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AACC's Kauffman Theater takes center stage for holiday performances

Members of the AACC Big Band performed a program of Jazz classics at Kauffman Theater on Nov. 22.
Members of the AACC Big Band performed a program of Jazz classics at Kauffman Theater on Nov. 22. (Bud Johnson)

The season of holiday entertainment is upon us, and nowhere in the county is this more evident than at Anne Arundel Community College, where the Robert E. Kauffman Theater is poised to host holiday entertainment by AACC's dance company and its campus-based choruses.

The AACC Dance Company, which celebrated its 25th anniversary last season, will present "Running Amuck," an evening of dance choreographed by dance company members and by founding director Lynda P. Fitzgerald, in shows at 8 p.m. this Thursday through Saturday.

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Fitzgerald, who created and implemented the dance curriculum and the dance major at the community college, said the bulk of the show is choreographed by dance company members. "That makes the show very eclectic and diverse," she said in an email. "I never have a particular theme because I don't want to curb their creativity."

She said while the vast majority of AACC Dance Company members are students, there are a couple of "community members" as well.

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"Friends and families of my dancers definitely attend the concerts, and it's great to see heightened excitement on those evenings," Fitzgerald said.

The shows also heighten the sense of camaraderie among the dancers, who all want to put their best feet forward for performances created by fellow members.

"I think that performances tend to bring the company together as a whole … we're all working toward the same goal and truthfully, everyone wants the best from everyone else," she said. "It's a very supportive and nurturing company, and I'm very proud of that. It's not a competition, although there is great "team work" involved."

General admission is $15, or $10 students and seniors and active military. Order tickets at the box office 410-777-2457 or boxoffice@aacc.edu.

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Next on the college's seasonal performance agenda, at 8 p.m. Dec. 13 and 2 p.m. Dec. 14, is "Holiday Spectacular," a program featuring the 45-voice AACC Concert Choir under the direction of Eleanor Minor, the AACC Chamber Singers and Chamber Orchestra, as well as students, faculty and guest soloists.

Among choral selections to be heard are excerpts from the "Messiah," with tenor soloist Samuel Keeler.

The show also presents the "Shepherd's Dance," choreographed and performed by former AACC faculty member Kristi Schaffner, who now teaches at the Community College of Baltimore County's Essex campus.

A tribute to Kwanzaa, including African folk songs and traditional gospel music, will also be included.

Douglas Brandt Byerly, chair of AACC Performing Arts and founder of Opera AACC, said the concert will "get everybody in the mood for the season and leave you humming with joy."

Ticket prices are also $15 general and or $10 students and seniors and active military.

Finally, at 7:30 p.m. Dec. 20, the college hosts a free performance — no tickets required — in its "Encore Holiday Concert."

This event brings together many sounds of the season, with members of the AACC Encore Chorale, the Southern Maryland Encore Chorale and Myerberg Senior Center.

Songs will include a Spanish "Cantar" by Jay Althouse, "Africa Noel" by Andre Thomas, "Christmas Pipes" by Brendan Graham, "I Saw Three Ships" arranged by Phillip J. Stopford, "Everlasting Light: A Chanukah Anthem" by Sheldon Harnick and David Shire, "The Very Best Time of the Year" by John Rutter, Mozart's "FaLaLa" by Phillip Kern and Handel's "Hallelujah Chorus."

The season of music at the college actually kicked off Nov. 21, when a near-capacity audience heard Maestra Anna Binneweg conduct the AACC Symphony Orchestra in a stellar "Viva Italia" concert.

Binneweg and company opened with Verdi's overture to "La forza del destino" — among the most dramatic of all operatic overtures — and presented a performance that included Paganini's Second Violin Concerto with Emil Israel Chudnovsky as solo violinist; and Mendelssohn's Symphony No. 4 "Italian" in A Major, a symphonic ode to Italy.

Under Binneweg's direction, the AACC Symphony brought color and high drama to all three works, filling Kauffman Theater with a sound rivaling what's heard at Strathmore or the Meyerhoff.

The following night, Nov. 22, the 10-member AACC Small Jazz Combo was directed by Ian Wardenski for "Swingin' with the Masters," followed by members of the AACC Big Band delivering a mix of standards and recent tunes under the direction of Marty Knepp.

From a grooving "East of the Sun" opener through a dozen extra-mellow, sax-heavy renditions of standards to "The Party's Over" closer, this AACC Big Band concert was memorably happy music to savor.

Musicians deserving high praise for this stellar evening include guitarists Ed Beever and Bryce Lehner; drummers Richard Nunez and Ryan Sadler; Don Dunlap on trombone; Jesse Fussell on alto sax; Ed Justice on trumpet; Rod Laster on soprano and tenor sax; Christin Pagan on bass; and Ronald Rex-Williams on piano.

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