Palaver Strings, the Portland-based, musician-led chamber orchestra, dives into its eighth season with a concert Friday at the newly reopened Waldo Theatre in Waldoboro and follows it up Nov. 4 at One Longfellow Square in Portland with a collaborative performance with the Warp Trio, which is actually a cross-musical-genre quartet.

Currently with 11 core members and two rotating guest spots, the Palaver Strings ensemble has distinguished itself for its sense of musical adventure and its willingness to tackle a variety of music and perform in any space. This season, the full ensemble and smaller subsets of musicians will perform concerts across Portland – at Mayo Street Arts, the Mechanic’s Hall and First Parish Church – and throughout New England, including at the prestigious Club Passim in Cambridge, Massachusetts, as well in New York, performing music by Charles Mingus, Igor Stravinsky and contemporary composer Josh Henderson.

The ensemble began in Boston and many of its members migrated to Maine in recent years when Palaver Strings launched its Portland-based education program, the Palaver Music Center. It provides musical education for very young children, from six weeks to 4 years old, as well as a strings program for pre-K through second grade with a goal of adding a new grade level of instruction each year. There are also community education classes and songwriting collaborations that focus on lullabies for pregnant women and new mothers, and musical stories from LGBTQ communities.

The performance and educational wings are of equal importance to the ensemble, said Matthew Smith, a Biddeford-based cellist who oversees educational programming. The Palaver instructors interact with students and their parents as teachers and performers, helping to ground the ensemble and its musicians in the community while making music accessible to wider audiences.

“For me, it’s about having musicians and especially classical musicians who are part of the community in which you live,” said Smith, 31, who grew up in Arizona, studied at the Boston Conservatory and moved to Maine with the ensemble. “Part of Palaver mission is to break down the barriers so classical music is perceived as for everyone and not just for a few, and having students come to your concerts is one way to do that.”

Elizabeth Moore, who plays viola, said Palaver has evolved with adventure at its artistic core.

“We started out in living rooms and small art galleries, and we’ve grown. We are still playing in unconventional settings and smaller venues, but we’re also playing a lot of larger spaces with very nice acoustics,” she said. “We are keeping ourselves very busy. With 11 or 13 co-artistic directors, there are a lot of ideas and a lot of things that people are passionate about.”

The mission of the nonprofit organization is to strengthen community through music, Smith said. In addition to sharing teaching duties, musicians also share artistic and administrative leadership, with a goal of reaching new audiences, addressing social justice issues, and giving voice to underrepresented composers in classical music. Palaver performs more than 40 concerts each year while offering music instruction to more than 325 students.

The performance season will include four large-ensemble programs, a three-part chamber series, and an album release tour. The ensemble recorded a CD during the pandemic.

In Waldoboro on Friday, Palaver Strings will perform a program titled “Portraits,” exploring where music meets the visual arts with pieces by Stravinsky about the god Apollo, Mingus’ “Self-Portrait in Three Colors,” and Reena Esmail’s “Teen Murti,” which melds classical and Indian music while painting a musical landscape. Palaver is partnering with Indigo Arts Alliance and visual artist Pamela Chevez, who will create artwork in dialogue with each piece.

The Nov. 4 concert at One Longfellow Square, “Affirmation,” features a new concerto grosso for piano trio, percussion, electronics and strings. Josh Henderson, a member of the Warp Trio, composed the piece, which is inspired by Assata Shakur’s poetry.


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