Annapolis Chorale's prominence reflects Green's thumb for growth

  • J. Ernest Green, right, with Annapolis Symphony Orchester principal viola Sarah Hart, recognizes performers during the Sept. 28 concert at Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts.
J. Ernest Green, right, with Annapolis Symphony Orchester… (Photo by Bud Johnson for…)
October 09, 2014|By Mary Johnson | The Baltimore Sun

The 2014-2015 season of Live Arts Maryland's Annapolis Chorale and Annapolis Chamber Orchestra promises to be a celebration of music director J. Ernest Green's 30 years with the organization.

Green has enriched Anne Arundel County's cultural scene by delivering extraordinary music to Annapolis, and Live Arts has even more to celebrate this year with the opening of the renovated theater at Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts.

Green conducted the first performance at the unveiling celebration Sept. 28, a concert that featured the 160 voices of the Annapolis Chorale, accompanied by members of the Annapolis Chamber Orchestra, in a dramatic "O Fortuna" from "Carmina Burana" by Carl Orff.

That evening's production also included Green conducting another first: a joint performance by Maryland Hall's three resident groups — Annapolis Opera soloists accompanied by artistic director Ronald Gretz, plus string players from the Annapolis Symphony Orchestra joining the Annapolis Chorale.

They performed "Make Our Garden Grow" from Leonard Bernstein's "Candide."

That song was an appropriate choice: Over his tenure, Green has tended a garden of talent and has nurtured its healthy growth. Reflecting on his three decades as music director of the Annapolis Chorale, Green recalls that at his 1984 arrival, the chorale had 50 members — the number is now 170.

Having visited Annapolis nearly every summer with his family, Green recalled that he felt at home at his initial interview, and optimistic about the future.

"I saw many possibilities for this chorus here in this little place, where there seemed lots of ways for careers to evolve," he said.

Early on, Green encountered people who believed the chorus would never have more than 75 singers or perform more than two concerts a year. "Why not?" he would ask. "The sky's the limit."

That maxim continues to define Green's approach, lending insight into the chorale's growth and serving as a cause for celebration by music fans in Annapolis and beyond.

To be sure, over three decades the Annapolis Chorale has evolved, reinvented over the years, in part, by Green's search for new pieces and fresh repertoires for members to explore.

The chorale, Green said, "started to change in the late 1990s when taking on such works as 'Dido and Aeneas' and 'Voices of Light.' I trust my singers, who realize I never have them do a piece the same way twice, because I want to ensure a constant process of discovery of the music."

Any attempt to identify the chorale's sound invariably elicits chorus members' reply: "The sound is Ernie."

Green is credited with fostering a joy of singing, most especially as part of a musical community where performers are encouraged to connect with a piece musically and emotionally.

"Anyone can sing the right notes, which are nothing without emotion," Green said. "For me it's always: 'How do we connect with the music we're doing?'"

Green has a way of blending the talents of his singers, often balancing a big voice against a lighter one to create a synergy of sound. The result is 170 voices combining in near-perfection.

After a season opener Oct. 11 with "Carmina Burana," the next performances at Maryland Hall are Nov. 7-8, as Grammy-nominated violinist Jenny Baker performs two concerts of "Movie Magic and More," featuring songs from "The Wizard of Oz," "The Lion King," "Beauty and the Beast," "An American in Paris," "The Mission" and other films.

Holiday concerts will include the Annapolis Chorale's annual Christmas performance, featuring carols and seasonal favorites at Maryland Hall on Dec. 12.

Performances of Handel's "Messiah" will run Dec. 20-22 at St. Anne's Church.

On Feb. 14 and 15 at Maryland Hall, "Fiddler on the Roof" arrives in concert as the season's Broadway show selection. Green's focus adds zest to these performances, and this season an extra Saturday matinee will be added so that more patrons can savor Tevye's beloved "Tradition."

The classics return on March 20 and 21 at St. Anne's Church with Bach's "St John's Passion."

On April 10 and 11, the season-ending performance at Maryland Hall will be Anton Bruckner's "Te Deum" and Karl Jenkins "Gloria."

General ticket information: 410-263-1906; subscriptions and individual tickets: Maryland Hall box office, 410-280-5640; or marylandhall.org.

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