There are about 20 classical music festivals in Maine every summer, and they range from small one-weekend concert series to big multi-week affairs with multitudinous events. Two of these are happening in Brunswick and New Gloucester.

I have attended both these fine festivals for about two decades, and plan to continue this year.

By far the biggest in Maine is the Bowdoin International Music Festival, which runs from late June into early August. Three six-week concert series are the anchors, surrounded by dozens upon dozens of secondary and tertiary happenings. The 55th edition starts on June 24 in Brunswick.

Every June the Portland String Quartet hosts the small and highly specialized Maine Festival of American Music at the historic Shaker Village in New Gloucester. It wraps up this weekend with a pair of concerts; Franco-American fiddler Don Roy and his ensemble will play Friday and the PSQ will conclude on Saturday.

Bowdoin International Music Festival

The Calidore String Quartet has been awarded six major international prizes in the U.S. and Europe, and the four musicians have yet to celebrate their 10th anniversary as an ensemble. Formed in California and now based in Lincoln Center in New York, the Calidores will open the 55th annual Bowdoin International Music Festival on Monday, June 24.

The honors collected by the Calidores exemplify the caliber of the festival, which is co-directed by two members of the Ying Quartet, violist Phillip Ying and brother and cellist David Ying. The Bowdoin festival was founded in 1965 by Lewis Kaplan, who ran it for 50 summers before the Yings took over five years ago.

It is by far Maine’s biggest classical music festival, anchored by three six-week concert series, on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. The core of the festival is a music school that attracts nearly 300 conservatory-level young musicians taught by 50-plus faculty members drawn from conservatories around the world.

The three main series are performed by faculty and visiting guest artists, while the students have their own series of free concerts. Plus there are master classes, lectures and demonstrations. Most of the formal concerts are given in lovely Studzinski Recital Hall on the Bowdoin College campus, while two that require a full orchestra are held at Crooker Theater at Brunswick High School. Several dozen are given in various venues in other Midcoast towns and most of these are free.

Faculty and student artists represent a full range of instruments. While the majority are in the string family, the festival also features piano, brass, woodwinds and percussion. Two concerts require a full symphony orchestra. These are slated for July 12 and Aug. 2.

The festival has championed contemporary composers from the get-go, and these creative artists are showcased in a three-day event. In most of these concerts, the composers attend and provide insights into the creative process.

The Bowdoin International Music Festival runs June 24 to Aug. 2. Call 373-1400 or visit

Maine Festival of American Music

What’s the difference between a classical violin and a Franco-American fiddle? None. The instruments themselves are identical; the difference is wholly in the style of playing and the repertoire.

That difference will be highlighted this weekend when the Maine Festival of American Music wraps up with a pair of concerts on Friday and Saturday. On Friday the featured artists will be Franco-American fiddler Don Roy and his ensemble. Although Roy’s ensemble varies by performance, it always includes wife Cindy on piano, and usually includes bassist Jay Young. For Friday’s concert, the Roys, who hail from Gorham, have invited three future fiddle virtuosos from Otisfield: Rossby Arnott, 13, Elsie Arnott, 11, and Oliver Arnott, 9.

Don and Cindy Roy have been mainstays on the Maine traditional music scene since the 1980s, when they formed the Maine French Fiddlers. Last year they were jointly honored with a National Heritage Fellowship by the National Endowment for the Arts. Don Roy also scored state fiddle competition championships in both Maine and Massachusetts. The Roys have released four recordings since the 1990s.

The Maine Festival of American Music is organized by the Portland String Quartet – violinists Dean Stein and Ron Lantz plus violist Julia Adams and cellist Andrew Mark – with special credit going to Adams. It is held at the 1794 Meeting House in New Gloucester’s historic Shaker Village.

On Saturday the festival wraps up with the PSQ playing Franz Joseph Haydn’s “Seven Last Words of Christ,” a nine-movement concert-length piece first performed in 1787. Each movement will be preceded by a brief interpretive narrative by Brother Arnold Hadd, one of the few surviving Shakers.

Both concerts are slated for 7 p.m. at the Shaker Meetinghouse on Shaker Road (old Route 26) in New Gloucester. The Friday fiddle concert is free. Call 926-4597.

The Calidore String Quartet launches the 55th annual Bowdoin International Music Festival June 24 in Brunswick.

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