December 21, 2013

Rome songwriter fights fading accent of Maine-ahs

Ayuh, Maine’s accent is disappearing, but songwriter Stan Keach, with help from Hallowell musician Larry Morissette, is bringing Maine-grown music to area schools.

By Matt Hongoltz-Hetling mhhetling@centralmaine.com
Staff Writer

Ayuh.

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MAINE SINGS: Hall-Dale High School choral students rehearse songs by Stan Keach, of Rome, during a recent class. The two songs by Keach feature Maine icons Donn Fendler and Bean Boots by LL Bean.

Staff photo by Andy Molloy

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WICKED GOOD: Larry Morissette, right, directs choral students at Hall-Dale High School in Farmingdale as Stan Keach, center, of Rome, records the group singing his songs.

Staff photo by Andy Molloy

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You cahn’t get theah from heah.

Being from away.

They’re some of Maine’s most distinctive sounds and cultural catchphrases, but experts say fewer and fewer young people are using them. Some have never even heard them.

Those who are bothered by the idea that young Mainers have never been exposed to a regional Maine accent might be cheered to hear that a pair of central Maine songwriters hope to buck the trend by injecting a strong dose of Maine-isms into the chorus rooms of schools across the state.

“So far we’re on a fool’s errand, you know,” said Stan Keach, a songwriter and recently retired schoolteacher from Rome. Keach’s accent is only faintly present during everyday speech, but it takes center stage when the folk and bluegrass musician performs his song, “Boots from L.L. Bean,” which plays with the idea that Maine’s natives belong to an exclusive idiomatic club.

The song is about someone from away — a term applied to anyone born out of state — attempting to blend with the locals by buying “rubbah bottom boots” from Maine’s most famous retailer.

In the end, the singer tells the out-of-stater, “You’ll be sayin’ ‘wicked good!’ just like any Yankee would, and showin’ off those boots from L.L. Bean.”

Keach has been singing for years, but he just recently started working with musical arranger Larry Morissette, also a recently retired schoolteacher, of Hallowell, to sell the music to schoolteachers around the state.

Keach said his music is an improvement over the “music from away” that’s taught in almost all of Maine’s music classrooms.

“They do stuff that’s not about Maine,” Keach said. “This would be something that adds some interest. You’re not doing it for some faceless people in Ohio or California.”

Some music teachers are excited by the idea.

“I think Stan Keach is a trendsetter,” said Drew Albert, the music director at Maranacook Community High School, in Readfield, where both Keach and Morissette used to teach.

Albert said Keach’s songs engage Maine students.

“It’s funny when you walk into a class and you actually see all the L.L. Bean boots,” he said. “I think people take a lot of pride in stuff from Maine.”

But Keach and Albert both said young people aren’t as well-versed in local color as their elders.

“I don’t know that they’re familiar with those Maine colloquialisms, like ‘You can’t get there from here,’” Albert said.

Keach said that, while recording some of the music with a group of students from Hall-Dale High School in Farmingdale, some students seemed never to have heard the Maine accent before.

“It didn’t come naturally to them, you know,” he said. “High school kids in Maine right now are not as good at Maine dialect as their grandfathers.”

David Morris, a junior at Hall-Dale from Gardiner, was among the group of eight students who sang in the two-hour recording session with Keach to make a demonstration recording for the project.

Morris said he’s been living in the state since he was 4, but neither he nor any of his classmates speak with that distinctive Downeast drawl.

“Trying out the real Maine accent in this song, it was really difficult,” he said.

Morris hears the Maine accent spoken only in overheard snatches of conversation when he is walking in downtown Gardiner, or from a particular substitute teacher.

“I haven’t really heard it lately,” he said. “I feel like it’s going away slowly.”

Keach agreed.

“It’s something that’s being lost,” he said. “Maybe it has to be lost, but we should have some familiarity with it. It’s who we are.”

Fading? Ayuh!

(Continued on page 2)

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Additional Photos

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SONG TRIBUTE: Musicians Julie Churchill, left, and Stan and Liz Keach before singing Stan’s song about Maine icon Donn Fendler, who was famously lost on Mount Katahdin as a child.

Staff photo by David Leaming

click image to enlarge

CONNECTED TO CULTURE: Larry Morissette directs choral students at Hall-Dale High School in Farmingdale. The singers were rehearsing two songs that were composed by Stan Keach, of Rome, and feature two Maine icons, Donn Fendler and Bean Boots by LL Bean.

Staff photo by Andy Molloy

 


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