If there's strength in numbers, the New York Chamber Soloists are in great shape. This 13-member ensemble of strings, winds, piano and harpsichord is large by chamber music standards, so it promises to assert itself on stage for a Candlelight Concert Society program on Saturday, April 5, at 7 p.m. at Howard Community College's Smith Theatre.
On the scene for over five decades, the New York Chamber Soloists have performed for Candlelight before. The group's upcoming "American Classics" program features modern American composers. Certainly the most familiar piece is Aaron Copland's "Appalachian Spring."
A suite derived from a ballet score commissioned by the choreographer Martha Graham in 1944, "Appalachian Spring" evokes the pastoral quality of the Pennsylvania countryside. Copland won the Pulitzer Prize in music for this piece. Audiences today still immediately feel comfortable with the folk music influences that inform "Appalachian Spring," especially the beloved Shaker hymn "Simple Gifts."
Copland, who died in 1990, wrote music in various styles and for various occasions. Whatever the sound of a particular composition, however, he always prided himself on being an American composer. As somebody living in the 20th century, he wanted to reflect his own society and values in everything he composed.
"You're putting down, in permanent form, your deepest feelings about what it feels like to be alive," Copland observed during a talk he gave at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore in 1977.
He went on to explain his belief that too much emphasis has been placed on great classical pieces from the past and not enough on contemporary music. He called for "artworks that reflect the kind of life we are living now."
Those locally delivered remarks by Copland are by now themselves historic, of course, but the contemporary spirit he championed is still valid. Indeed, the New York Chamber Soloists will be doing a program reflecting the strength and variety of 20th-century American music.
Besides Copland's "Appalachian Spring," this concert features Berger's Quartet in C for flute, oboe, clarinet and bassoon; Powell's Eight miniatures for baroque ensemble; Piston's Divertimento for nine instruments; and Carter's Sonata for flute, oboe, cello and harpsichord.
This particular program serves as a reminder that this chamber music ensemble has been notable for many years for commissioning works by such contemporary composers as Mario Davidovsky, Gunther Schuller, Mel Powell and Ezra Laderman. And its commissions sometimes have had the youngest ears in mind, because it also has commissioned works for children including Hugh Aitken's "Ferdinand the Bull."
Whether playing modern music or great classical works from the past, the group has proved that it's equally adept. In fact, the group has more than 250 works in its repertory. The program possibilities are impressive, such as the group's ability to play the complete Bach Brandenburg concerti in the same concert.
The group's members are Jennifer Grim, flute; Melvin Kaplan, oboe; Allen Blustine, clarinet; Andrew Schwartz, bassoon; Sharon Moe, French horn; Scott Thornburg, trumpet; Curtis Macomber, violin, Harumi Rhodes, violin; Emily Popham Gillins, violin; Ynez Lynch, viola; Adam Grabois, cello; Kurt Muroki, double bass; and Elizabeth Metcalfe, piano.
These musicians are familiar to classical music listeners in this country and abroad.
By way of a steady gig, the group was in residence at the Vermont Mozart Festival annually from 1974 to 2010.
By way of regular tour stops, its New York City venues include the Metropolitan Museum of Art and Lincoln Center; and its Washington, D.C. venues include the Library of Congress, Kennedy Center, National Gallery of Art, and National Academy of Sciences.
This ensemble also plays at a number of universities around the United States, and has done its share of international tours.
Classical music fans looking forward to this concert in Columbia may want to make a really full night of it. Following the New York Chamber Soloists' 7 p.m. performance in Howard Community College's Smith Theatre, there is a fundraising event for Candlelight Concert Society, "The Great American Songbook by Candlelight," taking place that same night from 9 to 11:30 p.m. at Vantage House retirement community in Columbia.
This cabaret-style performance at Vantage House features pianist Patricia Hammer. There will be food and drink, with the festivities overseen by the honorary chair of the fundraising event, Howard County Councilwoman Mary Kay Sigaty.
New York Chamber Soloists perform Saturday, April 5, at 7 p.m,. at Howard Community College's Smith Theatre, 10901 Little Patuxent Parkway in Columbia. Tickets are $32, $30 for seniors, $12 for students 18- 24, and free for those 9- 17 when accompanied by a paying adult.
"The Great American Songbook by Candlelight" fundraising event is Saturday, April 5, from 9 to 11:30 p.m., at Vantage House, 5400 Vantage Point Road in Columbia. Gala tickets are $50, $100 for patrons; tickets to both the concert and gala are $75, $125 for patrons.
For concert and gala information, call 410-997-2324 or go to http://www.candlelightconcerts.org