Though understandably famous as an outdoor and coastal resort location, Mount Desert Island also has a thriving year rounds arts and cultural community. The longer lazy days of summer offer plenty of cultural opportunities and performances.

Here are 5 of our favorite annual music festivals.

Mount Desert Festival Of Chamber Music

Started in 1963, Mount Desert Festival of Chamber Music offers a summer series of five concerts mid July to August. The series is held at Neighborhood House, Northeast Harbor on Tuesday Nights.

Tickets can be purchased individually for specific performances or you can buy a subscription which includes two tickets for each performance in preferred seating.

Chamber Music is a form of classical music composed for small ensemble performances in modestly sized venues. generally there is only one player to each part. the String Quartet is the most common version of these ensembles. Chamber music developed in the 18th century to give an intimate listening experience that could fit in a palace “chamber” or large room.

The intimate setting of the Neighborhood House plus world class music performers can make a fun night out in Northeast Harbor.

The Common Good Soup Kitchen Summer Programs

Opened in 2009, The Common Good Soup Kitchen was created to combat the long cold season on MDI. It expands the concept of the soup kitchen, emphasizing true community building along with incorporating healthy and locally sourced food. The space offers free soup as well as live music and a place for locals to gather, interact, and help each other all winter.

The Summer Programs run June 16th – October 8th, 2018 with Popover Service 7:30 -11:30 AM Tuesday through Sunday. Midmorning music with your popovers happens on Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays.

Every Sunday listen to The Common Good Band, a lively group of Ukulele players & friends. On Wednesdays and Saturdays more musical bands and artists including:

  • Diana Ramsdell Newman
  • Timbered Lake
  • Ricky Baker
  • Josh Voke
  • Ruth Grierson
  • Acadia Traditional Celtic Session

Popover service is by donation, the music is free and you’ll be supporting a wonderful island community organization. (Sunday popovers with The Common Good Band continues through the winter.)

Acadia Festival Traditional Music

This festival is held annually during the last week of June at College of the Atlantic by The Acadia School of Traditional Music . The school hold concerts year round, but this is its premiere event. It is a week of classesconcerts and jam sessions in the Irish, Scottish, Acadian, Cajun, Old-Time, and Cape Breton styles. You can attend the classes or simply enjoy the performances that will get your feet tapping and feature traditional step dance in addition to the music. The closing night celebrations features special concert performances by the students followed by a contradance with student callers and musicians.

A Festival Pass is available at great savings if you can attend all performances, but you can also buy single concert tickets.

Bar Harbor Music Festival

2018 will be the 52nd year of this Bar Harbor institution, founded by Francis Fortier, that runs throughout July at various locations. The festival features many genres of classical music including opera, piano, strings, fingerstyle guitar, and jazz. Young Audience Concerts mix hands on demonstrations and performance during the daytime and allow festival musician interact with their young audiences in a relaxed and informal setting, entertaining and educating them about classical music.

One of the best know performances is the Annual Acadia National Park Outdoor Concert by the Bar Harbor festival Strings Orchestra. This year’s event (2018) is on Wed. July 25th at Blackwoods Campground Amphitheater (rain date: July 26th)

There are even satellite performances in Belfast.

The calendar of events is a mix of free and ticketed events and purchases can be made online or by mail.

Season Subscriptions are $350, and individual concert tickets run between $30 and $45. Students qualify for $15 tickets.

Mount Desert Summer Chorale

MDSCs first performance was in 1968 when a group of professional singers from New York first performed with a group of singers from the Island. That first performance at St Mary’s by the Sea in Northeast Harbor has grown to a series presenting major works for chorus and orchestra and other masterworks for choirs at the original St. Mary’s location and at St. Saviour’s in Bar Harbor.  2018 marks the 50th Anniversary of this program with performances on July 28th,  August 2nd, 3rd and 4th, 2018.

The Chorale brings together volunteers from the year-round and summer communities in and around Mount Desert Island, Maine, to rehearse and perform concerts of the highest possible quality for the growth of the choir members and the enjoyment the community, providing performance opportunities for skilled, non-auditioned, volunteer singers, choral arts education for young people and adults, and opportunities to work with professional musicians.

The ChoraleMDSC is committed to community outreach and allowing musical access to all. Admission is by voluntary donation at the door.

However, prime seating is reserved for $100 donors and a second tier of seating can be reserved with advance ticket purchase donations. 

Advance tickets are available by cash sale from Sherman’s Books & Stationary in Bar Harbor, Southwest Harbor Library and Northeast Harbor Library.

(Note: The Bar Harbor Jazz Festival isn’t included in our roundup because at the time of publication, organizers were unsure of its extent this year.)

Do yourself a favor and enjoy some of the wonderful live music festivals on Mount Desert Island… and if we’ve forgot one, leave a comment below so we know!

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