Midcoast a cappella vocal ensemble Ave Maris Stella will present its annual summer concert series Friday through Sunday, July 16 through 18, with performances in Camden, Belfast and Warren.

The program, “Poetry and Music: The Bard and Other Muses,” is made up of music based on the work of poets from Petrarch and Shakespeare to A. E. Housman and Pablo Neruda. As is typical for the group, repertoire will cover a wide range of time periods (Medieval through 20th century) and styles. In a departure for singers who tend to specialize in early music sung in many languages, this program will include a larger percentage of more current works and will be sung mainly in English.

Three concerts are scheduled in the 2010 series. They are: Friday, July 16 at 7:30 p.m. at High Mountain Hall, 5 Mountain St., Camden (236-0003); Saturday, July 17 at 7:30 p.m. at Belfast Free Library, 106 High St. (338-3884); and Sunday, July 18 at 4 p.m. at the Second Congregational Church of Warren, 252 Main St. (273-2338). Admission will be $10 (cash or check) at the door.

In the opening “Shakespeare” half of the program, works by Cornysh, Dowland, Morley, Purcell and Weelkes will explore many facets of The Bard’s favorite emotion: love. A trio of pieces by contemporary composer Matthew Harris from his collection “14 Shakespeare Songs” will be performed as a set, before the half wraps up with John Tavener’s “Song for Athene.” This restrained anthem combines words from the Orthodox funeral service and Shakespeare’s “Hamlet” and was sung by the Westminster Abbey Choir at the funeral of Diana, Princess of Wales, as her cortege departed the abbey.

The “Other Muses” half of the concert will range through time, beginning with repertoire sung by smaller subsets of the group and closing with full-ensemble pieces. Dufay’s “Vergene Bella,” a setting of a Marian poem by Petrarch, will open the half, followed by Machaut’s “Rose, Liz, Printemps.” Then the group’s men will present the gorgeous harmonies of John Bennett’s “Weep O Mine Eyes” before the program jumps ahead into the 20th century with a set loosely based around the natural world. “The Evening Primrose” by Britten will be followed by Charles Stanford’s setting of the Mary Coleridge poem “The Blue Bird”; and Kirk Mechem’s “Loveliest of Trees,” based on poet A. E. Housman’s “Shropshire Lad.” A setting by Morten Lauridsen of Chilean poet Pablo Neruda’s intensely moving meditation on death, “Soneto de la Noche,” sung in Spanish, will round out the half. Rather than end on a somber note, however, the singers will close the concert with the upbeat and joyous “My Spirit Sang All Day” by Gerald Finzi.

Music director Elena Hamilton said in putting this program of poetry-based music together, the group was reminded that there was a time when even those with only a modest education not only knew poets and musicians by name, but could also quote passages of poetry by heart.

“In Midcoast Maine, birthplace of Edna St. Vincent Millay, we are lucky in that poetry is alive and well honored, but in much of our modern world, such is mainly left to scholars. As singers, of course we tend to think about the music first, but this program contains some amazing poetry and we are excited to share it with our audiences,” she said.

The group will also perform Thursday, July 22 at 7:30 p.m. at the Freewill Baptist/Up Island Church on the island of Islesboro (accessible by ferry or private transportation only; no overnight accommodations are available on the island).

Ave Maris Stella generally performs two scheduled concert sets per year, in January and early summer, and is available by invitation at other times. For more information, call 236-9413 or visit avemarisstella.com.Ave Maris Stella has chosen a new name for the group and those who attend the summer concerts will get to hear about it before everyone else.

VillageSoup Art/Entertainment Editor Dagney Ernest can be reached at 207-594-4401 or by e-mail to dernest@villagesoup.com.