The Midcoast is known for its grassroots benefits, events that draw friends, family and the greater community together in celebration and commitment to one of their own in a time of need. When that energy is directed toward a musician — particularly one as well ensconced and beloved as Rockland’s Bob Stuart — the result can only mean music, and lots of it.

Friday night, March 27, the doors of the city’s Lincoln Street Center will open at 6 p.m. for the Circle of Friends fundraiser, an evening of music, memories, raffles and food. All proceeds will go to support Stuart and his family in the aftermath of treatment for throat cancer.

“Kathy [Westra], Sara Grey and Rhonda Nordstom all approached me on Facebook, and because of their support, I felt I was able to do it. We started working on it at the end of the year,” said Megan Rogers, Stuart’s daughter and occasional Old Town Road duo partner.

Stuart, who has been a staple on the Midcoast music scene since the 1970s heyday of Camden’s Thirsty Whale Tavern, got the diagnosis at the end of October; he’d noticed changes in his sense of taste. Since the site was his tongue, surgery was not an option. Radiation and chemo the last months of 2014 resulted in the loss of his trademark whiskers but not his voice.

“Of course, the first thing you think of is, he’s a singer! There’s been a deepening of his voice and his throat is sore,” said Megan, adding that her father may not be singing, but will be playing during the concert.

“You can’t ever get a guitar or banjo out of his hand,” she said.

It’s been that way for years. Among the photos and memorabilia that will be displayed during the evening is a newspaper clipping from 1964. Stuart, pictured as ever with a guitar in his hands, is reported the winner of the Teenager Folk Musician Contest at something called Folklorama held at a high school on Long Island, N.Y., where he grew up. Soon, the intrepid musician was off to the San Francisco/Berkeley area, then to a stint of camping in Yosemite. In 1968, he settled in St. Augustine, Fla., finally heading up the coast to Midcoast Maine in the late 1970s.

Here, he found many a musical kindred spirit … and many of those colleagues are coming to perform in the Circle of Friends. The lineup includes David Mallett, Gordon Bok and Carol Rohl, David Dodson, Anne Dodson and Matt Szostak, Larry Kaplan, Meteora (Will Brown, Kat Logan and Jim Loney), Sara Grey, Kieron Means and Dave MacLurg, Nikos Apollonio, Tom Judge and Susan Groce, Castlebay, Kendall and Jacqui Morse, Pixie Lauer, Dave Kiphuth and Frank Stettner, Tom Albury, Riki Schneyer, George Stephens and Kathy Westra, as well as the Station Maine Chanty Singers led by Muriel Curtis.

“We’ve had to turn performers away, the response has been so strong,” said Westra.

“It could have been a whole weekend festival,” said Rogers. “He really never believed that anyone would want to sing at the concert, can you imagine?”

Stuart must believe by now. Some of the performers are traveling from out of state; Means, Grey’s son, said he’d be there if he had to walk from Walton, N.Y., according to Westra. Albury designated the tips from his winter gigs at Rock City Café to Stuart’s medical expenses, which led to the wider Midcoast community’s knowledge of his situation.

“People come up to him on the street saying 'You don’t know me, but we miss you and are rooting for you,'” said Rogers.

Indeed, the street itself has come out in force for Circle of Friends, as well. Nordstrom, who went to school with Bob’s wife, Elizabeth Gifford Stuart, and her Rockland Main Street Inc. colleagues have donated gift certificates for merchandise and restaurant meals as raffle prizes. Contributors include Mace’s, Thorndike Creamery, Clan MacLaren, Loyal Biscuit Co., RHEAL Day Spa and Fiore. Rock City Café will offer coffee and pastries during intermission.

“The Main Street businesses have been amazing, it’s such good stuff! And France Yates is giving a six-hour yacht sail [aboard Phoenix],” said Westra. “Clan MacLaren said, ‘Of course; we love Bob!’”

Also up for raffle will be original artwork by performer David Kiphuth, his daughter, Allison May Kiphuth, and Megan Holden, a school and work friend of Rogers'. All this love and support is already making a big difference to the family, even before the Circle of Friends hits the stage.

“He credits the concert [prep] with keeping him going,” said Rogers, “… and it helps us too, this loving community spirit. It’s a big thing.”

 

“And we’re filled with the spirit of harmony, and we’re part of a greater reality, and the song that we sing rises up like a spring from our hearts to go on for eternity … for we are a circle of friends.” “Circle of Friends,” Bob Stuart

Rogers, who also performs with her husband, Martin, took a leave of absence from her job — her father had provided child care for their toddler — and her mother ramped down her law practice during the months of treatment that involved trips to Augusta, sometimes twice a day. The travel was “brutal,” said Rogers. The family gave Stuart’s oncologist a copy of one of his albums. Rogers said she thinks listening to it made the doctor realize the vocal stakes. Some people lose their voices permanently from such treatment.

“The best birthday present I ever got was a phone call! He sang ‘Happy Birthday’ and it was truly music to my ears,” said Westra.

Stuart also is able to eat again and is beginning to regain some sense of taste, said Rogers.

“Losing that was a big deal, too. My mom’s such a good cook, and he loves to eat,” she said.

Stuart’s last two indie CDs, “Songs for Elizabeth” and “Hang On Jon,” will be for sale Friday night, and Rogers said they might also bring some old-school LPs from 1983.

“We have a couple of boxes of ‘Rainbow’s End’ and pretty much all the musicians who performed on it will be there,” she said.

“Hey, vinyl is making a comeback — they can get it autographed,” said Westra.

Proceeds from the $15 door admission, raffles and refreshment sales will all go to the Stuarts. There also is an online donation site at gofundme.com/bobstrong.

“Folk musicians are not rich people,” said Westra. “Even with a co-pay, when the bills get into tens of thousands of dollars, it’s a huge challenge.”

Facing the facts of a cancer diagnosis and the realities of treatment are challenges friends and family members have been meeting since last fall, and Stuart has led the way.

“He’s taught us how to deal with it. He’s a pretty stoic guy, always positive, always says what’s the good of worrying or focusing on it,” said Rogers. “His next scan is in April, on my birthday, which I’ve decided is a good omen.”

The experience has taught Stuart something, as well.

“This response was all unexpected and has sustained me. I thought I'd have to go through this alone and feel so blessed and humbled at the outpouring of their support,” he said in an email.

Westra said it is no surprise so many have come forward to help the Stuarts, whose friendship was one of the reasons she and her partner moved back to the Midcoast (just in time for winter).

“Bob and Beth and Megan and Jon and Jesse are family to me and to George. They have taught us so much about love and family and community,” she said.

The musical community in particular will step up to the plate in Circle of Friends, reason enough to spend Friday evening in the auditorium of the city’s former high and junior high school.

“I have great hopes of being able to sing again and make music with these wonderful musicians who have come out to share their music with us all," said Stuart.