A History Of The Annapolis Chorale
Ned Criscimagna & Katherine Hilton
the United States Naval Academy, the Annapolis Chorale might not
exist. In 1973, James A. Dale, then assistant director of musical
activities at the academy, saw a cultural void in the Annapolis
area and decided to fill it. He called together a group of individuals
who enjoyed singing and formed a choral group. This was the first
incarnation of the Annapolis Chorale with Mr. Dale as its director.
Chorale's first-ever concert was held in May 1974. Chorale archives
describe the event as having "almost as many people in the
chorus as in the audience", but with that first concert, the
group began to establish its reputation as an up-and-coming musical
Annapolis Chorale was officially born in September 1974 when the
group adopted a constitution, elected officers and approved by-laws.
the excellent buzz that followed the group's first concert, the
Chorale quickly attracted more talented singers and began to expand
its repertoire to include both classical and semi-classical choral
Mr. Dale's tenure as director, Donna Jean Dixon, then the minister
of music at St. Paul's Lutheran Church in Annapolis, signed on as
assistant director and accompanist. Over the next several seasons,
the Chorale performed such classic works as Vivaldi's Gloria, Faure's
Requiem, and works by Haydn, Handel, Bach, Poulenc, Bernstein and
February 1976, the Chorale joined forces with the Laurel Oratorio
and the Annapolis Symphony Orchestra for a powerful and moving presentation
of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony under Leon Fleisher's direction. The
group also performed "pops" concerts at the Annapolis
Fine Arts Festival.
December 1976, Mark Tardue took over as music director when Mr.
Dale resigned due to increasing outside commitments. Mr. Tardue's
two years of leadership took the Chorale through an important growth
phase and to new levels of achievement. One signature concert, in
April 1977, featured the chorale - by now with 70 singers - with
an orchestra of 35 and Ms. Dixon at the organ, in a sold-out performance
of Mozart's Requiem. Critics acclaimed the performance as "...
intense and elegant ... the chorus sand with tremendous drive and
conviction ... (it) carried out a passage of supreme beauty in the
grief beyond tears of Lacrymosa."
two very successful concerts in December 1977, Mr. Tardue resigned
because he could no longer devote the amount of time to the Chorale
he would like during this crucial period of growth. Raphael Metzger
stepped in as director after being recommended to the board by Mr.
Tardue. Lawrence Neeck was also appointed accompanist for the ensuing
Metzger was followed in 1978 by Ava M. Shields, who would conduct
the chorale until 1983. With her background and experience in vocal
training and oratorio singing, Mrs. Shields was a wonderful teacher
for Chorale singers, imparting the finer points of choral singing
and vocal technique. With Mrs. Shields conducting, the chorale reached
its highest membership ever: 135 singers.
1983, Donald Wiggins became the group's Music Director. A noted
area soloist himself, Mr. Wiggins had sung with the Chorale prior
to becoming music director. Mr. Wiggins' goals as director were
to increase the number of chorale performances each year from three
to four and to build membership. In his two years with the Chorale,
he accomplished both.
Mr. Wiggins left the chorale in 1984, the Board of directors selected
J. Ernest Green as the Chorale's conductor and music director. That
decision would bring the Chorale its longest-serving music director
and a period of unprecedented growth, recognition, and musical innovation.
the day of his arrival 23 years ago, Mr. Green has infused the Chorale
with his enthusiasm and genius for innovative programming. Since
joining the Chorale, Mr. Green has guided the Chorale, building
a reputation as one of Maryland's finest choral groups, known for
artistic excellence and musical creativity.
his leadership, the Chorale has performed to rave reviews three
times at Carnegie Hall, appeared on Maryland Public Television and
has been called on of Maryland's finest choral groups. Its repertoire
now includes a diverse and broad range of music, including Orff's
Carmina Burana, Lloyd Webber's Requiem, Richard Einhorn's Voices of Light
(accompanying the silent film "The Passion of Joan of Arc"),
and Strauss's Die Fledermaus.
the lighter side of the musical spectrum, Mr. Green established
the popular Broadway in Concert series that has included performances
of Brigadoon, HMS Pinafore, Guys and Dolls, Fiddler on the Roof, Camelot, Show Boat
and The Secret Garden. The Chorale's annual Celebration of Christmas
has become an Annapolis tradition, officially kicking off the holiday
season for Annapolis and Anne Arundel communities. One of Mr. Green's other successes is a concert series at St. Anne's Episcopal Church, which
brings to the area such performers as The Washington Brass, Kennedy Center Chamber Players and other regional musical ensembles.
addition, the Chorale has added a 25-member Chamber Chorus, the professional Annapolis
Chamber Orchestra, and the Annapolis Youth Chorus. At nearly 180 voices,
the Chorale performs concerts around the area, from Maryland Hall
to the Railroad Museum in Chesapeake Beach, and Anne Arundel Community
College to Notre Dame Prep School in northern Baltimore. Mr. Green
and the Chorale are also active in the community, supporting with
concerts the work of Pathways and the Beans and Bread Soup Kitchen,
and sponsoring a scholarship program that brings talented high school
students into the Chorale.
35 years old, and with Mr. Green at the helm, the Chorale has achieved
a singular sound only imagined in 1978. Critics have praised Chorale
concerts as "spectacular" and "Making an indelible
mark on the city's musical community." Of Mr. Green, they have
noted that the area "owes [him] a great musical debt."
Ernie would be the first to share the credit for the Chorale's success
with others, including Philip Hale, the Chorale's Assistant Conductor, who has shouldered some of the conducting load for Mr. Green, as well as accompanists Erik Apland and Diane Kinsley.
Other members of the Chorale give many hours working in the Chorale
office, setting up rehearsals, and maintaining the Chorale's music
library. Katherine Hilton is the Chorale's Director of Marketing and Development, Pam Godfrey Stevens the General Manager and Marilyn F. Rhodovi is President of the Chorale's Board of Directors.
the Annapolis Chorale celebrates 35 years, the future looks bright.
Mr. Green pledges to continue to offer area audiences music with
no boundaries. "Music is such a powerful force," he says.
"We want to offer our audiences different kinds of music, some
they know and love, and some new music that challenges them. The
point is to reach out to everyone with all kinds of music."