The inclusion of homegrown talent has become a hallmark of the orchestra's annual concerts. Last year's performances included folks who had graduated from area high schools. For the third year, the orchestra, Washington County Public Schools and a few area businesses sponsored a poster and lyric-writing contest open to county elementary and middle school students.
We continue to cultivate our own, Schulze says.
Britteria Jones, a fourth-grader at Lincolnshire Elementary, winner of the poster contest, and students who earned the contest's honorable mentions - Hickory Elementary School fifth-grader Cody Moreland, Old Forge Elementary fourth-grader Kylie Stoup and Pangborn Elementary third-grader Erica Myers - will be introduced. More than 760 students created posters for the contest.
Clear Spring Middle School sixth-grader Stephanie Baker, who wrote the prize-winning lyrics to the tune of "O Tannenbaum," will join her fellow chorus members to sing with the symphony orchestra.
The chorus - 40 sixth-graders supplemented with 10 seventh- and eighth-grade Clear Spring Middle All-County Chorus students - will perform the song, as well as "Kwanzaa Child."
Ruth Stenger, Clear Spring's chorus teacher, has been working with her students. She wants to inspire confidence under pressure. "That is performance," she says.
Stenger gave her students a lesson in writing lyrics - "kind of goofy and kind of funny" - but it worked.
"Silent Night" is lyricist and chorus member Stephanie Baker's favorite Christmas carol. To write her own winning words, the 11-year-old thought about Christmas and the holidays and "pretty stuff."
She says she can't wait for the concerts.
"It's gonna be really cool," she says.
Members of Hagerstown Choral Arts also are looking forward to the weekend performances.
Steve Riedesel of Hagerstown, a member since the day he moved to Hagerstown in 1995, enjoys singing under Elizabeth Schulze's baton.
"She's singer-friendly," he says.
Gregory Shook, founding director of the 92-member choral ensemble, agrees.
He says Schulze is inviting.
Schulze will direct Hagerstown Choral Arts in "Shiloh," an early-American a cappella piece. Shook will lead "Ave, Ave, the Angel Sang," by Harrisburg, Pa., composer Robert Lau, as well as "Christmas Day," written about 1930 by Gustav Holst. Shook describes Holst's work as a potpourri. "It's a neat piece."
The program will include Jeff Tyzik's "Chanukah Suite," "Greensleeves," and a few rollicking favorites - Leroy Anderson's "Sleigh Ride" among them.
The Maryland Theatre audience will be invited to join in the celebration. A Christmas singalong will conclude the holiday program.
Except for one more guest.
"We've been told,'' Schulze says, that a certain fellow who's especially busy this time of year may stop in for a visit.