Valentine's Day is quickly approaching, and Maryland Sings, a regional nonprofit musical youth ensemble based in Reisterstown, is inviting the community to celebrate the holiday with music and dinner at its event A Little Night of Romance, at Reisterstown United Methodist Church, Feb. 12.
Guests can come by at 6 p.m. for an evening of musical performances by Maryland Sings alumni Rachel Cronauer, who will be singing the music of country singer Carrie Underwood, as well as current members of the oldest Maryland Sings group, Escape, who will be performing such songs as "More Than You Know," music written by Vincent Youmans, and "Let it Go" from the movie "Frozen."
Tickets are $50 per couple, and proceeds will go toward musical equipment and the nonprofit's scholarship fund, said Dr. Bill Myers, founder and instructor of the group.
"Some of that money is going to go to scholarship — we always do that — and the rest of it, we bought some very expensive console mixer for the young people. We've been working with old equipment, sometimes it was working, sometimes not. We had a donation of about $2,000 and we were able to buy a digital board, which is just fantastic. I can't work it myself just yet but I'm watching the sound people work it and it's just fantastic. We can rehearse and get the sound we want and then we can push a button and lock it in … and we [need] to buy a case for it and a case is $348 dollars or so, $350, and that's next on our list to purchase."
The event will also include a three-course buffet-style dinner, featuring appetizers of cheesy bread bites, fresh fruit spears, and marinara meatballs; a main course of Caesar salad, chicken marsala with rice, baked cheese ziti, Italian green beans, and bread and butter; and a dessert bar offering mini cannolis, tiny lemon tarts, a chocolate passion bowl, and chocolate-covered strawberries.
After dinner, Myers said, guests can get on the dance floor and move around to "music through the decades."
The group has held a similar Valentine's Day event in the past, but, Maryland Sings parent and volunteer Natalie Peters said, she hopes there is a greater attendance this year due to increased publicity.
"I think this year I'm hoping for a bigger turnout because we are advertising it more than we did last year and we had an earlier start to doing so," she said.
As in past years, the food will be prepared and served by church members who volunteer their time.
Shannon Mowl, mother of 15-year-old Escape member Madison Mowl, said the cuisine offered is always delicious.
Last year's Italian menu was "very, very good and the desserts were delicious," Peters said.
Mowl said she is looking forward to this event because it provides a bit of a different atmosphere than other Maryland Sings events that are strictly centered on music.
"Some of the events it's just more of a performance but this is really about just sharing and enjoying each other's company and having a meal together," she said. "It is very I want to say relaxed … just comfortable. You get to just sit and enjoy each other, enjoy a warm meal."
Mowl said the event provides families interested in enrolling their children in Maryland Sings the opportunity to learn more about the group by speaking with current students and parents.
And, Myers said, any chance he gets to show off the work of his students is one he wants to take.
"I enjoy every opportunity that I can get to get these kids in front of an audience because they are so good," he said.
Maryland Sings, Myers said, is about much more than music — it's about teaching young people how to be productive, responsible members of society. Buying a ticket to this event is a way of "supporting the youth of America," he said.
"That is my big thing in that we hear so many bad things about youth in what they are tearing down or doing in opposition of what maybe life should be like … here we've got kids who can be role models coming from different parts of our society … they're coming with a love of music and they all have gifts, one gift in common, and that is to sing — to use a God-given talent. And when they're with us we teach them that they have to give back. And that is so important."
Giving back is a major part of what it means to be a part of Maryland Sings, Myers said. From taking the group to perform at Dulaney Valley Memorial Gardens on Memorial Day to sharing music at Fort McHenry on Flag Day, Myers strives to teach his students an appreciation of servicemen and women and the sacrifice they make to protect the country.
"My kids learn that they are benefiting from Americans who have give the ultimate and that's how we run our show and I'm trying to instill within them these good values in thinking about humanity and that they must give back," he said.
Whether people attend to learn more about the group, get a warm meal, listen to some music or a combination of all three, Peters said, they're likely to have a good time.
"It's a fun evening. It's elegant yet relaxed … It's a lot of fun. There were a few couples up there last year, they just never left the dance floor except when the soloist sang," she said.