Eclectic mix for chorus in Columbia

Performance: Frances Motyca Dawson's Pro Cantare is to present a variety of songs at 8 p.m. tomorrow at Christ Episcopal Church.

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Howard Live

Arts and entertainment in Howard County

March 11, 2005|By Eileen Soskin | Eileen Soskin,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Musicians are not in agreement about the world's first musical instrument: Was it voice (the sound of a mother singing to her child), or was it percussion (banging on something to make sound or send a message)?

Some people believe that the voice is not really a musical instrument; but if music is an art and all art is human expression, then there is probably nothing more artful than a group of voices raised together in song. The sound of a chorus is at once natural, familiar, easy on the ears, thrilling and emotionally pointed.

At 8 p.m. tomorrow at Christ Episcopal Church, 6800 Oakland Mills Road, Columbia, Columbia Pro Cantare will perform a selection of choral pieces, including Jepthe by Giacomo Carissimi (c.1627-1687); Five Negro Spirituals by Michael Tippett (1905-1998); The Lamentations of Jeremiah by Thomas Tallis (c.1505-1585); and the world premiere of Hope, composed by Tom Benjamin of Columbia.

Benjamin is a former faculty member of the music theory department at the Peabody Conservatory of the Johns Hopkins University.

Benjamin's piece was written expressly for its featured soloist, Alison Matuskey, a Columbia resident whose lustrous soprano and high level of musicianship will enhance a beautiful, melodious and captivating score. Matuskey will be performing with the Columbia Pro Cantare Chamber Singers, a group drawn from the full chorus.

Benjamin's composition is five songs for soprano, chorus and piano. All are based on the poetry of Emily Dickinson. The five songs will be heard in this order: "Hope Is the Thing With Feathers"; "How Happy Is the Little Stone"; "The Cricket Sang"; " `Tis So Much Joy!" ; "If I Can Stop One Heart From Breaking."

The music is well-suited to the texts, which are spritely, often tongue-in-cheek and always wise.

All of the works on the program will show off the variety of sounds possible for a chorus: the Carissimi is often rhythmically free to follow the natural word accents, and florid melodic solo sections alternate with choral sections. The Tippett songs, for unaccompanied chorus, are powerful settings that combine simple melodic lines and rich harmonies. The Tallis composition, also unaccompanied, provides both restrained and exuberant music for the chorus, frequently using all four voices in a single rhythmic setting that allows the text to be heard very clearly.

Although the insulting phrase "musicians and singers" (as if singers are not musicians) is still heard frequently, singers are quick to point out that while everyone can sing, not everyone can sing well. Singing well is no mystery to the members of the Columbia Pro Cantare, a group of dedicated individuals who, under the able direction of Frances Motyca Dawson, work hard in weekly rehearsals to prepare concerts.

Tickets are $20; $18 for senior citizens and students, with a $2 surcharge for tickets purchased at the door. 301-854-0107 or 410-799-9321.

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