Sing-along avoids pitfalls to make beautiful music


November 27, 2001|By Nancy Gallant | Nancy Gallant,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

THE MORE THAN 200 singers who gathered Sunday for the 15th annual Community Messiah Sing-Along filled the historic, candlelit St. James Episcopal Church in Lothian with the timeless beauty of Handel's classic oratorio.

Organizing a Messiah sing-along is a leap of faith. The music, though familiar, can be difficult. Most of the singers are amateurs, many not having sung their parts in years. And there is no time for the chorus to practice - many meet for the first time at the concert.

So many things can go wrong.

This year's soprano soloist, Carolene Winter, called sing-along director Michael S. Ryan a few days before the concert with the news that she had laryngitis. Bass soloist Fred Dixon, returning from a Thanksgiving visit to his family in New Jersey, got stuck in traffic and nearly missed the concert.

But all turned out well.

Winter's voice recovered in time to delight concertgoers with a breathtaking delivery of the soprano solos. And Dixon made it to the church on time, even after an unexpected stop.

He had planned to go to his home in Silver Spring to change for his performance. The heavy traffic made that impossible, and he didn't want to sing in his casual clothes. So he made a quick stop at a store along the highway and bought a suit. Then he hurried to Lothian to deliver his strong, spirited bass solos.

Winter and Dixon were joined by tenor soloist Thomas Magette and alto soloist Dyana Neal, who contributed beautiful airs and recitatives. The singers were accompanied by strings and harpsichord.

The best part of the show was the chorus. From all over the area, singers came to share their love of the music. Some sing regularly in choral groups and church choirs. Others had not sung Messiah in years but jumped at the chance to join in the familiar choruses without spending weeks in practice.

Dorothy Kaltwasser attended the event with her friends Shelly and John Henderson. When they entered the church, John went to join the bass section. Shelly asked Dorothy which part she would like to sing.

"What do you mean?" asked Dorothy. She hadn't realized the concert was a sing-along, and imagined she was just going to listen. Nevertheless, she gamely joined the alto section and added her voice to the chorus.

Louise Cribbs began singing Messiah when she was a college student. She admitted with a laugh that she hadn't sung Handel in about eight years, except for singing along with the radio at home. The chance to join this chorus was too good to miss.

Elsbeth Deroo was perhaps the youngest singer. Only 8 years old, she was familiar with the Hallelujah Chorus and with "For Unto Us a Child Is Born." As she joined along in the singing, she whispered into her mother's ear, "I really like this music."

The only bad part of the concert was that it seemed to end too soon. We were all left wishing for more. But there's always next year.

Historical view of Jesus

Prince of Peace Presbyterian Church in Crofton will present an adult education program addressing questions about the historical events surrounding the birth of Jesus. The program will feature the video series A Clearer View of Jesus' Birth.

The meetings will be held at 10 a.m. Sundays in the library of the church's fellowship hall. The first meeting will be next week. The series will continue through Dec. 23. Information: 410-721-2313.

Seasonal thoughts

Saturday was the kind of day that comes to mind when we think of November - cool, gray, dreary, drizzly. Driving along Waugh Chapel Road in the afternoon, I was struck by how the seasons seem to overlap. Pumpkins and pilgrims still decorated most houses, while some homeowners have unpacked their Santa Clauses and Christmas wreaths.

But the biggest jolt to my sense of the seasons came from the optimistic sign maker who posted this message in front of Waugh Chapel Swim Club: "27 weeks until opening."

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