The Maryland Chamber Singers' annual "Twelfth Night Concert and Holiday Feast" has become an institution, and a large crowd was on hand Friday at Broadneck High School to close out the holiday season with music.
Amid a convivial atmosphere, aided by excellent post-concert food, two conclusions were reached.
The first is that the Maryland Chamber Singers possess some talented members and enjoyable musical friends.
This was readily apparent in the one-act comic operetta "The Reluctant Dragon," a cute Gilbert-and-Sullivan-like send-up of the St. George and the Dragon story, composed by the ubiquitous John Rutter.
Charles Alexander and Bernard Franklin, both members of the ensemble, were delightful as the knight and his scat-singing reptilian nemesis.
David Harper, fresh from his stint as Scrooge in Colonial Players' "A Christmas Carol," was an excellent guest narrator.
Laura Holoski, an import from Broadneck High School, was also lovely as the young boy.
Eleven instrumentalists from Broadneck came together as an admirable chamber orchestra.
Another group of friends, a 49-member children's chorus under the direction of Prudence Holoski, sang winningly in several processionals and carols of the Twelfth Night Feast.
But the second conclusion, alas, is that the Maryland Chamber Singers themselves were not thoroughly prepared to sing this concert, so eclipsed were they by their talented collaborators.
Choral portions of "The Reluctant Dragon" sounded pleasant enough, if a bit tentative, but the wheels came off the wagon in the second half of the program with distressing frequency.
This group has sung the same "Boar's Head Carol" for who knows how many years now, yet they were inexplicably scratching for notes. The kids had memorized their music, yet there were 22 adults staring at these familiar works so intently they could have been archaeologists taking their first gander at the Dead Sea Scrolls.
The sublime "Shepherd's Chorus" from Berlioz's "L'Enfance du Christ" nearly fell off the stage. A pianissimo is one thing; a barely audible Chinese fire drill is something else again.
I know and like this ensemble, and I'm sure they can do better. There are choral groups that can pretty much sight-sing a concert of familiar Christmas music.
Let history record: the Maryland Chamber Singers isn't one of them.