Not only did guest director Cindy Bauchspies help the Arundel Vocal Arts Society bring a warm joyous sound to its spring concert, but her regular job provided the choristers access to a performance venue.
The concert was held May 7 at the new Center for the Arts at Severn Run, at least in part thanks to Bauchspies, director of the Annapolis Area Christian School choirs.
The Arundel Vocal Arts chorus provided a decidedly festive atmosphere that was enhanced by an appreciative audience.
Bauchspies chose a program that displayed the chorus' versatility. The program opened with a bright version of Rodgers and Hammerstein's "It's a Grand Night for Singing," then moved to several operatic selections including a spirited "Brindisi" from Verdi's La Traviata featuring guest soloists Laura Sarich and Farrar Strum, and a lovely "Evening Prayer" from Humperdinck's Hansel and Gretel.
The performance ended with a bouncy version of Harold Arlen's "Get Happy" punctuated by the choristers' rhythmic laughter.
Tenor Strum offered an impressive "Ah Mes Amis Quel Jour De Fete" from Donizetti's The Daughter of the Regiment - a difficult aria that earned Luciano Pavarotti the title "King of the High C's" in 1972 when he sang its nine consecutive high C's at the Metropolitan Opera.
Soprano Sarich looked and sounded exactly right in Offenbach's "Doll Song" from Tales of Hoffmann. Soloists also included AVAS singers Kevin Powers, Dawn Ward, Kelly Vail, Ruth Hayden and Suzanne Bongiorno, and each contributed to the evening's enjoyment.
Outstanding choral segments included "June is Bustin' Out All Over" and "Shall We Dance?" from a Rodgers and Hammerstein medley, and a soulful rendition of Charlie Chaplin's familiar "Smile" that brought unsuspected heft to this seemingly simple tune.
Here again the choristers were following their tradition of putting their stamp on familiar favorites, as they've done with Irving Berlin's "God Bless America" and Menken and Ashman's Beauty and the Beast tunes.
The choristers were stylishly accompanied by Cynthia Bidinotto-Slate on piano with Mark Ackerman on bass and Myles Evans on percussion. Adding distinctive charm along with musical information, Michael Gilles served as narrator.
The musical high point of the evening was provided by boy soprano Max Kalifut and Sarich in a touching "Pie Jesu" (Merciful Jesus) from Andrew Lloyd Webber's Requiem. Set to a Latin text, Requiem attained popularity after its 1985 premier, with "Pie Jesu" becoming a hit on European pop charts.
At the concert, 13-year-old Kalifut of the Annapolis Youth Chorus and Sarich (seeming like Kalifut's older sister - as Webber expressly wished) provided a sublime moment in a concert filled with many highs.
The Arundel Vocal Arts Society deserves high praise for presenting such a memorable concert in what must have been a difficult season with two guest conductors. On leave this season after 10 years at society's helm, director Glenette Schumacher was replaced by Betty-Ann Lynerd for the holiday concert and by Bauchspies this spring.
In a conversation with Schumacher after the concert, she said that she has decided not to return as director. She expressed her delight at the performance and gratification with the number and quality of applicants for the permanent director position, indicating that the new director would be chosen soon.
Next season's program will be selected by the new director.
Now in its 22nd season, the society welcomes interested singers to audition by calling 410-268-3131.
Rehearsals are to resume Sept. 7.
Information: www.arundel vocalarts.org.