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December 24, 2009

'Christmas with Choral Arts' to air Thursday and Friday

The Baltimore Choral Arts Society is reponsible for one of the city's most popular annual holiday concerts. Traditionally held in the gorgeous Baltimore Basilica, "Christmas with Choral Arts" gets an extra life each year thanks to WMAR-TV (ABC2). The 2009 concert will air at 11:35 p.m. Thursday and 9 a.m. Christmas Day.

Effectively conducted by Tom Hall, the program offers a considerable amount of fresh material (folks seeking nothing by chestnuts roasted by an open choir may be disappointed). Several contemporary works are included, among them

premieres by Rosephanye Dunn Powell and jazz legend Dave Brubeck.

Powell's multi-movement "Christmas Give" contains resonances of traditional spirituals (the minor-key "Christus Natus Est," for example, sounds like a distant cousin to "Go Down Moses"), along with pop music ("Christmas Memories" is a shimmering ballad that could well enjoy a wider life) and African folk music ("Ogo ni fun Oluwa" has an infectious, joyful propulsion).

Brubeck's "Precious Gift His Wondrous Birth," with text by his wife Iola, offers a grand message ("Unify the human race") in musically modest fashion. "A Clean Heart," by Baltimore-based composer James Lee, III, is a subtly powerful, a cappella gem with rich harmonization; the chorus sings it beautifully.

The concert also includes a vibrant performance of Mendelssohn's "Rise Up" that easily demonstrates the ensemble's vocal and expressive strengths, and it's fun to hear a "Halleljuah" by Handel that isn't from "Messiah" (the familiar one is here, too). The orchestra is an asset throughout the program. All in all an entertaining celebration of music that communicates the essential messages of Christmas.

Posted by Tim Smith at 11:07 AM | | Comments (0)

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About Tim Smith
Born and raised in Washington, D.C., I couldn't help but develop a keen interest in politics, but music, theater and visual art also proved great attractions. Music became my main focus after high school. I thought about being a cocktail pianist, but I hated taking requests, so I studied music history instead, earning a B.A. in that field from Eisenhower College (Seneca Falls, N.Y.) and an M.A. from Occidental College (Los Angeles). I then landed in journalism. After freelancing for the Washington Post and others, I was classical music critic for the Sun-Sentinel in South Florida, where I also contributed to NPR. I've written for the New York Times, BBC Music Magazine and other publications, and I'm a longtime contributor to Opera News. My book, The NPR Curious Listener's Guide to Classical Music (Perigee, 2002), can be found on the most discerning remainder racks.

I joined the Baltimore Sun as classical music critic in 2000 and, in 2009, also became theater critic, giving me the opportunity to annoy a whole new audience. In 2010, my original Clef Notes blog expanded to encompass a theatrical component -- how could I resist calling it Drama Queens? I hope you'll find both sides of this blog coin worth exploring and reacting to; your own comments are always welcome and valued (well, most of them, at least).

Think of this as your open-all-hours, cyber green room, where there's always a performer or performance to discuss, some news to digest, or maybe just a little good gossip to share.
Note: Tim Smith now writes about the fine arts at This blog will be kept in place as an archive for an indefinite period. Please visit the new location to get the latest Mid-Atlantic arts coverage.
View the Artsmash blog

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