Ocean City Pops winding down its season in style - Ocean City Sentinel: Arts & Entertainment

Ocean City Pops winding down its season in style

By Ed Wismer | Posted: Thursday, September 16, 2010 1:00 am

The Ocean City Pops are closing in on the final concerts of its summer season. The Sept. 13 concert, like so many this summer, was first rate and full of all kinds of goodies.

The entire first half of the concert featured the GAMP Concert Choir. GAMP is an acronym for Girard Academic Music Program, whose base is the venerable Girard College, founded by Stephen Girard as a school for underprivileged boys. The school is now coeducational and multiracial, with a highly respected music program.

The choir numbers 40-plus, and filled the Music Pier stage. The sound filled the auditorium, which contained a pretty large audience for a post-Labor Day event. The choir is well balanced and has unusually strong tenor and baritone sections.

The GAMP choir opened the program with a stirring arrangement of the “Star Spangled Banner,” with some added lyrics by C. Cloninger. It was an impressive beginning, and the night became more impressive when the choir sang John Rutter’s “Gloria Patri” (Magnificat), with a beautiful solo by Kara Mulder, who has a very mature voice for a singer of her tender years.

Two numbers from the musical, “The Secret Garden,” were beautifully sung by Victoria Baccini and Julia Bukonewicz, and tenor James Stefanowicz. “I Am Not Yours,” and “Soemone Like You” from “Jekyll & Hyde” were sung by another mature sounding soprano named Terri Allen. Summer Hill and Taylor Samuels exhibited the same kind of maturity as the others, which has to be the result of some very good teaching. They all breathe well too.

The choir’s final number was “You Raise Me Up,” featuring a number of vocal and instrumental soloists, including GAMP alumnus tenor Justin Gonzales, who recently signed a contract with a major Philadelphia opera company. A standing ovation was awarded to all.

The hard working Music Pier staff was very busy, preparing the stage for the Pops orchestra and soloists for the concert’s second half. The Steinway concert grand had to be moved to a prominent spot for soloist Yang Bao, who is another musical gift from GAMP.

Before Yang Bao performed, the Ocean City Pops played the crowd pleasing “Salute to George M. Cohan,” with lots of grand old tunes penned by the ultimate Irish-American.

Kara Mulder returned to sing “Think of Me” from “Phantom of the Opera,” and George Gershwin’s lovely “Someone to Watch Over Me.” The statuesque blonde has the voice of one twice her age, and has a promising career ahead of her. She had a major role in the Ocean City Theatre Company’s production of “Carousel” last summer.

Yang Bao appears to be about 20 years old, but plays the piano like a veteran. His playing with the orchestra of the first movement of Beethoven’s “Piano Concerto No. 4” can only be described as magnificent. His approach and dexterity indicates a profound understanding of the music. The lengthy cadenza was played with fire and passion, but also with unwavering precision.

Gonzales has been a Pops favorite in recent years and has been welcomed back as a soloist in area churches with good reason. His voice has matured into a thrilling instrument. His range has increased and he has mastered the art of breathing correctly, sustaining his long passages.

Gonzales’ singing of “This is My Country” was a thriller and his encore of “You’ll Never Walk Alone” indicated he is growing rapidly as an artist. As the audience left the Music Pier, many appreciative comments were heard.