7 places to get your music fix in Howard County this spring

Singer/songwriter, Rich Mascari performs in the bar area of Seasons 52 in Columbia. The restaurant hosts nightly performances.
Singer/songwriter, Rich Mascari performs in the bar area of Seasons 52 in Columbia. The restaurant hosts nightly performances. (Doug Kapustin / Baltimore Sun Media Group)

The concert season at Merriweather Post Pavilion is well under way, drawing world-class headliners and adoring fans — lots and lots of them.
But there's more than one place to get your music fix in Howard County. These alternative spots and concert series offer tunes of all kinds — without the crowds.

Seasons 52

There's no bad seat for the live music at Seasons 52, a restaurant at the Mall in Columbia.


Central to the bar area is a piano, where artists give nightly performances. The selections range from contemporary hits to classics from artists such as Billy Joel and Elton John.

"It's a key piece to our concept with the wine bar aspect of our restaurant," said managing partner Mark Underwood. "It brings an upbeat lively atmosphere to the restaurant."


Some of the musicians who take to the "stage" have been in the music industry for decades, including Rich Mascari, a singer-songwriter and multi-instrument musician who played on the Los Angeles music scene in the 1970s and '80s.

Next up: Live piano music is played in the Seasons 52 bar Monday through Thursday from 5:30 p.m. to 10 p.m., Friday from 5:30 p.m. to 11 p.m. and Sunday from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. 410-715-1152 or seasons52.com.

The Chrysalis at Symphony Woods

The newest venue in Columbia, which opened in April, is making a statement, bringing a high-performance stage, a public park pavilion and an urban scale sculpture all in one 4,500-square-foot space.

The $6.6 million Chrysalis amphitheater in Merriweather Park at Symphony Woods — which will be dedicated at a public ceremony on Earth Day, April 22 — has a ridged, undulating surface covered with 4,000 aluminum shingles, and its tubular steel ribs curve around a central arch and eight asymmetrical openings like the loops of a fingerprint.

"It's a major stage that can handle all things music from pop pieces to classical music," said Michael McCall, president and CEO of Inner Arbor Trust, the organization responsible for designing, developing and managing the Merriweather Park at Symphony Woods. "I wanted to be sure that you could perform any piece of music on the stage to truly make it a community venue."


Acts there will run the full range from rock to country to classical artists in private performances as well as during festivals in conjunction with Merriweather. When it is not in use, the stage, which is as big as Carnagie Hall, is free for the community to use for a picnic space or a pick-up performance — or to just enjoy as a sculpture in the Symphony Woods, the 50-acre park surrounding the 10-acre Merriweather Post Pavilion in downtown Columbia.

Next up: On May 20 and 21, performers, including swing band Radio King Orchestra, blues artists the Bad Influence Band and "feel-good music" band Secret Society, will take the Chrysalis stage at Wine in the Woods throughout the weekend. $20-$40. wineinthewoods.com.

One World Coffeehouse

Music in an intimate venue is the goal of the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Columbia. Since 1999, the church has been hosting local music on the third* Saturday of each month in a program called One World Coffeehouse.

"We set it up so that people can sit at tables and bring a bottle of wine, dinner and a bunch of friends and sit around a table and listen to great music in their community," said Jillian Storms, a member at UUC and a volunteer at One World Coffeehouse.

Half of the acts are local artists, while others are traveling musicians bringing their talents to the local stage. All of the concerts are held at the Owen Brown Interfaith Center, and ticket fees support the musicians as well as those in need in the community.

Next up: Taylor Carson, an Arlington-based singer-songwriter takes the One World Coffeehouse stage at 7246 Cradlerock Way in Columbia with his blend of rock, reggae, folk, funk and bluegrass on May 20 at 7 p.m. $20 in advance and $25 at the door. Free for kids under 10. 410-381-0097 or uucolumbia.net.

The Howard County community is nothing if not engaged. When it came time to cast their ballots in the 2016 Best of Howard readers’ poll, more than 15,000 voters

Columbia Pro Cantare

With a mixed chorus of more than 100 volunteer singers, Columbia Pro Cantare, a nationally recognized organization, is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year with classical works in a local setting.

"We were formed to bring to Howard County and central Maryland area the finest in choral repertoire," said Elladean Brigham, executive director of Columbia Pro Cantare. "We try to keep our standards very high. We are a niche, as not everyone likes classical music or choral music, but it's something that needs to be preserved because those of us who like it really like it a lot."

Founded in 1977, the group performs concerts ranging from the classics of opera, oratorio and the concert stage to American and European folk and spiritual music.

Next up: On May 14 at 8 p.m., Columbia Pro Cantare celebrates its 40th Birthday, Columbia's 50th birthday and Jim Rouse Theatre's 20th anniversary during a special performance at the Rouse Theatre. $23 in advance for adults, $20 for seniors and students, and $10 for children under 15. Prices increase by $2 at the door. 410-730-8634 or procantare.org.

Mad City Coffee

Enjoy a cup of coffee and some tunes on a Saturday evening at Mad City Coffee in Columbia.

The coffeehouse has offered free concerts with no cover since 1999.

"We've been doing it since we've opened, and it gives a chance for new people to come into the store who haven't been there before," said Bill Martin, owner of Mad City.

Performances include a wide range of musical styles, like jazz, rock and folk, and feature individual singers and songwriters in addition to bands and groups.

Next up: Shows are offered every Saturday, with the exception of holidays, from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. at Mad City Coffee, 10801 Hickory Ridge Road in Columbia. 410-964-8671 or madcitycoffee.com.

Candlelight Concerts

See world-class music come alive right in your backyard with performances hosted by the Candlelight Concert Society.

The organization has put on a chamber music series since 1972, presenting professional concerts, children's programs, community outreach programs, master classes and pre-concert lectures and discussions for the community.

"It's really my intention to bring us to the next level in terms of giving people a live music experience with world-class artists where they don't have to go to Baltimore or D.C. and it's right in their backyard," said Jessica Julin White, executive director of the Candlelight Concert Society. "Walking away from your devices, phones, television or computer and experiencing a special moment is what we're all about."

Next up: The Candlelight Concert Society features Manuel Barrueco and the Beijing Guitar Trio as they take on the Smith Theatre Horowitz Performing Arts Center, 10901 Little Patuxent Parkway in Columbia, on May 13 at 8 p.m. $34 in advance, $35 at the door and $12 for students. 410-997-2324 or candlelightconcerts.org.

Howard County Concert Orchestra

Formed 10 years ago to provide the area with a professional orchestra, the Howard County Concert Orchestra has taken the local classical music scene by storm.

The orchestra is dedicated to providing performances of classical music from the Baroque era to the 21st century.


"This community is very enthusiastic about the arts, and we wanted to be able to offer the area the quality music we think they deserve, since Howard County and Columbia in particular are growing communities and people don't have to travel far to hear good music," said Ronald Mutchnik, founder and music director at the Howard County Concert Orchestra.

Next up: The Howard County Concert Orchestra performs a concert titled "Splendid Sonority with Organ, Trumpet and Strings" on May 21 at 4 p.m. at St. John's Episcopal Church, 9120 Frederick Road in Ellicott City. $25 for adults and $12 for students ages 18 to 24. 888-921-7230 or howardcountyconcertorchestra.org.