Orchestra putting pop into concerts

For the Columbia Orchestra's final concert of its 2003-2004 season, maestro Jason Love and his musicians will take a walk on the lighter side as the ensemble takes the Jim Rouse Theatre stage for an evening of "Symphonic Pops" at 8 p.m. Saturday. The program will be repeated at 3 p.m. Sunday at Westminster High School in Carroll County.

Over the years, pops concerts have come in two varieties.


A generation or two ago, in the days of Arthur Fiedler and his vaunted Boston Pops, the pops experience afforded orchestras an opportunity to present lighter, shorter classical works that were hard to squeeze onto regular concert bills dominated by full-length symphonies and concertos.

In more recent years, as TV, Hollywood and the youthful audience they are bound to serve have come to dominate the cultural scene, the pops concert has become a crossover event par excellence, with the symphonic format serving a pop repertoire far removed from the reaches of the classical concert hall.


It is in this latter direction that some of this weekend's concert will go, as the Columbians present television favorites such as the themes from The Flintstones and The Jetsons.

The orchestra will shift to the film medium with "The Music of Harry Potter," featuring excerpts from John Williams' estimable scores to the first two wildly successful films of that series.

Children who come dressed as their favorite Harry Potter characters can enter a costume contest, with winners to be selected during the concert.

In homage to yet another medium, the orchestra will play the great Duke Ellington's Three Black Kings (Les Trois Rois Noir), a work originally conceived as a ballet score. These musical evocations of Balthasar (one of the three wise men), King Solomon and Martin Luther King Jr. were used in a performance at New York's Lincoln Center by the Alvin Ailey Dance Company in tribute to Ellington after his death.

Love also has programmed the world premiere of Jay Norris' setting of Three Spirituals, with vocal soloist Robert Jefferson performing "Didn't My Lord Deliver Daniel," "In Bright Mansions" and "Joshua Fit the Battle of Jericho."

In all, this weekend's program calls to mind the words of composer Kurt Weill -- rather a crossover sort of fellow himself -- who said, "I have never acknowledged the difference between 'serious' and 'light' music. There is only good music and bad music."

With Williams, Ellington and the majesty of gospel classics on the program, this weekend's Pops in Columbia promises plenty of the good.

Tickets to "Symphonic Pops" are available online at and at the Music & Arts Center at the Chatham Station Shopping Center, the Music & Arts Center in Laurel or the Columbia Association on Wincopin Circle.


Tickets for the Westminster performance are available at Stu's Music, the Carroll County Arts Council and Coffey Music. Admission is $15 for adults, $12 for those older than 60; $5 for full-time students.