Weekend festivities fill city with music

Annual heritage festival, chamber choir enliven summer in the capital

August 19, 1999|By Phil Greenfield | Phil Greenfield,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Sunday was one of those special days when an afternoon in Annapolis seemed the very soul of gracious living.

It was cool -- by this summer's standards, anyway -- and the ambience was perfect for exploring the 12th Annual Kunta Kinte Heritage Festival on the rolling lawns of St. John's College.

Kudos to Thomas E. "Tea" Arthur, the board of directors' chair, and to event chairwomen Jean Jackson and Dorothy Medley, who created a bright, attractive festival.

One delight was the performance of "Myklar the Ordinary," a magician whose tricks and affirming commentary directed at the youngsters were anything but run-of-the-mill.

For this inspirational prestidigitator, true magic is not in clever appearances and disappearances, but in the miracle of life itself.

Myklar appeared in the food tent, which, ahem, brings me to another favorite subject, for not since the Annapolis Greek Festival in June have I munched so happily on ethnic fare. This time around it was curried chicken complemented by rice and beans, cabbage, and a spicy beef patty by Exotic Tropical Caterers.

I split it with my son Benjamin, which made me feel less guilty about washing down the Caribbean goodies with a pit beef sandwich from Family Grill on Wheels.

The gospel sounds of the Melodyaires and the contemporary jazz rhythms of Bottomland provided the background music as I perused wares offered by scores of vendors.

Drexel and Deanna Collins of Cinnaminson, N.J., were selling baseball caps and shirts, plus other memorabilia associated with the old Negro Leagues.

Collins is active in the Negro Baseball Researchers organization, and his stories of players and franchises in the days before Jackie Robinson proved just the ticket for this baseball enthusiast who, once upon a time, knew more about the sport than his 12-year-old son. Soon, however, it was time to forsake the Harlem Renaissance for the English Renaissance.

Late Sunday afternoon, St. Anne's Episcopal Church in Annapolis sponsored the Carmina Chamber Choir and the Chesapeake Viol Consort in a celestial program of works by William Byrd, Orlando Gibbons and Thomas Tallis.

For dyed-in-the-wool Anglophiles and lovers of sacred choral music, it was a program to die for.

With Sunday's concert, Carmina, a 15-voice choir composed of singers from Northern Virginia, Washington and Maryland, completed its first year of existence. After listening to them have a go at the three choral giants of 16th century Britain, I wish the ensemble a long, prosperous life. Already, they are good. With fine-tuning, they could be spectacular.

Carmina is led by harpsichordist Vera Kochanowsky who, in addition to knowing what it takes to put Renaissance choral music across, is a sensation at the keyboard. Sparks flew as she put her gorgeous, rustic-sounding virginal (a copy of a 16th century English harpsichord) through its paces in the "Pavan," "Galliard" and "Maiden's Songe" of William Byrd.

Most admirable about Carmina's choral approach is the gorgeous tonal balance it achieved. Though clear and pure of tone, the sopranos and altos aren't afraid to sound like women, so there's none of the chilly, steely white timbre that emerges when adult females try to imitate young British choirboys.

Carmina's fellows were tentative in Tallis' "If ye love me." Surely they could be encouraged to wallow a bit more in the beauty of their own sound.

At some point, the conductor will probably want to be less egalitarian when she parcels out the solos. Alto Marjorie Bunday and countertenor Ronald Boucher were the class of the field. The rest weren't as good.

Sunday marked Carmina's first-ever concert with the antique string instruments of the Chesapeake Viol Consort and the collaboration was a howling success.

Pub Date: 8/19/99

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