My Fair Lady and The Washington Chorus were among a handful of WL-attended holiday performances.
Whether it was seasonal music or theater, the Washington-area performing arts scene was rich with a myriad of performances during the holiday season. WL Performing Arts was on deck for opening night of the nostalgic musical “My Fair Lady” at Arena Stage, which ended January 6. It was a feast for the eyes, complete with elaborate costumes and elegant hats adorned by flowers. In her Arena Stage debut as Eliza Doolittle, Manna Nichols was quite the singing actress, with each spoken dialogue delivered with just as much confidence as her musical performances. Director Molly Smith assembled a cast that exuded a fresh take on the classic, while maintaining the integrity of the production. Other standouts included Bev Appleton as Alfred Dolittle, Joe Peck as Col. Pickering and Catherine Flynn, who brought a remarkable presence to the role of Mrs. Higgins.
Heralding songs of the season at The Kennedy Center was The Washington Chorus. Complete with candlelight procession, brass and organ, Julian Wachner took the packed hall on a journey of traditional carols, both sacred and secular. The Marriotts Ridge High School Madrigal Singers,under the direction of Terry N. Eberhardt, simply enthralled the audience with their Elizabethan period dress, exceptional musicianship and stage presence. This concert was also an opportunity of WL Performing Arts to get a second listen at the center’s new Casavant organ, which received its concert debut back in December. Organist John Bohl managed to reveal some new sonorities of the organ in his tasteful use of registrations on the instrument. Under the direction of Wachner, the chorus presented a varied program ranging from the serenely sung “What Sweeter Music” by John Rutter to the ebullient “The Dream Isaiah Saw” by Glenn Rudolph. As always, ”A Candlelight Christmas” presented by the Grammy Award-winning choir remains one of the District’s most celebrated holiday concerts.
To provide toys and coats to needy children, the Washington-based Tarver Group, LLC. presented “Christmas in Song, Sing On.” Hosted at the elegant Bowie, MD estate of Dr. Anton Bizzell, the evening of music featured concert pianist Dana Kristina-Joi Morgan, soprano Angeli Ferrette and guest artist, bass Clifford Smith. Accompanying the delightful fare of sounds of the season were wonderful cocktails and an abundance of hors d’oeuvres. Dr. Crystal Kuykendall served as the evening’s narrator. Perhaps the most moving moment of the evening was the musical tribute to the school children who were killed in the recent massacre. The popular duet “The Prayer” created an unforgettable moment of reflection and set the tone of the evening. Traditional holiday favorites such as Yon’s “Gesu Bambino” sung by tenor Terrence Tarver were the compliment to the concert stylings of holiday melodies by Morgan at the piano. Ferette completed the circle of elegant music making with her sterling renditions, especially the delightful aria “Quando men vo” by Puccini. In attendance for the evening was PR veteran Jan Du Plain and executive director of Coaltion for African Americans in the Performing Arts, Terri Allen. The evening was a wonderful example of how music can resonate beyond the stage to support a noteworthy cause.
Closing out the season was the guest appearance of myself as guest song leader for the finale of the National Chamber Ensemble‘s holiday concert at the Spectrum Theater.
Petersburg, Va. native Patrick D. McCoy received a B.M. in vocal performance from Virginia State University and a M.M. in church music from the Shenandoah Conservatory in Winchester, Va. He has contributed arts and culture pieces to CBS Washington, The Afro-American Newspaper and the newly published book, “In Spite of the Drawbacks” (Association of Black Women Historians), which includes his chapter on legendary soprano Leontyne Price. McCoy has interviewed some of the most acclaimed artists of our time, including Renée Fleming, Denyce Graves, Norman Scribner, Julian Wachner, Christine Brewer and Lawrence Brownlee. Listen to these interviews and others at Blog Talk Radio. McCoy may be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @PatrickDMcCoy.