Chorale opens with patriotism, `Pirates'

Concert: The Annapolis group's 32nd season begins with a stirring Sept. 11 salute and the sublime silliness of Gilbert and Sullivan.

Arundel Live

September 16, 2004|By Mary Johnson | Mary Johnson,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Great fun and masterful music-making marked the Annapolis Chorale's concert opening its 32nd season and yearlong celebration of J. Ernest Green's 20th anniversary as artistic director.

Green's estimable tenure has seen the company grow into the largest performing arts organization in Annapolis, with nearly 300 in the full chorale, chamber chorus, Annapolis Chamber Orchestra and Youth Chorus. The groups will perform more than 20 concerts this season.

In the opening moments of Saturday's concert, Green reminded the audience of the Sept. 11 date and asked for a moment of silence before conducting his own stirring rendition of the national anthem that had the near-capacity audience singing better than seemed possible. The patriotic display was followed by the opening notes of Gilbert and Sullivan's Pirates of Penzance overture, alive in the orchestra's rousing and sparkling rendition.

Green's concert versions of classic shows are always performed as the composer wrote the music. This does not connote sacrosanct treatment but, as Green says, "Gilbert and Sullivan interpretations can end up like preserved works of art that are not allowed out to breathe. Like a fine, old bottle of wine, we need to pull the cork to let it breathe and be enjoyed."

The semi-staged concert version brought the audience back to a comfortable era of welcome silliness. The only operetta by the duo to debut in the United States, Pirates of Penzance has been enjoyed by the English-speaking world since 1879.

Green's chorale version featured 10 soloists, the chorus and the Annapolis Chamber Orchestra providing a rousing and authentic interpretation of the original score.

The stage brimmed with talent, from the chorus in the rear to the orchestra in front to the tiny space where Green created choreographed action. From the wings or from the back of the stage soloists appeared - walking, running and dancing within severely limited space.

Tenor John Artz proved an energetic, appealing and vocally dazzling Frederic. As nursemaid Ruth, Shazy King displayed a lovely mezzo voice and great comic flair. Fetching in her lovely lavender costume, Laurie Hays sang beautifully in the role of daughter Edith. Young Vic alumnus baritone Peter Murphy was outstanding in the Sergeant of Police role.

Baritone Scott Root sang a rousing "Oh, Better To Live and Die," instantly becoming a seductive, swashbuckling Pirate King. Troy Clark was a comically pompous, fine-sounding Major General Stanley, who provided a show-stopping "I Am the Very Model of a Modern Major General," the quintessential G&S patter number. Soprano Krista Adams-Santilli was vocally spectacular and visually enchanting as Mabel.

Chorale members served as strong reinforcement to soloists delivering top-notch performances. The male chorus was impressive in size and sound, articulating Gilbert's timeless wit and stylishly delivering the hilarious updated material.

Even G&S fence-sitters among the record-opening pops concert audience must have been rewarded to discover the joy of this comic musical theater masterpiece.

Next on schedule is Verdi's "Requiem" at Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts on Oct. 9. For tickets call 410-263-1906.

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