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Columbia Pro Cantare singers clear throats for new season

Columbia Pro Cantare qualifies as a vocal tradition in Howard County. Its 38th season promises to have an interesting mix of familiar repertory with other pieces that may not be as familiar.

Music director Frances Motyca Dawson dips into the 19th-century repertory for the season-opening concert, Gioacchino Rossini's "Petite Messe Solennelle," on Saturday, Oct. 25, at 8 p.m., in the Jim Rouse Theatre at Wilde Lake, at 5460 Trumpeter Road, in Columbia.

Among opera composers, Rossini (1792-1868) is one of the few to have been a professional singer early in his career. A precocious talent, he composed 34 operas by age 31. "The Barber of Seville" is this Italian composer's most famous opera. Although Rossini's operatic output eventually stopped completely, he did compose a few of his most notable vocal works later in his life. These late pieces include "Stabat Mater" and "Petite Messe Solennelle."

Composed in 1863, "Petite Messe Solennelle" originally was scored for two pianos, harmonium, full chorus and four soloists. For those who want to know more about this piece, there is a pre-concert lecture at 7 p.m., and you can share your own observations about it at the post-concert reception.

Continuing a Columbia Pro Cantare tradition, there will be a performance of Handel's "Messiah" on Sunday, Dec. 7, at 7:30 p.m. at Rouse Theatre. There is a pre-concert lecture at 6:30 p.m. and a post-concert reception.

For its annual "Messiah," Pro Cantare's chorus and full orchestra will be joined by soprano Amy Van Roekel, mezzo MaryAnn McCormick, tenor Charles Reid and baritone Lester Lynch. Organist Henry Lowe also helps bring Handel's joyful piece to life.

Another Columbia Pro Cantare tradition is its annual "A Christmas Noel," a smaller-scale program featuring the Columbia Pro Cantare Chamber Singers on Sunday, Dec. 14, at 3 p.m., at Christ Episcopal Church, 6800 Oakland Mills Road, in Columbia. Their mostly a cappella selections showcase music spanning 400 years.

Your ears are in for an education when Columbia Pro Cantare presents a "Women Composers" program on Saturday, March 21, at 8 p.m., at Rouse Theatre. The main piece on the program will be Amy Beach's Grand Mass in E-flat Major. Beach (1867-1944) was a pioneering American female composer and pianist. Her Mass had its premiere in 1892 in a performance by the Handel and Haydn Society in Boston. Music director Frances Dawson's program also includes music composed by Clara Schumann, Fanny Mendelssohn and Ruth C. Seeger. There is a pre-concert lecture at 7 p.m. and post-concert reception.

And, you'll surely be able to name many of the tunes in the season-closing concert, "Great American Songbook," on Saturday, May 2, at 8 p.m. at Rouse Theatre. Showcasing music from the 1920s through the 1950s, this program includes such composers as George Gershwin, Jerome Kern, Richard Rodgers and Irving Berlin. Joining the chorus on stage will be the Lexington Brass Quintet and pianist Alison Gatwood.

Columbia Pro Cantare's 2014-2015 season has subscriptions for $94, $83 for seniors and students. Individual tickets for the concerts in Rouse Theatre are $23, $20 for seniors and students, if purchased in advance; $2 more if purchased at the door. Individual tickets for the Christmas Noel program at Christ Episcopal Church are $15, $13 for seniors and students, $10 for children under 15, in advance; $2 more at the door. Call 410-799-9321 or go to

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