Oratorio Chorale

Shakespeare in Concert March 7–9

This year marks the 450th anniversary of William Shakespeare’s birth, an event observed in year-long programming and celebrations from Stratford-on-Avon and throughout the United Kingdom to Stratford, Ontario, Paris, Perth, and locations throughout the U.S. Here in Maine, the Oratorio Chorale, under the direction of Emily Isaacson, soprano soloist Mary Sullivan, and actors from Acorn Productions’ Naked Shakespeare, directed by Mike Levine, presented three performances of “Shakespeare in Concert” March 7–9 in Brunswick.

Singers and actors performed music and scenes from As You Like It, Twelfth Night, The Tempest, Othello, and more. Composers ranged from Thomas Morley, Ralph Vaughan Williams, Giuseppe Verdi, William Schuman and Amy Beach to contemporaries Steven Sametz and Judith Lang Zaimont. The music demonstrates the breadth of interpretations through four centuries.

Naked Shakespeare’s performers bring the words of the Bard to audiences in non-traditional venues (such as wine bars, restaurants, or in this case the Bowdoin College Chapel) and are presented without sets, lights and costumes.  In this “Shakespeare in Concert” program, actors portrayed short scenes from the plays that include song lyrics as spoken text.  The Chorale showcased different composers’ interpretations of the same song—for example, “It Was a Lover and His Lass,” a light-hearted dance song, as conceived by Shakespeare’s contemporary Sir Thomas Morley and our own contemporary, Matthew Harris (b. 1956).

Soprano Mary Sullivan performed songs by Gounod, Verdi, Mendelssohn, and Benjamin Britten.

Pianist Derek Herzer accompanied Sullivan and the Chorale.

Before each concert, Bowdoin Professor of Music Mary Hunter provided illustrated remarks about music in Shakespeare’s works and how song enhanced theater productions from his time until the present, on stage and in opera, film, and concert.

Performances took place Friday through Sunday, March 7, 8 and 9, at the Bowdoin College Chapel.

Naked Shakespeare Ensemble Performers

Joining the Chorale for “Shakespeare in Concert” were director Mike Levine and actors Karen Ball, Mary Fraser, and Michael Howard. For actors’ bios, see Naked Shakespeare Ensemble Performers. For more about Acorn Productions and the Naked Shakespeare Ensemble, go to: www.acorn-productions.org

Mary Sullivan, soprano soloist

Soprano Mary Sullivan brought dramatic lyricism to the program with Charles Gounod’s “Juliet’s Waltz,” Verdi’s “Piangea cantando” from his opera Otello, and “Come Now a Roundel” from A Midsummer Night’s Dream in compositions by Benjamin Britten and Felix Mendelssohn. For Ms. Sullivan’s background, go to Mary Sullivan, Soprano.