Saturday, October 11, 2014

A night with international sensation The Celtic Tenors at the Windham Performing Arts Center - By Michelle Libby

With haunting melodies and cheery ditties, The Celtic Tenors bring their global talent to the stage at the Windham Performing Arts Center this Saturday at 7:45 p.m. 
With songs like Danny Boy and Opera classics like Nessun Dorma, The Celtic Tenors hope to move the audience with their harmonies and sense of fun. 

The trio has been to Maine before, but this will be their first trip to Windham after the persistent invitation from Windham Chamber Singers’ director Dr. Richard Nickerson, who tried for a “long, long time,” said tenor James Nelson. “He’s been a great supporter of us,” Nelson concluded. 

On Saturday night, the concert will consist of two songs with the chamber singers in addition to a full-length show as well. “The set for the show is classical, spiritual, pop, Irish and Celtic songs, a huge mix and a cappella. If you don’t like classical music, they’ll be back to Celtic songs another time,” said Nelson. “We don’t take ourselves seriously.” When they got a review that their jokes were terrible, Nelson shrugged it off. The tenors are having fun and it shows in their performances. 

The tenors have performed all over the world, most recently in Europe and then with the Columbus Symphony in the Ohio Theater, a 2,500 seat venue with red seats and gold trim. The enjoy playing that type of concert, but Nelson said that the group also plays blues and jazz clubs. “We’re very excited to come to Windham.” The Celtic Tenors have been a group for 15 years and have toured in America for 12. They have yet to play Alaska, Hawaii and Alabama. 

The other two tenors that make up The Celtic Tenors are Matthew Gilsenan and Daryl Simpson. All three men are from different areas in Ireland and despite the religious turmoil that has taken place there, the group is made up of one Catholic and two Protestants, according to Nelson. When they travel they also include pianist Henry Colm and sometimes their manager from Fargo, ND.   

They have just been signed by Decca/Universal Records out of Australia and are currently working with award-winning producer Charles Fisher on their 11th album of a four album deal. The untitled album will be released in Australia this February. 

The new album is more “poppy”, according to Nelson, with covers from John Denver, the Bee Gees and Dolly Parton. “We’re very happy with it so far,” said Nelson. 

“The trio has been weaving together an eclectic repertoire of Celtic, operatic and popular songs for audiences worldwide since 2000.” 

“We’re a very harmony based group. None is the high or low harmony. We’re a democracy. We’re all equal,” said Nelson, who added that they often joke about “me and my two backup singers.”  

Each of the artists has a musical background and training. Nelson and Simpson got their start in churches, singing when they were young. They both have degrees in music. Nelson spent 10 years singing opera. Simpson is more “jazzy”. Gilsenan is more “folky”, according to Nelson. 

The Celtic Tenors have traveled all over the world drawing huge crowds especially on the Symphony Tour of China. “There was a culture shock. Anything new excites us,” Nelson said. They do concerts in the Netherlands and Germany a lot, and travel to the Middle East to perform for ex-pats who have moved there.
Outside of the group each is keeps themselves grounded in reality. Gilsenan is married with three children (11, 8, 6) and does some charity work, but mostly, during his free time, he works his farm with his family.
Simpson has a brand new baby with his primary school teacher wife. He runs a peace choir that brings together people of different religions and backgrounds. The group tours around the world. 

Nelson’s passion is “The education and feeding of orphans in Nairobi, Kenya.” He builds orphanages and hope that “With kids like that I can give them proper hope for the future. It’s lovely to see them.” The first group of orphans he worked with is now going into university. He feels a tremendous sense of pride.
This tour is partnered with SOS Children’s Villages, which “wants for the world’s children: That every child belongs to a family and grows with love, respect and security.” Nelson does not want to be pushy, but at every concert someone sponsors a child or a village. 

The Celtic Tenors last CD release, Feels Like Home, celebrated the uplifting music of Ireland , Scotland , England and Wales , while borrowing a few songs from other cultures along the way. 

Nelson said his favorite song is Dutchman, “a beautiful old love song. The man in the song has Alzheimer’s, dementia. My dad had dementia. It’s a special, simple love song. She kisses him on the cheek and puts him to bed. It’s a lovely song with a haunting chorus.”

They have only written one original song, a somewhat controversial song about the death penalty, but the trio arranges their own songs with harmony and piano parts. 

One song that is always on their set list is Caledonia, which they have been singing for at least 14 years.
“The music does come first. We’re not in it to be famous. That’s a recipe for disaster in the long run. We’re in it for the love of music,” Nelson said. 

“It’s very hard to label us. My hobby became my career and I want it to last as long as I can,” he added.
The show in Windham is Saturday. Come out and see The Celtic Tenors at the Windham Performing Arts Center on October 11th at 7:45 p.m. For tickets call 892-1810 x306 or online at For more information on the Celtic Tenors visit,

Students get in the kitchen with after school cooking club - By Elizabeth Richards

Since last year, students at Raymond Elementary School (RES) have had the opportunity to experiment in the kitchen, whipping up some healthy snacks as part of the after school cooking club led by chef and School Nutrition and Wellness Coordinator for RSU14 Samantha Cowens-Gasbarro and RES kitchen manager Kim Williams. 

The overall plan is to offer the cooking club experience at every school in the district said Cowens-Gasbarro. An unanticipated response to the club kept the program at RES all of last year, with over 80 children signing up in response to a listserve announcement. The club is a free after school activity which runs for an hour and a half each Tuesday for four weeks. Sessions are run at the school until each child who signs up has had a chance to participate. 

Cowens-Gasbarro needed to cancel the last session of last year due to her maternity leave, so she picked up where they left off at RES, allowing the children who had missed that final session a chance to be involved. When this session is over, they will move on to Jordan-Small Middle School, and then into Windham, beginning with Manchester School.

The club began as an initiative by the nutrition department. They quickly realized that it was so successful they needed some outside support, said Cowens-Gasbarro. They applied for and received a $3,500 grant from Berlin Auto Group to sustain the program. While the club doesn’t cost too much to operate, the grant provided them the opportunity to purchase some equipment, such as mixers, as well as supporting each session.
The club allows children to try their hand at making a variety of healthy recipes, such as homemade granola bars, fruit dip, chicken tortilla soup, mozzarella sticks, and healthy cookies. “I’ve had them eating vegan banana oatmeal cookies and they really love it. When you get kids making it, they want to eat it. They want to try it,” said Cowens-Gasbarro.

Running a cooking club is natural for Cowens-Gasbarro, who helped to run a cooking school for children while she was a personal chef in the Boston area. “With all the school nutrition stuff that was so foreign, this was the old shoe that felt good,” she said with a laugh. 

One great outcome of the program, she said, has been the close relationship that the children have developed with the kitchen staff, and the positive connections they have made to school nutrition. Parents have also learned more about what the school nutrition department is doing, and the initiatives they have to get kids interested in and excited about trying new things. 

The kitchen staff at the schools is willing and excited to step up and do the extra work that comes with trying to make food fun, said Cowens-Gasbarro. One example of this is the enthusiasm with which they participate in occasional themed Fun Friday Breakfasts. “They are just so happy to do it, and so excited when their counts go up. They’re just great,” said Cowens-Gasbarro. 

Breakfast has been an area of focus for the nutrition department to be sure all kids are getting a nutritious meal to start their day. In addition to the theme breakfasts, a breakfast cart was started in the Windham Middle School Field Allen building for the sixth graders. This allows kids a second chance to grab something to eat if they missed the cafeteria in the morning. The program has been so successful that they are expanding it to the rest of Windham Middle School, said Cowens-Gasbarro.

 “It’s been really great to get out and see the kids,” said Cowens-Gasbarro. “We want to promote and tell kids what wonderful things we’re doing so that stigma of school lunch is slowly fading into the distance,” she added.

Trail Mix Krispie Cups

4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
4 tablespoons honey
2 cups rice cereal, such as Rice Krispies
2 tablespoons sunflower seeds
1/4 cup dried cranberries or raisins
1/4 cup thin pretzel sticks
1/4 cup mini chocolate chips

1. In a medium saucepan, combine the brown sugar with the honey and butter. Bring the mixture to a boil over medium-high heat, then lower the heat to medium-low and simmer until the sugar dissolves, about 2 minutes. Remove the saucepan from the heat.

2. Add the sunflower seeds, rice cereal, raisins and pretzels to the saucepan and fold the ingredients to evenly coat with the sauce.  Place paper liners in a standard 12 cup muffin time. Scoop mixture into muffin cups, dividing mixture evenly and gently pressing down with the back of a spoon to pack mixture into cups.  Gently press the chocolate chips onto the top of each of the trail mix cups.  Let the granola mixture set in the refrigerator until firm, about 15 minutes, then peel off paper liners and enjoy!

Asian Noodle Salad

1 lb Linguine Noodles, Cooked, Rinsed, And Cooled
1 whole Red Bell Pepper, Sliced Thin
1 whole Green Bell Pepper, Sliced Thin
1 cup snow peas, sliced
1 cup grated carrot
¼ cup cilantro, chopped

1 whole Lime, Juiced
8 Tablespoons Soy Sauce
2-3 Tablespoons Sesame Oil
1/3 cup Brown Sugar
3 Tablespoons Fresh Ginger Chopped
1 cloves Garlic, Chopped

Mix salad ingredients together. Whisk dressing ingredients together and pour over salad. Mix with tongs or hands and serve on a platter.

Banana Ice Cream
Makes 1 cup

1 large ripe banana

Start with ripe bananas: They should be sweet and soft. Peel the bananas and cut them into pieces.
Put the bananas in an airtight container: Like a freezer-safe glass bowl, or you can use a freezer bag.
Freeze the banana pieces for at least 2 hours, but ideally overnight.
Blend the frozen banana pieces in a small food processor: Pulse the frozen banana pieces.
Blend until smooth and whipped.
Once whipped, add any mix-ins, like peanut butter or chocolate chips
Transfer to an airtight container and freeze until solid: You can eat the ice cream immediately, but it will be quite soft. You can also transfer it back into the airtight container and freeze it until solid, like traditional ice cream.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Third annual community coin challenge in full swing - By Elizabeth Richards

The third annual Community Coin Challenge has begun, with the goal of raising money for the food pantries in the ten towns served by the Lakes Region Chamber of Commerce.Chamber board member and organizer of the event Sheri Huff said approximately 200 jars have been distributed and are out in the community.  Additional jars are available at the Lakes Region Chamber of Commerce at 747 Roosevelt Trail in Windham.  As the jars fill up, they can be taken to Gorham Savings Bank to be counted, dropped off at the chamber office, or returned at Octoberfest, the grand finale of the challenge.  
Every time a full jar is taken to Gorham Savings Bank for counting, said Huff, the bank will donate an additional $5 to the cause. As of September 22nd, $7,269.40 has been raised, including a significant donation from the Sebago Lake Rotary Club after their Feet for Food walk, which was held on September 21st.   This year’s goal, said Huff, is to raise $25,000 for the food pantries.

Octoberfest, a free family event, will be held in the Buck’s Naked BBQ parking lot on October 18th, 2014, from 1p.m. to 4 p.m. The day will be filled with fun activities, food, and plenty of opportunity to drop coins in the donation jars that will be at each booth. Each business who participates agrees to have a tent/table with an activity or giveaway, decorations and trick or treat candy for the kids costume parade and contest, and everything must be free of charge, said Huff. 

Some of the featured activities include crafts, games, a dunk tank, chair massage, bouncy houses, face painting, and a cupcake eating contest. Horse drawn wagon rides will be available, as well as musical entertainment by deBree’s and Keys and Montgomery Road. There will be a photo booth and a pumpkin carving contest as well. Huff said that on Friday, October 17th from 4:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m., free pumpkins will be available at Bucks Naked BBQ while supplies last. Contestants should return the carved pumpkins on Saturday at 1 p.m. to be entered into the contest.

The event will also feature plenty of free eats, including pizza, hot dogs, sausage sandwiches, subs, popcorn, cotton candy, donut holes, apples, snow cones, and a dessert tent. Beverages available will include cider, lattes, water, coffee and soda.

Helicopter rides will also be available, with a $35 donation per person. Tickets for these rides are available online or can be purchased at Octoberfest.

This year marks the third annual Community Coin Challenge and Octoberfest. In the past two years, $38,039.28 was raised. All of the funds collected are directly donated to the area food pantries. 

This year’s signature sponsor for Octoberfest is Windham Weaponry, who will have four different booths at the event this year. Other sponsors are: Lee’s Family Trailer Sales & Service; Gorham Savings Bank; Aubuchon Hardware; Buck’s Naked BBQ; and Hometown Heat from Raymond, who will be donating 5 percent of their equipment sales between September 15th and October 15th to the cause.

“The community has really stepped up to make this event a success,” said Huff. “It’s not just the efforts of one person. It comes down to a community effort.”  For more information on Octoberfest and the Community Coin Challenge, visit

Sebago Lake Roatary Club works to end hunger in Southern Maine - By Elizabeth Richards

The Sebago Lake Rotary Club has been working hard to combat hunger in the communities it serves. Through two recent events, the club has made a huge impact, contributing close to $2,000 to the Community Coin Challenge and packaging 31,272 meals to be distributed to food pantries throughout  Southern Maine.


The club’s Feet for Food Walk was held at Windham Middle School on Sunday, September 21st. “The walk was initially created so that we could have a greater impact on the Community Coin Challenge,” said club secretary Cyndy Bell. Though participation wasn’t as high as the club had hoped due to conflicts with other events and rainy weather, about 40 people showed up to walk and others drove through to donate even though they weren’t able to stay and walk. The club was able to double the donation they have given to the Community Coin Challenge in past years.

The Feet for Food Walk will be an annual event, Bell said. “We’re hoping for it to be bigger and better next year,” she said. They would like local businesses to create teams, and because it’s a short one mile walk, anyone can participate, especially children, she said. “I think once the word gets out what a great cause it is, the community will rally,” she added.

Some of the proceeds of the walk also went to support a food packaging event that the Sebago Lake Rotary Club held at the Maine Mall on Saturday, September 27th. Working with End Hunger NE, the northeast division of Outreach, Inc., the club set out to package 20,000 macaroni and cheese meals to be distributed through Southern Maine food pantries. The club initially raised $2,500 for this event, and was given a matching grant from Modern Woodmen of Windham to get to the $5,000 needed to package 20,000 meals.

On the day of the event, Matthew Martin, Regional Manager, Outreach, Inc. told the group of 60 volunteers, which included Rotarians from the Sebago Lake club and other area clubs, plus family and friends, that a challenge had been issued. A group in Buffalo, NY was holding a similar event on the same day, and challenged the Maine group to package 31,000 meals. “Rotarians don’t pass up a challenge too often,” said Bell. 
As a result, the group put together 31,272 meals, breaking the State of Maine record for meals packaged at an event by one bag, which is six meals, said Martin. The previous record holder was a Methodist Church in South Portland, said Martin, and next weekend he’ll be in Ellsworth trying to break the record again. This is the beginning of the fourth school year that Martin has been working with End Hunger NE and this month was the second biggest ever in terms of meals packaged, primarily because of the push the Rotary club made last weekend.

End Hunger NE has packaged almost 300,000 meals in Maine, which is important because of the level of food insecurity in the state, particularly among children. In the 117 counties throughout the Northeast that he has worked in, Martin said that only 16 have 25 percent or more hunger among children. Six of those are in Maine. “That is the drive to get into Maine more often, and with bigger events, because the need is so great,” he said.

Ending hunger has been a big focus for the club this month, and will continue to be an area that the club concentrates on, said Bell. One in four children in Maine are food insecure, Bell said, and that is something that can’t be allowed to happen. “It’s something that’s always on our minds,” she added. “We’re always looking for ways that we can impact the community in a very positive way.”  Last year the club did a smaller packaging event of 8,000 meals. The grant from Modern Woodmen and the extra money raised at Feet for Food allowed them to have a much larger impact this year, said Bell.

The additional meals packaged for the challenge cost the club $2,800. Other rotary clubs in the district offered assistance, and the club is still accepting donations to offset the additional costs. Donations can be sent to the Sebago Lake Rotary Club Charitable Fund, PO Box 1941, Windham, ME  04062 or made online at