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Holidays ushered in soulfully in Baltimore

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a concert from December 14, 2013

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Baltimore's famed Hippodrome Theatre was lit up with holiday cheer Saturday December 14, 2013 as eighty-five musicians lent their talents instrumentally and vocally to present Christmas carols with a twist. The event, entitled Soulful Holidays, was the brainchild of Darin Atwater and sponsored by the Hippodrome Foundation, BGE, M&T Bank, WBAL-TV and others. It showcased Soulful Symphony instrumentalists including violin, cello, bass, trumpet, oboe, flute, saxophone, trombone, percussion, harp, alto and tenor sax.

The concert featured sacred as well as secular selections including traditional carols, uptempo contemporary songs and holiday standards, all with a soulful flavor. This was not an ordinary Christmas concert, for it included renowned musicians and vocalists, many of whom are graduates of Baltimore's Morgan State University (including Atwater).

Atwater's red velvet jacket was a sharp contrast to the group's black and white attire as he stepped to the podium for the purpose of conducting the musicians. His love for the art was very evident as he conducted and swayed to the colorful and flavor-filled music.

According to Atwater, the celebration was the perfect kickoff to the holiday season and would benefit the 5,000 or more public school students who would be enrolled in the Hippodrome Foundation's various outreach programs. Atwater also said this concert is a bridge to combining high art, classical and pop cultures.

The soloists were especially phenomenal and had the audience feeling as if the holidays were in full bloom and church was in session. They included Monet Shelton, Paula Huggins, JeNean Wise, Tim Green, Shaun Mykals, Chantay Carter Juanita Contee-Johnson, Jeremy Lloyd, Crystal Ransom and Micah Smith (who sounded a lot like Will Downing).

There was a special tribute, Kwanzaa Celebration, to the late South African leader and humanitarian Nelson Mandela as high schoolers Bilal Smith and Amir Sanders danced as if they were performing for Madiba, himself.

Prior to the concert, accomplished musician Marcus D. Smith said he was there and anticipated experiencing great musicianship, creative arrangements and an overall musicall well-balanced concert. He said Darin is a great arranger and able to incorporate characteristics of the classical style and different genres in one musical selection.

Also in attendance were Tim Brockington and Yvonne Somerville, who enjoyed the entire performance and gave the concert five stars. Brockington admitted his partiality to Carol of the Bells, the first song presented.

The Hippodrome Foundation introduces people to the world of theater and arts. The foundation can be reached at 416 West Baltimore Street, Baltimore, MD 21201. The website is www.hippodromefoundation.org.

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