Society offers 'fun' concert

May 14, 2008|By Mary Johnson | Mary Johnson,Special to the Sun

The Arundel Vocal Arts Society celebrated 25 years of music-making this month at its spring concert called "Let's Have a Blast!" under the direction of society Conductor/Music Director JoAnn Kulesza. Told at the start that the audience had "to do only one thing here, have fun," we received an assignment nearly impossible to fail.

The choristers communicated their enthusiasm singing show tunes and pops classics - true American art forms - to the large audience gathered at Calvary United Methodist Church.

Beginning with a warm "Sentimental Journey," we traveled through some fabulous show tunes before arriving at the medley signaling intermission, where we found ourselves rocking in the pews for a new and joyously appropriate experience at this lovely Annapolis church.

Having arrived on the scene last August, Kulesza seems to be a perfect fit for these choristers now celebrating their silver anniversary.

After a classical concert last fall that featured Donald McCullough's moving Holocaust Cantata, Kulesza proved her versatility with the Arundel Vocal Artists in this pops concert.

Moreover, and most appreciated, the singers looked at the audience instead of following their all-too-common past practice of intently watching the score with heads down to diminish their sound.

This welcome change not only brightened their sound but allowed the audience to see the singers and feel more a vital part of their music making.

At this concert, we heard the distinctive warm sound of the society that was always present during Director Glenette Schumacher's 10-year tenure. This sound was often hard to discern these past four years during a period of temporary directors conducting single concerts before the arrival of David B. Daniel, who served two seasons before departing in the spring last year. It's gratifying to report that the sound is fully back and perhaps livelier than remembered.

This concert was great fun, with the singers and audience together rocking to the beat. Contributing rhythmic zing was the gifted instrumental trio led by pianist Eileen Cornett, with bassist Adrian Cox and percussionist Scott Hughes. A versatile artist, Cornett is a sensitive, classical accompanist to singers, a stunning soloist in any musical genre and here proved that she could take her jazz trio to tour the area's top clubs, should she ever choose to do so.

Doing his usual fine job as narrator was the "Voice of AVAS," Michael Gilles, who added interesting insights into familiar tunes and fun tidbits on obscure ones, such as Harold Arlen's "Lydia, The Tattooed Lady" - favored by Groucho Marx, who eventually made this his theme song. In the 1991 film The Fisher King, Robin Williams sang about Lydia, whose tattoos covered much of history and included her Social Security number.

Medleys to savor included a seven-tune section from Frank Loesser's Guys and Dolls and another segment featuring the 1998 Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty Broadway blockbuster Ragtime.

These syncopated rhythms were followed by a dynamic rock-and-roll salute featuring "All Shook Up," "The Magic Touch," "Shake, Rattle and Roll" and "At the Hop" among other boomer favorites.

After intermission, the fun continued, with some witty parodies of classics in the style of Beethoven, Brahms, and Rossini, along with such pops classics as "Swingin' on a Star" and "Ma, He's Making Eyes at Me."

Conductor Kulesza communicates a warmth and accessibility that perfectly suit the image of the choristers, to add up to total harmonious compatibility.

This concert was so beguiling that at intermission I was approached by two board members of the Performing Arts Association of Linthicum, who strongly requested that the society add some of this music to the Performing Arts season opener Oct. 12, when operatic choruses will be performed with the Londontowne Symphony at Chesapeake Arts Center.

Initial overtures with both directors were so well-received that North County fun seekers and choral music fans might want to mark and hold the date.

For additional information, check the society's Web site at www.

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