Palaver Strings is a musician-led string ensemble and nonprofit organization based in Portland, ME. Founded in 2014, Palaver has established itself as a forward-thinking ensemble whose mission is to strengthen and inspire community through music. In its musician-led model, Palaver’s musicians share artistic and administrative leadership, guided by a passion for engaging new audiences, addressing social justice issues, and amplifying underrepresented voices. Each year, Palaver presents a full series of live performances featuring diverse musical programming, cross-genre projects, and community collaborations. Equally committed to education, Palaver offers quality music instruction through the Palaver Music Center in Portland, serving hundreds of students each year. Palaver has toured widely throughout the United States, performing at the Kennedy Center and a celebration of the Lullaby Project at Carnegie Hall. The ensemble recently released its third album, Ready or Not, in partnership with Azica Records. Palaver has enjoyed residencies at Rockport Music, Boston Center for the Arts, and Bay Chamber Concerts, and Longy School of Music (2022-2023). Palaver’s current residency at Longy includes regular performances and teaching a graduate course on music and community engagement.


But There is This

Tour Window: April 2025

John CoriglianoVoyage

Olli Mustonen – Nonet No. 2

Takashi YoshimatsuAnd Birds are Still...

Shostakovich – Chamber Symphony in c minor, Op. 110a


With each of these pieces, what we as listeners initially hear is often unclear, fragments of themes revealing themselves over time often slowly and imperfectly. It’s almost as though we are looking into the dark trying to decipher what is in front of us only to discover that what we thought was a small object is only a portion of a greater being. But at its core, each of these pieces is a passage, a journey. Like life, there are twists and turns and bumps along the way. No journey worth taking is ever smooth and therefore, it begs the question of why we embark in the first place and how we change as a result of our experiences.

Songbook with Vuyo Sotashe & Chris Pattishall

Tour Window: March 2025

Michale Moerane Sylvia

Mus'ukundilahla Nkosi (the family song for Vuyo's mother)

Victor Ntoni Seliyana

Bheki Mseleku, Abbey LincolnThrough The Years

Vuyo SotasheMadlamini


Vuyo Sotashe will be featured in concert with Chris Pattishall and Palaver Strings in a celebration of the rich musical and linguistic cultures of South Africa. The program will range from traditional folk songs to works by South African jazz musicians (including by Sotashe himself), with songs sung in Xhosa, Sepedi, and Zulu. The music includes celebrations of women from several perspectives (Sylvia; Mus'ukundilahla, Nkosi; Madlamini), and the interaction of humans with nature (Seliyana).

Ready or Not Revisited

Tour Window:  November 2024

Jessie MontgomeryStarburst

Hildegard von Bingen – Excerpt from Three Antiphons for string quartet

Talamh inti figgis-vizueta

Tanner PorterSix Sides from the Shape of Us

Sato Matsui I. Amaterasu II. Susano’o

Leilehua Lanzilottiko’u inoa

Pétalo SeslarDevina

Lili Boulanger (arr. Su Yin Can) Nocturne


Palaver Strings revisits Ready or Not, a celebration of the groundbreaking visions of female composers from the renaissance to the present day. Featuring wide ranging selections by Jessie Montgomery, Hildegard von Bingen, inti figgis-vizueta, Tanner Porter, Sato Matsui, Leilehua Lanzilotti, Pétalo Seslar and Lili Boulanger, Ready Or Not celebrates the diverse voices and unique artistic visions of women throughout the ages, who have always made music whether the world was ready or not.

Dancing Home

Tour Window: September 2024

Kareem Roustom Dabke

Bartok (arr. Alexander Goodin)Romanian Folk Dances

Kinan AzmehSyrian Dances

Kareem Roustomḥawwāsh

Maya French/Jamie Oshima – Fiddle Set


Centered around a new commission for Palaver entitled ḥawwāsh, written by Kareem Roustom, Dancing Home explores the interconnected nature of dance music to cultural heritage, our sense of belonging, and what it means to make your home in a new place. The ḥawwāsh is the lead dancer in traditional Arab dance from the near east who sets the tone and pace for a given dance which the other dancers follow and support. In Roustom’s new piece, each member of Palaver can be the ḥawwāsh at any given moment. This work grapples with the anguish of displacement and the uncertainties of life in unfamiliar settings, but also celebrates the resilience needed to survive and thrive. Another piece commissioned by Palaver Strings in 2023, Kinan Azmeh’s Syrian Dances explores similar themes of finding home and belonging through the vehicle of traditional dance melodies. Paired with this is Bela Bartok’s iconic Romanian Folk Dances, a piece many will recognize but played in Palaver’s own way with the solo line passed among the many players and instruments. The program is rounded out with a set of original fiddle tunes by Jamie Oshima and Palaver’s own Maya French.

A Change is Gonna Come - Album Release

Tour Window: May-June 2024 | August 2024

Nico MuhlyStranger

Roberta Slavitt, Alfred Hayes, Malvina Reynolds (arr. Domenic Salerni)Freedom is a Constant Struggle/I Dreamed I Saw Joe Hill/It Isn’ Nice 

Harry Burleigh, Langston Hughes (arr. Ian Gottlieb)Lovely, Dark and Lonely One

Abel Meeropol/Billie HolidayStrange Fruit

Akenya Seymour Fear the Lamb

Bob Dylan (arr. Domenic Salerni)Blowin’ in the Wind

Joni Mitchell, Pete Seeger, Phil Ochs (arr. Domenic Salerni)Fiddle and the Drum/Where Have all the Flowers Gone/What Are You Fighting For?

Errollyn WallenProtest Songs (World Premiere)

Sam CookeA Change is Gonna Come 


Featuring Grammy award-winning tenor Nicholas Phan, this program explores our country’s rich legacy of protest songs. Repertoire includes traditional songs of protest and music inspired by social movements and historical events, including Nico Muhly’s Stranger, Akenya Seymour’s Fear the Lamb, and a new commission by Errollyn Wallen. Spanning genres, eras, and movements, A Change Is Gonna Come provokes conversation, confronts our past and present, and celebrates the act of protest as one of our most precious rights.