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Heating things up with 'Latin American Fiesta'

Howard County Times

If you want to get the new year off to a musically cheerful start, the Howard County Concert Orchestra is happy to oblige with its “Latin American Fiesta - New Year’s Celebration” on Sunday, Jan. 13 at 7 p.m. at First Evangelical Lutheran Church in Ellicott City.

In what amounts to a nascent tradition, this orchestra has been performing internationally oriented concerts each January. Recent years have seen programs sampling music from Spain, France and Italy, as well as an African-American heritage-themed program. This year, Latin America gets added to the festive list.

“As the winter doldrums set in, we want to give people something positive and upbeat,” said Howard County Concert Orchestra music director Ronald Mutchnik. “There will be lively rhythms and no shortage of tangos!”

Combining both classical and popular selections, the upcoming concert features such composers as Villa-Lobos, Piazzolla, Alonso-Crespo, Ginastera, Ponce and Gardel.

“There are wonderful arrangements for strings, but we’ll also be adding percussion to bring rhythmic elements to it,” Mutchnik said, meaning that the audience will be hearing maracas, bongo drums and even the classically trained musicians snapping their fingers.

“The idea is that we could show both the lyrical side of Latin American music and also the more familiar dance rhythms that people are familiar with.”

Where that pop culture familiarity is concerned, everybody will recognize selections including “The Girl from Ipanema” and “La Cumparsita.” Less familiar to many will be such classical gems as Villa-Lobos’ Bachianas Brasileiras No. 5, which will feature soprano Gabrielle DeMers as soloist.

Unfamiliar to just about everybody will be when the orchestra performs the Maryland premiere of Argentine composer Eduardo Alonso-Crespo's Concerto for Viola and Strings. This piece was brought to the attention of Mutchnik by violist Julius Wirth, who will be the featured soloist at the concert.

Composed in 2002, Alonso-Crespo’s concerto is comprised of three movements: Intrata, Sarabande and Giga. Mutchnik said that while the central movement has a somber tone, the two outer movements reflect Latin American folk dances. The structure of this concerto reminds Mutchnik of Baroque music from the 17th and 18th centuries.

Considering the eclectic nature of the overall program, Mutchnik noted that the Alonso-Crespo concerto “will be wonderful as part of that mix.”

Further enhancing the concert is that the performers include dancers from Dance Connections Inc.

If all that musical activity gives you an appetite, you’re in luck. The concert will be followed by a reception with Latin American cuisine.

If this musical trip to Latin America has you thinking about all of the places a musical passport can take you, you’re also in luck. Mutchnik said that next year’s New Year’s concert will take its audience to China.

The Howard County Concert Orchestra performs “Latin American Fiesta - New Year’s Celebration” on Sunday, Jan. 13 at 7 p.m. at First Evangelical Lutheran Church, 3604 Chatham Road in Ellicott City. Tickets are $25, $12 for students 18- 24 with ID, free for 17 and under when accompanied by a paying adult. Go to hococo.org

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