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MSO performs season finale

April 22, 2007|By KATE COLEMAN

HAGERSTOWN

Maryland Symphony Orchestra Music Director Elizabeth Schulze welcomed the nearly full-house audience to The Maryland Theatre on a "glorious" spring Sunday.

What better way to celebrate the season than with the music the orchestra would present in the final concert of its 25th season, she asked.

The afternoon was a celebration of life, love and 25 years of the Maryland Symphony Orchestra.

Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky's Serenade for Strings, which Schulze said the composer was in love with, drew an enthusiastic response from the audience, which applauded after the first movement.

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After intermission, the stage filled with an expanded orchestra and 100 members of the "world-class" Baltimore Choral Arts Society on bleachers at the back of the stage. Forty-five 10- to 17-year-old members of the Frederick (Md.) Children's Chorus occupied chairs in the lower box seats, and Schulze and soloists Scott Williamson, Julia Turner Cooke and Alex Helsabeck took their places at the front for "Carmina Burana."

Schulze called Cooke a "marvelous soprano" and Williamson "quite remarkable." He would sing - at the very top of his tenor range - the role of a roasting swan. Helsabeck had the most work to do, with range-stretching baritone solos in three sections of "Carmina," Schulze said.

Composer Carl Orff conceived his 1936 "cantata for large chorus" as a theatrical work - with scenery, costumes and dancers, Schulze said during Prelude, the preconcert lecture. Since the 1950s, it's been performed as an orchestral piece. If dancers were included in the Hagerstown performance, they'd have to be hung from the rafters, she added with a laugh.

Gayle and Margaret Becker attended Sunday's performance with gift tickets from friends.

"I love Carmina Burana," Margaret Becker said.

At its conclusion, she wasn't disappointed, saying she hadn't been so moved by a performance in 15 years.

"Powerful" said Gayle Becker, who had bobbed his head and swayed in his seat as the music filled the theater.

"It was wonderful," said Lisa Byrd, whose 15-year-old daughter Amanda Byrd sang with the children's chorus.

Amanda, who's been part of the "rigorous" program directed by Judy DuBose for seven years, was more excited than nervous about performing with a symphony orchestra for the first time, her mother said.

Linda Ward, her grandmother, called it an enriching experience.

James G. "Jim" Pierne, a former president of the MSO Board of Directors, said there could be no better piece to celebrate the orchestra's 25 years.

"Spectacular," he said.

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