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Malek Jendali, composer and pianist.
Malek Jendali, composer and pianist. (Soul b Music)

Classical music concerts and theater productions might be fewer during summer months in Baltimore, but there's still a lot of activity on the calendar. Eclectic activity, even, as this weekend illustrates.

Here's a look at just some of the diverse attractions:

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NEW MUSIC FESTIVAL

In an ambitious departure from its usual lightweight summer offerings, the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra and music director Marin Alsop are taking a walk on a wilder side.

The BSO's first New Music Festival features works by such fascinating artists as Polish composer and soprano Agata Zubel and German-born, Syrian-American Malek Jandali.

Alsop will conduct two BSO premieres by Zubel and a world premiere by Jandali on Saturday night. That concert also includes a reprise of a piece the BSO premiered in 2015 — "The City," an evocative portrait of Baltimore with music by Pulitzer Prize-winning Peabody Institute faculty member Kevin Puts and a film by James Bartolomeo.

Jandali, who was raised in Syria, conceived of "The Silent Ocean" as a symphonic tone poem. A harrowing one, in this case. The score conveys the scenario of a Syrian girl who, fleeing the war that has consumed her country, finds herself on a boat.

"Halfway through the piece, she remembers happy moments in her life, or perhaps only imagines them," Jandali says, "and the whole mood of the orchestra becomes happy."

Stormy music then evokes the image of a boat swamped by waves.

"A solo cello, representing the girl's soul, emerges from the orchestra," Jandali says, "as the girl ends up resting in peace, rather than living in peace."

The score of "The Silent Ocean" incorporates an ancient Syrian melody.

"It is my duty to keep the music of Syria alive, to preserve and protect my culture at the same moment it is being eradicated," says Jandali, who became a U.S. citizen after moving here to study in the 1990s. "But I hope audiences will realize the power of music to be a beacon of hope. Being human is something we are given; keeping our humanity is a choice."

The festival gets informal Friday night in Station North when BSO players will team with local new music-focused ensembles for what is billed as " an intimate chamber jam performance."

The Chamber Jam will be at 8 p.m. Friday at Joe Squared, 33 W. North Ave. Free. The BSO performs at 8 p.m. Saturday at Meyerhoff Symphony Hall, 1212 Cathedral St. Free. A block party outside the hall starts at 6 p.m; a discussion with Marin Alsop, BSO president/CEO Peter Kjome and composers starts in the lobby at 7 p.m. 410-783-8000, bsomusic.org.

Kate Billingsley, who performs her one-woman show "CommuniKate: ArtAlive" at Theatre Project July 2017.
Kate Billingsley, who performs her one-woman show "CommuniKate: ArtAlive" at Theatre Project July 2017. (Handout photo)

'COMMUNIKATE'

Nothing unusual about improvisation actors asking audience members to call out names of persons, places or things to get a performance started. But asking people to shout out their favorite Impressionist painter? Not so common.

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The art angle is a specialty of New York-born-and-based actor Kate Billingsley, who brings her one-woman show, "CommuniKate: ArtAlive," to Theatre Project.

"I call the show tender, funny and genre-busting," Billingsley says. "It's a very collaborative and interactive show. The audience helps me sculpt the characters. Art is a point of departure for making a visceral connection."

In past performances, Billingsley has created the character of a woman sitting for a portrait by Monet and a Roland Park soccer mom working on an art project with her daughter.

In these mini-scenes, Billingsley, who studied art in Paris and has performed her show in France (in French) and Spain (in Spanish), slips in historical information about art and artists and the worlds they lived in.

Billingsley first tried out her show at the Baltimore Improv Festival in 2015.

"It has been in an aging barrel since then, and will reveal new notes and flavors I've added," she says. "I'm thrilled to bring it back to Baltimore."

"CommuniKate: ArtAlive" will be performed at 8 tonight and Saturday, 7 p.m. Sunday at Theatre Project, 45 W. Preston St. $20. 410-752-8558, theatreproject.org.

John Kaneklides in rehearsal as Ralph Rackstraw in the Young Victorian Theatre Company production of Gilbert and Sullivan's "HMS Pinafore."
John Kaneklides in rehearsal as Ralph Rackstraw in the Young Victorian Theatre Company production of Gilbert and Sullivan's "HMS Pinafore." (Todd Douglas / Bold Yellow)

'HMS PINAFORE'​​

Although Gilbert and Sullivan had collaborated on a few works previously, it was when they created "HMS Pinafore" in 1878 that their lasting fame was assured. With this operetta, the duo first took spot-on aim at British politics and social classes, all the while giving audiences a steady stream of Gilbert's droll verses and Sullivan's ear-worm-generating melodies.

Baltimore's unflagging keeper of the Gilbert and Sullivan flame, the Young Victorian Theatre Company, opens its 47th summer season with "Pinafore."

James Harp directs a cast of rising young singers, including baritone Joshua Hughes as First Lord of the Admiralty, Sir Joseph Porter "(When I was a lad I served a term as an office boy to an attorney's firm"); baritone Jeffrey Williams as the bad language-averse captain of the Pinafore; and sumptuous-voiced mezzo Jenni Bank as Little Buttercup.

You can expect the dialogue to be peppered with contemporary references, as is the Young Vic custom. For something new this year, look to the pit, where Christopher M. Cicconi, a Towson University faculty member who is director of bands and orchestras at the school, makes his debut as Young Vic's music director and conductor.

Saturday (sold out) through July 23 at Roland Park Country School, 5204 Roland Ave. $25 to $40. yvtc.org.

MARYLAND STATE BOYCHOIR

Fresh from a two-week tour of Ireland, the Maryland State Boychoir will give a "welcome home" concert led by Stephen A. Holmes. The program covers classical, sacred, folk and pop genres.

8 tonight at Grace United Methodist Church, 5407 N. Charles St. Free. 410-554-8644, marylandstateboychoir.org.

'TICK, TICK...BOOM'

Before creating "Rent," the musical that shook up Broadway in 1996, Jonathan Larson wrote and performed "Tick, Tick...Boom," a one-man, autobiographically tinged show about a would-be composer nearing his 30th birthday in 1990, annoyed that he hasn't yet enjoyed either "a hit show or a really lucrative sellout career."

After Larson's unexpected death at 35, "Tick, Tick...Boom" was reworked by playwright David Auburn into a three-actor musical, the version being staged by Stillpointe Theatre. The cast features Adam Cooley, Amber Wood, and company artistic director Ryan Haase.

Through Aug. 12 at Stillpointe Theatre,1825 N. Charles St. $25. stillpointetheatre.com.

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