Stan Roger's "Barrett's Privateers" next time. With nine confirmed Revolutionary War patriots in my lineage, including presences at Lexington and Concord, Bunker Hill, Washington crossing the Delaware, riding with Lafayette, and Washington receiving Cornwallis' surrender, I have earned the privilege of singing of the enemy. If I can get through it without tears. It's one of the most heart-rending anti-war songs I know.

There's more here within 30 minutes of me than I can recall even in Brattleboro, Vt. Sister Karen, a keen observer, cites these all as opportunities to participate in the community, and that the people's participation speaks well.

Nice place, Maine.

Bruce Barlow is a newcomer to Maine who lives in Georgetown.

 

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