Music director J. Ernest Green talks with excitement as he discusses the coming season of Live Arts Maryland, made up of the 170-voice Annapolis Chorale, the Annapolis Chamber Orchestra, the Annapolis Youth Chorus and a group of vocalists and nationally prominent guest soloists.
This season will offer three classical performances, the annual "Messiah" at historic St. Anne's Church in three December shows and concerts featuring popular favorites.
The opening concert Sept. 21 at Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts will feature the music of Marvin Hamlisch in the tribute "One Singular Sensation."
Green is uniquely qualified to conduct a celebration of the music of Hamlisch. He first started working with the legendary composer in 2002 when Green was a cover conductor with the National Symphony Orchestra.
For 11 years, until the composer's death last August, Green worked with Hamlisch, often conducting while Hamlisch played piano.
Over the years, he developed great respect and admiration for Hamlisch.
"Marvin was one of the kindest and most generous people I have ever met," Green said. "He was also a genius who was never too busy to share his time and his gifts. I feel very lucky to have known and worked with him."
Performing with Green at the September concert will be six artists who have their own connections to Hamlisch: Klea Blackhurst, Kevin Cole, Bernard Dotson, Jon Fletcher, Valerie Lemon and Marissa McGowan. They will deliver a mix of familiar works with Green sharing other, lesser-known pieces.
"We have done a number of these Marvin Hamlisch tributes over the last year, and each one is special in its own way," Green said. "I'm looking forward to bringing my friends to Annapolis to share this great music."
After his death at age 68 on Aug. 6, 2012, Hamlisch was described in a New York Times obituary as "one of a handful of artists to win every major creative prize, some of them numerous times, including an Oscar for 'The Way We Were' (1973), a Grammy as best new artist (1974), and a Tony and a Pulitzer for 'A Chorus Line' (1975). … All told, he won three Oscars, four Emmys and four Grammys."
Of Hamlisch's movie scores, Green says, "One of my favorite orchestra scores that Marvin wrote is 'Love Theme' from the movie 'Sophie's Choice.' There's a shift in the harmony around 35 seconds in that never fails to give me goose bumps."
The excitement of the opening concert continues with what Green describes as "a season of gorgeous music," following his vision to offer "familiar works to give touchstones to things that are new."
After the September show, the classical program opens Nov. 8 and 9 in two concerts of "Dona Nobis Pacem" at Maryland Hall, featuring Leonard Bernstein's "Chichester Psalms," Gabriel Faure's "Requiem," and Peteris Vasks' "Pater Noster."
This show in particular reflects how the relationship of composers to one another and the interrelated qualities of their works intrigue Green and illuminate the works in broader terms.
Green has conducted the Annapolis Chorale and Chamber Orchestra in Bernstein's "Chichester Psalms." Pairing Bernstein — who created sacred music for contemporary audiences — with 19th-century French composer Faure and contemporary composer Vasks offers a fascinating spectrum of sacred music to contemplate.
The Live Arts Maryland "Celebration of Christmas" concert will feature Celtic Women vocalist Alex Sharpe and violinist Jenny Ochs Baker performing popular and classic holiday music.
On Feb. 14 and 15, Broadway in Annapolis concerts will feature semistaged versions of "Once Upon a Mattress" written by young Mary Rodgers, daughter of Richard Rodgers. The 1959 show introduced then-unknown Carol Burnett to Broadway audiences.
On March 7 and 8, again at St. Anne's Church, a concert of "Vespers and Rest" will feature Mozart's "Vesperae Solennes de Confessore" and Anton Bruckner's "Requiem."
The classical season closes April 4 and 5 at Maryland Hall with "The Spirit Soars: Music of the Russian and Eastern Traditions," with Alexander Gretchaninov's "Vespers," John Tavener's "Song for Athene," Henryk Gorecki's "Totus tuus," Vasks' "Dona Nobis Pacem," and Eric Whitacre's "Her Sacred Spirit Soars."