Hear `Messiah,' watch `Messiah' or sing it yourself


Among season's performances, there are some that stand out

Music column

November 27, 2007|By Tim Smith | Tim Smith,SUN MUSIC CRITIC

It's Messiah time again, when choral groups large and small tackle Handel's stirring oratorio. Looking around at this year's many performances, some offer extra points of interest.

Consider American Opera Theater's staged Messiah in Washington and Baltimore. Yes, staged, more or less like an opera. This company, directed by Timothy Nelson, has livened up past seasons with such imaginative productions as Charpentier's David and Jonathan and Handel's Acis and Galatea (set in a circus tent), so this attempt to turn oratorio into music theater promises to be, at the very least, interesting.

The soloists include sopranos Sherezade Panthaki and Bonnie McNaughton, contralto Kristen Dubenion-Smith, tenor Aaron Sheehan and bass-baritone David Newman. Musical direction is by Nelson and Adam Pearl.

Performances Dec. 7-9 at Georgetown University will feature that school's Chamber Singers; call 202-687-2787 or go to performingarts.georgetown.edu. The Handel Choir of Baltimore's Chandos Singers will be featured in American Opera's performances Dec. 22 and 23 at the Baltimore Museum of Art; call 202-470-2608 or go to missiontix.com.

An orchestra of period instruments will be used in the American Opera Theater production, as well as in the presentation by the Handel Choir of Baltimore, led by the ensemble's artistic director, Melinda O'Neal. This chorus has the distinction of offering an annual Messiah for more years than any other group in Baltimore - since 1935.

O'Neal's soloists include soprano Jennifer Ellis, mezzo Miranda Loud, tenor William Hite and baritone Jesse Blumberg. The performance is Dec. 8 at the Church of the Immaculate Conception in Towson. Call 410-366-6544 or go to handelchoir.org.

Edward Polochick has conducted his highly individualistic interpretation of Messiah with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra for a remarkable 25 years. Joining him in his 26th annual performance will be the Concert Artists of Baltimore Symphonic Chorale and a particularly impressive lineup of solo singers: soprano Janice Chandler-Eteme, mezzo Kelley O'Connor, tenor Anthony Dean Griffey and bass-baritone Timothy Jones.

Performances are Dec. 7 at Meyerhoff Symphony Hall and Dec. 8 at the Music Center at Strathmore. Call 410-783-8000 or go to bsomusic.org.

If you have an urge to chime in on the great choral numbers in this oratorio, the Baltimore Choral Arts Society has just the thing - a "Sing-It-Yourself Messiah." Tom Hall will conduct his chorus, soloists and orchestra in a performance that invites audience participation. Scores will be available for purchase beforehand.

The concert is Dec. 14 at Goucher College's Kraushaar Auditorium. Call 410-523-7070 or go to baltimorechoralarts.org.

Bach's music is also in the air these days. His immortal B minor Mass will be performed by the Concert Artists of Baltimore, led by Polochick, on Saturday at the Gordon Center in Owings Mills (410-625-3525 or cabalto.org).

And Cantata No. 70 will be featured on the free Bach Concert Series program conducted by T. Herbert Dimmock on Sunday at Christ Lutheran Church in the Inner Harbor (410-752-7179 or bachinbaltimore.org).

Guitars, mandolins

The Baltimore Classical Guitar Society's 20th anniversary gala concert will include performances by noted soloists Ronald Pearl, Lukasz Kuropaczewski, Meng Su and Yameng Wang, as well as the Aurora Guitar Quartet. Music by Bach, Mozart, Piazzolla and others will be included in this concert Saturday at the Baltimore Museum of Art. Call 410-247- 5320 or go to bcgs.org.

The Baltimore Mandolin Quartet, joined by soprano Beatrice Gilbert, will give a concert Sunday afternoon at An die Musik, where, that same evening, Peabody Institute-trained guitarist and teacher Ernesto Tamayo will give a recital. Call 410-385-2638 or go to andiemusiklive.com.

`Aida' at the Charles

The Charles Theatre in Baltimore has joined a few dozen venues around the country that are planning to show a performance of Verdi's Aida from La Scala in Milan, Italy, via satellite and in high-definition format. Screenings are scheduled Dec. 5 and 9. Call 410-727-3456 or go to thecharles.com.


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