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February 19, 2019

Creative Portland's 'Hear Here' concert showcases Maine artists

Photo / Dave Wade, courtesy of Creative Portland
Photo / Dave Wade, courtesy of Creative Portland
Sunday's “Hear Here” concert in Portland featured a digital design backdrop and live installations by Big Room Studios, while singer JanaeSound performed her single “Diamonds” backed by the Palaver Strings ensemble.

Creative Portland produced its first-ever concert on Sunday, the show "Hear Here," to reinforce the city's status as an arts hub and raise money to plan an arts and culture summit this summer.

Some 700 people were at Merrill Auditorium for the show, Creative Portland's first venture into presenting and promoting Portland's performing arts talent on the big stage. The city of Portland co-promoted the event with the Crewe Foundation and David E. Shaw in association with concert sponsors Knack Factory, Coffee By Design, the Press Hotel, Bayside Bowl and the State Theatre.

Dinah Minot, Creative Portland's executive director, explained the purpose of the show as multifaceted: "To reinforce Portland's got major talent and is a destination arts hub, to inspire youth and aspiring artists to stay and build their careers here, and to evoke community joy and celebration of our city's diverse cultures, sounds and sensibilities."

Creative Portland worked with more than 60 community sponsors and creative businesses to make the event happen. They include Portland's Big Room Studios, which provided a digital design backdrop and live on-stage art installation, as well as Portland Pie and other local vendors that provided in-kind services.

In a press release before the event, Minot referenced Dr. Seuss in noting that "all the Whos in Whoville are gathering together to lift up and celebrate our local talent," some already with national-act talent and others just emerging.

"Many will be 'discovered' by at least half of the audience," predicted the former "Saturday Night Live" talent scout and Paramount Pictures co-producer.

Sunday's performers included rock singer JanaeSound, who recently moved from St. Louis to Portland, performing her single "Diamonds"; Batimbo United, a group of drummers from Burundi who live in Portland and performed at Gov. Janet Mills' inaugural celebration; James Kennerley on the Kotzschmar Organ; and Palaver Strings, a musician-led string ensemble that moved from Boston to Portland last summer to start a music education residency.

Creative Portland's Minot credited Chris Akerlind, a Tony Award-winning lighting designer, for "bringing the whole thing to another level. It looked like we were at the Grammys!"

Concert proceeds of a few thousand dollars will go towards planning of the city's next arts and culture summit on June 18, on the eve of the StartupMaine conference, which runs from June 19-22, and to continue to spread awareness about the economic impact of the arts, Minot said.

She also noted that mounting a big show like "Hear Here" is pricey, especially with union labor and audio equipment rentals, giving a shout-out to all those who contributed to its success.

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