Thick grey rain clouds hung over and drenched Kennebunk, Maine most of Thursday, July 26. Miraculously, minutes before the conductor lifted his baton to lead the Portland Symphony Orchestra in a toe-tapping rendition of the “Barber of Seville Overture,” the sun broke through the dark sky and lit up the Waterhouse Center on Main Street.
Let the fabulous concert begin!
This is the third year “Music on Main” has brought symphonic joy and ignited community camaraderie among more than 1500 spectators, including locals, tourists, kids of all ages, even several friendly pooches who apparently enjoy Mozart and Beethoven.
What’s extra special about the 6 to 8 PM concert is that it is free to the attendees. The nearly $40,000 expenses required to stage Music on Main are funded entirely through private donations from area businesses and generous individuals.
At 12:30, with rain steadily falling, the orchestra, casually clad in tee shirts and shorts, began rehearsal in the open-air Waterhouse Center. Umbrella-toting passers-by heard the music and couldn’t help but stop to sit and listen as conductor Bruce Hangen honed his musicians on a difficult Elgar passage.
One gentleman from Yarmouth, Tom Aceto, happened to be driving through Kennebunk when he spotted “things happening.” He rolled down his car window, heard music, parked his car and sat for an hour listening to the rehearsal. Before leaving, he made a generous donation to Music on Main in honor of his wife Rebecca who died six months ago. “She and I used to go to Portland to hear the symphony in Merrill Auditorium, so this brings back wonderful memories,” he said.
The concert also brings out the heart of the community. The owner of the Sunoco station adjacent to the Waterhouse Center reserved 10 coveted parking spots just for veterans and handicapped attendees. Lori Parkinson, the consummate coordinator of the event, worked for months, tapping countless volunteers to hang posters, set up chairs, pass out programs and collect donations. Even members of VIPS (Volunteers in Police Service) pitched in by colorfully painting stones advertising the concert, then placing them around town.
“The concert is all about community and sharing the gift of symphonic music,” Lori said. During the intermission, people chatted and waved to friends and neighbors. The scene reminded me of being in church, when the minister says, “Now share the Peace,” and the reverent congregation suddenly starts hugging and sharing “hellos” with other worshippers.
Summer concerts like these happen in towns across America, including in Estes Park, Colorado, where my brother plays his tenor horn in a community band. And in your town too, I’m sure. As Henry Wadsworth Longfellow so aptly wrote, “Music is the universal language of mankind.”
At the end of the concert, everyone on Main Street, Kennebunk gave the Portland Symphony Orchestra a well-deserved standing ovation. It was their way of tipping their hat to the wonderful town of Kennebunk!