Baritone to take up baton for Annapolis Chorale

Milnes will conduct season closer Saturday

April 25, 2002|By Mary Johnson | Mary Johnson,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

With this Saturday evening's performance of Johannes Brahms' Ein Deutsches Requiem (German Requiem), the Annapolis Chorale ends its season with an opera luminary and renowned musician as guest conductor.

Sherrill Milnes, a veteran of New York's Metropolitan Opera often regarded as the world's foremost baritone, said he was initially asked to sing with the chorale.

"I said, `What I'd really like to do is conduct,'" Milnes said in an interview this week.

"I was a fiddle player as well as a singer," he explained. "My mother was a church choir director, and I was brought up on music like Requiem, Elijah, Messiah, Creation. These works are part of my DNA, as it were."

He said he conducted oratorios while in high school, but added, "I'm not interested in a career as a conductor, or in getting an orchestral job."

Annapolis Chorale music director J. Ernest Green met Milnes at the International School of Performing Arts in Pennsylvania, where he served as music director and resident conductor and Milnes held master classes.

Both men grew up in the Midwest, playing several musical instruments and as young adults moved east to pursue professional careers in music.

Green studied orchestral and choral conducting at Peabody and in 1985 became music director of the Annapolis Chorale.

Milnes made his operatic debut in Baltimore Opera's 1961 production of Andrea Chernier after coming to the attention of Rosa Ponselle, who coached him. Since then, Milnes has sung in every major opera house.

Continuing to add roles to his extensive repertoire, Milnes recently sang the role of Count of Westmoreland in the current revival of Ermanno Wolf-Ferrari's 1927 opera Sly.

He also plays jazz bass and viola.

In recent years, he has taken on conducting operas and oratorios, making his New York conducting debut with Mendelssohn's Elijah at Carnegie Hall.

Milnes said he gains "another set of knowledge, another set of skills" from conducting.

Green said Milnes' appearance in Brahms' Requiem Saturday at Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts marks not only the end of this season but a signal that the next season will be one in which the chorale expands its reach.

He said Milnes "struck me immediately as a wonderful musician, not just a magnificent voice but someone capable of revealing the unique combination of tenderness and power in this masterwork that uses Bible passages to convey a universal message of comfort to all people."

Tickets are $23, or $12 for students. To order tickets, call the Annapolis Chorale box office at 410-263-1906.

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