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Mozart's death and the repeal of prohibition pair up for fund-r

December 03, 2003|by Alicia Notarianni

Mozart's death and the repeal of prohibition share an anniversary date of Dec. 5. Local resident, Phil Kelly, and his friends see both as grand reasons for ceremony and celebration.

The air was spirited as Kelly and friends gathered at Schmankerl Stube in downtown Hagerstown for the Sixth Annual Mozart Bash on Monday, Dec. 1, from 5 to 10 p.m. More than 100 people paid $20 each for tickets, with proceeds benefiting the Maryland Symphony Orchestra.

What began years ago as an unofficial get-together among Kelly and college friends has grown into a formidable fund-raiser.

Kelly said it seemed fitting to have the proceeds of this year's Mozart Bash benefit the MSO and its upcoming MasterWorks concert entitled "All Mozart" in January. He said the Hagerstown area is lucky to have a great orchestra like the MSO.


Like a cheerleader at a pep rally, Kelly enlivened the crowd, saying, "Joseph Haydn said Mozart was the greatest composer who ever lived. Some of us still believe that."

Leonid Sushansky, MSO's concertmaster - leader of the first violin section and assistant to the conductor - was a surprise guest at the event.

"I think any event that helps give people access to fine music and a very high level of performance is great," said Sushansky.

Sushansky was born in St. Petersburg, Russia, moved to New York City at age 8, and currently lives in Arlington, Va. He said he was surprised to be invited to perform at the Mozart bash, but said he was optimistic that he could "come up with something." After attempted plans to perform with a colleague fell through, Sushansky worked up a remarkable and amusing presentation on his own.

He opted to play a duet from Mozart's opera "The Marriage of Figaro," lightheartedly employing a modest recording as his partner.

"Now I know what Natalie Cole must have felt like," he joked, in reference to the Cole's duets with the recorded voice of her late father, Nat King Cole.

Sushansky continued his act with a jazzed-up version of Johann Sebastian Bach's "Air on a G String," and wrapped up with an animated rendition of Scott Joplin's "The Entertainer."

Sushansky, who is currently in his fourth season with the MSO, said, "I love Mozart. He is very whimsical. That's why I thought music and comedy would be appropriate."

Charles Sekula, owner of Schmankerl Stube, supported the Mozart Bash by opening his restaurant - usually closed on Mondays - and providing food. Sekula noted that the MSO provides community education programs for people including elementary school students who might not otherwise have access to classical music.

"It's important for them to experience good music," he said.

Tom Riford, a board member of the Hagerstown-Washington County Chamber of Commerce, said the Mozart Bash was a wonderful opportunity to celebrate not only Mozart, but the 21st year of the MSO.

"It's nice to see people involved in supporting groups like the Maryland Symphony Orchestra that bring so much to our community," he said.

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