SALISBURY, MD---Josh Harman, 9, and Clark Mitchell, 12, of Salisbury may be the smallest performers featured in this year’s weeklong “Four Magical Nights” holiday music celebration at Salisbury University—but their combined role is one of the festival’s largest.
John Wesley Wright is guest soloist, vocal coach and stage director. Other guest artists include guitarist Danielle Cumming, and percussionists Ted Nichols and Charles F. Smith Jr., and pianist Susan Zimmer, who also contribute their talents to the evening’s additional offerings, Ariel Ramirez’s “Misa Criolla” and “Navidad Nuestra.”
Harman has sung with the Krazy Kidz Choir of Asbury United Methodist Church for two years. He recently played Daniel in the production It’s Cool in the Furnace at Asbury. In addition to acting, he enjoys baseball and basketball, and collecting bugs and butterflies. The Pemberton Elementary School fourth-grader would like to become a geologist.
Mitchell has sung with ensembles at Salisbury Middle School and Wicomico Presbyterian Church. He also has performed two years at the Magi Choral Festival. He enjoys playing piano and kayaking. A self-proclaimed lover of all music, he plays hand bells and baritone, and would like to write music. He is in seventh grade at Salisbury Middle School.
According to Folger and Wright, the boys were chosen for their clear, youthful voices. Mennotti was very specific that this part should always be played by a boy.
Amahl is a Christmas opera originally commissioned by NBC. It aired on December 24, 1951, as the first production of the Hallmark Hall of Fame. The composer was still writing the opera as the cast went into rehearsal. He was inspired after seeing “Adoration of the Magis,” a painting by Hieronymous Bosch.
Some suspect further inspiration may have come from a childhood illness which left him disabled in one leg. Out of desperation, his mother took him to a holy shrine to be healed. Slowly, he regained the use of his leg. Amahl is the story of a boy with a similar malady and his mother living in poverty after the death of his father. His great joys in life are playing the flute and dreaming up fantastic stories. One night he is visited by the three Kings, searching for the Holy Child. He experiences his own miracle after offering the only thing he has of value to the Kings.
In Italy, where Mennotti was born, legend holds that the Wise Men bring gifts to children at Christmas. As a child, he would lie awake at night listening for the footsteps of camels.
Sponsored by the Department of Music, tickets for Amahl are $10 for show only, $20 including appetizers during intermission. Free shuttles for evening concerts run from the Guerrieri University Center parking lot off Dogwood Drive to Holloway Hall from 6:30-7:30 p.m. and return following each concert.
For more information call 410-543-6385 or visit the Department of Music Web site at www.salisbury.edu/music.