George

Stone Mountain Arts Center in Brownfield is the best place to listen to music in Maine. A gorgeously remodeled barn, originally built in 1886, has great acoustics and has seating for just 200 guests, offering an intimate opportunity for musicians to mingle with the audience.

Carol Noonan, who owns Stone Mountain with her husband, Jeff Flagg, is a talented musician who somehow gets fantastic performers to come to this small rural town in western Maine. We’ve seen quite an array of performers here, including Pam Tillis, Marc Cohn and Lucinda Williams, and a concert/dance with Steve Riley and the Mamou Playboys, a very lively Louisiana Cajun band that kept us up and dancing through most of the evening, and Carol’s own performance with her band.

We appreciate that Stone Mountain offers a variety of prices, including some free concerts, and also dedicates some of the events to special projects and nonprofit groups.

All events include a dinner before the concert. Some time ago, the barn next door was renovated, so guests can gather an hour before the dinner to relax, visit and enjoy beverages. We arrived at about 5:30, and the place was packed.

I will say, while we loved every performance mentioned above, our most recent experience with Natalie MacMaster and Donnell Leahy was the most amazing we’ve had here. Carol and Marlies Ouwinga, who were the hosts, told us this would be a fantastic concert, and that was an understatement.

Natalie and Donnell were accompanied by guys on piano, drums and guitar. But it was their children who stole the show. From ages 4-11, they sang, danced and played fiddles with wild enthusiasm and talent. We clapped and tapped our feet through the entire performance.

We were seated with two guests from New Hampshire and another from Portland. The New Hampshire guests, Joe and Diane Scott, have been to Maine several times to bird with our favorite guide, Bob Duchesne. And when we told them about our trip to Arizona last year to bird, we were astonished to discover they had employed the same guide there as we did. It’s a small world.

My dinner of Lucky Penne — pasta topped with bacon and mushrooms covered with an alfredo sauce and garnished with parmesan cheese — was excellent. The side of cornbread was good, too.

Diane was kind enough to share her dessert with me (after Linda forbade me from ordering one) and the cheesecake, made by Lindsay Bradeen and Jennifer Gamble, was superb and, it turns out, famous here. The two ladies own The Runway in Limington, serving breakfast and lunch, and now we’re going to have to get there.

Linda

If you enjoy music and haven’t yet made it to the Stone Mountain Arts Center, this is a gentle reminder to do so. It takes about two hours from our house, and though we stayed in the area at Noble House in Bridgeton that night, we met friends from Manchester who were headed home after the show. (Our stamina for late hours has waned.)

The acts that Carol books are varied. One Cajun band performance had the tables pushed to the sides to allow for dancing. You will have a hard time sitting for many of these performances. Live music makes some of us want to dance.

I think each time we go, George and I say, “That was the best performance we’ve seen here.” I really believe Natalie MacMaster and Donnell Leahy’s show will remain the best for us. George told me it was Celtic music, but it felt like rock fiddle music to me. An incredible bass guitarist, pianist and drummer added to the talent of these two fiddlers.

But it was the addition of five of the couple’s six kids that astounded us. They can already fiddle and sing. I don’t know if you are familiar with Canadian clogging, but these kiddos can really dance, never missing a beat. Their dad modestly told the audience that the kids had been selected for the Little Big Shots TV show to be aired in April. I look forward to that.

I would highly recommend having dinner here before the show. Be prepared for huge servings. My dinner came in the same white bowl I use to serve vegetables in at Thanksgiving for a crowd. The menu changes nightly with popular entrees rotating.

I have had wonderful chili and a Harvest Pot Pie made with Pork Tenderloin during other visits. This time, I ordered an amazing Blueberry BBQ Chicken entree. A large portion of well-flavored, braised chicken was served with mashed potatoes and greens. The potatoes were to die for: smashed red potatoes with garlic, chives and veggies.

Most dinners come with sweet cornbread (this time with pumpkin butter) and a slice of watermelon. George and I had my leftovers for dinner the next night and still had leftovers.

In addition to leftovers, you’ll leave here with a song in your heart.

Visit George’s website — georgesmithmaine.com — for book reviews, outdoor news and all Travelin’ Maine(rs) columns, found listed by town in the “Best of Maine” section.

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