Series finds success has costs Fund-raisers: Candlelight Concerts has had guests go on to wide acclaim, which makes their returns expensive.

May 14, 1998|By Judith Green | Judith Green,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

On top of the heap of assorted items at the office of Candlelight Concerts was a chandelier of pressed tin, painted blue and white to resemble Delft china.

It was not the emblem of the concert series but an item for the organization's fund-raising auction, to be held Sunday at the Barns at Deer Creek in Parkton.

A 6-foot-long antique boudoir mirror, boxes of books and records and sheet music (including what is believed to be a first edition of Edward MacDowell's "Woodland Sketches") and vintage tools also await bidding.

The night before the auction/picnic fund-raiser, Candlelight will play host to Billy Taylor, the acclaimed jazz pianist who calls jazz "America's chamber music" and bears its standard in schools as well as concert halls. He will perform with his trio at the Jim Rouse Theater on Saturday.

The weekend will be exhausting for Bonita J. Bush, executive director of Candlelight Concerts. But if all goes well, her organization will come out of it with a good part -- maybe all -- of its projected $25,000 shortfall forestalled.

Though the 25-year-old concert series has had other seasons end in the red, Bush said, its shortfalls have been more on the order of $1,200 -- an amount the board of trustees can easily

cover.

But this year, Candlelight celebrated its silver anniversary by inviting back old friends such as pianist Richard Goode, the American Chamber Players and the Mendelssohn String Quartet. When they first appeared with Candlelight, many were at the start of their careers. Now they are household names in chamber music, and they charge more.

"It was an artistic success, but financially it's been difficult," Bush said.

Which might be a description of Candlelight Concerts itself -- "Columbia's best-kept secret," Bush says ruefully.

The series was started by three music teachers at Glenelg Country School. It gets its name from the candle, these days housed in a hurricane lamp, that sits on the stage to add a touch of graciousness to the performance.

A year or so after its founding, the series was taken over by the Columbia Association, which then passed it to Norman Winkler, a Pentagon official who loved chamber music.

Bush, a former music teacher, was hired in 1988 as the series administrator when Winkler and his wife, Nancy, had health problems. She became executive director in 1992.

Between teaching music and Candlelight Concerts, Bush ran Mount Washington Concerts in Baltimore and booked chamber music groups into the public schools. "I was used to negotiating for the highest fee; now I haggle for the lowest," she said. "I know all the angles."

The anniversary-year blowout raised annual costs to around $170,000, about $6,000 more than last year's and next year's budgets.

"We normally earn 50 percent of our income, which is excellent," Bush said. "But this season, it was more like 40 percent to 45 percent." The rest of the series is paid for by government grants and private donations.

Taylor performs the first program of a new venture for Candlelight Concerts: a three-part jazz series that includes the Jim Cullum Jazz Band from San Antonio in June and ragtime scholar William Albright with the Last Chance Jazz Band from Columbia in July.

"We've had jazz before," including a crossover concert by clarinetist Richard Stoltzman, Bush said. Taylor also played a few years back, and was "very pleased when a legit chamber music series invited him," she added.

But the jazz series, which will be renewed next year, is Candlelight Concerts' most extended venture.

She hopes it will outlast other jazz series that have come and gone in Columbia.

The primary goal of the weekend is to make sure Candlelight Concerts outlasts them, too.

Pub Date: 5/14/98

Billy Taylor Trio

When: 8 p.m. Saturday

Where: Jim Rouse Theater, Wilde Lake High School, Columbia

Tickets: $25, $18 seniors, $9 students

Series tickets: $53 (advance), $75 (door)

Call: 410-715-0034

Candlelight Country Auction

What: Auction and picnic

Entertainment: Ed Goldstein, tuba, and Buddy Wachter, Dixieland banjo; Irish seannachie (storyteller); Flaherty Sisters folk ensemble; petting zoo; cartoonist Paul Churchill; antique car and fire engine show

Food for sale: Pit beef, barbecued chicken, desserts, beverages, soft ice cream

When: Noon to 6 p.m. Sunday

Where: The Barns at Deer Creek, Parkton

Tickets: $10, $5 children

Directions and information: 410-715-0034

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