Columbia Orchestra fills stage with Verdi's Requiem

The Columbia Orchestra starts its 36th season in a big way by performing Giuseppe Verdi's Requiem on Saturday, Oct. 12, at 7:30 p.m. in the Jim Rouse Theatre at Wilde Lake High School. This massive composition entails having the 80-member Columbia Orchestra joined by a 100-voice choir from Northern Virginia known as Choralis.

Big numbers also add up for Columbia Orchestra Music Director Jason Love, who is in his 15th year in that position. His innovative and ambitious programs during that period have not gone unnoticed.

Love recently was named the winner of the 2013 Award in Orchestral Programming for the 2012-2013 season. Also known as the Vytautas Marijosius Memorial Award, it honors a late conductor who was music director of the Lithuanian State Opera and subsequently in the United States served for nearly 35 years as the director of orchestral activities at the Hartt School of Music.

When the judging panel for this national prize surveyed Love's programs from last season, it deemed him to be "a courageous programmer with a clear vision for his audience and his ensemble."

Love enjoys incorporating both traditional repertory items and less familiar contemporary pieces in his programs. It means that his Columbia audience gets to hear an eclectic assortment of classical music.

"One of the great things about the Columbia Orchestra is that a relatively small community hears repertory that you would hear in Los Angeles or New York," Love remarked of his strategy in booking a season. "We're not just doing interesting pieces, but trying to combine newer and older works that make sense on the same concert."

The season-opening concert kicks off with Benjamin Britten's well-known, three-minute-long "Fanfare for St. Edmundsbury," about which Love said, "We're going with something very high energy so that we charge out of the gate."

Once out of the gate, the remainder of the program is devoted to Verdi's Requiem.

"It's such an amazing piece of music. For those who mostly like symphonic music, it's easy to love it from that angle. For opera lovers, it's Verdi's greatest opera."

Joining Love's Columbia Orchestra for this performance is Choralis, whose artistic director, Gretchen Kuhrmann, will conduct a repeat performance at a concert hall in Northern Virginia on Sunday, Oct. 13.

Accompanying the Columbia Orchestra and Choralis for both these performances are soprano Martissa Hudson, mezzo-soprano Yvette Smith, tenor Dennys Moura, and bass Kerry Wilkerson.

Love acknowledged that "it's a challenge" having a Columbia-based orchestra and a Northern Virginia-based choir rehearse and then give two performances of Verdi's Requiem. He estimated that by show time the ensembles will have had five or six hours of rehearsal for this 90-minute composition.

Although the Columbia Orchestra, Choralis and the soloists will comprise the same musical forces for both performances, Love said he is curious as to how Verdi's Requiem will sound with different conductors on the podium in concert halls possessing different acoustic properties. One thing for sure is that the more than 180 performers on stage will make themselves heard.

Columbia Orchestra performs Verdi's Requiem on Saturday, Oct. 12, at 7:30 p.m., at the Jim Rouse Theatre at Wilde Lake, 5460 Trumpeter Road, in Columbia. Tickets are $20-$25, $16-$21 for seniors, $10-$12 for full-time students. The Columbia Orchestra is offering a $10 standard adult ticket for all federal workers impacted by the government shutdown. Furloughed employees must show a valid government ID at the box office. Call 410-465-8777 or go to

This concert will be repeated on Sunday, Oct. 13, at 4 p.m., at the Rachel M. Schlesinger Concert Hall and Arts Center, located at Northern Virginia Community College in Arlington, Va. Choralis' artistic director, Gretchen Kuhrmann, conducts that second performance.

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