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Posted on: January 3, 2019

Inaugural Concert to Showcase Portland's Performing Arts Gems at Merrill Auditorium

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Creative Portland and its co-promoters The City of Portland, The Crewe Foundation & David E. Shaw in association with concert sponsors Knack Factory, Coffee by Design, The Press Hotel, Bayside Bowl & State Theatre present HEAR, HERE!  An inaugural concert celebrating and showcasing Portland's performing arts gems on the big stage. The show will be held Sunday, February 17, 2019 at 4pm at Merrill Auditorium, Portland, Maine.

Tickets for HEAR, HERE will go on sale January 4 at PortTix. Affordable ticket prices ($25 adult general admission and $12 students & children), as well as community vouchers, are made possible by co-presenters including The Crewe Foundation and David E. Shaw, and by concert sponsors Knack Factory, who will film the live event, and The Press Hotel, Coffee by Design, Bayside Bowl, and State Theatre. The goal is to attract teens, college students, “Valentine’s Day couples,” adult music enthusiasts, arts patrons, and families during the President’s Day weekend. Any proceeds from the concert will go to Creative Portland for the planning of an Arts & Culture Summit in late spring. 

Ticket available at PortTIX. Online at, via phone 207-842-0800 or at 20 Myrtle Street Portland ME 04101. PortTIX is open noon to 6 Monday through Saturday.  

Featuring: Just Plain Jones, Janaesound, Dancer Riley Watts, Rapper Sarah Violette w/ Renée Coolbrith, Batimbo United Burundi Drummers, Palaver Strings, James Kennerley & The Kotzschmar Organ, Weakened Friends, and other special guests.


Executive Director of Creative Portland, Dinah Minot, will also serve as artistic director of HEAR, HERE. Collaborating with a large curatorial team of local music industry pros, Creative Portland has assembled community sponsors offering in-kind services and marketing outreach to promote Portland’s exceptional performing arts talent. 

"All the Whos in Whoville are gathering together to lift up and celebrate our local talent,” Minot envisions. “Some of the performers have attained national act status, while others are emerging as cutting edge performers. Many will be ‘discovered’ by at least half of the audience,” Minot says of the talent lineup. 

Creative Portland’s first venture into presenting and promoting Portland’s local talent on the big stage is supported by the City, who is providing Merrill Auditorium and staff for this special event.


“All of these acts are worthy of performing at Lincoln Center or Carnegie Hall,” affirms Minot, who was formerly in charge of talent as a co-producer for Lorne Michaels at Paramount Pictures, Saturday Night Live, and several other anniversary concert TV specials and festivals. “It’s time to show off what’s happening right here,” Minot enthuses. “Visual artists in Portland are often praised and exhibited in prominent venues such as the Portland Museum of Art, Maine Jewish Museum, SPACE, and fine art galleries. Some local artists’ work will be featured in backdrop projections integrated with art installations by Transformit, but HEAR, HERE primarily promotes the performing arts.” 

The concert theme hits on home. Overcoming obstacles; a journey to find home. Comfortable and proud to be here... at home.

Just Plain Jones, digital composer and hip hop artist, will present an original composition, and Viva and René Goddess Johnson will present introductions and anecdotes about each act. 

Janaesound, who recently moved to Portland from St. Louis, is rising the pop charts and will be performing her single “Diamonds,” recently recorded by Darren Elder at The Halo Studio.  Palaver Strings, who moved from Boston to Portland last summer to start a music education residency, will showcase their thirteen-member ensemble. Rapper Sarah Violette will bring a powerful energy to the stage, performing an original piece co-written with singer Renée Coolbrith. 

Batimbo United, Portland’s Burundi drummers, currently seeking asylum, will rock the house with their unique choreography and world-renowned skills. James Kennerley, Portland’s municipal organist, from the United KIngdom, will showcase the unique Kotzschmar Organ, housed in the walls of Merrill Auditorium, to a younger audience that may be attending the concert to hear local punk rock band Weakened Friends, featuring drummer Cam Jones, who was raised in North Deering and attended Portland Public Schools.

Riley Watts, an international dance sensation originally from Bangor, launched Portland Dance Month this past October and was recently the artist in residence at SPACE. He will perform a solo original. 

Big Room Studios will coordinate a unique digital art installation by Nick Hall, working closely with Tony Award-winning lighting designer Chris Akerlind and supervised by production manager Jamie Grant. 

Minot describes the local music and performing arts scene as the inspiration for the inaugural variety show at Merrill. “We are a destination arts hub, attracting new audiences and engaging locals to celebrate the joys of living and working in Maine. Collectively, our goal is to inspire our local youth with career aspirations in the arts. It’s true that a lot of teens take off for college, but HEAR, HERE presents an opportunity for our youth to attain the high bar of excellence they witness in their own backyard, beckoning a return to Maine.”

Creative Portland hopes to “wow” audiences with a variety of exceptional acts, all on the same stage, in a stimulating concert of diverse talent and multiple genres. 

THE CURATORIAL TEAM of volunteers:

  • Chris Akerlind - Lighting Designer

  • Spencer Albee

  • Jeff Beam - One Longfellow Square

  • Julia Durgee

  • Steve Drown - MECA’s Bob Crewe Program in Art & Music

  • John Elliott - Portland Symphony Orchestra

  • Dave Gutter

  • Darren Elder - The Halo Studio

  • Sara Juli

  • Sam Mateosian - Big Room Studios

  • Peter McLaughlin - SPACE

  • Kevin Oates - MYRO

  • Aimée Petrin - Portland Ovations

  • Ian Smith - Sun Tiki Studios

  • Jason Spooner

  • Alex Steed & Kurt Graser - Knack Factory

  • Hannah Tarkinson 

  • Cindy Thompson - Transformit 

  • Lauren Wayne - State Theatre

THE COMMUNITY SPONSORS committed to offering in-kind services and marketing outreach: 

  • Big Room Studios

  • Black Artists Forum

  • EqualityMaine 

  • Friends of the Kotzschmar Organ

  • Greater Portland Immigrant Welcome Center

  • Live + Work in Maine

  • Maine Craft Portland

  • Maine College of Art (MECA)

  • Maine Immigrants’ Rights Coalition 

  • Mayo Street Arts

  • Mechanics’ Hall

  • One Longfellow Square

  • Portland Ballet

  • Portland Buy Local

  • Portland Dance Month

  • Portland Downtown

  • Portland Media Center

  • Portland Museum of Art

  • Portland Ovations

  • Portland Stage

  • Portland Symphony Orchestra

  • Portland Regional Chamber of Commerce

  • Running With Scissors Art Studios


  • SPEEDWELL projects

  • St. Lawrence Arts

  • The Telling Room

  • Think Tank Coworking

  • Transformit 

  • University of Southern Maine (USM)

  • Visit Portland    

  • WMPG

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