By Lauren Taylor
The pinnacle of this year's holiday concert is a narrated version of Charles Dickens' classic "A Christmas Carol" performed by Tim Marrone, a resident of Charles Village, and accompanied by the music of composer Carl Davis.
Another highlight will be the world premiere of "Sussex Carol" by composer Elam Ray Sprenkle of Roland Park.
The celebratory composition centers around the well-known Christmas melody. Sprenkle took "bits and pieces and reworked them, which accumulates into the carol," he said.
"A Christmas Carol" was first performed by the BCO last year and was hugely successful, according to Anne Harrigan, BCO founder and conductor.
She was first introduced to the musical piece, which was originally composed for a ballet in London by composer Davis, a few years ago.
"I really enjoyed it as a piece," Harrigan said, "but I thought, 'Wouldn't it be nice ...'"
Dressed in a Victorian-type costume, Marrone performs 14 different voices.
Harrigan said Marrone is engaging in his performance.
"He does a fabulous job performing all the roles," she said. "He gives such an invigorating performance."
This will be the second year Marrone, who teaches at the Baltimore School for the Arts, has performed the piece, which is a condensed version of the traditional tale most people are already familiar with.
"It is a wonderful story, and it was hard to cut," said Marrone, who with Harrigan helped smooth the narration and music before last year's performance.
He explained that the narration is "like a competition" between him and the music, though they tried to arrange it in a way that struck a balance between the two.
"The music and narrative are complements to each other," Harrigan said. "The music describes the mood of the narration."
Marrone's part is enhanced by that mood.
"To have a 40 piece orchestra playing with you is a blast," he said. "It's just wonderful for an actor.
"And reciting Dickens is like reciting poetry."
Harrigan said she expects that the "Christmas Carol" piece will become a tradition for the BCO.
Harrigan said many carols are being rediscovered, such as "Sussex Carol," pointing out that Sprenkle takes the original tune and "gives it a new flair. He varies the color and direction."
She said Sprenkle disguises the piece for a while, so it is "like opening a Russian nesting doll."
"His work is beautiful, melodic music ... there's a real emotional tenor to it."
Sprenkle, whose pieces the BCO has performed in the past, said he "wrote 'Sussex Carol' for Anne as a thank you."
"This is just going to be a very special event," Harrigan said.
For Harrigan and the BCO, the holiday concert has been a tradition for 20 years, becoming its most popular concert.
The BCO, founded in 1984, is a highly professional company, drawing musicians from the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra and the Baltimore Opera.
Harrigan will retire from conducting the orchestra's full season in May.
The BCO holiday concert will be held at the Second Presbyterian Church, 4200 St. Paul St., Dec. 18 at 8 p.m. and Dec. 22 at 3 p.m. Ticket prices are $8 to $26. For more information, call 410-426-0157.