Chorale's sounds highlight holidays

December 18, 1997|By Mary Johnson | Mary Johnson,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

The Annapolis Chorale's "Celebration of Christmas" concert Friday featured some rarely heard works by the chorale and the Chamber Chorus and from the Chamber Orchestra, a range of music from Handel's "Messiah" to Leroy Anderson's "Sleigh Ride."

The Chamber Orchestra played the classical works beautifully and brought to such familiar songs as "Silver Bells" and "I'll Be Home for Christmas" a lush fullness associated with much larger groups.

When he opened his arms wide, Ernest Green pressed the orchestra to express all those warm sentiments of the season.

The orchestra also delivered a rollicking version of "Sleigh Ride" punctuated by horses hoofs, snapping whips and jingling bells.

The highlights of the full chorale had to be the French carol "Sing We Now of Christmas," which matched the sparkle of the orchestra.

The chorale also shone brightly in William Mathias' "A Babe Is Born," which evolved from a series of chants much like a dance, with the orchestra echoing the singers.

The Chamber Chorus was heard in the "Hallelujah Chorus" from the "Messiah," with guest conductor John Foerster previewing the next concert at St. Anne's Episcopal Church on Saturday.

Surprise guest Fred Manfra, the radio voice of the Baltimore Orioles, added nostalgic warmth with his reading of Chris Van Allsburg's "The Polar Express."

Other guest artists were the Annapolis Vocal Corps, an a cappella group of seven who sang "The Christmas Song," "White Christmas" and other seasonal tunes.

The corps would be a welcome addition to any instrumental group in intimate surroundings, but was overshadowed here by the chorale.

Guest soloist, coloratura soprano Susan Whitenack, sang "Les Oiseaux Dans la Charmille" popularly known as "The Doll Song" from Jacques Offenbach's "The Tales of Hoffmann," and became a doll with mechanical motions.

It was a virtuoso performance.

She hit the highest notes dead on and performed amazing vocal acrobatics.

In Cesar Franck's "Panis Angelicus," Whitenack displayed a beautiful tone and an ability to float and sustain notes over the orchestra. At the end of the program, she joined the chorale in "The First Noel," "Hark the Herald Angels Sing" and "O Come All Ye Faithful."

The capacity audience was invited to sing along.

Much of the music heard at the concert is on a recently released compact disc. A second new holiday disc is a recording of the 1995 "Messiah" performance by the chorale.

For information about the CDs or the chorale performance of "Messiah" at St. Anne's Episcopal Church on Saturday, call the chorale office at 410-263-1906.

Pub Date: 12/18/97

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