Brush up on your Spanish for the next Columbia Pro Cantare concert

Columbia Pro Cantare thematically goes abroad for its concert of "Music of Spain and Latin America" on Saturday, May 4, at 8 p.m. at the Jim Rouse Theater at Wilde Lake.

Not only will some of this music be unfamiliar to many listeners, but it's also new for the chorus.

"It's a complex program," says Columbia Pro Cantare music director Frances Motyca Dawson of a concert that includes pieces from Spain, Argentina, Mexico, Venezuela and Cuba.

Although Dawson's Howard County-based chorus did a Latin American program in 2008, she says the upcoming concert promises to be even "more inclusive."

Dawson adds that one challenge in preparing such a program is that while the members of her chorus regularly sing texts in French, German, Latin and Italian, "fewer of them sing Spanish than we figured."

The longest piece on the program will have the Pro Cantare Chorus joined by classical guitarist Magdalena Duhagon for Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco's "Romancero Gitano" (Gypsy Romance). For this selection, the chorus will be singing words by the Spanish poet Federico Garcia Lorca.

This gypsy-themed number marks the first time that Dawson's chorus has incorporated a classical guitar into a program, because "there is not much literature for chorus and classical guitar."

Dawson anticipates that it'll prove to be a popular selection. "People won't know much of the Latin American choral music, but they know classical guitar," she observes.

Born in Uruguay, guitar soloist Duhagon has performed around the world. Venues where she has played include the Cairo Opera House, Wallenstein Palace in Prague and, in our region, the Kennedy Center Terrace Theater. Duhagon received her Bachelor's degree from the University Music School of Uruguay, and Master's degree and Graduate Performance Diploma from the Peabody Institute in Baltimore. She is a classical guitar professor at George Washington University.

Also on the program, the Pro Cantare Chamber Singers are joined by soprano Laura Whittenberger for folk songs from Spain and Latin America. Whittenberger is an Ellicott City native who currently is a graduate student at Peabody.

Another featured performer, pianist Alison Gatwood, will be doing the famous Cuban piece "Malaguena." A Howard County resident who teaches vocal music at Bryant Woods Elementary School, Gatwood was named the Howard County Music Teacher of the Year for 2002- 2003. She has been music director of St. Andrews Episcopal Church in Glenwood since 1985; and has written over 100 songs for use in worship.

Other participants in the upcoming program include Jared Denhard and Lexington Brass, doing a festive grouping of numbers that will put the audience in the mood to tango.

The concert culminates with a "Battle of the Baton." This just-concluded Pro Cantare fundraising event allowed the public to vote for one of three contestants to conduct the evening's final piece, "Guantanamera." Each vote cost $5 and people could vote as many times as they wanted, so this was one election proudly boasting that it could be bought.

Columbia Pro Cantare performs "Music of Spain and Latin America" on Saturday, May 4, at 8 p.m. at the Jim Rouse Theater at Wilde Lake, 5460 Trumpeter Road in Columbia. There is a pre-concert lecture by Barbara Renton at 7 p.m., and a post-concert reception. Tickets are $23, $20 for seniors and students, in advance; $25 and $22, respectively, at the door. Call 410-799-9321 or go to

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