'America Sings' — and so will the Chorale in annual Dec. 31 gala

CHAMPAIGN — The Chorale will return Tuesday to the Virginia Theatre for its traditional New Year's Eve show, starting at 7 p.m.

The 23rd consecutive annual New Year's Eve gala — and the 22nd at the now renovated vintage Virginia — will have the theme "America Sings" and as usual feature a young artist, as well as pianist-organist Michael Hammer, who accompanies The Chorale.

This year, the young artist will be soprano Caitlin Caruso-Dobbs, a sophomore majoring in musical theater at New York University.

"When Caitlin told me she would be coming home for the holidays, I was delighted to invite her to be a part of the program," Chorale founding director Julie Beyler said.

A 2012 winner of a Chorale Young Artist Scholarship, Caruso-Dobbs, whose family lives in Champaign, has performed in many local theater productions. A protege of the late Dan Perrino, she also has sung American songbook cabaret performances.

She has worked for the Champaign Park District Youth Theater Program and directs her own singing group, the Champaign-Urbana Youth Glee Club.

Caruso-Dobbs, who has sung at previous Chorale New Year's Eve concerts, will perform popular numbers such as Irving Berlin's "Alexander's Ragtime Band," "My White Night" from "The Music Man," and "The Girl in 14G."

As part of the New Year's Eve concert, Hammer will perform "Union" by Louis Moreau Gottschalk. The piece quotes American standards such as "Yankee Doodle" and "Hail, Columbia," in addition to the national anthem.

He also will play "Grand Sonata in Rag" by William Albright.

"This is technically a classical piano sonata but really sounds like high-octane ragtime, ranging from soft, gentle, and dignified to fast, loud, and raucous, with touches of humor and melodrama throughout," he said.

During the concert, Hammer also will perform on the mighty Wurlitzer at the Virginia. Like the theater itself, the organ has been restored.

The Chorale will usher in the new year by performing a variety of American popular and patriotic music.

"This quick glimpse will represent many types and eras of truly American music," Beyler said.

The numbers will include "Take Me Out to the Ballgame," "The Real American Folk Song (Is a Rag)" and pieces stemming from the settlement of the West such as "Home on the Range," the American folk hymn "Bound for the Promised Land" and Kentucky folk song "The Lonesome Dove."

Also part of the program: Stephen Foster's "Beautiful Dreamer" an "Oh, Susannah," as well as the patriotic numbers "Who Are the Brave" and "America, the Dream Goes On."

Eve Harwood will lead the traditional singalong, using glass slides of popular songs from the 1920s and '30s that were found backstage at the Virginia several years ago.

"Eve has been a huge help to us in many ways, just one of which is stepping into the big shoes left by Dan Perrino as the longtime leader of the singalong," Beyler said.

Beyler said the entire Chorale, a 70-voice mixed community chorus, looks forward to returning to the Virginia for New Year's Eve.

"It's always been an inspiring place to sing, and will be even more so since the renovations. We've developed an enthusiastic following for this show, and they will love coming back to this wonderful theater."

If you go

What: The Chorale presents "America Sings," its 23rd annual New Year's Eve gala, featuring young artist Caitlin Caruso-Dobbs, a soprano, and organist-pianist Michael Hammer

When: 7 p.m. Tuesday; doors open at 6:15

Where: Virginia Theatre, 223 Park Ave., C

Tickets: $24 for adults; $22 for children 12 and younger and senior citizens 65 and older ($2 fee per ticket for online purchases)

To buy: Go tothevirginia.org, call 356-9063 or visit the box office between 10 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. Mondays through Fridays

Note: The Virginia does not take ticket orders or reservations by email or fax.

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