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Tenor brings full house to museum

January 10, 2006|by MARIE GILBERT /Staff Writer

marieg@herald-mail.com

Jose Luis Sanchez has had a love affair with music since he was a young boy.

He began his singing career as a teenager in Puerto Rico, where he sang in the choruses of zarzuelas or comic Spanish operas.

Hungry to hone his talent, he studied privately with voice teachers and repertory coaches in New York City, pursuing operatic training as a lyric baritone.

It wasn't long before he landed roles with the Stuyvesant Opera and the Brooklyn Lyric Opera and began making a name for himself.

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Over the years, he has performed with symphonies, sang solo in choral concerts, as well as arias and duets at such places as the Library of Congress.

Always ready to accept a new challenge, Sanchez spent several years retraining as a tenor.

Sanchez brought his passion for music to the Washington County Museum of Fine Arts Sunday afternoon, where he performed zarzuela arias and Spanish/Latin American love songs.

He was accompanied by pianist Leticia MacDonald, a Washington, D.C. soloist, accompanist and arranger in classical and jazz music.

The recital was held in memory of Mrs. William T. Hamilton Jr., who served as the first president of the museum's Board of Trustees from its founding until 1967.

Performing before a packed house, Sanchez captivated the crowd with a selection of some of his favorite Spanish and Latin American songs.

While he noted that some of the songs are easily translatable, most people in the audience were swept away, not by the words, but by the singer's voice and his expressive and emotional presentation.

The program ranged from Con amores la mi madre, Fernando Obradors' hymn about a mother's love, to Cumbanchero, Rafael Hernandez' rousing tribute to the percussionists in his Latin bands.

One of the more popular selections with the audience was Heitor Villa-Lobos' Melodia sentimental from Songs of the Amazon. This is the fourth and last song of a cycle that Villa-Lobos originally composed for the MGM film version of William Henry Hudson's novel "Green Mansions."

Following the recital, a reception for Sanchez and MacDonald was held in the Schreiber Gallery, where recital-goers were still buzzing about the music they had just experienced.

"If music is really good; it transcends everything going on in my life," said Bonnie Butler of Fairfield, Pa. "And both performers were exceptional. It was so easy to get lost in their music. Music is like poetry. It distills life and lets you share it with others. And that's just what these performers did today. I only hope the museum brings them back again."

Lois Rice of Williamsport said she has attended quite a few of the museum's musical offerings over the years.

"But after today's program," she noted, "I've decided to come to more. This was just fantastic."

Helen Beair of Hagerstown, agreed.

"The recital was wonderful. But, of course, the museum offers a lot of wonderful things. We are very fortunate to have a museum like this."

Mary Goodnough, a music student at the University of Maryland, was hoping to talk with Sanchez during the reception.

"The program was just beautiful," she said. "I was swept away with the stage presence of both musicians. I have so many questions I want to ask, especially of Mr. Sanchez. I've been taking voice lessons; so maybe he can give me some advice. Here is someone who is living his passion - music. I hope that will be me one day."

Donna Rastelli, services coordinator with the Washington County Museum of Fine Arts, was pleased with the turnout for Sunday's recital.

"It was a full house today," she said, "and that's very good. But, more importantly, everyone really enjoyed the program. It was wonderful."

According to Rastelli, The Hamilton Memorial Recital is an annual event at the museum. Both Mrs. Hamilton and her husband were patrons of the arts; but Mrs. Hamilton's greatest achievement was the development of the museum and its surrounding park.

Upcoming musical offerings at the museum include the Washington County Museum Consort Sunday Jan. 22, and the Gallery Quartet Sunday, Jan. 29. Both programs begin at 2:30 p.m.

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