Packing his schedule with scores of music

Director: Working with three orchestras, a chorale, theater company and church, J. Ernest Green is dedicated to music.

July 11, 2002|By Mary Johnson | Mary Johnson,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

The Annapolis Chorale and Chamber Orchestra's dynamic music director, J. Ernest Green, is busier than ever.

He's in his third season as music director of the Falls Church Chamber Orchestra, and works with 150 members of the chorale's subgroups, which include the chamber chorus and recently re-established youth chorus.

In November, he began serving as a stand-in or "cover" conductor with the National Symphony Orchestra in Washington, D.C.

And, in addition to serving as music director at St. Anne's Episcopal Church in Annapolis, Green has acted as music director of the Young Victorian Theatre Company for the past 14 summers, bringing Gilbert and Sullivan to Baltimore.

"How lucky is it to get to do music all the time? I do this every single week in rehearsal," says Green.

His energies were on full display last week at a hastily arranged July 4 concert to accompany the Descendants of the Signers of the Declaration of Independence bell-tapping ceremony at St. John's College in Annapolis.

Two days before the event, Green was asked if he could assemble a chorus so music would be part of the ceremony.

"Not only was Ernie willing to join the ceremony, he enthusiastically jumped in with both feet and corralled about 30 singers from the chorale and St. Anne's choir ... to sing the national anthem, `God Bless America' and `America the Beautiful,' adding greatly to the ceremony," said signer descendant Linda Teare, who was asked to tap Maryland's Liberty Bell replica.

Green squeezed in the holiday concert between rehearsals for Young Vic's production of Gilbert and Sullivan's Iolanthe, which starts Saturday and continues through July 21 at Bryn Mawr School in Baltimore, and his National Symphony cover-conducting schedule. He also will conduct a National Symphony Orchestra concert the last weekend of the month.

Roger Brunyate, Iolanthe's stage director and a musical colleague of Green's, has worked with him since Green was a conducting student at the Peabody Conservatory in the mid-1980s. Brunyate says he admires Green's professionalism.

"Ernie has one great quality, which counts for a lot," said Brunyate. "Ernie, through his work with the Annapolis Chorale and others, has developed a special knack for getting amateur singers to give more than they ever thought possible and to enjoy themselves doing so."

Starring in Iolanthe, soprano Amy Cofield says Green is "unusual as a conductor who is personable, fun and a great musician. We've done La Traviata in France and Portugal, and Ernie lends a sense of security by mouthing the Italian from the podium. With his balance, musicality and in challenging us, Ernie lends confidence to the singers everywhere, even at Carnegie Hall last November."

Born in Catonsville in 1959, Green moved to Cleveland with his family at age 4, returning to Maryland as a Peabody Conservatory graduate student in 1981. He studied orchestral and choral music and left Peabody in 1985 to head the Annapolis Chorale.

An Anne Arundel County resident for 13 years, Green has established roots in Olde Severna Park - his home for the past five years where he lives with his wife, Molly, his 7-year-old son Alec and 4-year-old daughter Ella.

Green is deeply attached to the Annapolis Chorale. "I love rehearsing with the chorale - it's like my homecoming when I return after having filled other commitments," he says.

And chorale members reciprocate. "We love going to rehearsals because of Ernie's contagious enthusiasm and his insightful musical comments," says Vera Holt, a long-time chorale member.

The collaborative relationship of the conductor, the chorale and the orchestra is evident in program for next season, particularly in Voices of Light, composer Richard Einhorn's score for a 1922 silent film about Joan of Arc.

"The whole idea of next season is doing things in a new way for our newer, younger audience," Green says. "It's synergy how the music combined with other things - the poetic text from Joan of Arc's own pen, together with the dramatic content of the 1922 film that combines with the music to create synergy," said Green.

He is excited about working with the National Symphony Orchestra, which he will conduct in a program of American music at Carter Barron Amphitheatre in Washington on July 27.

"Everything I do I look at as projects all cut from the same cloth, and it's all collaborative," he says. "I don't make the sounds, I try to shape it and shape the music."

Information on the Annapolis Chorale's season: 410-263-1906.

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