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Palaver from Boston to Portland and Back

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Starting this evening, Palaver Strings, a musician-led nonprofit chamber orchestra, dives into its eighth season of live and virtual concerts in Boston, Maine, and beyond. The Oct. 1 concert will take place at the Waldo Theater in Waldoboro Maine; tickets HERE. With more to come locally!

Palaver, founded in Boston in 2014, is co-directed by 11 core musicians; many of us were in music school. We were driven initially by a hunger for greater creative agency and artistic fulfillment, and a shared disillusionment with classical music norms. In our early years, most of our concerts took place in the intimacy of living rooms, restaurants, and galleries. Our first residency was at Boston Medical Center, where we played monthly concerts at hospitals and affiliated shelters for several years. These experiences at BMC were formative for the group and helped cement a commitment to community engagement.

We went on to work with many community partners in Boston, enjoying a two-year performance residency at the Boston Center for the Arts, running a chamber music pilot program at Bridge Boston Charter School, and teaching Early Childhood Music at Horizons for Homeless Children. Through BMC we also launched our chapter of the Lullaby Project, a songwriting collaboration between musicians and new parents often living in difficult circumstances. In 2017, we launched a similar project called “Lifesongs,” writing autobiographical songs with local LGBTQ elders.

As we looked ahead, we wanted to start our own educational programs, and dreamed about a music school that would see students through their musical development from early childhood to adulthood. The musicians who grew up in Maine encouraged us to think seriously about Portland, a diverse and rapidly growing city with hardly any string music in the public schools. After years of feasibility studies and laying the groundwork with partner organizations, Palaver officially moved its base to Portland and opened the Palaver Music Center in 2019. Now in its third year, PMC is built around partnerships with social service organizations such as Head Start and the Immigrant Welcome Center, who offer us space to teach onsite and help us recruit families historically excluded from string programs, including many first-generation immigrants from Angola, Congo, Burundi, and Rwanda. 

While the ensemble now rehearses in Portland, our musicians commute from all over New England and maintain strong ties to the Boston area. After a year of livestreaming, we’re especially excited to reconnect with local audiences in person, with masks, distance, and our trademark mix of eclectic programming.

Our Programming

Each Palaver concert season emerges from a collective curatorial process, beginning with a kind of “pitch night” where the strongest proposals survive. Once the ensemble votes, we flesh out the details of repertoire, themes, collaborators, and venues. Our programming varies from one season to the next, shifting to reflect individual musicians’ artistic ideas but connected by a passion for pushing the classical envelope, engaging audiences in new ways, and amplifying underrepresented voices. 

We continue to perform in unusual spaces and settings, including live yoga classes and contra dances, a soldout warehouse show in Brooklyn, and the Museum of Science planetarium (Boston). While we love chamber music, we’ve branched out to embrace jazz, rock, and many kinds of traditional music, an experience which has been humbling, to say the least. As we come up against the limits of our classical training, we’re grateful for the patient grace of such collaborating artists as Liz Knowles, Kinan Azmeh, Warp Trio, Namory Keita, and Jawad Al-Fatlawi. Many of our programs, including this year’s Affirmation, Welcome Here, and Ready or Not album release, seek to amplify voices and stories that often go unheard in the concert hall and society at large. Our mission is to strengthen and inspire community through music. Palaver’s musicians share artistic and administrative leadership, guided by a passion for engaging new audiences, addressing social justice, and amplifying underrepresented voices through classical music. Each year, Palaver presents over 40 performances featuring diverse programming, cross-genre projects, and community collaborations. Equally committed to education, Palaver offers music instruction to over 325 students per year through the Palaver Music Center in Portland Maine. 

This has been a year like no other, one that has given us perspective on our priorities as performing musicians in 2021, so we hope that season 8 reflects our belief that music can challenge and heal us, catalyzing change and amplifying underrepresented voices. This 2021-2022 concert season features four large-ensemble programs, a three-part chamber series, and an album release tour. Palaver pushes the boundaries of the classical canon and the string orchestra medium, guided by a passion for creative collaboration and amplifying underrepresented voices. Season highlights include Affirmation, a collaboration with genre-defying ensemble Warp Trio; Welcome Here, a touring production celebrating Maine’s cultural diversity; and our June tour promoting the release of our latest album, Ready or Not. As we reenter the world of live performance, we will make most programs available in-person and online.

Portraits explores the relationship between music and visual art. Music by Igor Stravinsky, Reena Esmail, and Charles Mingus, with original art by Pam Chevez. October 1, 2021, livestream + in-person.

Waldboro founder Samuel Walldo

Affirmation reflects on struggles for justice and representation, in the concert hall and the world at large. Palaver Strings joins forces with the genre-defying chamber ensemble Warp Trio. Music by Kareem Roustom, Florence Price, Akenya Seymour, and Warp Trio’s own composer-in-residence Josh Henderson. November 5, 2021 at Arts at the Armory (Somerville)

Chamber Series: The First Course: String quartets by Grazyna Bacewicz, Jessie Montgomery, and Fanny Mendelssohn. December 2 at Club Passim (Cambridge)

Chamber Series: Painted Dreams: Chamber music by Piotr Ilich Tchaikovsky, Jeffrey Mumford, Adolfus Hailstork. In person January at Club Passim (Cambridge) 

Chamber Series: Through the Looking Glass: String quartets by Caroline Shaw, Florence Price, and Palaver’s own Elizabeth Moore. February 10 at Club Passim (Cambridge)

Kaleidoscope is centered around Max Richter’s recomposition of the Four Seasons, featuring Palaver violinist Ryan Shannon as soloist, as well as works by Jessie Montgomery and Elizabeth Moore. March 19, at Longy School of Music, Cambridge, MA .

Welcome Here celebrates Maine’s cultural diversity, featuring musicians and storytellers of Wabanaki, Puerto Rican, and Congolese heritage. In partnership with The Abbe Museum, Immigrant Welcome Center of Greater Portland and Indigo Arts Alliance, this multidisciplinary production will receive 7 performances around the state of Maine. April 28-May 7 (multiple locations)

Our June tour celebrates the release of Palaver’s upcoming album, Ready or Not, featuring music by women from the renaissance to the present day. May 31-June 5 (multiple locations)

Covid: Masks are required for all audience members regardless of vaccination status. Venues may also require proof of vaccination at their discretion. All performances will be professionally recorded and made available live or shortly after the concert date.

To learn more, or to support Palaver, visit https://www.palaverstrings.org/

 

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