A musical, centennial celebration

The Baltimore Sun

When Jo Barker, president of the Performing Arts Association of Linthicum, and the association's board were planning this season's schedule more than a year ago, they wanted to bring in something unique to celebrate Linthicum's centennial.

"We arranged to have both an orchestra and chorus together present a program of great music," Barker recalled.

Neither she nor PAAL's board could have realized how extraordinary the current performances of this concert would be with a bonus of two maestros - one maestro conducting before intermission, and the other after.

This year, Linthicum residents have been celebrating their region's birth 100 years ago, when, after tracks were laid for the Baltimore-Annapolis Short Line Railroad, four land-owning members of the Linthicum family became real estate entrepreneurs developing a suburban town.

A continuing series of centennial events is winding down after the concert offered by PAAL, in its 27th season of bringing concerts to north Anne Arundel County. The celebration will conclude Nov. 15 with a centennial gala scheduled at the Hilton Hotel on West Nursery Road.

On Oct. 12 at the Chesapeake Arts Center, the Londontowne Symphony Orchestra was conducted by Anna Binneweg, and the Arundel Vocal Arts Society was under director JoAnn Kulesza. Both conductors were appointed to head these musical organizations in the summer of 2007.

Binneweg expressed LSO's appreciation at being invited to perform at PAAL's concert. She began the program with "Overture to the Flying Dutchman," Richard Wagner's masterpiece that evokes the wind-swept seas the Dutchman sailed.

If the musicians lacked intensity in the opening performance, they were fully engaged in their second offering, Georges Bizet's boldly colored, highly dramatic "Carmen Suite No. 1." The performance peaked with the familiar "Toreador" melody. Notable solo work included a haunting oboe solo by Maggie Dozier, who earlier delivered a fine English horn solo in the Dutchman Overture.

The transformation Binneweg brought to the Anne Arundel Community College Orchestra since her arrival in fall 2006 has been acknowledged on campus and beyond. Perhaps a similar shift is in store for the LSO.

After intermission, Kulesza encouraged the audience to have a good time at this celebration. Londontowne musicians accompanied the Arundel Vocal Arts Society choristers in a joyous program of opera and operetta works dominated by waltz melodies.

The program began with AVAS chorus' spirited "It's a Grand Night for Singing," which might have proved an ideal light prelude to the second segment had it not been for technical balance problems with the chorus being frequently overshadowed by the orchestra.

Such problems were diminished later with the addition of soloists at the front of the stage. Kulesza, who directs the Peabody Opera Program, introduced soprano Jennifer Holbrook and tenor William Davenport, both Peabody students who will soon appear at Peabody's performance of La Traviata.

From Giuseppe Verdi's La Traviata, Holbrook, Davenport and the AVAS choristers delivered "Libiamo" - one of opera's favorite drinking songs - in sparkling fashion. This was followed by an enchanting "Barcarolle" from Offenbach's Tales of Hoffman, with Holbrook and Davenport bein joined by soloist Karen Baumbach of AVAS. Each soloist deserves praise for vocal beauty, musicality and a command of the stage.

Lilting waltz melodies from Gounod's Faust and Strauss' Die Fledermaus, combined with excellent singing from soloists and choristers and a fully engaged orchestra, provided outstanding soloists in concertmaster violinist Dana Goode and principal flutist Elizabeth La Dana.

The program concluded with the works of two great American composers. Aaron Copland's American opera Tenderland was heard in a lively "Stomp Your Foot" and an exuberant "The Promise of Living." Leonard Bernstein's brilliant operetta Candide was recalled in an inspired "Make Your Garden Grow" that was enchanting.

The next PAAL concert at Chesapeake Arts Center is scheduled for Dec. 14 when rising mezzo soprano Carla Dirlikov will be joined by her husband, tenor Michael Gallant, in a program of Broadway love songs, Spanish favorites and Christmas music. AVAS will present a Christmas concert Dec. 7 at Eastport United Methodist Church. Information: arundelvocalarts.org.

The Londontowne Chamber Orchestra will present a concert Nov. 16, and the full orchestra will offer a concert Jan. 18 at Southern High School. For information on Londontowne's schedule, go to Londontownesymphonyorchestra.org.

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