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REVIEW: Crescendo breaks with tradition to delight Saint James crowd with song and dance from Gilbert and Sullivan

In addition to "Trial by Jury," the program included highlights from nine other Gilbert and Sullivan works, all performed in costumes created by seamstress Kathleen DeAngelis.

Great Barrington — The Crescendo singers are known for their historically informed performances of ancient choral and instrumental music—and not so much for their dance moves. But dance they did on Sunday, May 5, at Saint James Place, while singing high-velocity, tongue-twisting ditties by W.S. Gilbert and Arthur Sullivan, whose comic opera “Trial by Jury,” took the Crescendo singers well beyond their usual artistic confines.

But not out of their comfort zone.

As it turns out, the Crescendo singers have a genuine feel for this music. In fact, several of them were part of the Light Opera Company of Salisbury, a group founded by the late Georgia Nunnally Johnson McEver, a soloist with the Robert Shaw Chorale who was crazy about Gilbert and Sullivan operettas and sang lead roles in all of them. So it is fair to say that these folks are well rooted in comic opera. Not only that, but longtime Crescendo soloist and section leader John-Arthur Miller specializes in Gilbert and Sullivan, and it was he who narrated and co-directed this performance.

In addition to “Trial by Jury,” the program included highlights from nine other Gilbert and Sullivan works, all performed in costumes created by seamstress Kathleen DeAngelis. This turned out to be some of the strongest material of the program, because Gevert and Miller were free to cherry pick the most popular hits from the most popular Gilbert and Sullivan shows. Unsurprisingly, they selected some of Sullivan’s best choral writing, which the Crescendo singers dispatched with characteristic gusto.

Sunday’s program consisted of the one-act “Trial by Jury,” followed by a greatest-hits set from Gilbert and Sullivan operas “Ruddigore,” “The Mikado,” “H.M.S. Pinafore,” “Iolanthe,” “Patience,” “The Pirates of Penzance,” “Princess Ida,” and “The Gondoliers.”

The indefatigable David Baranowski accompanied the ensemble on piano and proved a model of reliability, his stamina having, no doubt, been well tested as a member of Deep Purple guitarist Ritchie Blackmore’s touring band, Night. When he is not playing heavy metal with Blackmore, Mr. Baranowski serves as director of music at the Salisbury Congregational Church.

The “Trial by Jury” cast was:

  • Rebecca Palmer: Plaintiff (Angelina), Yum-Yum
  • Christiane Olson: Ella, Mabel, Princess
  • Margie O’Brien: Saphir
  • Sarah Bleasdale: Buttercup, Queen, Angela
  • Max Rook: Pitti-Sing
  • Igor Ferreira: Defendant (Edwin)
  • Kevin Ray: Nanki-Poo, Ralph Rackstraw, Hilarion
  • Doug Schmolze: Duke
  • Stephen Quint: The Learned Judge, Lord Chancellor, Major General
  • John-Arthur Miller: Sergeant, Ko-Ko
  • Joseph Klebanoff: Counsel to the Plaintiff
  • Gabriel Garcia: Foreman of the Jury, Ko-Ko, Boatswain, Colonel

Crescendo’s chorus comprises Louise Brown, Kathy Drake, Emily Elliot, Peggy Heck, Sarah Melcher, Roberta Roll, Traudi Chiaravalotti, Debby Mark, Martha Nesbitt, Susan Pettee, Mary Sullivan, Gordon Gustafson, Joe Kolodziej, Richard Vreeland, Andy Kettler, Rene Milo, and Tom Schindler.

Crescendo, a national-award-winning music performance organization, has just concluded its 20th anniversary season. For two decades, the organization has presented concerts year round in northwestern Connecticut, the Berkshires, and the mid-Hudson Valley of New York. It is based at Trinity Church Lime Rock in Lakeville, Conn.

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