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Columbia Pro Cantare is celebrating longer days and warmer weather with a concert titled “Sing Into Spring” on Sunday, March 18 at 4 p.m. at First Evangelical Lutheran Church in Ellicott City.

This Howard County-based choral group will be joined by harpist Jacqueline Pollauf, organist Donald Fries, and a string quartet comprised of members of the Howard County Concert Orchestra.

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When Columbia Pro Cantare music director Frances Motyca Dawson began planning the concert, she wanted to have several works that would feature "”this wonderful harpist.” Pollauf, who has degrees from the Peabody Conservatory, teaches at the Baltimore School for the Arts, UMBC, American University and Blue Lake Fine Arts Camp.

The brevity of the individual works in this concert means that the audience will be hearing quite a range of music from the 18th century to the present day.

For the first half of the program, Dawson will be leading performances of Handel's Concerto for Harp in B flat, Op. 4; Mozart’s Sancta Maria Mater Dei, KV273; and two works by Brahms, “O Gott Du Frommer Gott” and “Let Nothing Ever Grieve Me.”

Dawson said that the first half brings together famous composers who are audience favorites: "In audience surveys we have done, Handel comes up quite frequently. And who doesn't like Mozart? These are composers that people always want to hear. And Brahms. Who doesn't like Brahms? In putting together the program, I wanted to go from Handel to Mozart to Brahms, choosing short pieces that (in various configurations) involve chorus, strings, organ and harp."

The second half of program gets into the 20th century with music that evokes nature-related themes suitable for spring. It consists of Alan Hovhaness’ Nocturne, Op. 20; Gerald Finzi’s “I Praise the Tender Flower” and “Haste on My Joys;” and Stephen Paulus’ "The Road Home,” “The Spring and the Fall” and “Afternoon on a Hill.”

Dawson observed that the works by Finzi, which incorporate poems by Robert Bridges, are examples of "English pastoralism. There is spiritual longing and sympathy with nature."

And the works by Paulus are set to poems by Edna St. Vincent Millay.

“Poems are so important to both composers,” Dawson noted.

This longtime music director knows how important it is for the members of Columbia Pro Cantare to vocally bring that poetry alive. Indeed, much of their rehearsal time is spent going over the details of pronunciation and pacing.

“The chorus can be as colorful an instrument as any instrument,” Dawson said, adding that “the words come first. It’s not a grocery list. The words have to be brought out and punctuated effectively. It’s all about how the text can be communicated to an audience.”

The nature-themed poetry used in the compositions by Finzi and Paulus overtly justifies the title of the upcoming program. “That's how I got spring into it in the second half,” Dawson laughed.

Columbia Pro Cantare performs on Sunday, March 18 at 4 p.m. at First Evangelical Lutheran Church, 3604 Chatham Road in Ellicott City. Tickets are $20, $18 for seniors and students, in advance, and $2 more at the door; $10 for those 15 and under. Call 410-799-9321 or go to procantare.org

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