By Mike Giuliano
6:05 AM EDT, May 26, 2014
If you visited all of the countries musically sampled in the Columbia Orchestra's season-concluding concert, you would be away the entire summer. Fortunately, you can make a vicarious trip in a single evening at a program titled "Exotic Landscapes" on Saturday, May 31, at 7:30 p.m., in the Jim Rouse Theatre at Wilde Lake High School.
"It's designed to be a world tour with different composers from different places, times and cultural perspectives," said Columbia Orchestra music director Jason Love. "It's a family-friendly program in which all of the pieces are under 15 minutes (in length), but these are also sophisticated pieces."
This concert also involves youth combined with sophistication in another sense, namely, that two of the compositions on the program will feature the senior division winners of the Columbia Orchestra's Young Artist Competition as soloists.
"They're both wonderful," Love said about cellist Janie Shih, who is a senior at River Hill High School in Clarksville, and clarinetist Edmond Kim, who lives in Clarksville and is a senior at Gilman School in Baltimore City.
These precocious musicians aren't the only Howard County talents who'll be supplementing the Columbia Orchestra at the upcoming concert.
While the orchestra performs excerpts from French composer Francis Poulenc's "Les Animaux modeles," actors from the Ellicott City-based Chesapeake Shakespeare Company will read short fables including "The Lion in Love" and "Death and the Woodcutter."
And, additional Howard County musical talent gets showcased in the orchestra's performance of Mexican composer Silvestre Revueltas' "Night of Enchantment" from "The Night of the Mayas." For this musical evocation of ancient Mayan culture, three percussionists from the Columbia Orchestra will be joined by eight high school and middle school drummers.
Further stops on this orchestral world tour include Italian composer Ottorino Respighi's "Fountains of Rome," which music director Love characterized as being "like postcards from Italy"; and German composer Felix Mendelssohn's Shakespeare-inspired composition "A Midsummer Night's Dream."
And then there are the musical selections featuring the Young Artist Competition winners, who both receive scholarship checks from the Shirley Mullinix Memorial Fund.
Shih performs the fourth movement of British composer Edward Elgar's Cello Concerto in E minor, Op. 85. Love noted that whenever he features young talent in such an emotionally resonant piece, "I wonder if they'll have enough life experience, but I have no such reservations with her. She is extremely good and has learned the whole concerto, which is not typical for high school."
Kim performs Artie Shaw's Concerto for Clarinet, which Love praised as "prototypical American jazz."
Shaw's composition actually qualifies as a mini-concerto, because it's only eight minutes long. It was first heard in the 1940 movie "Second Chorus," which starred Fred Astaire and Paulette Goddard, as well as Artie Shaw and his orchestra.
Love is confident that Kim possesses the considerable skill needed to play this extroverted little concerto.
"It's such a fun kind of showpiece where he can play into it and wail," Love said. "It's technically challenging, but it's fun as a virtuoso showoff piece."
The Columbia Orchestra performs Saturday, May 31, at 7:30 p.m. in the Jim Rouse Theatre at Wilde Lake High School, 5460 Trumpeter Road in Columbia. Tickets are $25 and $20, $21 and $16 for seniors, $12 and $10 for full-time students. Bill Scanlan Murphy, who teaches music at Howard Community College, gives a free lecture at 6:30 p.m. Call 410-465-8777 or go to http://www.columbiaorchestra.org.