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Opera singer returns to city

January 11, 2009|By DAVE McMILLION

HAGERSTOWN -- The walls of an auditorium at the Washington County Museum of Fine Arts echoed the rich, deep singing voice of William Clarence Marshall III Sunday as the internationally acclaimed opera singer performed during an annual recital at the museum.

Marshall is starting to become a familiar face in Hagerstown.

In addition to Sunday's performance, Marshall has performed for the last two years for the City of Hagerstown's Utility Relief Benefit Concert.

Marshall's appearance Sunday marked his contribution to the Hamilton Memorial Recital, held annually in memory of Mrs. William T. Hamilton Jr., the first president of the museum's board of trustees.

Hamilton's greatest achievement was the development of the local art museum and the surrounding park. She died in 1971.

Marshall made his debut Carnegie Hall appearance in 2001 as a bass soloist in Beethoven's Mass in C Major with the New England Symphonic Ensemble. Audiences have heard him perform on Broadway and at The Kennedy Center, among other venues.

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Marshall talked about the stories behind black spirituals, which were common during slavery.

Although the songs were sometimes dismissed as folk songs, they have now made it to the concert stage, Marshall said.

Marshall's voice boomed through the auditorium as he sang songs like "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot."

Ron Lytle, one of about 45 spectators, weaved his head back and forth in approval as Marshall belted out his tunes.

After the performance, Lytle waited to speak to Marshall, hoping to talk the performer into singing at a local gospel benefit this summer in town.

"Awesome, awesome," Lytle said when asked what he thought of Marshall's singing.

Between songs, Marshall talked at length to spectators, something he enjoys.

Marshall said he thinks many people often attend opera performances but do not understand what the music means.

"There needs to be more outreach," Marshall said.

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