Damariscottta — The 24th season of the Salt Bay Chamberfest will include nine days of music and traces the origins of the guitar from its ancestry of the oud and lute to the Renaissance and beyond.

The festival begins Aug. 7 and ends Aug. 18. Concerts begin at 7:30 p.m., and pre-concert lectures by Mark Mandarano start at 6:30 p.m. 

This year’s theme, Troubadours & Tangos, includes ancient laments and modern ballads. The four festival concerts, at Darrows Barn at Round Top Farm, will feature a world premiere by composer and electric guitarist Steven Mackey, new performers — and instruments — such as Julien Labro on accordion, Jason Vieaux on guitar and Issam Rafea on oud; and returning performers such as the Brentano String Quartet, pianist Thomas Sauer and cellist Edward Arron. 

For the first time, Vieaux and Mackey will each present a free 1-hour recital, on Thursday, Aug. 9 and Aug. 16, respectively, at the Lincoln Theater. Other free events will include the OffTopic! series of talks, during which musicians share topics they are passionate about. Julien Labro will speak Monday, Aug. 6, and Thomas Sauer talks on Monday, Aug. 13. Both talks begin at 3 p.m. at the Lincoln Home in Newcastle. 

The free family concert and the student master class return this year and will include an up-close experience with members of the Brentano String Quartet. Open rehearsals on each concert morning are also free.

Opening night begins at 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Aug. 7, at Darrows Barn at Round Top Farm will include ancient call and modern response, with composers such as the 12th-century troubadour Ventadorn, Dowland, Britten, Piazzolla, Golijov, Schubert and Labro, who will present a new work. Featured performers include tenor John Bellemer, Vieaux, accordionist and cellist Wilhelmina Smith. 

The program on Friday, Aug. 10, will explore Arab influences in Spanish music, along with Ravel’s Piano Trio. Featured performers will be Vieaux, Issam Rafea, Stefan Jackiw, Edward Arron and Conrad Tao. Both Rafea and Tao will also be performing their own compositions. 

The Brentano String Quartet begins its residency during Salt Bay Chamberfest’s second week, starting with a concert on Tuesday, Aug. 14. Brentano violinist Mark Steinberg said the concert celebrates the art of cathartic expression in songs of lamentation and ends with Franck’s Piano Quintet with pianist Thomas Sauer. 

The festival’s closing night, Friday, Aug. 17, will feature the world premiere of Mackey’s string quintet, Joy Rhythm Study, written specifically for the Brentano Quartet and Smith. The concert will open with Mackey’s Fusion Tune for electric guitar and electric cello and closes with Schubert’s String Quintet in C major.     

For tickets and more information, visit saltbaychamberfest.org, e-mail [email protected], or call 522-3749.