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Soloists shine in 'Grand Night' Review: The Arundel Vocal Arts Society's fine performance of works by Rodgers, Berlin, Sondheim and other composers demonstrates the melody and joy of American stage music.


Saturday evening was indeed "A Grand Night for Singing" as the Arundel Vocal Arts Society presented a generously programmed evening of selections by Richard Rodgers, Irving Berlin, Stephen Sondheim and others.

Thanks to spirited singing by conductor Glenette Schumacher's choir of 60, excellent solo work from sopranos Vicki Estep and Sally Gilles, tenor Jeff Sneeringer and baritone James Handakis, and first-rate accompanying by pianist Cynthia Slate, the concert provided a lovely opportunity to appreciate anew the melodic magic of the American musical stage.

Most of my lasting impressions revolve around the soloists. Estep and Sneeringer were wonderful in the hilarious "Metaphor" from "Fantasticks," as were Sneeringer and Handakis in the bitterly ironic "I Can See It" from that same long-running Harvey Schmidt-Tom Jones musical.

There was a bright, perky "Got the Sun in the Morning" from Sally Gilles in the Irving Berlin medley, and she and Handakis teamed up for a riotous "Old Fashioned Wedding" that ended with the couple angrily spitting out mismatched marital plans as fast as their lips would move. Great fun.

None of the other soloists approached the level of those four, but there were cute bits such as Vicki Bannerman's spirited "You Can't Get a Man With a Gun" and Stephen Martino's good-natured "Oh, How I Hate to Get Up in the Morning."

It was strange, though, to see some of the soloists studying their music as they sang. Very amateurish, in fact.

In stark contrast, the numbers committed to memory positively jumped off the stage. Learn your songs, folks, and put down those scores.

There also was a lot of choral fun to be had. The singers seemed especially engaged by the Irving Berlin songs. From a sparkling "Alexander's Ragtime Band" to the inevitable "God Bless America," the choir made it a grand night not only for singing, but for listening, too.

Pub Date: 5/21/98

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