Chorale sings with praises of Christmas

Review

December 15, 2006|By Mary Johnson | Mary Johnson,Special to The Sun

For choral music fans, the Christmas season arrives when J. Ernest Green leads the Annapolis Chorale and Chamber Orchestra in their annual "A Celebration of Christmas" concert.

The orchestra opened with an expertly played Georges Bizet's "Farandole" from L'Arlesienne. It's at least the third time Green has made this unusual inclusion. A stirring version of Leroy Anderson's "Sleigh Ride" was complete with snapping whip sounds.

The singers began by offering an inspired a cappella version of "Sing We Now of Christmas" that allowed us to hear only their pure, beautiful voices.

This was followed by "It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year" to bright musical accompaniment.

In another a cappella selection, the women of the chamber chorus sang John Ruter's "Star Carol."

A later choral segment featured carols in conductor/arranger Jeff Tyzik's suite that included "Hark the Herald Angels Sing," "What Child is This?" and "Silver Bells."

The chorus offered a charming "Christmas Waltz" and a glowing "White Christmas" that warmed spirits.

The orchestra welcomed pianist Eric Apland, who lent distinction to classical selections and provided jazz magic to pops favorites when he accompanied guest artist Felicia Carter.

Carter delivered a mellow version of "The Christmas Song," a seductive "Santa Baby" and an upbeat, nostalgic "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas."

Sometimes we gain appreciation of artists' professionalism when we see them cope with unexpected challenges. Carter gamely struggled with a tune played in the wrong key by accompanist Apland, who soon remedied his error to allow the unperturbed singer to do full justice to "I'll Be Home for Christmas" - a song written during World War II that seems meaningful this holiday season.

Featured classical soloists included baritone Christopher Rhodovi, who has appeared often enough to qualify as an Annapolis Chorale favorite, most recently adding luster to La Traviata.

The audience was invited to join in with "O Come All Ye Faithful" to end the concert and prepare everyone for the season and for the social gathering that followed downstairs.

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