J. Ernest Green, artistic director for Live Arts Maryland, began the company's season last month with an auspicious opener: "One Singular Sensation: A Celebration of the Music of Marvin Hamlisch."
The performance in late September showcased stellar guest soloists collaborating with the Annapolis Chorale and Youth Chorus and other youth groups at the Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts.
It's fitting for Green to showcase the late Broadway and Hollywood composer's favorite works — after all, he worked closely with Hamlisch for 11 years, often conducting with and for him in a relationship that began in 2002 when Green was a cover conductor with the National Symphony Orchestra. Hamlisch died in 2012.
Highlights of the Live Arts performance included guest artist Kevin Cole offering a signature medley of his friend and mentor's work, combining "The Way We Were," "At the Ballet" and "What I Did For Love"; and vocalist Klea Blackhurst's warm rendition of "Nobody Does It Better" of James Bond fame, accompanied by pianist Erik Apland.
Soloist Valerie Lemon brought a comically wry understanding to "Nothing" from "A Chorus Line," the classic lament against method acting that showcased her extraordinary acting and singing skills. Lemon then joined Blackhurst and vocalist Marissa McGowan for a touching and beautifully blended "At the Ballet," also from "A Chorus Line."
Green's tribute included some little-known Hamlisch tunes, including four from his 2002 Broadway show "Sweet Smell of Success," featuring vocalists McGowan, Bernard Dotson and Jon Fletcher, pianist Peter Dugan and violinist Charles Yang.
The evening also included a spellbinding rendition of "The Way We Were" by Yang and Dugan.
Another high came as the stage was packed with young talent including Severn School ninth-grader Ella Green, who flawlessly delivered the complex lyrics of "The Music in My Mind," joined by the McGowan, the Annapolis Youth Chorus and members of the Performing Arts Chorus of the Bates PVA Magnet School and the Children's Theatre of Annapolis Second Stage singers. Together they provided a joyously innocent version of Hamlisch's work.
"What I Did For Love" might have been the theme of the evening, which achieved the aura of a family gathering with the appearance of Terre Blair Hamlisch. She expressed delight at being in Annapolis, and acknowledged Green's relationship as well as the connection his family had with her husband.
Green will follow this triumph by turning to a classical repertoire for the Annapolis Chorale's performances on Nov. 8 and 9. That show will feature Leonard Bernstein's "Chichester Psalms," Gabriel Faure's "Requiem" and Peteris Vasks' "Dona Nobis Pacem." This performance will revisit 20th-century works and introduce more recent works.
Live Arts Maryland will follow that in December with "A Celebration of Christmas," featuring Celtic Woman vocalist Alex Sharpe and violinist Jenny Oaks Baker on Dec. 12 and 13, and performances of Handel's "Messiah" at St. Anne's Church on Dec. 20, 21 and 22.
Order tickets by calling 410-280-5640 or going to liveartsmaryland.org. For more information, call 410-263-1906.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun