Howard County

Candlelight Concert Society's brassy 40th anniversary in Columbia

The Candlelight Concert Society is tooting its own horn by commissioning a new piece of music to celebrate its 40th anniversary season. Paul Salerni's "Many Happy Returns" receives its world premiere performance by the Philadelphia Brass Quintet on Saturday, Nov. 24 at 8 p.m. in Howard Community College's Smith Theatre.

"We had never commissioned anything that I know of, but I wanted for our anniversary to commission a very short fanfare," says Candlelight artistic director Holly Thomas. "Salerni wanted to expand on it. He kept going with it, and it's now a 17-minute piece."


The Lehigh, Pa.-based Salerni explains in his program notes how he developed his composition from a short hymn-like phrase: "What was nice about this hymn-like phrase was that it sounded grateful, one of the emotions I thought it would be appropriate to express when honoring a chamber music series that has lasted 40 years. 'Celebratory' was the other state of mind I wanted to capture. The compositional trick was to transform that hymn phrase into something lively."

Salerni goes on to describe how this new composition evolved: "As I hope is evident when listening, the piece is built on material that keeps coming back or musical architectures with themes that cyclically recur. Hence the musical idea of 'return.' Given that celebration and gratitude were my expressive goals, I wanted those 'returns' to be happy."


Salerni is a versatile composer whose creative range includes narrated pieces, art songs, opera and music for violin. He has gotten attention for his one-act operas "Tony Caruso's Final Broadcast," in 2008; and "The Life and Love of Joe Coogan," adapted from a Dick Van Dyke TV show episode, in 2010.

Previous commissions include the New Haven Symphony, San Diego Chamber Orchestra, Lehigh Valley Chamber Orchestra and Cape Cod Symphony.

Salerni is the NEH Distinguished Chair in the Humanities and Professor of Music at Lehigh University. He directs its Lehigh University Very Modern Ensemble, which goes by its endearing initials, LUVME. He also is the founder and artistic director of the Monocacy Chamber Orchestra, a professional ensemble in the Lehigh Valley.

His newest composition, "Many Happy Returns," gets its debut performance by the Philadelphia Brass Quintet. Formed in 1988, this ensemble consists of Anthony Cecere on French horn, Robert Gale on trombone, Brian Kuszyk on trumpet, Scott Mendoker on tuba and Lawrence Wright on trumpet.

Spanning classical and contemporary pieces, the Candlelight program features Tylman Susato's "La Mourisque-Rone," arranged by John Iveson; J.S. Bach's Aria from Cantata 130, arranged by Steve Heitzer, as well as Bach's "My Spirit Be Joyful," arranged by J. Hildebrandt; Maurice Durufle's "Ubi caritas," arranged by Steve Skahill; and Eric Ewazen's "Colchester Fantasy."

Also, selections by Kurt Weill including the Threepenny Opera Suite; Edward Elgar's Nimrod, from Enigma Variations, arranged by Paul Hanna; Robert Lichtenberger's Partita Miniatura; Jimmy van Heusen's "Here's That Rainy Day," arranged by Dale Devoe; and Duke Ellington's "It Don't Mean a Thing If It Ain't Got That Swing," arranged by David Kosmyna.

Philadelphia Brass Quintet performs Saturday, Nov. 24 at 8 p.m. in Howard Community College's Smith Theatre, 10901 Little Patuxent Parkway in Columbia. There is a pre-concert discussion at 7:15 p.m. with the musicians, composer Paul Salerni and Candlelight artistic director Holly Thomas. Tickets are $30, $28 for seniors, $12 for students. Call 410-997-2324 or go to