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MSO, audience express joy at annual Holiday Pops show

December 19, 2004|by RICHARD F. BELISLE

waynesboro@herald-mail.com

They were reticent on "For the Lord God Omnipotent Reigneth," but they found their voices when it came to "Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Halleluuuujah!"

The "Hallelujah Chorus" was part of the audience singalong at the Maryland Symphony Orchestra's annual Holiday Pops concert Saturday night at The Maryland Theatre. The concert's theme was "Joy to the World."

The audience that crowded the theater was different than ones that attend the MSO's regular concert series during the year, said Jean P. Hamilton, the orchestra's executive director.

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"The audience goes from tiny little kids all the way up to their grandparents," Hamilton said. "You see a whole range of people here. This is the one that gets the public in. It appeals to a broadest section of the community."

Tickets for regular concerts cost from $18 to $65 depending on the seat. The Holiday Pops concert costs $17, and any seat in the house can be reserved on a first-come, first-served basis, said Mary Anne Ellifritz, director of marketing and public relations for the theater.

The concert's first half, under the baton of MSO Music Director Elizabeth Schulze, featured Leroy Anderson's "A Christmas Festival," followed by excerpts from Handel's "Messiah," with the voices of the Choral Arts Society of Frederick backed up by the orchestra. It ended with the "Hallelujah Chorus" by those on stage.

Then, it was the audience's turn to do the encore.

Schulze warmed them up with a brief practice and urged them to "Feel free to jump in when you feel you should."

Following intermission, about 70 members of Riversong, the Springfield Middle School after-school show choir's seventh- and eighth-graders, performed "Holiday Unity" and other numbers accompanied by the MSO.

The lyrics for "Holiday Unity" were written to the music of "Silver Bells" by Springfield classmates Kelsi Phillips and Shannon Draper, both 13.

The girls' effort won the MSO's annual lyric-writing and holiday poster contest for Washington County elementary and middle-school students.

Phillips said she hopes to become a school choral teacher like Michelle Rafter, choral director at Springfield Middle School.

"She's my inspiration," she said.

Her mother, Pam Phillips, said Kelsi has been singing all of her life.

"Writing is one of her favorite things, too," she said. "She's written a lot of short stories. She's definitely an inspiration to me."

Pam Phillips said both girls put a lot of effort into the lyrics.

Saturday marked the first time Rafter's choir has performed on a stage of the magnitude of The Maryland Theatre.

"I was very impressed with their conduct at rehearsal," Rafter said. "I asked them to behave and to perform like professionals."

Lou Scally, local radio and television personality, performed "A Visit from St. Nick."

The concert ended with a singalong of popular Christmas carols.

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