'Messiah,' 'Nutcracker' highlight holiday fare HOWARD COUNTY DIVERSIONS

December 04, 1992|By Rona Hirsch | Rona Hirsch,Contributing Writer

From Mouse Kings on ice to Southern rockers on bass, Christmas is coming to Howard County.

For the next three weeks, four interpretations of Tchaikovsky's "Nutcracker," three of Handel's "Messiah," one of Bach's "Christmas Oratorio" and a smattering of the Allman Brothers Blues Band will be performed throughout the area.

As 1992 marks the 250th anniversary of the first production of George Frederick Handel's "Messiah," church, school and community choruses will present parts of the lengthy oratorio that deals with the birth, death and resurrection of Jesus, and declares Handel's personal affirmation of faith.

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The Columbia Pro Cantare will perform "Messiah" at 7:30 p.m. Sunday at Hammond High School in Columbia. General admission is $14; tickets for seniors and students are $11. Information: 465-5744 or 997-5290.

Accompanied by about 20 members of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra and free-lance musicians from the Baltimore and Washington area, the Columbia Pro Cantare has trimmed the three-hour plus production to "the meat of 'Messiah' and a more 'sittable' two," said chorus manager Kathleen Bowen.

The 15-year-old company will present the entire Part I, or Christmas portion, and major selections from Parts II and III, including the "Hallelujah Chorus."

Under the direction of founder Frances Motyca Dawson, who was awarded the "Howie" last year by the Howard County Arts Council for life-time achievement for fostering the arts in Howard County, the company is in its ninth year of "Messiah."

"It's truly a great tradition," Ms. Dawson said. "I realized this is one people followed and grew to expect. In the past, we had done a kind of mixed program for Christmas. But we had a request from people to do 'Messiah.' The chorus also loves singing it, and it gets better each year we do it."

This year's production will feature four nationally acclaimed soloists: soprano Stephanie Marsh, mezzo Marianna Busching, bass-baritone Richard Zeller and tenor Grayson Hirst, who will perform "Messiah" at Carnegie Hall in New York later this month.

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The first community-wide choir, under the direction of Ray Miles, will present "Messiah" at 7 p.m. Dec. 12 in the Great Room at Historic Savage Mill in Savage. There is no admission fee, but donations will be accepted. Information: (301) 604-0703.

Fifty-five singers from about 25 county churches will participate in the benefit for the needy.

The 1 1/2 -hour program will concentrate only on Part I, the Christmas portion. It will feature four soloists, including bass Jim Scopeletis, a professional singer from New York.

The benefit is in keeping with the spirit of "Messiah," said Mr. Miles. Handel was asked to compose the oratorio for a charity event in Ireland.

Collections will be taken during the show by representatives of four local and international charities.

"I'm trying to encourage people to come with their checkbooks," the director said. "All the money given that night will go directly that night to that organization."

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The Columbia Orchestra will perform at 8 p.m. Dec. 12 at Mount Hebron High School in Ellicott City. The price of admission is a non-perishable food item or cash donation to the Howard County Food Bank. Information: 461-9194.

In contrast to the traditional holiday fare, the 14-year-old Columbia Orchestra is presenting a broad program as a "public service concert," said board president Elaine Newhall.

To appeal to a wider audience than it has in previous holiday performances at the Florence Bain Senior Center, conductor Cathy Ferguson decided to expand the concert and make it a public event, Ms. Newhall said.

The 1 1/2 -hour performance will feature a "Messiah sing-a-long," as the full symphony orchestra invites the audience to bring along their own scores and sing select choruses.

The orchestra will also perform selections from "Nutcracker," Victor Herbert's "The March of the Toys" from "Babes in Toyland" and several Hanukkah melodies.

Guest artists include the Howard County Elementary Children's Chorus of 108 fourth- and fifth-graders from the county schools, and members of local church choirs who will sing five Christmas carols.

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Howard Community College's Chorus and Jazz Ensemble will present a joint concert at 7:30 p.m. Sunday at HCC's Smith Theatre. Admission is free; donations to the music scholarship fund will be accepted. The theater is wheelchair-accessible and a lightweight, easy-listener hearing system is available for the hearing impaired. Information: 964-4900.

The unorthodox mix of the traditional and modern will be evident in the joint collaboration that offers Mozart and Duke Ellington.

"They do some jazz and some classical, which makes it different from other events," said HCC theater business manager Kasi Campbell.

The program is the brainchild of music chairman Brian Johnson, who wanted to retain members of the community who signed up for the chorus but could not afford the tuition.

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