No sooner do hundreds of cellists leave town than hundreds of choir directors and board members get ready to hit Baltimore this week. Like the World Cello Congress III, which wrapped up yesterday, Chorus America's Conference 2000 will involve day-long sessions on various aspects of the music-making business and several public concerts.
"It's a big deal for us," says Tom Hall, president of Chorus America and music director of the Baltimore Choral Arts Society. "It's nice to have the attention of the choral world focused on Baltimore -- and on us."
That focus will come chiefly on Thursday evening, when Hall conducts Mendelssohn's "Elijah" with the society and a stellar lineup of soloists -- bass James Morris, soprano Marvis Martin, tenor John Aler and mezzo Victoria Livengood.
Joining them in that performance will be the Soldiers' Chorus of the U.S. Army Field Band and the Peabody Children's Chorus, bringing the choral forces up to more than 300.
"There's something very powerful about having all of these people thrown into the soup together -- our chorus, opera superstars, little kids from the seventh grade, professional singers from the military," Hall says. " 'Elijah' is about a guy questioning things, experiencing a great deal of personal anguish, being inspired and restored by his faith. I think it says something when so many different people can agree to come together and sing about that."
Hall is not alone in his enthusiasm. He mentions a recent National Endowment for the Arts study that shows one in 10 Americans belonging to some sort of organized choral group, from church choirs to opera choruses. Chorus America represents 550 of those ensembles, amateur and professional, and has 1,200 members (about 400 of them are expected to attend this 23rd annual conference).
"Getting together like this gives us a chance to talk about common challenges," Hall says. "Whether you're in South Florida or Boston or Los Angeles, every chorus faces the same challenges of how to get more people to enjoy choral music, and how to use the limited resources we have, how to bring to the attention of potential funders what we contribute to communities all across the country."
Here are the public concerts presented in Baltimore by the Chorus America Conference 2000:
* The Washington Bach Consort performs Bach motets at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday at the Basilica of the Assumption, Cathedral and Mulberry Streets. Tickets are $15.
* The Baltimore Choral Arts Society performs Mendelssohn's "Elijah" at 8 p.m. Thursday at Meyerhoff Symphony Hall, Cathedral and Preston streets. Tickets are $15 to $45.
* The Handel Choir of Baltimore performs at 3 p.m. Thursday; the Soldiers' Chorus of the United States Army Field Band at 3:45 p.m. Friday; the Peabody Children's Chorus, Children's Chorus of Maryland and Summit Children's Chorus at 2:45 p.m. Saturday. All three free concerts are at Old St. Paul's Church, Charles and Saratoga streets.
For tickets and more information, call 410-523-7070.