'Nutcracker' offers student singers a stage

November 21, 1993|By Karin Remesch | Karin Remesch,Contributing Writer

Jennifer Bostian has never seen Tchaikovsky's "Nutcracker" ballet. And she's certainly never dreamed of being part of the production.

But on Dec. 5, she'll do both. She will see the magical holiday classic for the first time and she will also be part of the cast.

Jennifer, along with the other members of North Harford High School's A Capella Choir, will be a guest performer when the Moscow Ballet presents the "Nutcracker" at the Morris Mechanic Theatre in Baltimore.

"I'm just really excited," says 17-year-old Jennifer. "I've been in chorus ever since the fifth grade, but we've never done anything of this magnitude."

The choir, consisting of 10 male and 25 female voices, will present a 20-minute program before the ballet's production of the "Nutcracker," which will feature all new costumes and a dramatic set designed in St. Petersburg, Russia, complete with floating backdrops and a tree that doubles in size.

Later, the women of the choir will perform with the ballet in the "Waltz of the Snowflakes" scene.

"It's customary to use local children's choirs when the "Nutcracker" is performed in Russia," says Mary Giannone, an assistant producer of the Moscow Ballet, "so the ballet's artistic director, Stanislav Vlasov, asked if we could do this in America."

Finding capable choral groups was quite an undertaking, but with the help of school administrations, the production crew was able to line up choirs for each performance during the ballet troupe's eight-city East Coast tour, Ms. Giannone said.

In addition to the North Harford group, seven other Baltimore area choirs will perform with the ballet during its stop in Baltimore Nov. 30 through Dec. 5.

Ms. Giannone considers the students' participation a musical challenge and a cultural exchange.

"The singers will be involved with a Russian production and have a chance to meet and talk with the artists," Ms. Giannone said.

Martha Banghart, North Harford's musical director and the county's 1992 Teacher of the Year, agrees, and she doesn't anticipate any language barriers when her students meet the Russian dancers.

"Music is a universal language . . . Singing is unselfish, it's sharing one's culture and spirit," explained Mrs. Banghart. "Music transcends all animosity and differences."

The choir is rehearsing daily for the one-night performance, in addition to preparing for the school's annual Christmas concert.

Bryan Hagan, a bass singer with the choir, says he isn't nervous about performing at the Mechanic Theatre, but he admits there is a lot of pressure.

"This is a big step for a high school choir, and we want to do our best," Bryan said.

"We've performed in Baltimore at soccer games, and we sing at school concerts, but this is the biggest we have ever done."

He says that the group needs a little more practice before the Dec. 5 performance, but he's sure that everyone will be ready in time for the Nov. 30 rehearsal at the Mechanic.

"Mrs. Banghart is tough with us and she doesn't allow us to make mistakes," said Jennifer, who added that she's confident choir members will be giving their best the night of the big stage debut.

"She's got us this far and she'll pull us through. Mrs. Banghart is a real inspiration," she said.

Though the singers will find out where and when they will be standing on stage, the Nov. 30 rehearsal does not include practicing with ballet members.

"It's just a run-through; the night of the performance is the first time the group will actually be singing with the ballet," Mrs. Banghart said. "That's the real pressure."

But Mrs. Banghart is not worried.

She says the choir is up to the challenge and most of the members are seniors and have been singing together for the past four years.

Selecting a seasonal repertoire was the most difficult part in preparing for the performance, Mrs. Banghart said.

NTC "We know it will be an eclectic audience and obviously not all will be Christians . . . we would like to please everyone," she said.

The choir will present a 15-minute medley of holiday songs and close the performance with the women singing in Hebrew, "Shalom Chaverim."

"We figure a message for peace is a nice ending, especially considering the political turmoil the Russian artists have had to experience in the recent past," she said.

She looks at the music sheet and softly reads part of the lyrics:

"Let all join hands across every land, let fighting cease, let every bell ring, let everyone sing of love and peace. . . ."

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.