Orchestra of St. John's plans 'Festive Finale' on Sunday

Operating on the principle that it's nice to end the season with a smile, the Orchestra of St. John's has planned a "Festive Finale" concert on Sunday, April 21, at 4 p.m. at St. John's Episcopal Church in Ellicott City.

"We wanted to highlight the diversity that can be heard within an orchestra and also have a festive dance theme," explains Ron Mutchnik, the artistic director of this Howard County-based chamber orchestra.

That orchestral diversity includes a performance of Boccherini's Cello Concerto in B flat major. The soloist for that piece, Gretchen Gettes, is a Baltimore resident who studied with famous cellist Lynn Harrell. Gettes has performed locally with groups including the Baltimore Chamber Orchestra and Columbia's Sundays at Three series.

"We've done a lot of concertos for violin, trumpet, piano and other instruments, but this is the first time we've done a cello concerto," Mutchnik observes.

He adds that the Boccherini concerto has a light tone and even incorporates a "catchy tune that goes round and round again." The cello soloist helps maintain that cheerful mood, and in doing so refutes assumptions anybody might harbor that the cello is inherently "big, clunky and somber."

Also on the upcoming program is Dvorak's Serenade for Winds, Op. 44, which will give the orchestra's wind and bass string players an enjoyable workout. This Czech composer's music often alludes to the folk music and dances of his native land, prompting Mutchnik to note that there is a "strong folk element in the Serenade."

The final piece on the program features the orchestra's string players doing Peter Warlock's "The Capriole Suite." An early-20th-century British composer whose music also has folkloric qualities, Warlock intended his "Capriole Suite" to be an homage to Renaissance dance tunes.

As the chamber orchestra concludes its current season this Sunday, Mutchnik already is starting to think about the 2013- 2014 season. Although his group will continue to perform at St. John's Episcopal Church, Mutchnik says the season ahead also will find it giving concerts at other venues in Howard County.

The Orchestra of St. John's performs Sunday, April 21, at 4 p.m. at St. John's Episcopal Church, 9120 Frederick Road in Ellicott City. Tickets are $25, $12 for students ages 18- 24 with ID, free for those under 18 when accompanied by an adult. Call 410-461-7793 or go to http://www.orchestraofstjohns.org.

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