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Collins, choir fill theater with holiday sounds

December 23, 2000

Collins, choir fill theater with holiday sounds



By RICHARD F. BELISLE / Staff Writer


For Debbie Harris of Hagerstown it was a thrill of a lifetime standing in a choir that backed up folk singing icon Judy Collins Saturday night at The Maryland Theatre.

Collins was winding down her annual 22-city Christmas tour, the last of which takes place Tuesday at Carnegie Hall.

The audience, 50-ish and well-dressed, came to recall a different, more open, more liberal time four decades ago - the '60s, the days of social protest - when the likes of Bob Dylan, Pete Seeger, Peter, Paul and Mary and the Kingston Trio were making folk music popular in coffee houses, college campuses and concert halls.

Collins' popularity soared with her own signature songs like "Both Sides Now," "Someday Soon," "My Father," and "Send in the Clowns," which she did for an encore Saturday night.

Collins and the members of the First Christian Church Choir and Friends, as the ensemble behind her on the stage was called, brought Christmas to Hagerstown with popular songs of the season, including "Joy to the World," "Silver Bells" and "Santa Claus is Coming to Town."

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"It's like sitting in the middle of a Christmas tree," Collins said as she looked at the dozens of voices in white robes assembled directly behind her on the stage.

"She's singing the songs of my generation," Harris said. "I remember her singing them. Harris, 56, said Collins was a joy to work with as she and the choir practiced Saturday afternoon.

"She was very appreciative of everything we did," said Sue Thomas, another choir member. "She said we were very well prepared. You could tell she was pleased with us."

Friends Linda Richards and Sally Pease, both of Hagerstown, were in the audience. "I'm not a huge fan, but I like her music," Richards said.

Pease is a big fan.

"She's a great musician, very talented," Pease said. "I have her Christmas album. I listened to it at home today. I hope she sings some of the songs on it tonight."

Both women have grown children. They said their children don't know about Judy Collins. "My daughter asked me what I was going to wear to the Judy Garland concert," Pease said.

About 700 tickets were sold for the concert, said Pat Wolford, executive director of The Maryland Theatre. The theater has 1,350 seats.

Wolford said the theater is rented to the promoters who bring in shows like the one Saturday night. Promoters, not the theater, take the risk, she said, but if the community doesn't support concerts like the one Collins put on, then promoters won't bring them to Hagerstown.

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