Musical menagerie to convene on stage

Pro Cantare, guests offer `Choral Carnival of Animals' in Columbia

Howard Live

May 04, 2000|By Phil Greenfield | Phil Greenfield,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Mother Nature has long been one of mankind's happiest sources of musical inspiration. And the magnificent animal kingdom has fired that artistic creativity with great regularity.

The gorgeously melodic "Swan" from Camille Saint-Saens' "Carnival of the Animals," Franz Schubert's happy ode to "Die Forelle" ("The Trout") and the endlessly colorful depictions of tigers, doves, stags and worms in Franz Joseph Haydn's oratorio "The Creation" provide but a few charming examples of musical zoology in action.

Howard County will convene its musical menagerie at 7: 30 p.m. Saturday when the Columbia Pro Cantare Chorus and Chamber Singers (directed by Frances Motyca Dawson), the Peabody Children's Chorus (directed by Doreen Falby) and the Carnival Chamber Orchestra perform a concert titled "A Choral Carnival of Animals" in Jim Rouse Theatre at Wilde Lake High School, 5460 Trumpeter Road, Columbia.

Saint-Saens' "Carnival of the Animals" complete with Ogden Nash's clever poetry will be heard, along with Clement Janequin's "Song of the Birds," an ornithological madrigal that has the singers imitating thrushes, robins, nightingales, owls, cuckoos and all manner of winged creatures.

Two pieces by talented local composers also will be offered.

One is "Coyote," an elemental drama composed by Matt McCoy, who has been teaching in the Howard County school system for six years and is vocal music instructor at Gorman Crossing Elementary School. McCoy holds a master of music degree from Arizona State University and a bachelor's from Peabody Conservatory.

The second offering is the world premiere of " And They Shall Lead Thee," which Pro Cantare commissioned from Columbia resident and Peabody Institute composer Tom Benjamin. Written for mixed adult and children's choirs, the work makes use of texts collected from Emily Bronte, William Blake, Rudyard Kipling, Edward Lear and the Book of Job. For orchestral accompaniment, the composer cleverly appropriated the identical complement of instruments used by Saint-Saens in his "Carnival": flute, clarinet, two pianos, xylophone, glockenspiel and strings.

Benjamin has composed works for all media, including concertos for violin, piano and viola. He also has written song cycles, orchestral pieces and five operas. He has won prizes in a wide variety of composition contests here and abroad, and is the author of two published books on composition.

As an added attraction, Benjamin will present a free pre-concert lecture onstage at the Rouse Theatre from 6: 30 p.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday.

This concert will give local audiences a sample of fine singing from the Peabody Children's Chorus and conductor Doreen Falby, who Pro Cantare's Dawson calls "a wonderful practitioner of the British choral tradition."

Falby's singers have performed with Tom Hall's Baltimore Choral Arts Society, the Baltimore Opera Company, the Chesapeake Youth Symphony Orchestra and the Peabody Symphony in recent years, cementing their status as the state's pre-eminent youth choir.

Joining Saturday's slate of distinguished visitors as narrators in "Carnival of the Animals" will be William and Mary Graham, who have been together professionally and personally for 47 years. Mary Graham has acted, taught drama and public communication and produced television programs since 1947.

Her husband, former chairman of the Drama Department of Catholic University, has directed more than 50 productions in professional and educational theater and performed leading roles in nearly as many. William Graham also has narrated programs for National Geographic, the Voice of America and the Public Broadcasting System.

Truly, the saucy bon mots of poet Ogden Nash will be in the very best of hands.

Advance tickets are $15 for adults and $13 for seniors and students. They will cost $17 and $15 at the door. Up to two free tickets per adult ticket purchased in advance are available for children 18 and younger. Credit card charges will be accepted. Information and reservations: 410-465-5744 or 410- 799-9321.

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