Classical musicians, there's plenty of time to apply for a Baker award

The Baltimore Sun

Hey, all you talented classical musicians out there in the Baltimore area: Now is the time to let the ego run wild and nominate yourself for a Baker Artist Award.

This competition takes place entirely online, with artists uploading video of their work.

A jury will determine winners of the Mary Sawyers Baker Prize of $20,000 (up to three winners); online voting will determine a Baltimore's Choice Award ($5,000).

Visual artists have jumped into the process, but "musicians are not being as responsive," says Nancy Haragan, executive director of the Greater Baltimore Cultural Alliance, a partner in the project. "At the moment, sound art being entered is more experimental than classical."

The trustees of the William G. Baker Jr. Memorial Fund, which is providing the award money, believe "that Baltimore has great artists who deserve support," Haragan says.

Eligible artists must be at least 21 years old and legal residents of the Baltimore region (Anne Arundel County, Baltimore City, Baltimore County, Carroll County, Harford County and Howard County) since Sept. 10, 2007. Contestants can be individuals or ensembles. The deadline is 5 p.m. Feb. 1.

For more information, call 410-230-0200 or go to

More 'Messiahs'

The Handel Choir of Baltimore's 74th annual presentation of the most popular work by its namesake will offer audiences an opportunity to hear Messiah in a manner close to what the composer's public heard. Melinda O'Neal will conduct a chorus of 45 and a 19-member orchestra of period instruments in a 600-seat venue, just the size for baroque music.

Judging by how sturdy and sensitive the choir has been sounding lately, the performance of Handel's oratorio ought to prove quite refreshing at 8 p.m. Saturday at the Church of the Immaculate Conception, 200 Ware Ave., Towson. Tickets are $25-$44. Call 410-366-6544 or go to

If you have an irresistible urge to participate in Messiah, the Baltimore Choral Arts Society offers a singalong presentation at 7:30 p.m. Dec. 19 at Goucher College's Kraushaar Auditorium, 1021 Dulaney Valley Road. Tickets are $12.50 and $25. Call 410-523-7070 or go to

Mobtown Modern

With a title like "Hard as F#@!," the next program from Mobtown Modern just has to be fun. Not for the players, perhaps, since the point of this concert is to tackle some of the most technically challenging pieces in the contemporary music repertoire. If anybody can do it, the Mobtown gang can.

Among the complex items in store are Gra for solo clarinet by Elliott Carter (who turns 100 today); Psappha for solo percussion by Iannis Xenakis; and All Set for sax, trumpet, trombone, bass, piano and percussion by Milton Babbitt. Musicians include Brian Sacawa, Phillip Johnson, Todd Harrison and Devin Hurn.

The concert, which will feature a live video installation, is 8 p.m. Monday at the Contemporary Museum, 100 W. Centre St. Tickets are $5 and $10. Go to or

Weekend update

The Ritz Chamber Players brought a long, rewarding program to the Shriver Hall Concert Series on Sunday evening. Mozart's Flute Quartet No. 3 enjoyed crystalline articulation from flutist Demarre McGill and a warmly blended sound from violinist Tai Murray, violist Amadi Hummings and cellist Troy Stuart. Murray's tone sounded anemic later in Brahms' G minor Piano Quartet, but she was on the same passionate wavelength as Hummings, Stuart and pianist Terrence Wilson; the foursome did some incendiary playing in the finale.

Osvaldo Golijov's brief Lullaby and Doina for winds and strings was a welcome novelty, with its hint of the tenor aria from Bizet's Pearl Fishers and its strong gypsy-dance finale. (Baltimore Symphony Orchestra concertmaster Jonathan Carney joined the ensemble for this item.) There was room, too, for gently lyrical pieces by Bruch, with clarinetist Terrance Patterson, Stuart and Wilson. Martinu's Three Madrigals found Murray and Hummings generating technical and poetic flair.

For sheer, feel-good exuberance, it was hard to beat the BSO's performance of Too Hot to Handel last Thursday night at Meyerhoff Symphony Hall. The gospel/pop/rock arrangement of Handel's Messiah is not quite a masterpiece of originality or daring, but, at its best, it takes the original score on a kinetic ride.

Marin Alsop conducted with apparent relish and drew consistently vibrant work from the Morgan State University Choir and the orchestra. Vocal soloists Vaneese Thomas, Rozz Morehead and Thomas Young tore up the place.

I thought that pianist Gabriela Montero would do the same when she gave an all-improvised concert at the University of Baltimore on Saturday night. The pianist solicited themes from audience members (part of a Mozart concerto, our national anthem, "Jingle Bells," etc.) and put them through various treatments. Montero favored Rachmaninoff-like lushness for many of the improvs; there were spurts of Chopin, ragtime and Spanish dance, too. I found most of the styling uninteresting and much of the playing technically unexceptional, but I seemed to be in a minority.

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