This weekend proved again Baltimoreans can find first-rate live music without leaving town.
Yesterday, T. Herbert Dimmock III led a skilled chorus of 60 friends of Donald C. Arenth, many of them students of Frederick Petrich, and all voluntary singers uniting for a moving memorial tribute to Arenth in an AIDS benefit. Arenth, who died Jan. 30, sang locally.
That Baltimore is packed with talent was clearly heard in the concert at Brown Memorial Presbyterian Church, Park Avenue. The Arenth chorus sang Mozart's Ave Verum Corpus and a sterling Faure Requiem, with soloists Paul Redline, Timothy Kjer and Phyllis Burg and Brown's organist Eugene Belt.
Other organists in impressive work were Paul Davis, Bruce R. Eicher and Robert Twynham.
Friday night, Ray Charles wowed them in a sellout appearance before 2,400 at Meyerhoff Symphony Hall, his first with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra. It was strong stuff by the artist who played the old Royal on Pennsylvania Avenue 40 years ago.
His moving songs included "All I Ever Need Is You" complete with saxophone solo, "Yesterday," "Take these Chains," "Your Cheatin' Heart," "Georgia on my Mind" and of course, "America the Beautiful" the way no other human sings it. Charles could have sold out two or three more times. Victor Vanacore conducted.
Then Saturday night, Edward Polochick led his Concert Artists at Friedberg Hall in its last show of the year, a happy, versatile program whose zippy second half was the unexpected emotional punch. The first half was Vivaldi, and top billing was understandably for Daniel Smith, the world's most recorded bassoonist (all Vivaldi's 37 concertos).
Smith elegantly played the Concerto No. 30 in G Major, a short but intricate sprint up and down hills of notes. Alto Allison Charney and soprano Elaine Conover soloed delicately in Vivaldi's "Gloria."
But in the second half. Polochick's 30-member chorus, showing sure diction and dexterity, was an absolute hit in its witty Ward Swingle jazz arrangements.
Argento's Royal Invitation, inspired by the Queen of Tonga visiting Queen Elizabeth's coronation, was merrily played by the orchestra with flutist Mary Beth Lewandowski and especially oboist Vladimir Lande in graceful solos. The orchestra closed with Jacques Ibert's light-hearted Divertissement.