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Alexandria Choral Society Celebrates End of Another Season

New artistic director announced at garden party.

As the Alexandria Choral Society (ACS) completes their 34th season, they look forward to yet another season full of new and innovative programming that will start in the fall under the leadership of a new artistic director.

Philip Cave was introduced at a garden party held at the home of ACS Board Member Sanelma Sutton. He was introduced by ACS Board President Reid Adler.

"What a spectacular setting to begin my association with you," Cave said. "These are exciting times, particularly exciting because of the upcoming season. I'm looking ahead to years of working with the choir. I know that ACS is blessed with talented and dedicated people at its helm. There's an enormous amount of enthusiasm and I am very grateful at having this framework to work."

"Moonlight and Magnolias" was the theme of the garden party, which featured desserts, champagne and strawberries. Rick Whitehead played jazz guitar music, while guests, dressed in white, mingled in Sutton's garden.

THE GARDEN PARTY was the celebration of a season which culminated in two final concerts held in May at the George Washington Masonic Memorial in Alexandria and the Lutheran Church of the Reformation in Washington, D.C. Titled "The Food of Love: Shakespeare in Music," the concert featured selections such as the "Three Madrigals" by Emma Lou Diemer; "For Thy Sweet Love," by Robert H. Young; and "Shall I Compare Thee to a Summer's Day?" by Z. Randall Stroope. The children's chorus did a rendition of "Bel Canto," and joined with the adult chorus for the first part of "Daisies and Icicles."

Guests at the Alexandria concert had the added pleasure of seeing the Burgundy Farm Country Day School 8th Grade Players perform scenes from "A Midsummer's Night Dream." These students, who had taken "Shakespeare Made Easy" with Deborah Clark Ives had performed these same scenes at the Folger Shakespeare Library Secondary School Shakespeare Festival.

The half-hour performance was action-packed, with the students bringing everybody back to the days of Shakespeare with their colorful costumes. The students convincingly played their roles, reeling off volumes of Olde English.

Shortly after, the concert began, the chorus enjoying the acoustics of the Masonic Memorial. There was a short intermission after the first seven selections, after which the chorus sang "Songs and Sonnets" by George Shearing and "Songs of the Fool" by Lee Hoiby.

In addition to appearing at these two concerts, the ACS Children's Chorus appeared with the adult chorus in a special holiday concert in December. They performed a concert in March, titled, "All That Jazz," and in May the Dolce Tier was invited back for a second year in a row to perform outside the pavilion in Huntley Meadows Park during their annual "Wetlands Awareness Day." Kevin Carr led the 11 young training tier choristers, with Sheila Epstein accompanying them on keyboards, through a short program.

THE ALEXANDRIA CHORAL SOCIETY was formed in 1970 as a component of the Performing Arts Association of Alexandria. When the group separated from that organization in 1978, it became its own entity, incorporating on July 10, 1978. The Alexandria Choral Society is currently a member of the Alexandria Arts Forum.

Past Music Directors have included Francisco de Araujo, Martin Piecuch, Robert Shafer, Douglas Major and Kerry Krebill. Keith S. Reas led the group for the past three seasons.

With 40 to 50 singing members, ACS is different from other choral groups in the area because they commission new choral compositions by local composers approximately every two years; they are also very committed to regular performances of American choral music. Most seasons include a program of American works, and since 1984, ACS has commissioned and premiered a new choral work approximately every two years. Commissions have been given to composers Robert Shafer, Richard Bales, Russell Woollen, Stephen Douglas Burton, Daniel Gawthrop, Garrison Hull, Mark Adamo, William Hawley, James Grant and Frances Thompson McKay.

The size of the chorus is "chamber" rather than "symphonic" and makes it well suited for many works of the Renaissance, Baroque, and Classical periods.

Highlights of the past few years include performances with Rosemary Clooney and the National Symphony Pops, with Marvin Hamlisch at the Kennedy Center and in the televised Horatio Alger Awards with Ed McMahon and the Hollywood music director/composer David Foster of Olympic fame.

IN ITS SPECIAL focus of championing the American composer, the choir regularly commissions new works; it also performs the classics of our heritage, locally and for appreciative audiences on nine European concert tours. Several years ago, the choir brought its signature work, Virginia composer Russell Woollen's "Alexandria Suite," complete with orchestra and video, to second graders from all Alexandria public schools in a performance at Hammond Middle School.

The chorus has received many awards, including the ALEX Award from the Alexandria Chamber of Commerce. In 1992, they won the first ASCAP award ever presented to a chorus for Adventuresome Programming. The group receives annual grants from Alexandria Commission for the Arts and the Virginia Commission for the Arts. To give back to the community, the Choral Society offers a chance for Alexandria area youth to sing in the ACS Children's Chorus.

<ro>Where & When

<lst>*September 12, 1-6 p.m.: auditions for 2004-2005 season (adults and children), at Good Shepherd Lutheran Church, 100 W. Luray Ave., by appointment: 703-548-4734

*November: concert (adult chorus)

*December: Family Holiday concert (adult chorus and ACS Children's Chorus)

*March: concert (adult chorus with Bel Canto tier of ACS Children's Chorus)

*April: ACS Children's Chorus spring concert (no adult chorus)

*May/June: concert (adult chorus with Bel Canto tier of ACS Children's Chorus)

The Chorus will also make the following appearances:

*September: Alexandria Arts Festival (pending; adult chorus)

*October: Art on the Avenue (ACS Children's Chorus performs on Children's Stage 12 p.m.; ACS hosts "Make Your Own Paper Bag Hat" booth all day)

*December: First Night Alexandria (pending; adult chorus)

*December: Holiday Lobbying at the Willard Hotel, Washington DC (ACS Children's Chorus)

May: Wetlands Awareness Day at Huntley Meadows Park (ACS Dolce tier)

For more information, visit www.alexchoralsociety.org; it will be updated periodically throughout the summer with current concert information. Rehearsals will be held from September through December, the adult chorus will rehearse 7:30-10 p.m. at Good Shepherd Lutheran Church on Mondays. The Children's Chorus will continue to rehearse on Tuesdays, at the Mt. Vernon Recreation Center, 6:30-7:30 p.m. and 7:30-8:45 p.m.