Kate Aldrich’s Favorite Maine Place

The Damariscotta River was a constant throughout the opera singer's upbringing.

the Damariscotta River
Photo by Dave Waddell
Kate Aldrich
The Sheepscot. Her grandma’s 18th-century farmhouse overlooked a meadow on its bank, “a magical, quiet place.”
Aldrich has two recordings dropping this fall, a performance of Déjanire, by Camille Saint-Saëns, with the Monte-Carlo Philharmonic Orchestra, and of Ariane, by Jules Massenet, with the Munich Radio Orchestra.
Hear Aldrich perform twice in the Salt Bay Chamberfest concert series: August 15, at Damariscotta’s Lincoln Theater, and August 16, at Rockland’s Strand Theatre.
By Brian Kevin
From our August 2023 issue

These days, operatic mezzo-soprano Kate Aldrich lives with her husband and daughter in Rome, Italy. She speaks Italian and French fluently and has also performed in German and Russian. But as a teenager, her Continental bona fides were limited to a dalliance with the French horn and a part-time job at Wiscasset’s Le Garage restaurant. That’s where she met the members of her high-school band, Liquid Daydream, a rootsy jamband she calls “very much in style in midcoast Maine in the mid-’90s.” 

Today, Aldrich’s style is more Georges Bizet than Jerry Garcia. She’s renowned for performing the title role in Bizet’s Carmen, though her list of credits is long and diverse. When she returns to the midcoast this month — a guest of Damariscotta’s 29th annual Salt Bay Chamberfest — she’ll be performing Il Tramonto, a 1914 piece for soprano and string quartet, composed by Italian maestro Ottorino Respighi. The piece, based on Percy Bysshe Shelley’s romantic poem “The Sunset,” aligns somewhat with Aldrich’s crunchy granola roots. “There are so many natural references in it, and they’re so visceral, where you can hear the sound of the woods in the instruments,” she says. “It’s magical.” 

Le Garage wasn’t the restaurant that loomed largest in Aldrich’s Maine upbringing. That would be the Cheechako, on Damariscotta’s Lewis Point, which her family ran until she was a teenager — and lived next door to. “All of our babysitters were waitstaff, and we ate there at least two or three nights a week,” she remembers, “just going through the buffet line in our bathing suits.” Steps outside, the tidal Damariscotta River was a constant, lined with favorite swimming and picnic spots. Memories of the town’s gonzo annual raft race are particularly vivid — inflatables careening down the river, dodging projectiles from a “flour-bag catapult” a mischievous Team Cheechako rigged up outside the restaurant.

These days, Aldrich and her family own a house in nearby Alna, and when they visit in the summer, languid days on the Damariscotta River always figure into their plans.  “We’ll go out in a boat, or we’ll paddleboard down the river,” Aldrich says. “It’s always beautiful.” Now that’s what we call a liquid daydream.

April 2024, Down East Magazine

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