The Congregational Church in Cumberland is launching a 4-week concert series aimed at honoring those who have help the community get through the pandemic. Michael Kelley / The Forecaster

After a tough and divisive year of political turmoil and impacts from the coronavirus pandemic, members of the Congregational Church in Cumberland are hoping an upcoming concert series will bring the community together through music, food and fun.

“With all the bad feelings that have been going on, we have been trying to find ways to bring the community together,” said Karen Gallati, a longtime member of the church who is involved with Community Coming Together Concerts. “That’s why we are having the Coming Together concerts, to try to bring in people and find common ground no matter political beliefs.”

The goal, she said, “is to make sure people continue to celebrate the similarities we have, not what makes us different.”

It will also include opportunities to honor first responders, educators and other essential workers who have stepped up during the pandemic.

The concert series, set to take place outside the Main Street church, kicks off Sunday, Sept. 12 at 10:45 a.m. with a bluegrass concert and ice cream social. That concert will be followed by one on Sunday, Sept. 19, featuring New Moon Ensemble, a 14-member West African dancing and drumming group. The event, which begins at 4 p.m., will feature local food trucks, including Cheese the Day, Louie’s, Snobirds Shar Ice.

On Sunday, Sept. 26, Primo Cubano, a Portland-based group that plays turn-of-the-20th-century Cuban dance music, will perform at the church. The event will include free chips and salsa.

The final concert, set for Sunday, Oct. 3 at 4 p.m., will feature free pizza, salads and dessert from Pat’s Pizza and showcase the Pihcintu Multinational Chorus, a 34-member chorus made up of young women ages 10 to 21 from 20 countries.

“The excitement of getting back in front of a large audience is dramatic,” said Con Fullam, the group’s founder and director.

The Pihcintu Multinational Chorus, seen here performing for asylum-seekers at the Portland Expo in 2019, will be a part of The Congregational Church in Cumberland’s Coming Together Concert Series. Michael Kelley / The Forecaster

The group, which last performed live with famed celloist Yo Yo Ma at a 2021 Juneteenth event in Bar Harbor, had 35 shows postponed due to the pandemic.

“The kids really get their oxygen from performing live,” Fullam said. “We’ve done a lot of video work, but singing in a studio or on a video is not the same as singing live.”

Gallati said while the church has had concerts, events and programming for its members, it has never staged a concert series like this before.

“We are really trying to bring people together, even as we face the challenges of COVID-19, to find joy, hope, music and community,” said the Rev. Allison Smith, senior minister at the church.

Marita Kennedy-Castro, artistic director of New Moon Ensemble, said her group, which is led by master drummer Namory Keita, is excited for the performance in Cumberland.

The New Moon Ensemble, a 14-member West African dancing and drumming group, is excited to get back before live audiences. Contributed / Marita Kennedy-Castro

“One thing that is really exciting for us about the Cumberland concert is the message of hope, community, healing and justice,” Kennedy-Castro said. “It feels like that really aligns with our mission, We represent five different countries and all come together through the love of Guinean dancing and drumming.”

The Cumberland performance, she said, will be just the second the group has done since 2019.

Smith said the concert series is about much more than music. It is also a chance to thank public safety professionals, educators and other essential workers.

The Sept. 19 concert will honor firefighters, police officers and other emergency responders. The Sep. 26 concert honors essential workers such as sanitation workers and grocery/convenience store clerks and, at the Oct. 3 concert, educators, social workers, cafeteria workers, custodians, bus drivers and other school officials will be honored.

“So many people have stepped up and put their hearts and hands out to the community to help us get through these tough times,” she said.

For more information about the concert series, visit cumberlanducc.org/ccc-ccc.

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