History of AVAS
With the sentiments of Shakespeare's words lingering in the air on a summer day in 1983, a group of persons with a love for music desired to establish an organization that would produce programs of selected master choral works with orchestral accompaniments. The Arundel Vocal Arts Society (the Society) was created, with a goal towards enhancing the cultural, aesthetic, and educational development opportunities for individuals in the Chesapeake Bay area.
The Society strives to maintain a high caliber profile through the presentation of musical performances that are dignified yet exciting, symphonious, inspirational, and committed to evoking subjective sensory impressions in every listener. The Society's potential to attain its goals has been nurtured and enhanced under the accomplished and perceptive direction of Ava Shields from 1983 to April 1994, and Glenette Schumacher from December 1994 to the present.
Since the establishment of the organization and the adoption of a constitution, the Society has sought and been awarded state and county grant monies, solicited and received individual and corporate contributions, and actively pursued revenues from program advertising and concert ticket sales, in an effort to continue its endeavors over the past fifteen years.
While exploring the works of the great masters of classical, opera, Broadway, jazz, the Society presented its premier performance, A Brahms Festival, on December 9, 1983 at the Center for the Performing Arts at Anne Arundel Community College. In subsequent years, the Society has performed at Downs Memorial Park, the Annapolis Waterfront Festival, the Maryland State Capital, Maryland Hall, Anne Arundel Community College, Severna Park United Methodist Church, St. Martin's Lutheran Church, Francis Scott Key Auditorium at St. John's College, and the State House.
In April 1984, a joint presentation of the Society and The Ballet Theater of Annapolis was dedicated to Maryland's 350th Founding Celebration in A Maryland Serenade. Edward Stewart, Artistic Director of the Ballet Theater, accompanied by ballerina Janice Barringer and dancers from the Ballet Theater, were featured in the Polovetzian Dance and Chorus from the opera Prince Igor.
On December 9, 1984 "A Beethovan Festival" featured guest conductor Martin Hughes, faculty member of Anne Arundel Community College and University of Maryland Baltimore Campus, and a piano solo by Barbara Clark, accompanist for the Society.
In the spring of 1985, 1986, and 1987, the Society collaborated with the Annapolis Opera Company on what was appropriately billed as A Festival of Operas and Operettas. Proceeds from the three concerts benefitted the Opera Company, which was in the process of liquidating debts and reestablishing its production schedule. These concerts featured a potpourri of costumed, partially staged solo and ensemble highlights from the works of Mozart, Verdi, Puccini, Wagner, Mascagni, Gounod, Romberg, Gershwin, Herbert, Sullivan, and Donizetti, to name a few. Featured soloists included Reginald Allen, Janet Crisalli, Sally Stunkel, Stephen Stokes, and David Troup, all accomplished and well know talents throughout the Washington Metropolitan area. In May 1985, the Society paid tribute to Todd Duncan and Frank Valentino as two outstanding musical artists of our time, in support of National Music Week, May 5 to 12, 1985. Renditions included selections from Gershwin's Porgy and Bess, Puccini's Madama Butterfly, and Verdi's Rigoletto. Todd Duncan, a resident of Washington, D.C. since 1931, is frequently recognized for his memorable role as Porgy in the original production of Porgy and Bess. Mr. Valentino was a featured artist with the Metropolitan Opera for 22 years. He is remembered for his performances in Madama Butterfly, La Boheme, and Rigoletto.
In May of 1987, the Society was honored to have the late Dr. James Dale, Organist at the Naval Academy Chapel, guest conducting the Prelude from Humperdinck's Hansel and Gretel. Narrators included the late Dr. Aris Allen, Mr. Dean Johnson, and Ms. Jean Jackson,. Dr. Allen was a well known community leader, politician and ardent advocate of the cultural arts in Anne Arundel County. He sat on the boards of the Opera Company and the Ballet Theater of Annapolis, and attended and participated in many of the Society's performances. Dean Jones is currently the Mayor of Annapolis, and Jean Jackson is a past-president of the Annapolis Opera Company.
In November of 1986, the Society had the distinction of being the first group of its kind to be allowed to perform in the awe-inspiring sanctuary of St. Mary's Historic Church in Annapolis. Since that time, the Society has been privileged to return to St. Mary's on numerous occasions, presenting such classical masterpieces as Schubert's Magnificat in C Major, Mozart's Coronation Mass, Puccini's Messa di Gloria, Mass in Bb Major (Harmoniemesse) by Haydn.
April of 1988 and 1989 were exciting times for the Society. A Celebration of Musical Favorites in 1988 again featured guest artist Edward Stewart of the Ballet Theater of Annapolis, performing simultaneously to the chorus' Russian version of Glazunov's Song of the Volga Boatmen. This same concert premiered selections of a not as yet well known Broadway musical, Les Misérables, for Annapolis audiences. Glenette Rohner Schumacher provided the orchestral arrangement and conducting. The ensemble paid tribute to the 100th birthday of Irving Berlin by presenting selections from the composer's Century of Song. The "Celebration" concluded with highlights from Jerome Kern's Showboat, featuring a solo choral ensemble of Society singers. In April of 1989, the Society was afforded the opportunity to premier People of Glory, a composition written by local musician and former Music Director of St. Mary's Historic Church, Vince Ambrosetti. On April 30, 1989 the chorus presented excerpts from People of Glory to an audience of faculty and students in McGuire Hall at Loyola College in Baltimore, Mr. Ambrosetti's alma mater.
Always up for a challenge, the chorus literally "took the show on the road" in 1989 and 1990. The group traveled by bus to Virginia on May 13, 1989 to sing for the wedding of the daughter of a former member, and in April of 1990, when members accompanied Mr. Ambrosetti as part of the Roman Catholic Anniversary Choir and Orchestra on a singing tour of several cities in Italy. After giving concerts in Florence, Assisi, and Rome, the tour culminated on the steps of St. Peter's Basilica. There, during Pope John Paul II's weekly public audience in St. Peter's Square, the group sang Mr. Ambrosetti's composition, People of Glory, as His Holiness traveled through the crowded square in his Popemobile. The highlight of the event was Mr. Ambrosetti's presentation of a copy of his music, bound in white leather, to His Holiness as the group looked on.
Severna Park United Methodist Church set the scene in April 1991 for a presentation of French masterworks by Dubois, Faure, Franck, and Gounod. A solo ensemble chosen from the chorus rendered Faure's Tantum Ergo under the baton of Glenette Schumacher. Guest soloists included Debra Lawrence, Stephen Stokes, and Reginald Allen, with Marjorie Ingalls as guest organist.
New Year's Eve 1992 proved less than typical for a representative group of singers from the Society, as they teamed with the Annapolis Opera Company to participate in First Night Annapolis. Outfitted in period costumes and armed with props, the group performed the ballroom scene from the second act of Die Fledermaus in the rotunda of the State Capital building.
In May 1992, the Society and the Annapolis Opera Company presented a concert performance of Carmen, dedicated to the memory of Dr. Aris Allen. The presentation featured soloists Marcia Plait Treece, Stephen Stokes, Reginald Allen, Debra Lawrence, Julianne Borg, Amy Van Roekel, and the St. Mary's Children's Choir.
In April of 1993, the Society rendered a medley of classic American musicals from such popular Broadway productions as The Phantom of the Opera, Les Misérables, The Fantasticks, Cats, My Fair Lady, Show Boat, Evita and Jesus Christ Superstar.
On a patriotic "note," the Society combined voices in April of 1994 with the Asbury Broadneck United Methodist Church Chancel Gospel Choir and selected soloists, to present "Patriotic Portraits." This program included such familiar favorites as "This Is My Country" "Give Me Your Tired, Your Poor," "God Bless America," and some not-so-familiar but equally compelling works such as Victor Herbert's American Fantasia and Dvorak's The American Flag. Guest narrator was Vivian Gist, Associate Professor of English at Anne Arundel Community College.
In the spring of 1995 the Society again adopted a patriotic theme and called it "Americana." The chorus was accompanied by the Chamber Woodwinds, and the program included a special appearance by The Singers Madrigal of Annapolis. Featured music included John Rutter's Canticles of America, Randall Thompson's Frostiana, Aaron Copeland's Old American Songs, and Leonard Bernstein's The Best of All Possible Worlds.
While it is difficult to imagine an event more exciting than singing for His Holiness, the Pope on the steps of St. Peter's Basilica in Rome, the Society was afforded just such an opportunity in November 1995. Members of the chorus joined the Anne Arundel Community College Choir as one of 11 concert choirs from across the country to comprise the New England Symphonic Ensemble. By bus, car and train, Ensemble members arrived in New York City on Thanksgiving day from across the country to begin three days of rehearsals before appearing at Carnegie Hall. On Sunday, November 26, on stage in Carnegie Hall, the Ensemble performed contemporary English composer John Rutter's "Magnificat" and "Te Deum" under the baton of the Maestro himself, John Rutter.
Straying from its usual mid-November schedule, the Society moved its concert date to early December in 1994, 1995 and 1997 at St. Mary's. In addition to its classical program, "Christmas Rejoicings" included traditional as well as not-so-traditional Christmas selections, and featured St. Mary's Children's Choir.
The spring concerts of 1996, 1997, and 1998 embraced the best of 20th century Broadway. Accompanied by soloists and instrumentalists in May 1996, The Glory Days of Broadway encompassed excerpts from Hello Dolly, Guys and Dolls, The Music Man, Man of LaMancha, and West Side Story. With its enthusiasm for Broadway still running high in May 1997, the chorus demonstrated its expertise in Crazy for Broadway. This eclectic program included not only the more familiar Broadway shows, but lesser known songs from Crazy for You, Stop the World, I Want to Get Off, The Most Happy Fella, and Brigadoon. In May 1998, the chorus paid tribute to some of the greatest composers of the 20th century: Richard Rogers, Irving Berlin, and Stephen Sondheim in A Grand Night for Singing.
During the course of its first fifteen years, approximately 350 singers have been part of the Society at one time or another. The group currently consists of 60 singers, 11 of whom are charter members. These 11 strive to maintain the original spirit and purpose of the Society by sharing their years of music, experiences, memories, as well as their vision for the future of the Society. Under the exuberant and expert direction of Glenette Schumacher, the singers are looking forward to exploring new musical horizons. There is no doubt that the combined talent, enthusiasm, and love of the music of every member will carry the Society singing into the 21st century.