Noel Paul Stookey FILE PHOTO

The Grand turns 80 in style and in song



ELLSWORTH — Like any dowager turning 80, The Grand is planning to celebrate its birthday in style.

On Sunday afternoon, Oct. 14, the Ellsworth performance venue will host a concert by another octogenarian, singer-songwriter Noel Paul Stookey.

The concert “was Noel’s idea, I believe, to tie the two 80 years together,” Stookey’s publicist Joyce Hall said in an email Tuesday afternoon. “He does have a very soft spot in his heart for The Grand.”

Stookey was born in December 1937 and The Grand was built as a movie theater in 1938 as part of Ellsworth’s effort to recover from the fire that devastated the city’s downtown business district in 1933.

But the auditorium and the artist have connections that encompass more than the fact that 2018 marks the 80th year for each of them.

Closed for more than a decade, The Grand was purchased by a nonprofit group and reopened after substantial renovations in 1975. Stookey was the first artist to perform in the new auditorium.

“I traded my performance for three rows of seats,” Stookey said Tuesday afternoon over lunch at The Harbor House in Blue Hill.

The seats, torn out when The Grand installed a proscenium and stage, were to become fixtures in Stookey’s New World Theater at the Henhouse in Blue Hill.

“We had to reupholster them,” Stookey said, smiling. “They were a little ratty.”

Stookey moved to South Blue Hill in 1974 after the folk trio Peter, Paul (Stookey’s middle name) and Mary stopped touring together to pursue solo careers. The trio reformed around 1979 and toured together — doing about 45 shows a year — until Mary Travers’ death in 2009.

That schedule was nothing like the intense level they maintained at the height of their popularity during the 1960s.

“Three hundred shows a year,” Stookey said. “Can you imagine?”

Turning 80 hasn’t diminished Stookey’s creativity. Relaxed at a sunny corner table, Stookey said he was under pressure to complete a Christmas album he is in the process of recording that will contain about an equal mix of traditional and new, original songs. The first track, he said, will be “a real tear-jerker.”

He also is planning another album for next year that he plans to call “Fazz,” a derisive term jazz alto saxophonist Paul Desmond used to describe the music performed jointly by the Dave Brubeck Quartet and Peter, Paul and Mary at a long-ago college gig.

While Stookey says he still has no trouble with performing — he says he still has “full command of his voice” — that is perhaps the least important element of practicing his creative art as a songwriter and performer.

“Creativity is almost a physical expression of imagination,” Stookey said. “I’m an imaginative guy. I think I would be content just to imagine things and not have them always realized, as long as I can write.”

Stookey will perform a scheduled 90-minute concert at The Grand on Sunday beginning at 4 p.m. Though he “is not one for nostalgia,” the show will include “a smattering of the trio’s (Peter, Paul and Mary) music and probably one sing-along. Most of the performance will include original material “connected to my real life experience.”

Tickets for the concert are available at grandonline.org. and are priced at $50 for reserved seating. For as many as 50 patrons, a $100 ticket purchase includes a post-concert reception at Provender Kitchen & Bar on Main Street.

Stephen Rappaport

Stephen Rappaport

Waterfront Editor at The Ellsworth American
Stephen Rappaport has lived in Maine for nearly 30 years. A lifelong sailor, he spends as much time as possible messing about in boats. [email protected]
Stephen Rappaport

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