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.
Tour Window: April 2025
John Corigliano – Voyage
Olli Mustonen – Nonet No. 2
Takashi Yoshimatsu – And 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.
Tour Window: March 2025
Michale Moerane – Sylvia
Mus'ukundilahla Nkosi (the family song for Vuyo's mother)
Victor Ntoni – Seliyana
Bheki Mseleku, Abbey Lincoln – Through The Years
Vuyo Sotashe – Madlamini
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).
Tour Window: November 2024
Jessie Montgomery – Starburst
Hildegard von Bingen – Excerpt from Three Antiphons for string quartet
Talamh – inti figgis-vizueta
Tanner Porter – Six Sides from the Shape of Us
Sato Matsui – I. Amaterasu II. Susano’o
Leilehua Lanzilotti – ko’u inoa
Pétalo Seslar – Devina
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.
Tour Window: September 2024
Kareem Roustom – Dabke
Bartok (arr. Alexander Goodin) – Romanian Folk Dances
Kinan Azmeh – Syrian Dances
Kareem Roustom – ḥawwāsh
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.
Tour Window: May-June 2024 | August 2024
Nico Muhly – Stranger
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 Holiday – Strange 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 Wallen – Protest Songs (World Premiere)
Sam Cooke – A 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.
What exactly is “classical” music? Join Palaver Strings for an engaging presentation exploring string music by Bach, Mozart, and Haydn, as well as groundbreaking voices of the modern age. This 45-minute workshop introduces the sounds of the string instrument family (violin, viola, cello, and bass), as well as the diverse voices, eras, and styles under the classical umbrella, with an emphasis on music by women and composers of color. This presentation is designed for grades K-8, with no prior musical experience required.
Designed for school orchestra students, this workshop puts Palaver Strings musicians side by side with students, introducing the fundamentals of chamber music and conductorless ensemble playing. We also introduce the concept of improvisation and spontaneity as tools for creative musical expression. This 60-minute workshop is designed for grades 4-12, with some prior string instrument study required. Repertoire will be chosen in consultation with the school’s orchestra director/string teacher and tailored to the age and experience of the students.
Hear the classic story of Ferdinand the Bull with a full string orchestra and narrator! With music by Alan Ridout and text by Munro Leaf, Ferdinand the Bull tells the story of a young bull who feels different from others, and eventually learns to accept himself for who he truly is. This 10-15 minute performance is designed for students age 5-10, with no prior music experience required. Palaver Strings or the host organization may provide a narrator.
Join Palaver Strings for an engaging and hands-on experience that empowers students to unleash their creativity! Guided by experienced musicians, participants will explore music through interactive activities such as instrument-making and painting to live music. This multi-sensory approach encourages students to explore and experiment freely. These 45-60 minute workshops can be customized according to age group, with no prior musical experience required. Additional costs for materials may apply, depending on the activities involved.
Music and emotion are inextricably linked; music evokes a wide range of emotions in listeners, from happiness to sadness to excitement to calm. Join Palaver Strings in an interactive concert of music and emotion through active listening, musical expression, movement, and mindfulness.
This 45-minute presentation is designed for students ages 5-9. No prior musical experience is required.
Creative collaboration brings together people from different backgrounds, skills, and experiences. This 60-minute workshop/performance features Palaver Strings and collaborating artists, and includes a short performance and discussion of musical style, cultural values, power dynamics, and strategies for equitable collaboration across cultures, genres, and artistic disciplines. Examples of collaborating artists include Kinan Azmeh (clarinet/composer/improviser), Heather Stewart (modern dance), Chris Pattishall (jazz pianist), and Lauren Stevens (traditional Wabanaki song). This presentation is designed for students age 8 and up, with no prior musical experience required. Note that this workshop is dependent on the availability of collaborators, must be booked at least one year in advance, and that additional costs for guest artists may apply.