Summer solstice arrives at 4
The summer solstice — the moment when our hemisphere tilts closest to the sun — officially occurs Friday, June 21, at 1:04 a.m., but its arrival will be marked all weekend long around the Midcoast.
The earliest observance — and it sure is early — is scheduled for 4 a.m. Friday at Belfast’s Heritage Park, on the waterfront adjacent to Main Street and the public landing. Ambient music group Algorithm, led by Tom Luther of Union, and Brooks dancer Heléna Melone will present a one-hour concert of music, dance and spoken word titled “The Sun Stands Still,” the literal meaning of the word solstice. At 8 p.m., they will return to the park to make the closing of the year’s longest day with a different concert set.
“It’s called ‘The Sun Stands Still’ but it’s really about the transit of the sun,” said Luther, who started keeping an eye on the long range forecast two weeks ago — unless it’s pouring rain, the show(s) will go on.
As the morning performance will begin in total darkness and the evening performance will end that way, audience members are advised to bring flashlights, along with lawn seating and insect repellent.
“It’s outside and it’s summer,” said Luther, adding he hopes to have ushers with hand-carried lighting. That depends on how many of his friends are willing to follow Algorithm’s dream out of, and into, the dark.
“I’ve been trying to talk myself out of it but I’m too stuck on it,” Luther said. “And fortunately, the guys are both equally crazy.”
“The guys” are longtime musical collaborator Michael Whitehead of Thomaston; and actor and former Belfast Poet Laureate Jacob Fricke. Algorithm is the melding of Luther’s keyboards and laptop loops; Whitehead’s trumpet, flugelhorn and effects; and Fricke’s spoken word contributions. Luther and Whitehead have been jazz compatriots for years, and their Algorithm music is equal parts Luther composition and duet improvisation.
The challenge of ambient music in performance is offering the audience something to grab onto, as it were. When Fricke, who works at hello, hello books in Rockland, sat in on a few Rock City Café performances this winter, they all saw the fit was right.
“He’s such a great creative person to work with, a good listener and spirit,” said Luther.
“The Sun Stands Still” will add another, even more non-ambient, element via Melone, who has studied and taught Middle Eastern and Roma dance for years and is a familiar sight at Belfast’s seasonal art walks.
“She and I have been trying to do something together forever! She stopped by when we were playing art walks and asked, can I dance with you? We’d been talking about different things and finally said, let’s do this,” said Luther, adding that Melone had popped into Algorithm’s last appearance in Rock City’s Velvet Lounge series.
Flamenco-belly fusion practitioner Melone will be the only unplugged performer — Whitehead has a pedal board for his brass that would be the envy of any guitarist, said Luther — so electricity is an issue … especially at a municipal park in the middle of the night.
“The city’s been great. We applied and got approval, and Norm [Poirier, Parks and Recreation director] is getting us power,” Luther said.
If all goes as plans, he and his fellow performers will be setting up in the park shortly after 3 a.m. on the 21st. Given that he first got the hankering for doing a solstice concert last fall — plans for a winter solstice show just didn’t come together — the dark start seems appropriate.
“Being that this is the summer solstice, we want it to be in the environment, for better or worse,” he said, adding that if the weather does not allow for “The Sun Stands Still,” a cancellation will be posted on Algorithm’s Facebook page.
Summer Solstice Celebration
Rockland’s annual solstice street party also will start at 4 p.m. and that is a change from previous years. The 15th annual Summer Solstice Celebration will take place Saturday, June 22, from 4 to 8 p.m., an hour earlier — travelers are advised that Main Street will be closed to vehicular traffic between Park and Summer streets.
This year’s festival is expanded to include more food vendors — which is a good thing, as the free, family-friendly event draws in the neighborhood of 5,000 people. Children’s activities and the popular Whoopie Pie eating contest will be complemented by artist and craft tents, and Winter Street will revert to its one-time role as host for nonprofit organizations.
Dancing in the streets is definitely encouraged, thanks to the efforts of Paul Benjamin. Benjamin, co-founder and producer of the North Atlantic Blues Festival, arranges for local bands to perform along Main Street during the Summer Solstice Celebration. This year’s bands are Static Coda, Breakers Jazz, Sideways Highways and the Juke Rockets. The Jukes, who hail from Belfast, have been named best blues band in Maine two years running in the Road to Memphis competition and will represent the Pine Tree State at next year’s International Blues Challenge in Tennessee.
“We’ll also have the fire truck and Coast Guard boat for the kids, a couple of dance groups, hula hoopers and I think the roller derby girls will be there,” he said, referring to the Midcoast’s indomitable Rock Coast Rollers.
The Summer Solstice Celebration is hosted by Rockland Main Street, Inc., and many downtown businesses will have sidewalk sale tables. For more information on the free event, visit rocklandmainstreet.com or Rockland Main Street’s Facebook page.
Courier Publications’ A&E Editor Dagney C. Ernest can be reached at (207) 594-4401, ext. 115 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
A&E editor for Courier Publications, LLC
(207) 594-4401/4407, ext. 115
Dagney has been providing Courier coverage of the local arts scene since 1985 and has helmed the multi-paper A&E section since it debuted in 2003. She has been a local performing artist, community and professional, for almost 30 years and spent a decade writing, producing and announcing on-air for several Midcoast radio stations. When not in the NewsNest, Dagney likes to be in motion.