Choir to reprise Czech 'Jazz Mass' Music: Columbia Pro Cantare, a 100-voice choir, will again perform composer Karel Ruzicka's 'Celebration Jazz Mass.'


Columbia Pro Cantare, a 100-voice Howard County choir led by Frances Motyca Dawson, will repeat its successful May performance of the "Celebration Jazz Mass" by Czech composer Karel Ruzicka at the National Cathedral in Washington this fall.

The work will be given Oct. 28 as part of an all-Czech program commemorating the 80th anniversary of the founding of the Republic of Czechoslovakia after World War I.

Dawson, who comes from a family of Czech emigres, has led Pro Cantare in works by some 25 Czech and Bohemian composers. The choir gave the premiere of a lost mass by Johann Nepomuk Hummel, a Bohemian contemporary of Beethoven, in 1980.

Repertory for the National Cathedral concert includes "Fanfares" by Lukas Matousek, commissioned in 1990 by Pro Cantare to commemorate the events of the 1989 "Velvet Revolution" in Prague, when newly elected President Vaclav Havel began to move the country out of the Soviet orbit.

Two religious works will also be featured: "Dixit Dominus" by Jan Dismas Zelenka (1679-1745) and "Te Deum" by Antonin Dvorak, written in 1903 to commemorate the 400th anniversary of Columbus' landing in the New World.

The "Celebration Jazz Mass" by Ruzicka, 58, was written in 1991 as a tribute to the new freedom of expression after the fall of the Soviet Union and re-emergence of democracy in former Warsaw Pact countries. He and his son, Karel Jr., a virtuoso saxophonist, led the jazz ensemble that accompanied the Mass at its Columbia performance, which was the work's American premiere.

They will return for the fall concert, and soprano Brenda Witmer of James Madison University is also set to reprise her solos in the Mass. Witmer, alto Marianna Busching of the Peabody Conservatory of Music faculty and tenor Charles Reid will be soloists in the other works. Dawson will conduct.

For information on Pro Cantare's season and the National Cathedral concert, call 410-465-5744.

'Bent Twig' on the road

Municipal Opera Company of Baltimore will take "Bent Twig," a contemporary opera by Arlein Ford Straw and Helen Roberts Williams, to this summer's African-American Arts Festival Showcase on Martha's Vineyard, Mass.

The festival, a celebration of African-American artists from Langston Hughes to Leontyne Price, runs July 3 to Sept. 6 at the Performing Arts Center in Oak Bluff.

"Bent Twig," which was premiered by Municipal Opera in February, is an urban opera about rape, teen pregnancy and drug deals, but also about African-American self-sufficiency and hope.

Williams, its librettist, is a former professor of social work at City College of New York; and Straw, its composer, is a retired New York City public school music teacher. It will be performed July 6, says Municipal Opera director Dorothy Lofton Jones. For information on the festival, call 973-243-2524.

Pub Date: 6/30/98

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