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French trailblazers honored with Lewiston concert

PORTLAND, ME — The Franco-American Collection at the University of Southern Maine, in collaboration with the Franco Center, and the University of Southern Maine’s Osher School of Music and Bates College Department of Music, will host “Celebrating French Music, the History Makers, the History Changers” at the Franco Center in Lewiston at on Friday, March 1. The program will highlight the lives, music, and struggle for freedom of trailblazing French women composers who have been forgotten in history.

Doors open at 5:30 p.m. There is no admission fee, but seats must be reserved. The music will begin at 6 p.m., with a reception to follow at 7:15 p.m. 

Soprano Malinda Haslett, director of USM’s Voice Program, and Osher School of Music seniors Josephine Lawrence, Bella StCyr, and Caroline Wood will honor the work of underrepresented musicians, including female Jewish composer and member of the French resistance, Claude Arrieu.

Haslett’s research and performances related to Arrieu earned her the USM Trustee Professorship in 2022-23. Arrieu was a founding member of the Front National des Musiciens, whose mission was to save artists and art from annihilation while preserving French culture and lifting morale. When the war ended, their music fell into obscurity. Yet, as Dr. Haslett’s work illuminates, Arrieu’s music lives on through her connection to Maine native, Dame Alice Esty, a soprano, philanthropist, and resident of Lewiston, who commissioned Arrieu to write for her after the war.

The evening program will celebrate Arrieu, Esty, and Maine’s contribution to the classical vocal music canon, and showcase the work of current young vocal artists here in Maine.

In honor of those who passed away after the tragic Lewiston shooting in October, the program will conclude with a rendition of Gabriel Fauré’s Requiem. In collaboration with friends and colleagues from Bates College, members of the USM Voice Program and students and faculty from Bates will come together to sing the Requiem as a musical memorial.

Conductor duties will be shared by Scott Wheatley, who serves on USM’s voice faculty and as a collaborative pianist, and Joëlle Morris, singer, choral conductor, music educator at Bates.

Following the event, there will be a reception and presentation by students who will share their research on undervalued women pioneers in music.

Support for this concert program comes from Maine Community Bank; Maine Advisory Associates; a Friend;; UMaine Judaic Studies;; and UMaine Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies. Season Underwriter is Maple Way Dental Care; Media Sponsors are Sun Journal, Turner Publishing, Uncle Andy’s, Bennett Radio Group.

The Franco Center is at 46 Cedar St., Lewiston. Parking is available in the mill lot. The building is handicap accessible on the Lincoln St. Alley side. 

“The Women Who Risked Everything for Freedom” concert program featuring soprano Malinda Haslett, Scott Wheatley on piano, and a slideshow of women composers is a collaboration between Franco-American Collection at University of Southern Maine, the Franco Center, and the University of Southern Maine’s Osher School of Music. The program starts at 6 p.m. Friday, March 1. Admission is free but RSVP your seat at 207-689-2000 or Submitted photo. 

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