The Ghost of Paul Revere performs at the State Theatre for the SummerfestME virtual concert to end hunger Monday. Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

Portland’s annual Fourth of July celebration has been transformed into a two-day virtual concert featuring more than a dozen musical acts, including members of the Portland Symphony Orchestra.

The city was forced to cancel the annual outdoor gathering on the Eastern Promenade, with fireworks, because of the novel coronavirus and the continued ban on large crowds. So organizers of the event decided to bring it indoors, virtually, and make it a celebration of Maine music, called SummerFestME.

The Ghost of Paul Revere will perform as part of the finale of SummerFestME, on local TV Saturday night. Photo courtesy of Ghost of Paul Revere

The event will kick off Friday at 2 p.m. on the SummerFestME Facebook page and will conclude with a one-hour finale at 7 p.m. on Saturday that will air on Portland TV station WGME. The finale will include members of the Portland Symphony Orchestra performing many of the patriotic tunes they would normally play at the city’s fireworks event. Joining the PSO on the TV broadcast will be bass-baritone Kevin Deas, a Gorham native who has performed with orchestra before, as well as Maine-based artists The Ghost of Paul Revere and Bell Systems, said organizer Brian Corcoran, who runs marketing firm Shamrock Sports & Entertainment.

One of the performers scheduled to perform virutally, online, is Maine native Amy Allen. The singer-songwriter is now based in Los Angeles and recently recorded her first solo album on the on Warner Records. Her first single, “Queen of Silver Linings” is scheduled to be released Wednesday. Before being signed to Warner Records, she had written or co-written songs for other pop artists, including “Without Me” by Halsey, which reached No. 1 on Billboard’s Hot 100 pop chart in early 2019.

Corcoran had help in booking local music acts from Herb Ivy, known on air as “The Captain” at Townsquare Media, which runs several Portland radio stations. Acts booked to perform virtually include Jonathan Edwards, Dave Gutter, Don Campbell, Anna Lombard, Dominic Lavoie, Sara Hallie Richardson, Zach Jones, Big Daddy Gang, Maine Academy of Modern Music bands, DJ Jon, Shane Reis, JanaeSound, Xander Nelson and Pete Kilpatrick. Nationally-known rockers Barenaked Ladies will also perform, Corcoran said, and that more acts would likely be added before the event.

Maine native Amy Allen will perform as part the virtual Fourth of July concert, just days after her first song on the Warner label is scheduled to be released nationally. Photo courtesy of Amy Allen

Because the city’s usual event was canceled because of the pandemic, Corcoran said he and other organizers wanted the virtual event to be something that would help Mainers who might be in need right now. The event will be fundraiser for two Maine groups aimed at ending hunger, Full Plates Full Potential and Good Shepherd Food Bank. In lieu of buying tickets to see the peformances, people are asked to go to the SummerFestME website and donate to a fund that will be shared by those groups, Corcoran said.

The website will also have a schedule of when certain bands can be seen performing, which was not finalized at press time. Most bands were recorded at their homes or other remote locations, while the PSO and others on the TV special were to be recorded at the State Theatre in Portland.

Performances will be shown from 2 p.m. to midnight on Friday on Facebook, then repeated from midnight to 10 a.m. Saturday. New peformances will start up at 10 a.m. Saturday and finish with the 7 p.m. finale on WGME, Corcoran and Ivy said. During those two days, performances will also be aired at times on Townsquare Media stations, Ivy said, including WBLM, WCYY, WHOM and WJBQ, and on those station’s Facebook pages.

Zach Jones will be performing as part of the virtual SummerFestME concert. Photo by Hutch Heelan

During the finale, Ghost of Paul Revere will perform its song “The Ballad of the 20th Maine” about the 20th Maine Regiment’s crucial role in winning the Battle of Gettysburg during the Civil War. The song is written in the voice of Andrew Tozier, a flag bearer for the 20th Maine. In 2019, Gov. Janet Mills signed legislation declaring it Maine’s official state ballad.

Griffin Sherry, a member of The Ghost of Paul Revere, said the band is excited to be a part of the celebration, especially during the state’s bicentennial year. So he’s glad they’ll get to share “The Ballad of the 20th Maine” with Mainers on TV on the Fourth of July.

For the PSO, the televised finale of SummerFestME allows the orchestra to continue its tradition of playing for Mainers on the Fourth of July. Carolyn Nishon, the PSO’s executive director, said the PSO will be featuring a brass quintet and play patriotic tunes as well as two spirituals, “Amazing Grace” and “Go Down Moses,” sung by Deas and accompanied by PSO Music Director Eckart Preu.

The finale on WGME was timed to end at 8 p.m on Saturday, Corcoran said, because that’s when the annual “Capitol Fourth” concert on PBS TV stations begins. That 90-minute concert is not going to be held outdoors in Washington, D.C., this year, and instead will feature performances from around the country and from past “Capitol Fourth” events. So people can watch a Maine celebration followed by a national one, Corcoran said.

Corcoran said he hoped the SummerFestME event would “uplift” people who watch it, while celebrating both Maine music and the Mainers who work to help people in need.

“When the live outdoor event had to be canceled, we decided to see what the next best thing might be,” said Corcoran. “People have come out of the woodwork to help put this on, which is heartwarming.”

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