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Orchestra welcomes several guests to perform during holiday concerts

December 13, 2007|By KATE COLEMAN

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

Several regional performers will join Music Director Elizabeth Schulze and the orchestra.

"Once again, we're so happy to be able to showcase the wealth of talent in our area," Schulze said.

She called Nancy Roblin and the Frederick Chorale good friends and said she's grateful they accepted the invitation to sing throughout the program, which is called Home for the Holidays.

Roblin, founding director of the 50-member chorus that is in its 31st season, praised the program she said entertains all age groups, something that's hard to achieve. "I think they nailed it," she said.

This is a busy time of year for her ensemble, but members wouldn't miss an opportunity to perform with the Maryland Symphony Orchestra. She has attended the "very fine" orchestra's performances many times and called Schulze a "really good choral musician."


Members of the Frederick Chorale are selected by audition and range in age from 21 to 81. They are amateurs only in the best sense of the word. They sing for the love of music, Roblin said.

A younger contingent also will perform.

"Children are an essential part of this holiday, so it was important to include their voices on our program," Schulze said.

Twenty-one eighth-grade students - seven sopranos, seven altos and seven baritones - of the Springfield Middle School Chamber Choir will sing "Do You Hear What I Hear."

They will be onstage for only a few minutes, but performing with the MSO presents them with a whole new level of accountability, said their director, Michelle Rafter, chairwoman of Springfield's Music Department since 1999. She also coordinates choral activities for Washington County Public Schools.

The students are ambassadors for Springfield, they have a responsibility to audience members who bought tickets, and they must adapt to following a different director. They need to be aware of backstage and onstage demeanor.

"It's a lot on their shoulders," Rafter said but added that it's "wonderful and exciting."

Justin Davis, 13, said stress is almost like second nature in performing, but he feels ready for the concerts at The Maryland Theatre.

He and fellow singers credit Rafter with helping them be prepared.

"She makes us want to do the work, not just do the work," said Nicholas Hockensmith, 12.

"I just think it's fun. Mrs. Rafter - she's fun, too," said 13-year-old Kimberly Zigler. She likes to sing because it makes her feel special.

"When you're singing, people actually listen to you."

"Elizabeth Schulze is famous around the country," Nicholas said. "It's an honor," he said, for the whole choir to be singing with her and the MSO.

The eighth-graders who will sing this weekend are the third of Rafter's choruses to perform with the symphony orchestra.

Soprano Aim Sposato's experience is more extensive than that of the middle-school students, yet she said she is thrilled to be making her MSO debut this weekend.

Sposato is associate dean for undergraduate studies at Shenandoah University in Winchester, Va., where she also teaches voice performance. Her career as a professional vocalist has taken her to concert, recital and opera stages throughout the United States and abroad.

She will solo with the orchestra on "Gesu Bambino," a "wonderful piece," and "White Christmas."

Sposato has noticed that a family holiday concert is different from a regular symphony concert. "The audience is more ready for a performance," she said.

Members of the audience had better be ready. The program includes a Christmas singalong, so everyone can be part of the musical festivities. They also will have a role in deciding which instrumental section of the orchestra wins the award for the best holiday decorations and outfits, Schulze said.

A visit from St. Nick is expected, and NBC25 Anchor Pieter Bickford will be on hand to read "'Twas the Night Before Christmas."

If you go ...

WHAT: Maryland Symphony Orchestra's Home for the Holidays concerts

WHEN: 7 p.m. Saturday, Dec.15, and 3 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 16

WHERE: The Maryland Theatre, 21 S. Potomac St., Hagerstown

COST: Tickets for Home for the Holidays cost $20 for adults and $12 for children 12 and younger. Tickets can be purchased by calling 301-797-4000 or by going to the MSO box office at 30 W. Washington St. in Hagerstown. Box office hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays and noon to 4 p.m. Saturday. Tickets will be available at The Maryland Theatre from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Saturday and 1:30 to 3:30 p.m. Sunday.

MORE: In the event of severe weather, the MSO will update the status of the concerts on its box office voice mail at 301-797-4000 and at its Web site,

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