The Annapolis Chorale seems to know few limits.
The chorus, directed by J. Ernest Green, stretched beyond the usual classical repertoire Friday and Saturday nights to sing the music of George Gershwin and Duke Ellington, joined by the Annapolis Chamber Orchestra and jazz artists Ethel Ennis and Stef Scaggiari. They made wonderful music together.
When the first notes of Gershwin's "They Can't Take That Away from Me" sounded, my reaction was "wow!" The chorale, augmented by the string section of the chamber orchestra, had a full and joyous sound.
Ennis was in fine voice, and when pianist Scaggiari joined in, with John Starr Jr. on bass and Paul Hildner on drums, they illustrated the word synergism. Each part is fine alone, but together they become phenomenal.
The music of Gershwin is such a national treasure that 60 years after his death, his songs remain fresh and capable of new luster. In "Nice Work If You Can Get It" and "Let's Call the Whole Thing Off," the chorale featured a spirited musical dialogue between male and female voices.
Mac Huff's arrangements were innovative. The segues from one tune to another were seamless.
Pianist Scaggiari did a Gershwin medley that included "Fascinatin' Rhythm" -- with all sorts of rhythms; "Liza" -- with staccato notes and syncopation reminiscent of the composer's own piano style; "Soon" -- with affection and poignancy; and a near-perfect rendition of "Foggy Day."
Concluding the first part of the program was a clever amalgam of Gershwin tunes. Synergism was again at work in a perfect blending of "But Not for Me," "Lady Be Good," "Someone to Watch Over Me" and "Embraceable You."
A rousing finish combined "Rhapsody in Blue" and "Strike Up the Band."
Ennis, who was at home with the chorale, began her part of the program with "Love Walked In," a tribute to Gershwin.
She followed with a fine rendition of "But Beautiful" and a version of "My Funny Valentine" with a bossa nova beat. The music of Ellington was featured in her last four songs. Her rendition of "In My Solitude" helped this listener recall what "mellow" was all about.
Was there nothing to criticize? I found little. We are fortunate to have the Annapolis Chorale.
The chorale's next concert is March 22 at St. Anne's Episcopal Church.
Pub Date: 2/25/97