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Performance is sure to be 'ducky'

March 03, 2005|by KATE COLEMAN

There's an old saying: "If it looks like a duck, quacks like a duck and walks like a duck - then it is probably a duck."

What if it dances like a duck?

Then it's probably Alexandra, Keeper of Dreams, the protagonist in the children's book of that title by Waynesboro, Pa., author and illustrator Mary Alice Baumgardner.

"Stories in Music," the Maryland Symphony Orchestra's family concert, will be on stage at 5 p.m. Saturday, March 5, at The Maryland Theatre. The performance will feature the premiere of the ballet based on that book.

"The family concert offers the orchestra an opportunity to entertain a completely different audience and to reach out to young people," said Music Director and Conductor Elizabeth Schulze.

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The family concert - this the MSO's fifth - has become a staple in the orchestra's annual offerings.

"We love that we have a chance to mix it up a little," Schulze said.

Saturday's program will feature two distinct performances. One is "Carnival of the Animals" by Camille Saint-Saens. The other involves ballet dancing and poetry accompanied by the ballet based on Baumgardner's book.

As a companion to the Saint-Saens piece, Bob Heck, known to Maryland Public Television audiences as Bob the Vid Tech, will make his third appearance with the MSO, narrating poetry. Nineteen Potomac Classical Youth Ballet dancers will provide the piece's third dimension.

For the other portion of the concert, Lauran Clowser, the ballet company's artistic director, choreographed "Alexandra, Keeper of Dreams." She looked at the orchestra's music library to see which selections would be available for the 45 to 50 MSO musicians playing rather than the larger ensemble on stage for the MasterWorks concerts.

She wanted familiar music that would be accessible to children. She came up with several pieces for her dancers, including Beethoven's "Moonlight" Sonata, Mozart's "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star" and a can-can by Offenbach.

"I think we'll have a lot of fun with that," Schulze said.

Leah Beachley, 14, will dance the role of Alexandra. Leah, a ninth-grader at North Hagers-town High School, said her character is a little clumsy and has a shape - "too much behind" - that isn't right for a ballet dancer.

"I kind of have to waddle," she said.

Clowser considers it "the most wonderful opportunity" for her students to work with a live symphony orchestra and a conductor of Schulze's caliber.

Baumgardner also is looking forward to the performance. Her 1993 book is a lesson in the power of perseverance.

"Don't give up," Baumgardner said. "It takes time for dreams to come true."

Just before the performance, the author will share the story of the creation of her book at Alexandra's Dreamy Duckling Tea Party at Marcel's Bakery and Cafe a few doors away from the theater.

Copies of the book will be available for purchase after the concert, and Baumgardner will be available to autograph them.

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