A caroling in the city

December 01, 1996


Staff Writer

The Maryland Theatre kicked off the Christmas season Saturday afternoon with music and dancing from several area performers.

The theater will sponsor an encore performance of "A Christmas Caroling" today at 2 p.m. Organizers hope this year's show will become an annual event in Hagerstown.

Patricia Wolford, president of the theater's board of directors, said she expects the two-day event to raise between $6,000 and $7,000 - enough to meet a $40,000 mortgage payment in December, she added.

"It should make the payment," when added to the $33,000 the theater has already raised, Wolford said.

The program itself gave youth and church groups a chance to showcase their talents.

"I think it's a very good community event," said Oak Hill Avenue resident Susan Freed, director of the Broadfording Bible Brethren Church Choir.


"I'm glad that they used a lot of traditional carols, because everybody seems to know them and can sing along," she added.

Freed said she also was impressed with the variety.

A choir comprised of several church groups sang a number of carols, including "Emmanuel." Earlier, the Children's Choir belted out an a capella version of "O Holy Night."

For those less enamored with singing, the show featured ballet and instrumental pieces.

"I love it," said Evelyn Batten, who lives in Potomac Towers. "It's a wonderful program. I've really enjoyed it. It lets you know what the season is all about."

Wolford said the theater sold between 400 and 500 tickets for Saturday's show and about as many for today's program.

Most of those tickets undoubtedly went to Hagerstown residents, but some ventured from farther away. Gerrardstown, W.Va., resident Forrest Platz said his family came only after buying the tickets at an auction sponsored by his daughter's school.

"We didn't even know they had a theater over here," Platz said. "We never heard anything about it."

Wolford said she is confident publicity - and attendance - will improve in future years.

For now, she said the theater accomplished its goals of getting the event off the ground and highlighting the rich history of the theater.

One of the key components of that history is a 1927 pipe organ donated four years ago by Olivia Remsburg, of Middletown, Md. She and her son, Ron, will be at today's performance.

Wolford said 35 people spent two years installing and renovating the organ. It is part of an ongoing refurbishment that has relied on the charity and efforts of the theater's patrons, supporters - and even the state's prisoners.

Inmates from the Maryland Correctional Institute have reupholstered about 700 of the theater's 1,300 seats.

"If you sit a little bit softer in the theater for the next few years, you know who to thank," Wolford said.

The theater also has undergone landscaping. Future projects include new paint and new wallpaper for the lobby. A state grant will pay to renovate the building's bathrooms.

All of these projects cost money, which is no small obstacle with the theater $40,000 in debt just six months ago.

"It's been a challenge, but it's been a real pleasure," Wolford said.

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