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Columbia Pro Cantare Chamber Singers deliver musical gifts

MusicMusic IndustryAnglicanismChristianityClassical (Music Genre)

A local classical music tradition continues when the Columbia Pro Cantare Chamber Singers perform "A Christmas Noel" concert on Sunday, Dec. 9, at 3 p.m., at Christ Episcopal Church, in Columbia.

Comprised of a 28-voice choir culled from within the full chorus, the chamber ensemble has done this Christmas-themed program every year since 1995.

Although some of the vocal selections get repeated from one year to the next, the general idea is to explore a wide range of music from the Renaissance to the present. These Christmas concerts have presented everything from motets to spirituals.

"It has to pass the test of being moving and beautiful and accessible," says Columbia Pro Cantare music director Frances Motyca Dawson about her criteria for adding pieces that will be new for her faithful audience. "I try to vary the texture a lot and the pacing includes having some (selections be) a cappella and some accompanied."

Besides performing both familiar and unfamiliar tunes on the program, Dawson also likes to incorporate "some familiar carols, but arranged in clever ways by composers."

The upcoming program will include such arrangements by Mack Wilberg, John Rutter and Bob Chilcott.

"I also try to feature interesting new composers," says Dawson, who cites this year's inclusion of New York-based Norwegian composer Ola Gjeilo's "Tota Pulchra Es," which is based on a 4th-century Latin text. And, yes, her chamber choir will sing it in Latin. Another piece that it's singing in Latin, Spanish composer Javier Busto's "Hodie Christus Natus," is also notable for its Basque musical rhythm.

In addition to performing this annual Christmas concert, the Columbia Pro Cantare Chamber Singers are featured throughout the organization's concert season whenever a composition calls for the full chorus to give way to smaller vocal forces.

This chamber ensemble otherwise does not have an independent season of its own, but it does make occasional guest appearances at venues ranging from civic clubs to retirement communities around Maryland.

Over the years, it also has made trips abroad. The chamber singers performed in the Czech Republic in 1997 and 1999, and Poland and Great Britain in 2001.

Reflecting Dawson's Czech heritage and frequent inclusion of Czech classical music in her programs, the chamber singers even sang for the late Czech President Vaclav Havel at a World Bank ceremony in Washington, D.C., in 2002.

Whether performing in a temple of commerce or a house of worship, these 28 voices know how to stick together.

Columbia Pro Cantare Chamber Singers perform "A Christmas Noel" on Sunday, Dec. 9, at 3 p.m., at Christ Episcopal Church, 6800 Oakland Mills Road, in Columbia. Tickets are $15, $13 for seniors and students, in advance; $17 and $15, respectively, at the door. Call 410-799-9321 or go to http://www.procantare.org.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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