A good deal on a good deal of music

March 25, 1999

When was the last time you heard live music at the Maryland Theatre in downtown Hagerstown? Some of you reading this are probably saying that yes, while live music is wonderful, it can be expensive. And if you pay $15 or $20 a ticket, and the thing is a dud, then that's a lot of cash for a couple to spend on something they didn't really enjoy.

Okay, well what if the price was more like $7 a ticket, and if you agreed to pay for four performances, you'd get a ticket good for free shows in places like Chambersburg, Waynesboro and Westminster?

Not convinced yet? Well, what if in exchange for signing up for four shows next season (with those free shows thrown in) you also got to go to this coming Tuesday night's Maryland Theatre show for free?

The deal is being run by the Hagerstown Community Concerts Association, which Faye Metz calls "the best-kept secret in Hagerstown." Metz, who has volunteered for the group for more than 20 years, is an evangelist of sorts for the group, which she says is the best entertainment value going.


Despite its value, however, the annual subscription list is dropping, and she fears. like nearby Frederick, which lost its association, Hagerstown could lose this wonderful entertainment resource if more people don't sign up for memberships.

A word of explanation: A deal like this can't work if the group has to sell tickets to individual performances. It works because everybody buys their tickets in advance, which means the players who come know they're going to get paid. In exchange for shelling out the money ahead of time, you get what I estimate is a half-price ticket to each show.

The freebie you'll get if you sign up on Sunday, March 30 is Rajko, described as a song and dance ensemble, which performs everything from folk dances to performances accompanying classical composers like Lizt and Brahms. Their performance is at 8 p.m., but get there by 7 p.m. if you want to sign up for next year's shows.

They include: Robert Trentham, a singer who'll perform music associated with the Civil War; Paul Taylor and Taylor 2 Dance Company, the Western Wind, an a capella singing group which performs tunes ancient and modern and Richard Morris and Hector Olivera, two classical organists.

Some of these not your cup of tea? With your membership, Metz says, you'll receive a list of shows being put on by the Community Concert associations in Chambersburg, Waynesboro, and Gettysburg, Pa., and Cumberland and Westminster, Md. Show your ticket, Metz says, and through a reciprocal agreement, you'll be admitted for free. Maybe they'll have something more to your liking in those cities, for the price of the gasoline it takes to get there.

The cost of a single membership is $27.50, but there are other levels of support, some of which are part admission price and part donation. For more information, call Metz at (301) 797-7351.

Her final argument: Because the CCA rents The Maryland Theatre for each concert, by supporting CCA, you're also supporting the theater. Works for me.

It's now a week past St. Patrick's Day, a day on which someone inevitably asks me, "Where's your green?" or "Why aren't you wearing something green?"

The short answer is that given what are euphemistically know as "the troubles" in Northern Ireland, asking me to celebrate St. Patrick's Day is like asking a Native American to celebrate Broken Treaty Day.

For decades, the people of Northern Ireland, where the Maginnis family emigrated from, have been killing each other and wrapping the crimes in the mantle of religion. But, as a recent edition of CBS-TV's "60 Minutes" made clear, it's thuggery, pure and simple, and an ocean of green beer won't wash away all the blood they've spilled.

Not long ago, a woman I ran into a local service club meeting asked me to do a column on the lack of "hospitality skills" among local retail clerks, waitresses and the like. Some clerks, she said, can't stop talking to their co-workers long enough to serve customers.

Ben Hart, executive director of the Washington County Convention and Visitors' Bureau, agreed that "the need is really there" and said CVB is looking for a contractor who would come in do such training.

Part of the problem, Hart said, is getting store managers and others to commit employees' time to such training. Another is that because the local jobless rate is so low, the competition for employees is fierce, even if they don't have outstanding social skills.

Hart said CVB did send out about 100 three-ring binders to local establishments. Inside is information on local attractions that visitors might ask about. But Hart agreed that more could be done, and asked any businessperson interested in such training for their employees to call CVB at (301) 791-3246.

Bob Maginnis is editor of The Herald-Mail's Opinion page

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