PORTLAND-BRUNSWICK — Less than a year ago, Nacole Palmer, of Bowdoin, a professional soprano and lover of the arts, began making plans with her friend and fellow vocalist and conductor Matthew Leese to bring a new choral group to Maine and beyond.

The idea was to present classical vocal music that is accessible to everyone, not perceived as “exclusive” or expensive, and that would also promote the offerings of local youth choral groups wherever the new group would appear.

This weekend, the Zenith Ensemble makes it debut in Portland and Brunswick, and will feature the Oceanside High School Choir of Rockland. The Zenith Ensemble will perform the Duruflé Requiem and the Byrd Mass for 5 Voices, conducted by Matthew Leese.

The youth choir, with conductor Lauren Casey, will join Zenith for both concerts to perform two pieces: The American spiritual, “Deep River,” arranged by Roy Ringwald, and “Alleluia,” by Randall Thompson.

Friday’s concert takes place at7 p.m., at Cathedral Church of St. Luke in Portland, and Saturday’s performance is at 3 p.m., at Bowdoin Chapel in Brunswick. Both concerts are open to the public and tickets are “pay what you can,” an important aspect of the groups’ focus on community.

“We want everyone to feel welcome,” Palmer explained. “Whether you are just curious, or excited by this music, you can just come and not have a financial barrier. Sometimes this particular musical field feels exclusive, and that is antithetical to everything I believe as a person and everything I experience as a musician. It’s important for both Matt and me that this music be available to everybody.”

The roster of the ensemble reads like a cast one would expect to see for the most celebrated concerts at Carnegie Hall or the Lincoln Center in New York City, venues where Palmer and some of her cohorts have appeared.

The Maine members alone — soprano Jennifer Bates, of Portland; tenor Eric Perry, of Waterville; bass John Adams, of Rockport; and soprano Mary Sullivan, of Brunswick — have been involved with groups and productions from the San Francisco Opera to the New York Philharmonic, along with New England ventures such as PortOPERA and Oratorio Chorale.

Zenith cofounder and baritone Matthew Leese is a choral and opera conductor based in Keene, New Hampshire. He has a wide-ranging background, directs the Keene College Vocal Consort and is an artist in residence with the Boston City Singers.

“When I moved up to Maine, the kind of singing I did didn’t really happen here, and I started thinking, there’s really no reason why it shouldn’t or couldn’t happen here,’” Palmer said. “I started talking to my friend Matt, and he’d had the same thoughts. The level of professional music making that we do doesn’t really exist where he is either, though in both places there is a real love of vocal music. So it seemed like it made sense to make it happen.”

Palmer says their visions were largely aligned, and they agreed to focus on Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont. “They’re not terribly populous states, and it seemed that by combining the forces of those three states, and with the larger metropolises, as well as the smaller towns, we’d have a broad reach.”

Scheduling full rehearsals with the ensemble and the Oceanside High School Chamber Choir proved to be difficult with so many people involved. Palmer and Leese have met with the students and their conductor to help them prepare, and there will only be one full rehearsal before the performances.

“With such a quick turnaround, we wanted to pick pieces the students already knew and were familiar with,” Palmer said. “It’s exciting for us to sing with young people; professionals don’t get to sing very often with young people. Who knows, maybe some of them might realize that this is an actual career path … it might be good to just experience that next level of professionalism.”

Regarding the Duruflé Requiem and the Byrd Mass for 5 Voices, Palmer says they just chose music they love, and that they think audiences will love.

“We also chose music that community choirs wouldn’t often put on, because of the difficulty of the music or the vocal challenges, or the scope of the pieces. We were guided first by what we’re most exited to perform, and what we would think is most unusual to be done in this area.”

What is Palmer’s hope for the audience, at their premiere performances?

She thinks for a moment.

“You know, music allows us to experience things that can’t be put into words; and the entire experience is done in community: Making music has to happen in community, you do it with others, and performing it is also done in community.”

After a moment of reflection, she adds, “At its best, ideal form, music is something that touches the spirit and moves the heart. I hope that people will come and be moved.”

Reserving tickets online is requested, and the website offers more details about the ensemble and its members at zenithensemble.com.