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Maryland Symphony Orchestra presents its annual holiday concert

December 14, 2006|by KATE COLEMAN

The Maryland Symphony Orchestra will present its annual holiday concerts this weekend at The Maryland Theatre.

Appropriately titled "Silver Bells," the performances will celebrate the holidays and the orchestra's 25th season.

Hickory Elementary School fifth-grader Marlaina Blank captured both ideas in the winning poster she created for the MSO's annual holiday poster contest.

She's heard the orchestra while on a couple of school field trips.

"I think they're good," she said.

Marlaina will hear the MSO again during Sunday afternoon's performance; she will be recognized on stage for her artistic efforts.

That stage will be "absolutely packed" as Music Director Elizabeth Schulze welcomes several guest performers to the annual celebration.

Hagerstown Choral Arts, under the direction of Gregory Shook, will be doing a large piece by Robert Shaw - "Many Moods of Christmas" - and four carols.

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"I have a special relationship with Hagerstown Choral Arts," Schulze said. "I'm just so glad that we're once again working together."

Lukasz Szyrner, the MSO's principal cello, will perform Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky's Andante Cantabile. The popular piece originally was a movement of a larger composition, Szyrner explained in a telephone interview.

"The melody is so charming," he said. "It's really beautiful."

Schulze described Szyrner's playing similarly, calling it "artistic" and "lyrical."

"I think it's wonderful to have an opportunity to present one of our artists," she added.

Visions of Sugar Plums and other Tchaikovsky treats will be provided by dancers from Potomac Classical Youth Ballet, directed by Lauran Clowser, in "Nutcracker" Suite.

"Very special, talented people," Schulze said.

In keeping with the "Silver Bells" theme, the MSO will be joined by 12 members of the five-octave, 61-bell Hagerstown Handbell Ensemble. Directed by John Rudy, the group formed for the purpose of ringing for MSO concerts. The ensemble will perform an arrangement of "Greensleeves" by itself and an arrangement of "Silver Bells" with the orchestra. Members hope to continue ringing together after the weekend's performances, Rudy said.

Twenty-one-year-old soprano Morgan Harmison will sing "O Holy Night." A Berkeley Springs, W.Va., resident, Harmison is a junior voice performance major at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh. She's done five summer programs at Interlochen Arts Camp programs in Michigan - one with scholarship help from the MSO - and spent five weeks last summer in a voice-performance program in Lucca, Italy.

Harmison said her performance this weekend will be her first as a soloist with a symphony. She said she is grateful to the MSO for the opportunity and for its support of her musical career.

The logistics of the holiday concerts on The Maryland Theatre stage are daunting.

"The stage will be completely stuffed," Schulze said. "It's a real challenge, and it just says a lot for our orchestra to be able to pull it together and to be able to collaborate in so many different ways."

It's kind of like making room on the Christmas tree for all the beloved ornaments collected over time.

"This is one of our favorite concerts of the year. It really does bring the talent of the community right out to the forefront for all of our audiences," Schulze said. "I hope people will come out and join in the celebration.

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