Cape Gazette
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Choral society features Opera's Greatest Hits April 20-21

Mar 27, 2013

The Southern Delaware Choral Society will present its spring concerts Saturday and Sunday, April 20  and 21. The program, Opera’s Greatest Hits, features music from around the world and will be conducted by Ann Freeman, narrated by Carol Denenberg, and accompanied by Paul Fleckenstein with guest soloists Jennifer Holbrook, soprano; William Davenport,  tenor; and Alex Helsabeck, tenor.

“Most people think opera is stuffy and boring. What they are unaware of is the prominent role that opera plays in their daily lives. For example, most brides walk down the aisle to 'The Bridal Chorus' ('Here Comes The Bride'). 'The Bridal Chorus' is a song from Wagner’s opera 'Lohengrin.' Another example is 'O Fortuna' from Carmina Burano. The song has been part of the soundtrack of many popular movies including 'Excalibur,' 'The Hunt for Red October,' and 'The Bachelor,'” said Gail Launay, executive director of SDCS. “Audiences will truly enjoy the variety of operatic songs performed during the concert because they actually know the tunes.”

As an added feature, SDCS member and opera aficionado Carol Denenberg will narrate the program, providing an insider’s look at the pieces. Denenberg said, “It will be my function to take the audience backstage in a way, to provide a context for what would otherwise be just beautiful music. I hope the audience comes away with a sense of opera's expressive and comic power and with a desire to experience opera firsthand.”

Fleckenstein rejoins the SDCS as accompanist for the concerts. Fleckenstein has served as organist and director of music at Westminster Presbyterian Church in Wilmington since 1993. A native of California, he holds degrees from the University of the Pacific Conservatory of Music and Westminster Choir College, where he held a graduate assistantship as accompanist for the famed Westminster Symphonic Choir.

To perform the operatic solos featured in the concert, several talented vocalists will also join the chorus. Jennifer Holbrook, a soprano, has been praised by the Baltimore Sun for her “radiant, silvery voice, gleaming agility and elegant style.” Recent performances include Donna Anna in "Don Giovanni" with Repertory Opera Theater of Washington, the title role in Massenet’s "Manon" with Peabody Opera, Juliette in Gounod’s "Romeo et Juliette" with Bel Cantanti Opera and Echo in "Ariadne auf Naxos" with Seattle Opera’s Young Artist Program.

Tenor William Davenport in 2012 performed his first Duca in "Rigoletto" with the Tuscia Italian Opera Festival of Orange County, after which the Italian news reported, “The biggest ovation, however, was for William Davenport. The young tenor demonstrated a huge vocal ability.”

Locals will recognize baritone Alex Helsabeck as the director of music and arts for the Episcopal Parish of All Saints' Church and St. George's Chapel in Rehoboth Beach. He serves as principal organist and directs the All Saints' Choir and the parish choir. During seven years of Air Force service, Helsabeck received three Meritorious Service Medals - first as the vocalist most requested for special performances, second for his distinguished service as an Army soloist; upon his retirement he was awarded a third medal.

The April 20 concert will be held at 7 p.m., Epworth United Methodist Church in Rehoboth Beach, and the 4 p.m., Sunday, April 21 concert will be held at Mariner’s Bethel United Methodist, Church Ocean View.

Tickets for both performances are available by calling 302-396-7617, online at southerndelawarechoralsociety.org and at Browseabout Books in Rehoboth Beach and Puzzles in Lewes. Costs for the tickets are $20 adults, $8 for students with valid ID.

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