Lively, versatile pop concert opens chorale's season

Jazz ensemble, singer make spectacular debuts

September 23, 1999|By Mary Johnson | Mary Johnson,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

The Annapolis Chorale, led by musical director J. Ernest Green, opened its 27th season with a bright and joyous pops concert.

As is customary in Green's pops concerts, this "In the Mood" swing concert showcased new musical talent in the form of the Unified Jazz Ensemble, an instrumental sextet. Green introduced the sextet: Michael Noonan on vibraphone, Jeff Antoniuk on tenor sax, Chad Macala on baritone sax, Kevin Watt on trumpet, John Pineda on bass and Marty Morrison on drums.

They played a medley of Duke Ellington tunes that featured "Take the A Train" with a verve that made Ellington centennial concerts I've heard this year pale in comparison. Later in the program, Pineda's bass added an extra dimension and fullness to the chorale's singing.

Green also introduced spectacular mezzo-soprano Elizabeth Saunders, who swept on stage in a black sheath, barefooted, her high heels in hand, singing Lerner and Loewe's "I Could Have Danced All Night." Broadway came on stage with her. Her voice is big and beautiful, and she invests such drama and feeling in the familiar words that I heard them anew.

Saunders showed her versatility when she followed a low-key, touching arrangement of George Gershwin's last song, "Our Love is Here to Stay," with a creamy, "I've Got a Crush On You."

Green introduced a Gershwin medley that featured John Starr's chorale arrangement of "Fascinatin' Rhythm," which demands impeccable timing and a strong sense of rhythm from the singers. This number, rarely sung by the chorale, was followed by "Stormy Weather," its standard song used to keep rain away at outdoor concerts, but here a nod to Hurricane Floyd.

Green and the chorale concluded with an amalgam of Gershwin tunes including fragments of "Embraceable You," "Someone to Watch Over Me," "Lady Be Good" and "But Not For Me" combined into something lovelier than the individual songs.

The final number was Cole Porter's "Every Time We Say Goodbye," which is nearly guaranteed to move even the most staid audience member.

After the short program, Green invited the audience to enjoy the Unified Jazz Ensemble at a dance party downstairs at Maryland Hall. The goodies were gourmet treats made by chorale members.

Green announced some special events for the coming season, including an Oct. 16 program of Baroque favorites by Bach, Vivaldi and others at St. Anne's Episcopal Church.

On Nov. 13, there'll be a regional premier of Richard Einhorn's "Voices of Light" along with a showing of the classic film, "The Passion of Joan of Arc."

The year closes with the Celebration of Christmas Concert at Maryland Hall and two performances of Handel's Messiah at St. Anne's.

Call the Annapolis Chorale office at 310-263-1906 for additional information or tickets.

Pub Date: 9/23/99

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