Holidays reach a crescendo of local dance and song

Opportunities remain to celebrate season with dance, music

  • Snow King (Brian Walker) holds Snow Queen (Valerie Walker in the Ballet Theatre of Marylands production of Nutcracker, continuing through today, Dec. 22, at the Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts.
Snow King (Brian Walker) holds Snow Queen (Valerie Walker in… (Photo by Bud Johnson for…)
December 19, 2013|By Mary Johnson, For The Baltimore Sun

It's been a glorious season of performance on our local stages, and there are still a few opportunities to let music and dance carry us through the holidays.

Early this month we opened the season with Anne Arundel Community College Dance Company's "Flying By the Seat of Our Pants" performance, celebrating the troupe's 25th anniversary with an athletic and energetic program lifting audience spirits. The Dec. 3 show featured witty and spirited choreography by artistic director Lynda P. Fitzgerald, highlighting current students' talents and innovative works by long-affiliated troupe members.

The company's production was a perfect way to start the silver anniversary season, and kept us warmed up despite the winter blast that followed Dec. 8, preventing many patrons from attending two major concerts on the first Sunday of the month. Arundel Vocal Arts Society's "Christmas Around the World" featured Irish, Spanish, English, Polish and Nigerian carols at Eastport United Methodist Church; and Annapolis Opera's "Celebrate Opera" showcased soloists chosen by artistic director Ronald J. Gretz, performing favorite and less familiar arias.

Even with the weather, it was reported that both were well attended.

On Dec. 13, a capacity audience at Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts greeted J. Ernest Green conducting the Annapolis Chorale and Chamber Orchestra in "A Celebration of Christmas," a concert with guests including Grammy-nominated violinist Jenny Oaks Baker and Celtic Woman vocalist Alex Sharpe.

Favorites included the Annapolis Chamber Orchestra's rendition of Bizet's "Farandole" and a sparkling version of Leroy Anderson's "Sleigh ride;" and Annapolis Chorale's "Most Wonderful Time of the Year." Other highlights included Laurie Hays directing the Annapolis Youth Chorus in an enchanting trio of "Sing Noel," "Something Told the Wild Geese" and a lively "Bidi Bom;" and the incomparable sound of the 170-voiced chorus singing beloved carols a Capella. 

Accomplished American violinist Baker offered a soulful rendition of "Christmas is Here" and a toe-tapping "Ding Dong Merrily on High." Vocalist Sharpe offered a devout "O Come Emmanuel" and sublime "O Holy Night."  Always a cherished tradition, Green invited audience members to join his chorus in carol singing, leading in "Joy to the World" and "Hark the Herald Angels Sing."

No Christmas season at Maryland Hall would be complete without Ballet Theatre of Maryland's "Nutcracker," a show that director Dianna Cuatto, now in her eleventh season, continues to raise to new levels.

Tchaikovsky's 1892 score tells the E.T.A. Hoffman story of 12-year-old Clara, receiving a nutcracker for her Christmas birthday from her uncle Herr Drosselmeier. In Clara's dream, the nutcracker turns into a prince who accompanies her to magical kingdoms of snow, sweets and dreams.

At the opening night performance, Nicole Kelsch danced Clara with ethereal lightness and easy grace. Django Allegretti danced the Nutcracker Prince with vigor and precision. Together, they danced an inspired grand pas de deux. 

The Snow Queen was presented beautifully by Valerie Walker, with the Snow King by Brian Walker. Other standouts included Meagan Helman as the Dew Drop Fairy and Al Kessler as Drosselmeier.  In Act II, strong dancing was presented by skilled Arabian soloists and Russian dancers; and throughout the performance, the children of the company danced with professionalism and beguiling charm, winning sustained applause from the near capacity audience.

Performances of "Nutcracker" continue Dec. 21 and 22 at the Maryland Hall, 801 Chase St., Annapolis. For ticket information, call 410-280-5640 or go to 

Also still to come this holiday season, on Dec. 20, 21 and 22,  J. Ernest Green conducts the Annapolis Chorale with soloists in " Messiah" performances at St. Anne's Church. Be sure to check ticket options available when ordering at

At Maryland Hall at 8 p.m. Dec. 20, Five By Design will join Jose-Luis Novo and Annapolis Symphony Orchestra in "Holiday Pops Christmas in Annapolis." For ticket information, call 410-263-0907 or go to

The Talent Machine's "Holiday Magic 2013," featuring 57 children ages 5 to 18, continues at Key Auditorium at St John's College, Dec. 20, 21 and 22. For showtimes and ticket information, call 410-956-0512 or go to

Even after the holiday season passes, the show will certainly go on, and I've resolved that regardless of weather, I'll attend the Arundel Vocal Arts Society concert on Jan. 12 at 3 p.m., when the choristers will be joined by Londontowne Symphony Orchestra in a program to feature Lauridsen's "Lux Aeterna."

The performance features a world premier by local composer Hollis Thoms, and a "Showboat" medley, and will be held at Calvary United Methodist Church. Tickets are $15 for adults and $10 for seniors, and can be purchased at the door. 

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