Chorus starts off with a pop

Concert: The Annapolis Chorale opened its 30th season with Broadway favorites and the announcement of its first scholarship winner.


October 31, 2002|By Mary Johnson | Mary Johnson,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Music director J. Ernest Green ushered in the Annapolis Chorale's 30th season with a pops concert illustrating the art form that is American popular music.

The chorale and Chamber Orchestra's program covered the golden age of the Broadway musical, from Jerome Kern's ground-breaking Showboat of 1927, through Leonard Bernstein's West Side Story and Rodgers and Hammerstein's Sound of Music.

Although every song on the program was first heard more than 40 years ago, we seemed to be hearing many for the first time in contemporary arrangements.

The program opened with a West Side Story medley - the first song an exciting "Tonight" with its rhythms accentuated by a bongo drum that made this tune seem new. Chorale members brought such high exuberance to "America" that it took on a new patriotic fervor. Baritone soloist Ryan de Ryke delivered an exquisite "Maria" that became even more moving when the entire chorus joined in, Carolene Winter sang a lovely "One Hand, One Heart," and joined de Ryke in a duet of "A Place for Us." The full 170-voice chorus provided a backdrop of breadth, depth and overall sound brilliance.

In addition to providing fresh takes on familiar Broadway classics, Green balanced the orchestra and chorus so well that he brought a full dimensional sound to the concert hall. His respect for American popular music was reflected in the treatment he gave each song.

He also offered surprises on the program by including music by Duke Ellington. The Morton Gould arrangement of "Sophisticated Lady" selected by Green used strings to capture the song's mellow sound.

The chorale's bright con brio sound seemed even more pronounced at Saturday's concert, perhaps because the group is larger than ever.

Winter, who serves as accompanist and assistant to the director, contributed greatly to the evening's success. She not only possesses a voice of great beauty, but she sings every word clearly, displaying flawless diction.

At this concert, Winter sang the music of George Gershwin for the first time, revealing an added expressiveness that enhanced her "Summertime" and "The Man I Love" from Porgy and Bess. She also brought an enchanting lightness and warmth to his standards "I've Got a Crush on You" and "Love is Here to Stay."

De Ryke's warm baritone blended well with Winter's soprano in the Gershwin duets and lent itself to classical interpretations of some glorious Kern tunes. Like Winter, de Ryke sang clearly and expressively, giving the poetic lyrics of Oscar Hammerstein's "All the Things You Are" and Dorothy Fields' "The Way You Look Tonight" the heartfelt treatment they deserve.

As part of its 30th anniversary celebration, the Annapolis Chorale has established a scholarship program giving high school juniors and seniors the opportunity to sing with the chorale and attend master classes. The chorale expects to select two to four recipients who will join them at future concerts.

Before intermission at Saturday's concert, Melanie Zindorf, a senior at South River High School, was introduced as the first winner. The Davidsonville resident was nominated by South River High School music director Dennis Blair.

After intermission, the fun continued when chorale members delivered a lightning-paced Rodgers and Hammerstein medley that included a rousing rendition by the male chorus of "Nothing Like a Dame" from South Pacific, "Oklahoma" and an inspirational Carousel's "You'll Never Walk Alone," done in gospel rhythm.

The evening ended as it began with a work by Bernstein, his versatility apparent in "Make Our Garden Grow" from Candide. As they had all evening the orchestra, soloists, and chorus once again delivered a superb rendition of a popular classic.

Green and the Annapolis Chorale will continue celebrating the 30th anniversary with two mid-November performances of Richard Einhorn's Voices of Light. This opera/oratorio will accompany the simultaneous showing of the classic Carl Dreyer film The Passion of Joan of Arc. Call 410-263-1906 to order tickets.

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