PARIS — The first-ever Paris Hill Music Festival is not just to bring those living in the greater Oxford Hills together, but it is also a way to give back to the community, according to Festival Director Mary Beth Caffey.
The festival will run from Thursday, Aug. 10 through Sunday, Aug. 13, at the First Baptist Church of Paris Meeting House at 500 Paris Hill Road in Paris. The line-up includes Maine-based acts of Schooner Fare, DaPonte String Quartet, Noel Paul Stookey of Peter, Paul & Mary and Chris Humphrey Jazz Quartet, among other local musicians.
“The concerts are being held on Paris Hill because we wanted to make sure folks locally and from away had an opportunity to be exposed to our historic community on Paris Hill,” Caffey said. “The concerts are being held in the church because of its excellent acoustics and it only seats approximately 250 people. That will give the artist an intimate audience, which is something they often crave.”
The Paris Hill Music Festival, which is now a nonprofit organization and event with its own Board of Directors, was formed in October 2016 when a group of folks began talking about the possibility of having a music festival, Caffey said.
Kicking off the festival is the hometown favorite Schooner Fare, comprised of brothers Chuck and Steve Romanoff with their Maine brand of humor, six- and 12-string guitars and banjos.
“Schooner Fare has won unanimous critical praise for captivating harmonies and winning stage presence. In addition to their numerous original songs on both contemporary and traditional themes, the band also writes and performs topical songs, country ballads and maritime masterpieces that have made their name synonymous with the ‘Down East’ style,” according to the duo’s website at www.outergreen.com.
“We were very excited to get Schooner Fare to kick off our festival because of [with] them being internationally known and yet local boys. That was a very happy moment for us when we heard they were able to perform,” Caffey said.
Caffey noted DaPonte String Quartet – comprised of Dino Liva and Lydia Forbes on violin, Myles Jordan on cello and Kirsten Monke on viola – has played several times on Paris Hill before.
“We are honored to have them with the quality of classical music they present to come to western Maine,” she said. “We were their first concert in western Maine in 2013. So again we wanted them to be part of our first music festival.”
“While many classical musicians struggling with the realities of the contemporary musical marketplace find themselves performing exclusively new compositions, the Quartet’s repertoire spans the entire history of music, from seventeenth-century works on original instruments to cutting-edge contemporary quartets, like the one written for them by Pulitzer Prize-winning composer David Del Tredici. The DSQ is also known for their inventive interpretations of the works they play,” according to the quartet’s website, www.daponte.org.
Caffey shared some of the goals for the festival.
“We not only wanted to have our top performers, but we wanted to give back to the community as well,” she said. “That would come in the form of free concerts and scholarships for student musicians and we are being able to do that right from the beginning.”
On Saturday, Aug. 12, there will be the free Music Expo as part of the festival. From 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on the Common next to the church will be food, crafts and music vendors for fest-goers to peruse. Throughout the day there will be local artists sharing their live tunes with the audience. They range from harp player Elizabeth Rotch to the rock ‘n’ rolling Toned Out to the a cappella Mollyockett Chorus to the award-winning Milltown Roadshow to solo performer Lindsey Montana, among others.
It’s recommended to bring your own chair. There is a tent available for those who need shade and parking is free.
“We wanted to showcase our local musicians, yet we wanted to also expose the community to other levels of music such as nationally and internationally known artists,” Caffey said. “Music is offering something that can bring different groups of people together. It was one of our efforts to add to the sense of community here in the Oxford Hills area.”
Noel Paul Stookey of the Peter, Paul & Mary fame of the 1960s will round out Saturday’s festivities. The folk musician now lives in the Blue Hill area.
“We also wanted to get a name everybody would be familiar with. … Even though he is a native of Michigan, he claims Maine as his home,” Caffey said. “We are very excited to have him Saturday night.”
Caffey used to do church work up in the Blue Hill area and knew Stookey lived there.
“Several people asked me, ‘How did you get him?’ We just asked,” she said, laughing. “We happened to be his first concert for 2017.”
After the folk trio took a sabbatical, Stookey continued on as a solo act and in 1970 moved his family from New York to Midcoast Maine.
“By then Stookey’s solo voice was firmly established, writing and performing music that addresses social change while speaking of and to the soul; fusing jazz improvisation and insightful folk lyrics. The political, socio-political, spiritual, and cultural dynamics of life’s stories continue to drive his songs,” according to his website, www.noelpaulstookey.com.
Caffey said organizers wanted jazz on Sunday afternoon and they discovered the Chris Humphrey Jazz Quartet, which hails from Kennebunk.
“They are much more popular in southern Maine, coastal Maine and in New Hampshire, but we wanted to offer them exposure in western Maine,” she said. “They’ve played with nationally and internationally known groups across America.”
“Members of the Chris Humphrey Big Band have played with many musical luminaries including Louis Bellson, Clark Terry, James Moody, Artie Shaw, Guy Lombardo, Tony Bennett, Bob Mintzer, Frank Sinatra, Dizzy Gillespie, The Beach Boys, The Four Tops and The Temptations among others,” according to Humphrey’s website, www.chrishumphreybigband.com.
More than music
Other organizations on Paris Hill are getting in on the festival action. From Thursday, Aug. 10, through Saturday, Aug. 12, the Paris Hill Country Club will serve a dinner buffet, beginning at 5 p.m. There will able be lunch available on Sunday, Aug. 13. Reservations are recommended by calling 207-743-2371.
On Sunday, Aug. 13, at 6 p.m. a silent auction will be held at the Paris Hill Community Building on Academy Lane across from the Paris Hill Country Club. Caffey said more than 20 individuals and businesses from the Oxford Hills have donated for the auction, with the proceeds used to fund future festivals. Tickets for the auction will be for sale at all of the concerts and at the Music Expo on Saturday.
In addition, proceeds raised will help fund student music scholarships and renovation and maintenance of the historic 1838 First Baptist Church of Paris, which sports an authentic Revere bell. The proceeds will be split 50 percent for future festivals, 30 percent for scholarships and 20 percent for the Friends of the First Baptist Church of Paris, which renovates and maintains the building.
“We’re really pleased with the first year. People have been very responsive to it. The Board of Directors has worked very hard for it,” Caffey said. “One way that we saw that we got a tremendous amount of support was on the concert program – businesses really stepped up on that. … We just really appreciated the support from the Oxford Hills area.”
Ticket sales are going well and there have been people from as far away as Virginia, Illinois and Florida who have bought tickets to the concerts. A music professor from Florida wants to touch base with DaPonte String Quartet and Stookey because both have done musical therapy so he can apply it to his practice, according to Caffey.
And next year, the plan is to make the Paris Hill Music Festival even bigger and better.
“That’s our long-term goal – to have the top tier of celebrity musicians come in,” Caffey said, adding she and the directors are aiming for acts like Reba McIntyre and top jazz performers, among others.