|School Children Deck the Halls of Government House
photo by Sandra Martin
Frederick Douglass High School art teacher Elizabeth Cohen and sisters Marquita Greene and Tequesha Hill admire the tree of the Americas.
Had God tired of the rigors of creation, he could have called on Maryland's school children to enrich his growing universe. Which is what Frances Hughes Glendening has done to deck the halls of Government House each of the six years she's been Maryland's first lady.
Looking down on decorations that spill from six towering Christmas trees to mantles, staircases and tabletops, the Supreme Being might be a bit envious he did the world alone. For the Christmas kingdom created here by 4,000 school children from each of Maryland's 23 counties and Baltimore teems with marvels of unfettered imagination.
With materials ranging from string and glue to computer graphics, they've made an imagined universe to illustrate this year's holiday theme, Marylanders from Around the Globe. Each tree represents a part of the world from which Marylanders derive: Asia and the Middle East for the Entry Hall tree; South America for the State Dining Room; Europe for the Drawing Room; Africa for the Parlor; North and Central America and the Caribbean in the Conservatory; and Australia, Antarctica and Oceana in the Garden Room. A seventh tree blending Maryland's multi-cultural heritage stands in the State House.
Mummies make a favorite theme, but when you're talking thousands of ornaments, you're taking to marvel and monsters to appeal to a Creator who made alligators, sunsets and viruses.
"Children are innocent and uninhibited so they express their true vision," explained Prince Georges County art teacher Elizabeth Cohen, of Annapolis, as she admired canoes, wood huts and bows and arrows on the Conservatory tree of the Americas.
More deliberate is the artistry of Cohen's student Marquita Greene, a senior at Frederick Douglass High School in Upper Marlboro, whose computer graphics decorate the cover of the program documenting this year's Government House Christmas. As competition winner, Greene enjoyed an early and relatively uncrowded look at Government House's decked halls last Saturday morning. Outside, 2,500 artists and their parents queued from Government House through Lawyers Mall for their afternoon visit to see what they had wrought.
Assembling so many talents under the roof of Government House is a year-long project. Each spring, Glendening sets the theme and enlists the help of the counties' arts coordinators. From them the call goes out to art teachers like Cohen, who heads her school's art department, and in turn to art classes. Come fall, students from pre-K through senior high turn on their inspiration.
Beginning early in December, volunteer sisters of the Laureta Eta Chapter-Beta Sigma Phi sorority begin decorating seven Fraser firs grown from 15 to 25 feet in Pinetum Tree Farm of Western Maryland, where Glendening grew up. Covered so densely that boughs and needles disappear, the finished trees rival the National Tree on the Ellipse in Washington for cover - and far surpass that tree for variety.
By enlisting the artistry of children, Glendening brings Christmas to Government House in full splendor - but that's not all. "At the heart of it is sense of accomplishment at seeing their work adorn the majestic trees at this historic Maryland residence as well as the State House," said Glendening. "When children are involved in the arts from their earliest years, they will, I hope, begin a lifetime interest."
See the artistry of Maryland students and the gloriously decked halls of Government House by appointment: 410/974-3531. See the multi-cultural tree on your own during State House hours.
Local Elves Help Santa in Chesapeake Country
photo by Jennifer A. Dawicki
Twins Erin and Annie, 9, of Annapolis each year choose angels for girls their age.
The newsroom at Bay Weekly was flooded with calls this week, reporting early sightings of Santa Claus throughout Chesapeake Country.
Jolly old St. Nick was seen pulling into City Dock in Annapolis, laden with a plump, red velvet bag bursting at the seams. He headed straight for the Seattle Coffee Company/City Dock Cafe in the village of downtown.
At Seattle Coffee Company/City Dock Cafe, Santa's mission was to pack up the groceries collected for Partners in Care, he'll be delivering them to older adults who need a little help to remain independent in their own homes. To help the jolly elf out, hand-decorated boxes in the five Seattle Coffee Company shops and throughout Anne Arundel County are filling with donated groceries and toiletries.
"We are making up baskets for people to free up income so they can afford to buy the necessities," said Barbara Huston, founding member of Partners in Care.
Help out with small cans of food, coffee or tea, paper products, toiletries and little boxes of cookies and candy until December 21.
In Annapolis, deliver items to Annabeth's, Annapolis Opticians, Anne Arundel Medical Center, Armadillo's, Bank of America, Black Market, Blanca Flor, Café Gurus, Chico's, Framing of the Shoe, Galway Bay, Ludwigs, Mills Wine & Spirits, White House and Zachary's. In Glen Burnie, to North Arundel Hospital and To the Moon Travel. In Severna Park, to Dawson's Liquors, Harbour Spirits, Severna Park Veterinary Hospital, The Mail Store, and Thomas D. Scardinia Hair & Nail Salon. Information? 410/269-0961. Volunteer? 410/544-4800.
A long scroll of parchment scribbled with names dangling at his heels, Santa next dashed to Annapolis Mall. Shoppers found him outside Montgomery Ward at the Salvation Army Angel Tree, decorated with 'Angel Tags' bearing the names, ages, sexes and toy requests of over 900 local children. To help Santa, pluck a tag off the tree and return with an unwrapped gift.
"This becomes a very personal purchase for people because they know they are buying a gift that the child wants," says Karen Egan of the Salvation Army. Volunteer to host the Angel Tree. Information? 410/263-4091.
The Angel Tree has been so successful, that the idea's been adopted by the Cedar Grove United Methodist Church in Deale. To help Santa out, parishioners are partnering with Prison Fellowship to buy presents - in their parents' names - for the children of prisoners.
Santa has already gathered up those wrapped gifts, but he needs help delivering them. Information? 410/867-7417.
Navigating his way down Rockhold Creek, Santa sauntered into Calypso Bay Restaurant and Dock Bar. After reportedly indulging in a half-pound of steamed shrimp, he picked up presents for three families sponsored by Jennifer Brown, owner of Calypso Bay, through the Holiday Sharing Program in Anne Arundel County. "I had a blast shopping for all three children, and I really enjoy the feeling of helping people," says Brown, whose customers are helping with cash donations. Information? 410/867-9787.
Throughout Anne Arundel County, Holiday Sharing keeps a database of families in need. For 21 years, the program has matched those in need with givers from the same community. Organizing efforts that run from July through December, the program assisted 1,700 people over the Thanksgiving holiday and are expecting to reach out to 3,000 more this Christmas. "The best part is the tremendous amount of giving," says Christine Poulsen, coordinator of Holiday Sharing. Information? 410/867-2059.
Santa sightings were reported throughout Chesapeake Country, including the following places where he needs a helping hand.
We Care & Friends sponsors its 10th annual new toy drive. By December 23, drop off new unwrapped toys for children, ranging in ages from infant to 15 years old, at Carrolls Creek Cafe, Heroes Tavern, Adams Jeep and the Stanton Center. Teen items are greatly needed. Information? 410/269-1595.
The Naval Academy Family Service Center will deliver homemade Christmas cookies, baked by naval/marine families and citizens, to duty posts and to those who cannot make it home for the holidays.
The Red Cross hosts blood drives throughout the season: On the 15th at Wal-Mart in Prince Frederick from noon to 6pm; On the 17th at St. Mary's Church in Annapolis from 8am to 2pm; On the 18th at Elks 2482 on Truck House/Jennings Road from 3pm to 7pm; On the 26th at Christ Church on Owensville Road in Owensville from 8am to 2pm. All donors must be at least 17 years of age, weigh at least 110 pounds and be in good health. Information? 800/give life.
Annapolis Home Depot sponsors a food drive for the Lighthouse Shelter in Annapolis. A hand-painted box is filling up until January 2 with canned goods to be delivered to the shelter after the new year. Information? 410/741-0202.
The Lighthouse Shelter is always in need of clothing and non-perishables for its emergency shelter and for the guests who reside there. Information? 410/263-1835.
·Long & Foster Realtors is the designated collection site for Toys for Tots. The 11th annual toy drive ends December 15; until then, each of the Long & Foster's 163 sales offices collects new, unwrapped toys for financially and physically disadvantaged children in the community. Spanning 50 states, Toys for Tots distributed 13.8 million toys to 5.9 million children last year. Information? 703/359-1762
The North Beach Children's Fund is collecting new toys for children from infant to 16 years. Drop off toys at Town Hall in North Beach or mail cash donations to the North Beach Children's Fund. P.O. Box 546, North Beach, MD 20714. Teen items are greatly needed. Information? 301/855-8748.
Project Echo, the homeless shelter in Calvert County, is gearing up for its annual Christmas caroling for guests at the shelter. Hot meals are brought into the shelter each night by a variety of churches, boy scout troops, and the Optimist Club, but volunteers are always sought to help staff the shelter. A Christmas wish list can be picked up at the shelter, and paper products are always needed. Information? 410/257-0003. 300 Main Street, Prince Frederick, MD 20678.
-Jennifer A Dawicki
Unified Jazz Ensemble Makes a Joyful Noise
'Tis the season for music. Time to dust off those same old Bing Crosby and George Frederick Handel Christmas albums we play this time of year, every year, year in and year out.
No offense to Crosby or Handel, but like fruitcake that's been left out too long, old Christmas albums get stale.
Chesapeake jazz buffs can freshen up their holiday listening with the smooth Yuletide sounds of the Unified Jazz Ensemble's holiday CD Make a Joyful Noise.
One of Chesapeake's Country's finest jazz bands, the Ensemble combine their eight years of be-bopping with the spirit of Old St. Nick to create a swinging compilation of Christmas classics and original jingles.
Jeff Antoniuk on sax, Mike Noonan on vibraphone, John Pineda on double bass and Marty Morrison on drums fuel this musical hearth with their fondest Christmas memories, many not unlike your own, so that almost anyone can appreciate the joy of this album.
"We just put a jazz spin on traditional Christmas melodies we've been hearing since we were kids," said Morrison.
You can picture the holidays at the Morrisons. A GI Joe complete with Afro and Kung Fu Grip, swinging carols on his father's B-3 Hammond organ and roughhousing in grandma's living room: such are the influences that drive Morrison's snap-and-pop on the skins.
For his shimmering performance on the vibraphone, Noonan reaches back for his time spent with family and friends and embracing the spirit of the season. Visions of Christmas Eve with his wife- listening to music and enjoying each other's company - dance through Pineda's fat-bottomed bass. And Antoniuk's tenderness on the sax wraps up all that is both warm and cool about the season.
For those merry jazz junkies, Make a Joyful Noise is a jam. The Ensemble mixes Latin, swing and tricks from Coltrane's bag to jazz up numbers like "Little Drummer Boy," "Santa Claus Is Coming to Town," and "Let it Snow, Let it Snow, Let it Snow."
The Ukrainian canticle "Carol of the Bells" is tweaked out into a freaky-funky sleigh ride, while their "Rudolph, The Red-Nosed Reindeer," will go down in history as one bad cat. Get your copy of this jingle-bell jamboree on Unified Jazz Ensemble's website: www.unifiedjazz.com. Catch them live every Wednesday night at 49 West Cafe in Annapolis and on New Year's Eve at King of France Tavern in Annapolis.
More Annapolis Christmas Jingles
If you'd rather rock your Christmas listening, An Annapolis Christmas is the music for you.
In both 1998 and 1999, Chesapeake musicians combined forces to deliver a holiday mix of mellow instrumentals and rousing rock 'n' roll on both revamped Christmas classics and fresh alternative tunes.
"The other two albums sold well, but Christmas albums have a long shelf life. We decided to let them run their cycle and rest on our laurels for a year or two," said executive producer Steve Alexander.
As Alexander says, Christmas comes but once a year, so earlier years' offerings still sound fresh.
On Annapolis Christmas II, you'll hear Divine Static's "Ain't No Merry Christmas"; Blue Miracle's jazzy "Silent Night" - with a go-go beat; The Remnants' "Happy Xmas"; plus John Fahres with "12/23"; High Tide Steel Drum Band's "Jingle Bells" and Doug Segree's "Three Angels."
On Annapolis Christmas I, you'll hear original music by Matt McConville, VanDyke and Glaser, James and Dan Haas as well as traditional songs performed by the late Craig Carr, Mary Byrd Brown, Angie Miller, The Geckos, The Annapolis Vocal Corps, Dean Rosenthal and the Resophonics and Underfoot.
Still, there may be more rock in future years. "We try to use the cream of the crop from the Annapolis cats," Alexander says. "There are still a few musicians who haven't played on an album yet and we hope to get them in the future. We do plan on doing another one."
Get Annapolis Christmas I or II at www.digitalbaystudio.com.
Way Downstream ...
In Baltimore, beware of tripping over fish on the sidewalk. Chicago had cow art, and Cincinnati its pig statues. Now, in a new "Fish out of Water" project, Baltimore's sidewalks will be decorated with some 200 fish sculptures starting in June ...
In Georgia, farmers are raising something new - alligators. Chicken farmers are raising gators as a way to get rid of birds that die before slaughter, the Associated Press reported last week. Later on, the farmers slaughter the reptiles for food, reminding people, of course, that gator tastes a lot like chicken...
In California, government researchers investigating frogs' decline and deformities believe they have found a culprit: pesticides. Four of five frogs in the Lake Tahoe area and more than half in Yosemite National Park had pesticides in their systems. But that may only be part of the answer; parasites, disease and destruction of habitat also plague frogs, researchers say...
Our Creature Feature comes from Alaska, where the animal usually discussed is the ferocious Alaskan brown bear. But there's another creature on the tip of people's tongues right now: the Alaskan rabbit. A story in the Anchorage Daily News last week began thus: "The bunnies are everywhere. Fat, healthy bunnies. Squatting in driveways, nestled in front yards, loping across the cul-de-sac."
Word has it that a few pet rabbits got loose, and now the city is overrun, especially Lauren Rayfield's home. "I love rabbits. I've got crippled rabbits, blind rabbits, rabbits with three legs," she said. "I've got 60, and there's another 15 that are out in the yard, just hanging around."