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BSO plans Maryland Day salute for students


Classical music, Maryland history and thousands o schoolchildren will converge this morning for a live telecast of a Maryland Day celebration at Meyerhoff Symphony Hall.

Students in classrooms throughout the state, together with MPT viewers at home, will be able to turn on its "BSO Salutes Maryland" (Channels 22 and 67) at 10:30 a.m. today. The program will be repeated at 8 tonight and again at 5 p.m. Monday.

At the Meyerhoff, more than 2,000 students in grades four through eight are expected at a music-with-narrative program celebrating 359 years of state history. The show's co-hosts will be Baltimore Symphony Orchestra narrator Rheda Becker and WJZ-TV anchor Al Sanders, with David Lockington, the BSO's Affiliate Artist/National Endowment for the Arts Conductor, leading the orchestra.

The 50-minute musical program sounds like a multicultural feast: Aaron Copland's "Fanfare for the Common Man" and "Hoe-Down," Rimsky-Korsakov's "Scheherazade," Tchaikovsky's "1812" Overture, Kodaly's "The Viennese Musical Clock" from his "Hary Janos Suite," Adolphus Hailstork's "Celebration!" Berlioz's "Roman Carnival" Overture and, of course, "Yankee Doodle," "The Star-Spangled Banner" and "Maryland My Maryland."

Mr. Lockington jestingly refers to everything on the concert bill as "short and loud." All the selections have been "trimmed a little bit," with each now averaging a mere three minutes in length. So kids -- and for that matter TV cameras -- with short attention spans will have plenty of aural variety.

Also adding to the colorful mix will be appearances by the 3rd U.S. Infantry (Old Guard) Fife and Drum Corps and the African Heritage Drummers. Not to mention the finale featuring Gov. William Donald Schaefer's conducting the BSO in a rocking "Twist and Shout."

Mr. Lockington said the challenge in organizing the program was to "create something relevant out of the standard orchestral repertory for the history of Maryland." To that end, this British native says he looked to the "key moments in Maryland history" and found musical complements that sometimes were as direct as Francis Scott Key's "Star-Spangled Banner."

Interspersed with the music is a brief history of Maryland that plays to a child's sense of the dramatic. Mention is made, for instance, of the pirates and storms threatening the Ark and the Dove before the ships arrived in Maryland in 1634.

Among the diverse historical figures mentioned in the program are Benjamin Banneker, Frederick Douglass, Harriet Tubman, Helen Taussig, H. L. Mencken, Rachel Carson, Thurgood Marshall, Eubie Blake and Billie Holiday.

Besides trying to "deal with all those different threads," Mr. Lockington adds the program, in more typical youth concert fashion, "tells them a bit about the instruments."

Although Mr. Lockington only joined the BSO in September, the orchestra is an old pro at coming up with innovative programs for kids. In fact, this season the BSO marked its 1 millionth child concert-goer since the Meyerhoff opened 10 years ago; and it ranks first nationally among professional orchestras in the number of youth concerts it offers.

MPT producer Adele Rush says the program is 50 minutes long to "make it more user-friendly for the schools," which have an academic hour of that length. "It'll be exciting to do this live with a young audience," she continues, "because they're usually better than adults and are eager to participate."

The education department has distributed information packets and teachers' guides to public and private elementary and middle schools throughout the state, but it will not know until a follow-up questionnaire how many classrooms opt to watch today's show.

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