Chorale planning a strong start

Schedule: Columbia Pro Cantare will open its season with Mozart's "Requiem" and build from there, offering a mix of the new and the tried-and-true.

August 08, 2002|By Phil Greenfield | Phil Greenfield,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Columbia Pro Cantare, Howard County's premier choral organization, has announced details of its 26th season, a slate of concerts in which choral masterworks and inventive programming will share top billing.

On Oct. 26, conductor Frances Motyca Dawson and her singers will open their season with one of the mainstays of the choral repertoire, Mozart's Requiem.

Crafted as the composer lay on his deathbed, the sketchy Mass for the Dead was completed by F.X. Sussmayr, one of his disciples.

Touching up Sussmayr's handiwork has become a cottage industry among musicologists and period performance specialists in recent years. Pro Cantare will use the Franz Beyer version, which spruces up the harmonies at various spots.

But the true genius of the work emanates from Mozart. His galvanic double-fugue that opens and closes the Requiem is one of the most breathtaking sequences of choral counterpoint ever composed.

And regardless of the debate over final authorship -- Mozart or Sussmayr -- the Requiem's "Recordare," "Hostias" and "Lacrimosa" are three of the most sublime utterances of the choral canon. Beethoven was probably speaking for many when he said, "If Mozart did not write the music, then the man who wrote it was a Mozart."

Motyca Dawson's addition of the Overture to Don Giovanni and arias from other Mozart operas to be sung by soprano April-Joy Gutierrez, mezzo- soprano Mary Ann McCormick, tenor Todd Geer and bass-baritone Alfred Walker makes this concert even more of a must-hear event.

On Dec. 8, Pro Cantare will present its annual performance of the timeless masterpiece, Handel's Messiah. The soloists will be soprano Amy van Roekel, mezzo Rosa Maria Pascarella, tenor Charles Reid and baritone Lester Lynch.

Reid, Pro Cantare's perennial tenor soloist, is a member of the Metropolitan Opera's regular roster, while Lynch will be singing with the Lyric Opera of Chicago this season and at the Met. Pro Cantare, in short, continues to attract the best.

The Christmas spirit will continue Dec. 15 as the Chamber Singers, Pro Cantare's smaller ensemble, moves to the intimate, beautifully resonant setting of Christ Episcopal Church in Columbia for a program of seasonal music.

This concert will be an excellent opportunity to hear Pro Cantare's artists unhindered by the cold, murky sonics of Rouse Theatre.

On March 30, Pro Cantare will perform the Requiem by John Rutter at Second Presbyterian Church in Baltimore.

A concert work rather than a straight liturgical work, Rutter's Requiem recalls the intimate, transparent Masses of Gabriel Faure and Maurice Durufle. Since its completion in 1985, it has become one of the most accessible, best-loved contemporary choral works.

A new work by Second Presbyterian's choirmaster, Elam "Ray" Sprenkle, will fill out the Sunday afternoon program.

Pro Cantare's season will conclude May 3 with "From Ireland on Wings of Song," an ethnically charged program showcasing the works of Irish and Irish-American composers.

"I love programs like this," says Motyca Dawson, "because the repertoire isn't well-known, and there's an opportunity to show people how much beautiful music has come out of a wonderful country."

The program will include folk and classical selections, including works by John Field (1782-1837), whose delicate compositions for the piano look ahead to the sublime Nocturnes of Frederic Chopin.

And why shouldn't they be lovely? After all, said one saint, Ireland is a magical spot where even "clerics sing like birds."

Subscription information: 410-465-5744. Columbia Pro Cantare also is holding auditions for singers interested in joining the choir for its 26th season. Regular rehearsals begin Sept. 3 and are held from 7:30 p.m. to 10 p.m. Tuesdays at Hammond High School in Columbia. Information: 410-730- 8549 or 410-465-5744.

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