Baltimore Choral Arts Society experienced an artistic renaissance in 2018. Now in his second year as musical director, Anthony Blake Clark recently chatted with Baltimore OUTloud to discuss the upcoming 2019 season and how classical music is once again relevant for audiences.
Frankie Kujawa: What can audiences expect?
Blake Clark: This season is called “A Season of Story and Song” – audiences can expect to see Choral Arts embark on more adventurous programming that approaches music in a more interdisciplinary, collaborative way, while still providing the more conventional pieces in the repertoire as well. This year we are presenting a special concert in partnership with MICA that will present the story of Hans Christian Andersen’s “Little Match Girl” with experiential art installations and video enhancements that will help craft the audience’s experience of the story. In May we are going to be collaborating with several other organizations, including the Maryland State Boychoir, Peabody Youth Orchestra, and Muse360 dance company in our community opera by Jonathan Dove entitled “The Monster in the Maze” – all the collaborations are a really thrilling prospect for me. We will present a lesser known Mendelssohn piece, of course will give our annual sing-along Handel “Messiah,” and our first subscription concert will be a performance of Brahms’s transcendent “A German Requiem.”
What goes into planning a season as ambitious as this one?
We think in multi-year plans. Typically, the repertoire selection starts with my “dreamlist” and where the chorus and our organization’s goals are at that point in time. I try to match my artistic vision with the vision of all of us as a unit and that yields great results. Then we get members of our board to speak into the process, we make and pass our budget, we hire musicians, then we start rehearsing! The rehearsal process is pivotal – it is where all the magic occurs. I think all conductors are fans of process. If not, it tends to show in performance. I enjoy rehearsals just as much as concerts because it is where I get to collaborate and play in the same musical space as everyone in the room. I am often more nervous for rehearsals than concerts because I know that there is hard work, and important work, that needs to be done there.
What makes Baltimore Choral Arts such a special and unique experience for audiences?
Classical music has never been more relevant. It gives peace, stimulation, inspiration, and discipline. It tells stories, both positive and negative, and demands that we respond and form opinions about ourselves and our world. Vocal music is even better because we have a powerful communication tool: text! One might struggle to find the meaning behind Brahms’s second symphony, but one does not need a ton of musical education to really understand an oratorio by Mendelssohn or David Lang’s “Little Match Girl Passion” that we’re performing. It is really astounding to have the music, the heart’s language, and words set to that heart language – it makes for a very meaningful experience. Audiences should also expect variety. We perform pieces from the 16th century all the way up to pieces by living composers. Fast, slow, happy, sad, and everything in between can be found in choral music. We aim to advocate for choral music by putting on the most dynamic concerts you’ll ever witness!
For more info, visit Baltimorechoralarts.org.
- Since 2011, arts writer Frankie Kujawa has covered a wide scope of entertainment stories and celebrity interviews. From the late Carrie Fisher and LGBTQ icon George Takei to comedians Lily Tomlin and Kathy Griffin to performer Idina Menzel, Kujawa’s candid interview ability brings readers past the byline and into the heart of the story. His unbiased previews of Baltimore-Washington’s theatre scene have allowed readers an inside glimpse of today’s most popular local and national performances. A Baltimore-native, Kujawa is proud to call Charm City his home.