Marc Irwin brings musicality everywhere he goes, even to synagogue

Marc Irwin (Courtesy)

The Classic Theatre of Maryland is celebrating a full decade of professional theater in Annapolis. And local Jewish musician Marc Irwin has been along for the journey nearly from the start.

Irwin, a pianist and composer for the theater company, formerly known as the Annapolis Shakespeare Company, also serves as the musical director for the renowned Baltimore Hebrew Congregation. The multi-talented Irwin is a composer, arranger, rehearsal and pit musician for Broadway shows; he has a jazz group; and he performs and records professionally in New York City and locally.

The Classic Theatre of Maryland, or CTM, was founded by Sally Boyett in 2013 as a professional theater company with a commitment to promoting the highest level of artistic excellence. The current season will feature more than 170 shows planned in celebration of their exciting milestone — 10 years of performances. Performances include interpretations of Shakespeare classics, two family-friendly holiday favorites, a Pulitzer Prize-winning drama and comedies.

The season kicked off with Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night,” set in the Golden Age of Hollywood in the 1920s.

“Twelfth Night” (Photo by Sally Boyett)

“I am so excited for this 10th anniversary season,” said founder and producing artistic director Boyett. “CTM is Anne Arundel County’s only year-round professional regional theater company. Our creative team, along with resident and guest artists, bring Broadway, Broadway National and International Tour, as well as London’s West End credentials, to CTM. This is reflected in the outstanding quality of the work at CTM and is unparalleled in the region.”

In addition to Boyett, prominent actors and directors who have contributed their award-winning skill and talent at CTM over the last 10 years include Donald Hicken, Mario Ramos, Angie Schworer, Mike Noonan, Ian Knauer, Marc Irwin and William D’Eugenio. They have received such awards as Helen Hayes Awards and Emmy Awards, and have been Tony Award finalists.

“The theater strives to bring the best quality art to its audience,” reports Boyett. Along those lines, she speaks highly of local Jewish talent Irwin.

“To do this, we need the most talented, disciplined and dedicated artists we can engage. Experience at the highest levels of professional theatre is essential, and Marc Irwin is a valued artist at CTM because he brings his gifts as a composer and musician, as well as years of experience working on Broadway shows. He knows the rigorous process required to make great theater and welcomes the opportunity to practice the art he loves. His original compositions adorn our stage with beauty, sensitivity and insight, and he works diligently with the artistic team to mold and nuance every aspect of each production.”

From “The Glass Menagerie,” directed by Donald Hicken and composed by Marc Irwin (Photo by Joshua McKerrow)

‘We do an ensemble on the bimah’

Irwin, who lives in Baltimore, is a pianist, composer, arranger and recording artist with a lengthy list of accomplishments locally and nationally. He has served as assistant conductor for the Kennedy Center’s production of Words and Music, participated in area performances at the Hippodrome, and the Lyric Opera House and worked as a sound designer and keyboardist as part of Harry Belafonte’s global tour.

The native of Brooklyn, N.Y., started playing piano at age 5 and attended the Manhattan School of Music.

But, he reports, “I leaned my craft — conducting, performing, leading groups and composing — in the Catskills!” After graduating music school in 1974, Irwin played “lots of gigs,” including accompanying famous cantor and Jewish musician, Paul Zim. “I went with him on the road to a few cities.”

Irwin moved to Baltimore to attend the Peabody School in 1988. He and wife, Adele, who runs the music program at Baltimore’s Park School, raised their two children in the city. He has served as musical director at Baltimore Hebrew Congregation since November 2021.

There, he praises his colleagues, Cantor Ben Ellerin, Cantor Ann Sacks and Rabbi Andrew Busch, noting that “we do an ensemble on the bimah with the cantor and rabbi each Shabbat service.”

Irwin also directors the Kol Rinnah, a choir formed in 1982 that consists of both community members and hired singers; they perform at several worship services each year.

He recounts a somewhat serendipitous route to Baltimore Hebrew Congregation, saying “it all started when Cantor Sack’s son studied with my wife at school and studied piano with me. She said they needed a pianist for the High Holidays.”

Irwin makes it more than clear that he enjoys his work at Baltimore Hebrew Congregation and at the Classical Theater Company, where he has been involved since 2017.

“For me, it was appealing,” he says.

And as for CMT, he made it a point to praise founder Boyett: “Sally was very determined to try to lift up the level of the art form. She is a tireless worker. I was glad to get on board to assist in the process. They have done some good work. They are true to what they believe artistically.”

Howard Blas is a freelance writer.

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