Let There Be Music

Posted July 30, 2010, at 6:49 p.m.

The smiles on the faces of people in the audience at the performance of Celtic Woman on the Bangor Waterfront said it all. Music — especially music performed in a live, outdoor setting — has the power to transform people and transcend the trappings of place. The audience was at once transported over the Atlantic to be connected to a long, rich tradition of Celtic soul, and was able to revel in the best of Bangor along the city’s storied lifeblood, the Penobscot River.

There has been a lot of buzz in recent weeks as the line-up for the Hollywood Slots Waterfront Concert Series on Bangor’s waterfront has grown: Southern rock stalwarts Lynyrd Skynyrd and the Charlie Daniels Band; contemporary country music star Alan Jackson; singer-songwriter Jason Mraz. And of course, Bangor welcomes the tasty smorgasbord of music that is the American Folk Festival in late August.

Despite its relatively small and far-flung population, Maine has done well to bring national music acts to festivals and concert venues around the state. Our smaller towns and cities also feature local and regional musicians in summer settings. Children dance while their moms and dads catch up with their friends and neighbors after a long cold winter, and the spirit of community is nurtured and renewed. Even if the band would never be mistaken for U2 or Rascal Flatts, the joyful noise of music al fresco is good for the body and soul.

It seems crass, and missing the point, to quantify what live music performances bring to a city or town. But that music does play a role in economic development. Those quoted in the BDN’s story about the Celtic Woman performance hailed from Lincolnville, Machias, Newburgh, St. Albans, Old Town and even Canada. They may have purchased gas nearby, stayed in a local hotel, gone out to dinner before or after the show, bought ice cream for the kids or grabbed a beer at a pub.

But setting aside the dollar signs for a moment, there were other, less tangible benefits that are just as important. Those who had not visited Bangor’s improved riverfront before probably will be more likely to return, for a show or just a walk. Those who saw friends they hadn’t seen in a while have strengthened social ties. By skipping a night on the couch in front of the TV, many will have been taken to a place, mentally and emotionally, where they have not ventured for a time. And everyone who had a good time will walk with a little bounce in their step the next day, and feel a little better about where they live.

It’s summer in Maine — let there be music.

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