Judging by Pascal Center for Performing Arts' increasing audience, the secret must be out about Anne Arundel Community College's many entertainment bargains. A range of professional-caliber entertainment was presented at bargain prices in recent weeks.
On Dec. 4 and 5, the AACC Dance Company offered "Total Recall," which showcased the choreography of company members and director Lynda Fitzgerald - who established the company 20 years ago and serves as its coordinator and director.
The 20-member company presented classic to modern to hip-hop dances, along with a dramatic historical work. The evening began and ended with challenging works choreographed by Fitzgerald and danced to Mozart.
Fitzgerald described the first piece, "It's About Time," as "a spoof on timing regarding the movement in the piece, some before the beat, after the beat, double-time and half-time examples through the dance." And the entire troupe seemed to enjoy every humorous moment.
A somber departure from the largely celebratory program came in dance student Kristy House's "Branded," which was inspired by her visit to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum. House's choreography focused on the tragedy of innocent young lives uprooted.
Guest choreographer Alvin Mayes in "Red on Black" created an exciting piece where dancers costumed in the two colors became classic Greek-like figures. They began motionless, in angular positions, before morphing into speeding groups of dancers and a series of compatible partners who performed spectacular lifts.
The closing number, "We're Back," was described by Fitzgerald as "playing with backs - first, all the audience sees is the dancers' backs, then there is an 'aching back' section, dancing on your back, supporting your back. It was a lot of fun to construct and the dancers had a good time with it."
'From the Rhineland'
The next Friday, Dec. 11, music director/conductor Anna Binneweg led the AACC Symphony Orchestra in "From the Rhineland," a concert that featured pianist Daniela Mineva.
Binneweg, in her fourth year of conducting the 75-member orchestra, led an all-German program designed to showcase students, faculty, freelance professionals and local residents.
The program opened with Richard Wagner's "Prelude to Die Meistersinger von Nurnberg," where the musicians summoned the drama Wagner requires even in this lighter work. There were rich passages of lyricism and grandeur from the strings, woodwinds and brass, adding up to a gloriously full sound.
Next on the program was Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 5 in E-flat Major, popularly known as "The Emperor Concerto," in which the orchestra and soloist Mineva created an energetic, lively performance. Mineva displayed power and delicacy in nuanced sensitivity along with virtuoso technique, and the orchestra responded with its own sensitivity in a soulful musical dialogue.
The program concluded with Robert Schumann's Symphony No. 3 in E-flat Major, known as "Rhenish" for the composer's time spent in D?sseldorf on the Rhine. Here were lovely romantic themes and interesting harmonic structures in this unusual symphony, which contains not only the usual four slow and quick movements but a fifth, vivacious movement.
AACC Symphony Orchestra members clearly enjoy playing under Binneweg and have made such amazing progress under her direction that the sound created at Pascal Center seemed more in keeping with concert halls like Meyerhoff and Strathmore.
Later, Binneweg said, "This program in particular required great focus, endurance and passion from the orchestra, which they all achieved with great sustainability. I am thrilled that we have a highly skilled and monstrous brass section this season, and I am pleased with how the strings and winds continue to grow as a section. It is a delight working with the members of the AACC Symphony - they help me realize what makes music come alive."
The orchestra returns in January when it joins AACC Opera in four performances of "Die Fledermaus."