Concert in Columbia tomorrow night to benefit the Hunger Project

The Baltimore Sun

There's good news, better news and bad news regarding the Hunger Project benefit concert scheduled for tomorrow night at Owen Brown Interfaith Center in Columbia.

The good news is that the concert will assemble a renowned collection of musicians, including pianist Brian Ganz and violinist Jody Gatwood, who will be playing an inspiring mix of classic and newly composed music. The better news is that all proceeds will go to the Hunger Project, an organization that works to end hunger worldwide.

The bad news, though, is that the concert is sold out. All 200 seats.

Of course, that bad news is good news to Alison Matuskey, a pianist and soprano with Columbia Pro Cantare, who has organized the event. "It's the hottest ticket in town," she said recently, barely suppressing her glee.

Jim Goodman, regional director of U.S. funding for the Hunger Project, said most money for the organization comes from direct or corporate donations, though sometimes a walk-a-thon or other event will be held. "Occasionally, someone comes up with a creative idea like this, and we love it," he said.

Goodman said ticket sales and donations as a result of the concert have brought in about $5,000, and he expects that will increase. He plans to attend the concert, saying a few words about the Hunger Project before the performance begins, he said.

The Hunger Project, based in Manhattan, is not a relief organization, he said. It does not give out food, but instead empowers citizens, mostly women, to create and run their own programs focusing on health care, education and nutrition.

Matuskey, who lives in Clarksville, said she decided in December 2005 to put together a concert to benefit the organization. When she began to plan it, she immediately thought of her favorite musicians.

Of course, she enlisted violinist Jody Gatwood, who happens to be her fiance and who is concertmaster of the National Philharmonic Orchestra and a faculty member at Catholic University in Washington. And she called pianist Brian Ganz, who had introduced the two and who is a faculty member at the Peabody Conservatory in Baltimore.

Kathleen Trahan and Karen Johnson signed on as flutists, and Frances Motyca Dawson, of Pro Cantare, is directing. About 25 members of Pro Cantare are providing lush vocals.

Matuskey said word of the concert was spread mostly by Kathleeen Bowen of Columbia Pro Cantare and Holly Thomas of the Candlelight Concert Series. Tickets sold quickly, she said.

Ganz, who lives in Annapolis, and Gatwood, of Silver Spring, have been involved for more than 20 years in the Washington, chapter of an organization called Artists to End Hunger, they said. Through that organization, they organized benefit concerts and came to know about the Hunger Project.

While music of Tchaikovsky and Chopin will be performed, the concert also will include works from local composer Tom Benjamin, who lives in Columbia and is a member of Peabody's music theory and composition faculty.

Benjamin composed one piece, called Hope, about three years ago for Matuskey, he said. Two new pieces, one called Tangissimo! and the other called Little Jazz Variations, will debut at the concert.

The group got together for a rehearsal at Owen Brown Interfaith Center on Wednesday night. That included people such as Bill Barron, a baritone who has been a member of Pro Cantare for seven years, driving from Chestertown, on the Eastern Shore, to participate. The travel time is worth it, he said, "when you find a good group like this."

As the rehearsal ended, and the last, crystal-clear notes of Matuskey's voice faded, talk immediately turned to logistics -- what time to get there, what to wear and other details. Enthusiasm was high.

"I cannot thank you enough for making this all possible," Matuskey told the others.

"This is going to be such a special day. I'm getting goose bumps already."

Information about the Hunger Project:

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