Rustic Overtones, the highest-grossing band in Maine music history, returns to the Franco Center on Saturday, November 23rd for a special acoustic, all-ages concert that will showcase the band’s extensive catalog backed by a 4-piece string section in the venue’s elegant main Performance Hall.
As the band prepares for the November 26th release of their ninth CD, “Let’s Start a Cult 2,” the follow-up to last year’s critically acclaimed “Let’s Start a Cult,” they are also taking some time before the show to raise money to provide Thanksgiving dinners for hungry families throughout Maine. Continue reading
The Franco Center has announced that the second session of French Re-acquisition classes for adults and Fun in French classes for children will begin in November. The classes for adults run for
six (6) five (5) consecutive weeks, whereas the Saturday morning Fun in French classes for kids will be held for five (5) weeks over a six-week stretch with a weekend off in the middle due to the Thanksgiving weekend. Continue reading
The Franco-American Heritage Center conducted a history tour on Monday, July 29th for 28 educators including teachers, school principals, and administrators from India, Pakistan, Palestine, Israel, Jordan, and Egypt, who are all in Maine to attend the Seeds of Peace International Camp in Otisfield.
The tour of the Franco Center and of the Little Canada neighborhood included some traditional Franco-American music and a snack of crepes topped with maple syrup from Quebec. The Franco Center provided a “meal-to-go” package for those in the group currently observing the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which calls for fasting during daylight hours.
Dr. Daniel Moses, Director of the Educator’s Program at Seeds of Peace, along with his Assistant Director, Deb Bicknell, run a professional development program called “Making History,” which uses Maine’s past to stimulate further discussion on various interpretations of history, the subjective nature of history, and the search for scientific facts in the historical process.
Dr. Julianna Acheson, the history tour’s organizer for Seeds of Peace, says the purpose of the program is to provide visiting teachers from countries with a history of ethnic strife with new tools for teaching students and to promote the critical thinking skills necessary to equip future leaders in their respective homelands.
“We’re visiting the Franco-American Heritage Center as part of our exploration of the history of Maine,” said Acheson. “We have also attended panel discussions with African-American and Native American leaders, toured the Maine State Museum in Augusta, and took a walking tour of Portland that included a visit to Longfellow’s home and museum.”
Acheson called the Franco Center last week to inquire about the possibility of a tour and a brief history of the building. Franco Center executive director Louis Morin agreed, and offered a more expansive tour of Little Canada along with a sampling of traditional Franco foods and music.
“This building is interesting by itself,” Morin said, referring to the Franco Center, which is located in the former St. Mary’s Church in the heart of Little Canada, “but to get a sense of what it meant to new arrivals from Quebec, you really need to see it in the context of the entire neighborhood.”
Patrons of the Franco-American Heritage Center’s monthly French language luncheon, known as La Rencontre, raised $575 on Friday, July 12, to donate to a relief fund to help the town of Lac-Mégantic, Quebec, recover from the recent train derailment and fire that left 50 people dead or missing and devastated the town’s center.
After reading an editorial in the Sun Journal that morning about the relief fund set up by the Town of Farmington, which has been a “sister city” with Lac-Mégantic since 1991, Franco Center board of directors president Raymond Lagueux approached Louis Morin, the center’s executive director, as patrons were filing into La Rencontre and suggested taking up a collection.
Morin not only agreed, he committed the Franco Center’s proceeds from the 50-50 raffle from Friday’s La Rencontre, which added an additional $105 to the $470 raised during the collection that will be donated this week to the Lac-Mégantic relief fund.
“The majority of people who come to La Rencontre every month, myself included, still have relatives living in Quebec,” Morin says. “I commend Ray Lagueux for seizing the opportunity when the Franco Center was full to take up the collection. Most of the patrons at La Rencontre are elderly and on fixed incomes, which makes their generosity all the more touching.”
For others who wish to donate, the relief fund is established at TD Bank in Farmington. Donations can be delivered in person or mailed to either of the bank’s two Farmington branches, located at 163 Broadway or 670 Wilton Road (zip code 04938). “Lac-Mégantic” must be written somewhere on the check.
The TV program “Bill Green’s Maine” aired a segment over the weekend about singer Larry Gowell of Auburn that was video-taped here at the Franco-American Heritage Center and that nicely depicts our beautiful facility.
To watch the segment on WCSH’s web site, click here.
The program, which airs each week on WCSH-TV Channel 6 in Portland and WLBZ-TV Channel 2 in Bangor, recently became interested in Larry Gowell’s unique place in Major League Baseball history. In the process of setting up an interview, Larry invited the show’s crew to interview him here and to tape his appearance as our monthly musical guest at “La Rencontre” (the Franco Center’s monthly French-language luncheon) on Friday, May 3rd. Larry also invited his vocal coach, Franco Center favorite Joëlle Morris, to perform a song with him that day, and footage from this duet is featured near the end of the segment.
The segment focuses on Larry’s rise as gifted pitcher at Edward Little High School, where he never lost a game, to his brief but successful stint as a pitcher for the New York Yankees at the very end of the 1972 season. The American League was about to institute the still much-debated designated hitter rule at the beginning of the 1973 season, which allowed better hitters to bat in place of pitchers during regular season games.
As fate would have it, on the very last day of the 1972 season, Larry took the mound against the Milwaukee Brewers and became the last starting pitcher in American League history to register a hit (a double off Jim Lonborg) in a regular season game. The ball that Larry hit that day remains on display in the MLB Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y.
Here’s a YouTube video clip, shot by Larry’s own camera, in which he and Joëlle Morris perform “The Prayer,” first made famous by Celine Dionne and Andrea Bocelli:
If you were at this past Saturday’s Midcoast Symphony Orchestra concert, the following should come as no surprise to you — they were fantastic! What’s new is that this volunteer community orchestra is asserting itself as a first-class ensemble and rightfully taking its place alongside other professional orchestras in Maine and New England. The Portland Press Herald’s classical concert reviewer, Christopher Hyde, says as much in his review, which you can read here: http://www.pressherald.com/life/Midcoast-Symphony-in-control.html
We love good press, especially when it includes our talented and dedicated partners. If you have never seen the MSO, you truly don’t know what you’re missing and should endeavor to remedy this oversight. Last weekend’s concert may have been the last of their four concerts of the 2012-13 season, but they’ll be back on October 19, 2013 to kick off the 2013-14 season.
The Franco-American Heritage Center in Lewiston will conduct the spring-summer session of its French Reacquisition classes beginning the week of May 20, 2013. The six weekly classes take place over seven weeks through July 2nd and will be held from 6-8 p.m. on either Monday or Tuesday, depending on ability.
Classes will not be held on Monday, May 27th or Tuesday, May 28th in observance of Memorial Day on the 27th and a long-planned function at the Franco Center on May 28th. After the last class on July 2nd, classes will break for the summer and resume again the fall.
Monday nights are for “false beginners,” who at one time possessed a basic level of French-speaking ability which may have diminished over the years though lack of practice. Participants get reacquainted with vocabulary, verb tenses and sentence structure in order to build on what they already know. Varied topics are used as a guide to help with speaking. The pace is relaxed and class is taught in both French and English.
Tuesday nights are for those who speak French at an intermediate or advanced level and who wish to improve their confidence in a weekly forum where they get to practice alongside others with comparable abilities. These are conversational classes with very little grammar, and are taught almost exclusively in French. Materials vary and participants choose from a list of possible topics.
Teaching both courses will be Diane Pelletier-Perron. Born into a large Franco-American family in Lewiston, she has a bachelor’s degree in French and lived in France for 18 years, teaching and tutoring both French and English for over 20 years.
“I’m delighted to see so many people getting reacquainted with their French language and heritage,” says Pelletier-Perron. “Speaking from my own experience, there’s a sense of satisfaction and pride when you can have a conversation in French and understand French news and cinema. It doesn’t matter how long it’s been since you last spoke French, you can definitely get it back. I did.”
Classes will be held in the Heritage Hall at the Franco Center. The total cost for the six classes is $75, and registration can be done via the telephone by calling 783-1585 or by emailing Joyce Coyne at jcoyne(at)francocenter.org. To register by mail, send your contact information and payment to Franco-American Heritage Center, 46 Cedar Street, Lewiston, ME 04240 Attn: French Reacquisition.
As the word “reacquisition” suggests, the classes are not designed for those who have never spoken any French at all and who have no experience with the language. The Franco Center also requires a minimum of 8 people per class and if that threshold is not met, full refunds will be issued to those who have already paid.
Twenty-six French students from Leavitt High School, led by their teacher Christine Marcous, took a field trip to the Franco-American Heritage Center and later to Museum L/A to get a hands-on lesson on what life was like for French-Canadians immigrants in Lewiston.
First, Bates professor emeritus Douglas Hodgkin gave them a tour of the “Little Canada” neighborhood that defined life for French-Canadian immigrants, showing them the Grand Trunk Railroad depot, the mills where the immigrants found work, L’École Ste. Marie where they went to school, the Oxford street tenements where they lived, and ending at the Franco-American Heritage Center where they worshiped back when it was known as St. Mary’s Catholic Church. All these institutions are within three blocks blocks of each other.
While at the Franco Center, they got a brief history of the building and how it became the Franco Center in 2000 — a decline in the number of parishioners and an urgent need for extensive structural work caused the Catholic diocese to close the facility. Next, Cindy Larock of Lewiston, who will be inducted in the Franco-American Hall of Fame on May 14th in a ceremony at the Statehouse in Augusta, demonstrated traditional French-Canadian folks dances along with Don Cunnigham on mandolin and Lorraine Ouellette on accordion. And finally, the students enjoyed a meal consisting of samples of traditional Franco foods like tourtière, crêpes, salmon pie, pea soup and “boudin,” or blood sausage.
Altogether, the students spent nearly two hours at the Franco Center learning about what life was like for their grandparents and great-grandparents. After their time at the Franco Center, they boarded a bus and headed to Museum L/A to learn more about the lives of Francos in the 19th and 20th centuries.
Invisible Wire Under Floor Transmits Sounds to Cochlear Implants and Hearing Devices Outfitted with Telecoils
Patrons with hearing impairments attending concerts and other events at the Franco-American Heritage Center are now able to enjoy individually customized sound thanks to new technology installed in mid-January.
The hearing loop system consists of a wire that encircles the entire lower half of the Franco Center’s Performance Hall that magnetically transfers sound to properly-equipped hearing aids and cochlear implants. The project was co-sponsored by the Central Maine Hearing Center at CMMC.
“We are pleased to help all members of our community enjoy the wonderful performances at the Franco Center,” said CMMC President Laird Covey.
The hearing loop system was installed by Shanahan Sound and Electronics, Inc. out of Lowell, Mass., and made its Franco Center debut at the January 19, 2013 concert by the Midcoast Symphony Orchestra.
Anyone sitting inside the hearing loop and wearing a hearing aid or cochlear implant outfitted with telecoils (or T-coils) will be able to enjoy sound as their hearing-assistive devices are essentially transformed into in-the-ear loudspeakers delivering sound levels calibrated to each individual’s level of hearing loss.
“We’re touched that Central Maine Hearing Center would help us address an issue that some of our patrons have asked us about,” said Franco Center Executive Director Louis Morin.
“Lewiston has a high proportion of older people and for years they haven’t been able to enjoy our performances to the same extent as those without hearing loss,” added Morin, “and now they can.”
Patrons with hearing aids that do not contain T-coils may still experience the enhanced sound made possible by the hearing loop by borrowing a headset from the Franco Center box office. The lightweight headphones are hooked up to a small signal receiver with an adjustable volume level.
Morin, 46, began working on September 4, 2012 and will eventually replace Rita Dubé, who is retiring in December after 12 years of running the center. Morin currently resides in Freeport.
“Rita has very kindly agreed to stick around for three more months to help me understand how the center works, how its programs are funded and to introduce me to the community,” says Morin.
“I don’t pretend for a second that I could ever truly replace her, since she’s irreplaceable,” he added. ”All I can do is work very hard to be the best steward of the Franco Center that I can be to ensure the long-term health of the organization.”
Morin is no stranger to Lewiston and comes to the Franco Center after over seven years at the Maine Public Broadcasting Corporation. Most of those years were spent at MPBN’s headquarters on Lisbon Street where he served as director of marketing and public relations and also worked for a time as the network’s corporate support manager.
Prior to MPBN, Morin worked for four years at Time Warner Cable and is a former weekly columnist for the Portland Press Herald, where he covered the city’s local music scene. He also spent three years as marketing and promotions director for WBLM-FM and WCYY-FM, two radio stations based in Portland.
Born and raised in Skowhegan in a family that moved to Maine from Quebec shortly before he was born, Morin grew up speaking only French before concentrating primarily on English after entering school. He has a degree in broadcast journalism from the University of Maine, where he also participated in the university’s Canada Year exchange program in 1986 and studied for a semester at McGill University in Montreal.
In a bit of coincidence, Morin’s family hails from Saint-Côme, Quebec, a town not far from the border that also happens to be the same town with which the Franco Center has had a student and cultural exchange program for the last six years.
“When I heard that the Franco Center’s sister city in Quebec just happens to be the town where my parents were born, got married and started their family, I knew I would be at home here,” says Morin. “I can’t wait to get up there, where many of my aunts, uncles and cousins still live. I spent so much time there as a kid, it’ll be like going home again.”
Morin admits his French has gotten a little rusty over the years, but he says he still gets to practice on visits home to Skowhegan and to Quebec.
“I found that it comes back pretty quickly after a couple days in Quebec,” Morin says, “but it’s one thing to be conversational and quite another to be able to conduct business in French. My goal is to be proficient at the latter within a year.”
He says he will immerse himself in the language courses at the Franco Center to both familiarize himself with the Franco Center’s course offerings and to improve his own French-speaking ability.