Music director J. Ernest Green began another season of extraordinary music-making with Live Arts Maryland's mid-September production of Gilbert and Sullivan's "HMS Pinafore," featuring the Annapolis Chorale, Annapolis Chamber Orchestra and soloists at Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts.
For this lively 2011-2012 season opener, Green was assisted by stage director Catrin Davies, who played Maria in last season's "The Sound of Music" and here displayed another talent by keeping the high-seas comic action swirling smoothly.
Surrounding the superb singing of the choristers were outstanding solo performers, including mezzo-soprano Susan Fleming as lovelorn Buttercup, baritone Samuel Hepler making a strong Annapolis Chorale debut as Captain Corcoran and Frederic Rey making his own fine debut as sailor Ralph. Rey's tenor blended perfectly with the lovely soprano of Sarah Kate Walston as Josephine, the captain's daughter who chooses to marry for love over social position.
Baritone Troy Clark, who has sung the leading roles of Curly in "Oklahoma" and Tommy in "Brigadoon," played Sir Joseph humorously and well. Baritone Jason Buckwalter won new fans with his comical interpretation of villain Dick Deadeye. Soprano Julie Hiscox played Joseph's cousin Hebe, displaying strong comic skills along with impressive vocal talents. In real life Hiscox is the wife of tenor Rey.
Live Arts Maryland next presents the first concert of the classic series, "Choral Fantasy" on November 11 and 12.
The concert centerpiece will be Felix Mendelssohn's "Lobgesang" choral symphony for orchestra, chorus, and tenor and soprano soloists, written in 1840 to celebrate the 400th anniversary of the printing press.
Green describes this work as "a wonderful and exciting piece that is new to us. Its musical sense of optimism and joy make this a fun piece to sing and play."
The piece opens with three orchestral movements introducing the theme of praise to God and hope for mankind, followed by nine movements for chorus and soloists. The soloists combine hymns of praise with a recognition of mankind's transition from ignorance to enlightenment.
Over an hour in length, this symphonic work, in which voices and orchestra should function in seamless unity, will offer Green opportunities to reach new heights.
Coming up are a series of traditional holiday offerings in Annapolis and beyond by Green and the Annapolis Chorale.
They include "A Celebration of Christmas," an annual concert that occurs this year on Dec. 8 and 9 at Maryland Hall. This concert always features a brisk rendition of Leroy Anderson's "Sleigh Ride" (as well as other popular classics), a Christmas story told by a special guest reader, and a selection of sing-along carols.
A second cherished tradition are the Annapolis Chorale's performances of Handel's "Messiah" at St. Anne's Church in Annapolis (Dec. 16 and 18, with a partial performance of the oratorio performed along with "Music for the Nativity" on Dec. 17).
For more information on the fall classic concerts and holiday happenings, visit the website at liveartsmaryland.org.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun