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Columbia prepares to party

The Baltimore Sun

In honor of its 20th anniversary - and its hometown's 40th birthday - the Columbia Festival of the Arts has announced a schedule that includes something old, something new, something local and some blues.

In choosing the festival acts that will appear between June 6 and June 23, "we really wanted to celebrate and embrace the arts groups in Howard County and Columbia ... and to bring back some of the acts that helped make the festival what it is today," said John Duncan, program coordinator.

With that in mind, Wynton Marsalis, who headlined the festival in 2003, will return June 17.

Marsalis, the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, Ghanian percussionist Yacub Addy and the vocal ensemble Odadaa will perform their musical composition "Congo Square," which celebrates the New Orleans site where African slaves were allowed to play their own music and dance in the 1700s and 1800s.

The roster also includes the return of several favorites from previous seasons, such as violinist Mark O'Connor in a performance with the Columbia Orchestra on June 10, the Columbia Orchestra MOMIX dance and illusion group June 20 and The Second City comedy troupe June 22.

There are plenty of new faces at the festival as well, some of whom will join forces with local arts institutions:

The Millers are a family blues band that includes 13-year-old harmonica prodigy and America's Got Talent contestant L.D. Miller. Their free concert at Centennial Park on June 13 will be the first in the Comcast Sunset Serenades Series.

Minnesota Dance Theatre will perform Carmina Burana with the Columbia Pro Cantare on June 15.

The Spencers will bring their show "Theatre of Illusion," which includes high-tech special effects, drama and comedy, to the Rouse Theatre on June 16.

The Hampton (Rock) String Quartet will play classically influenced arrangements of well-known rock songs June 21.

Novelist Carrie Brown will read from her new work at a high tea at Historic Oakland manor June 21.

The festival will conclude June 23 with Squonk Opera's presentation of "Columbia - The Opera," an original, humorous, irreverent look at Columbia informed by a week of research in the community.

One festival tradition continued Thursday evening with the announcement of the fourth annual poster contest winner.

A pencil drawing by DoRonne Shyu, a 13-year-old eighth-grader at Glenwood Middle School, was chosen for use on festival posters and brochures, earning the artist a $500 prize.

Shyu said she has studied art off and on for several years and recently returned to private art lessons.

She said she likes to use pencil, which is "easier to control," and was inspired by Phantom of the Opera to include a broken mask as well as a red rose with a green stem that provided the only element of color in the drawing.

She included elements of music, visual art and theater, which impressed juror Gail Holiday, an artist who was hired in the 1960s by James W. Rouse to create a series of silkscreen posters depicting Columbia's neighborhoods.

"It is unusual in that it is done in shaded pencil with just a touch of color to bring your eye to it," said Holiday, who lives in Sykesville. "I just felt the composition was very sophisticated for a 13-year-old."

"It is really incredible, but I didn't really expect it," Shyu said of the honor.

Some other familiar elements of the festival will be back this year.

LakeFest is planned for June 8-10, with visual art, family activities and the return of the chalk art contest.

Highlights include three daily performances by Australian performance-group-on-stilts Strange Fruit, the band Gaelic Storm on June 8, The Kinetic Art Parade and the Howard County Rotarians' Boat Float Regatta on June 9, and a closing performance by the Glenelg Jazz Ensemble on June 10.

LakeFest will also feature the first Howard County's Got Talent competition, which will give local bands an opportunity to play onstage and be judged by music professionals for a $2,000 prize.

A new contest for poets is being sponsored by the festival, the Howard County Poetry and Literature Society and the Little Patuxent Review, with Baltimore poet Kendra Kopelke judging the finalists.

A $1,000 overall prize and smaller prizes for top finishers in two age divisions will be awarded. Entries are being accepted through Friday.

More local artists will have a chance to shine at the Howard County Center for the Arts' Resident Exhibit and Howard Community College' art exhibition with Laura Schultz, both of which have free receptions June 14.

And Columbia resident Greg Leader will bring his 1980s-themed musical, True Colors, to festival audiences June 11. The musical debuted at Glenelg High School in November, and Leader hopes to take it to New York soon.

Before the festival begins, its organizers say they hope people will support fundraising efforts by attending "An Evening with John Waters" on May 11 at the Spear Center. Waters will talk about his colorful career and his creative inspirations while guests have cocktails and dinner.

After unveiling its season Thursday, festival organizers had one more announcement.

The Rouse Co. Foundation has committed to give the festival $1 million over five years, which leaders say they will use to establish a public endowment.

The president of the festival's board of directors, Steven Sachs, said his organization is pleased that an endowment will help ensure that the event will continue.

He said the festival's activities "bring the community together, a variety of colors and cultures and ages, where we can celebrate what we share."

Tickets go on sale April 26. Schedule, ticket and venue information for the festival is available at www.columbia festival.org or 410-715-3044.


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