Live Arts Maryland music director J. Ernest Green opened the 2012-2013 season on a new high last weekend at Maryland Hall with a fabulous production of "Guys and Dolls" in which Annapolis Chorale members and stellar soloists brought sparkle to classic Broadway.
With the first notes of the overture, the Annapolis Chamber Orchestra produced a full sound to underscore the importance of music at Green's "Broadway in Concert" performances. Further brightening this production were several surprises by soloists playing the Damon Runyon characters from the 1950 favorite.
As gambler Sky Masterson, baritone Jason Buckwalter proved he has star power in delivering "My Time of Day" and "Luck Be a Lady." As "mission doll" Sarah Brown, Caitlin Vincent moved from her initial operatic perch in "I'll Know" to a warm rendition of "If I Were a Bell" and later showed some nifty dance moves in her Havana scene.
Annapolis favorite Tom Magette seemed destined to play "good old reliable" Nathan Detroit, delivering "Sue Me" with iconic style. Detroit's fiancee of 14 years, Adelaide, was made irresistible by Kimberly Christie, who proved triply skilled as a singer, dancer and comedienne shining in "Adelaide's Lament."
A standout in a tomato red suit, Annapolis Chorale and Chamber Chorus accompanist Erik Apland played Nicely Nicely Johnson to open the show. He harmonized with Erik Alexis' Benny Southstreet and Magette's Nathan in "Fugue for Tinhorns (I got the horse right here)" and later delivered his awesome "Sit Down, You're Rockin' the Boat."
In another surprise, Michael Ryan, as Uncle Arvid Abernathy, offered the most compellingly heartfelt "More I Cannot Wish You" we're ever likely to hear.
A few days before the concert, Green described the exciting mix to be offered this season by the Annapolis Chorale and Chamber Chorus, Annapolis Chamber Orchestra, Youth Chorus and soloists to Maryland Hall and St. Anne's Church audiences.
From "Guys and Dolls" to premiering works by 17th-century composer Heinrich Schutz and contemporary composer Karl Jenkins, Green will present an extraordinary array of classical music and Broadway favorites. Not content with merely designing a winning program, Green will also introduce adventurous, interactive ways to experience it.
"We are making changes in everything from the way we work internally to the programming we offer, both in content and presentation," Green said. "We will offer exciting ways for our audience to interact with us before and sometimes during our concerts. By pulling up music we're doing from a virtual 'curated wall' in real time, audiences will see what we see while performing. This will give the audience an opportunity to connect with us in ways that have not been available before this season."
The classic season begins Nov. 9 and 10 with Richard Einhorn's "Voices of Light," performed with the 1928 classic silent film "The Passion of Joan of Arc" by Carl Theodor Dreyer. After its initial 1999 performance at Maryland Hall, Green immediately got requests for an encore performance that he is now able to honor. The production was described in a review published Nov. 18, 1999, by The Sun: "Together, film and accompaniment define synergy of music, underscoring and intensifying the film."
On Dec. 6 and 7 at Maryland Hall, Green will offer his "Celebration of Christmas" concerts of pops classics and carols. "Messiah Weekend" at St. Anne's is scheduled for Dec. 14–16.
Feb. 15 and 16 bring a second Broadway musical, possibly "Fiddler on the Roof," to Maryland Hall.
The classical series will continue at St. Anne's on March 8 and 9 with Schutz's "Musikalische Exequien," which Green describes as "music written in 1635 that would become one of the most influential pieces written, influencing the writing of Bach, Mozart and Brahms, to name a few." He adds, "We will perform the Schutz and then some of the pieces that would follow as a result. Then we will look at where some of these musical threads lead us as we move into the music of Witacre, Lauridsen and others in the last century."
The season ends April 19 and 20 at St. Anne's with the final classical concert, "Moving Toward the Light," which will include John Rutter's "Mass of the Children" and Jenkins' "Requiem" in addition to Morten Lauridsen's "Lux Aeterna."
"The Rutter Mass is relatively new and is written for soloists, children's chorus and mixed chorus [adults]," Green said. "Like the Jenkins and Lauridsen [pieces], it combines liturgical texts with other bits of prose and biblical texts to deliver its message of hope. The Jenkins also combines texts, but in this case they are Eastern and Western. The music is very beautiful. I think the audience will love it."
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Green invites all who want to "experience music in a brand-new way" to subscribe to the 2012-2013 season. A variety of subscriptions are available, including a new "Flex Time" series of six or eight tickets. For information and to order subscriptions or single tickets, go to liveartsmaryland.org.