Vocal Arts Society serves comfort food for the ears

Popular tunes delivered in tasty solos, harmonies

May 25, 2000|By Phil Greenfield | Phil Greenfield,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

When the Arundel Vocal Arts Society dishes up its annual spring songfest as it did at the Pascal Center Saturday night, you can pretty much bet on two things.

First, you can be sure there will be no stinting on the "comfort food." Old standards and the "Best of Broadway" will do just fine, as conductor GlenetteSchumacher and her singers happily cede thornier musical fare to Ernest Green's Annapolis Chorale and the other area choirs.

Second, you can count on very adept solo work mixed in with the communal singing. Schumacher has quite a talent pipeline in place. Indeed, some of the performers who used to delight audiences in leading roles over at Summer Garden, Colonial Players or Essex Community College's "Cockpit in Court" have a habit of turning up at these concerts under her baton.

They certainly lent considerable luster to AVAS's musical retrospective, "Memories and Melodies of the 20th Century," which drew a large crowd last weekend.

Sally Gilles gave us a perky, delightfully self-deprecating "Nobody Does It Like Me" from Cy Coleman's musical, "Seesaw."

Vicky Estep was lovely and moving in "Someone Like You" from "Jekyll & Hyde," and feisty Eloise Ullman struck a blow for sports widows everywhere in her spirited "Six Months Out of Every Year" from "Damn Yankees."

Tenor Jeff Sneeringer took the audience back to the war years of the '40s with a bittersweet "I'll Be Seeing You," and joined with Jim Handakas for a funny, enthusiastic "Right Track" from "Pippin."

And Weldon Ward sounded every bit like the delightful old "smoothie" he is in a lyrical, no-fuss rendition of Richard Rodgers' haunting ballad, "The Sweetest Sounds."

Backed by a smooth combo that was anchored by sure-handed accompanist Cynthia Slate, the choir was in good form, tossing off bouncy '20s lyrics with aplomb in songs like "Bye, Bye Blackbird" and "Carolina in the Morning" and belting out the inimitable "Ya' Gotta Have Heart" from "Damn Yankees" for all it was worth.

On occasion, the singers seemed reined in by cautious tempos. "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy" was one such number; the medley from "The Wizard of Oz" was another.

I also think Saturday's program was maybe one medley too long and I think the set from "Pippin" was the prime offender. I love the show, but the score just isn't memorable enough to stand on its own apart from characterizations of a full performance. With full medleys from "Les Mis" and "Beauty and the Beast" to follow, it might have been too much of a good thing.

As the wag said, "Always leave 'em wanting more."

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.