Columbia Pro Cantare will be performing “20th Century European Composers” on Sunday, March 17, 2019, at 4 pm at the First Evangelical Lutheran Church, 3604 Chatham Road, Ellicott City, MD.
Tickets may be purchased online.
I had a chance to interview Frances Motyca Dawson, the Founder and Artistic Director of this remarkable choral assemblage.
FRANCES MOTYCA DAWSON founded Columbia Pro Cantare in 1977 to provide performance opportunities for Howard County singers and to bring quality musical experiences to Howard County audiences. A holder of master’s and bachelor’s degrees in music from the Peabody Conservatory, she was musical assistant to Laszlo Halasz, former Director of the Peabody Opera Theatre, and pursued advanced studies at the Tanglewood Institute. Before founding Columbia Pro Cantare, she organized and directed the Louisville (Kentucky) Choral Arts Society, which received excellent critical notices. Frances Dawson also established PAVILION IN COMMON, which brought the Baltimore Symphony to the Merriweather Post Pavilion for four summers. In 1984 and 1989, she was awarded the Governor’s Citation for her contributions to the arts in Maryland. In 1987 she conducted the chorus, orchestra, and soloists in the Hail Columbia concert at Merriweather Post Pavilion, which celebrated Columbia’s 20th birthday. In the fall of 1991, she presented the Dvořák Festival in Washington, honoring the composer’s 150th anniversary with a seminar at the Kennedy Center and concerts there and at the National City Christian Church.
Frances Dawson was awarded the Howie by the Howard County Arts Council in October 1991 for her lifetime artistic contributions to the community. In March 2006, she was inducted into the Howard County Women’s Hall of Fame for her significant contributions as an arts leader to the improvement of life for the citizens of this region. From 1990 to June 2007, she was also the director of the Upper School Chorus at Glenelg Country School. In April 2013, Mrs. Dawson received the Peabody Alumni Achievement Award Recognizing Outstanding Contributions to Music in Maryland. Frances Dawson was honored in March 2017 by Her Mind magazine as one of the “Founding Mothers” of Columbia, and in August of 2017, as a Preserver of the Arts by Maryland Leadership Workshops through Women’s Giving Circle of Howard County.
Can you tell us which Twentieth Century European Composers will be performed at your March 17th concert?
Gabriel Fauré, Maurice Duruflé, Lili Boulanger, André Caplet, Louis Vierne, Leoš Janáček.
Who are you featured performers?
Columbia Pro Cantare
chorus; CPC Chamber Singers; Jason Berger, tenor; Jacqueline Pollauf, harp;
Donald Fries, organ; Sammy Marshall, piano
Which are your favorite selections?
Janáček’s Otčé Náš (Moravian Our Father)
Can you tell our readers briefly about Pro Cantare? How long has it been in existence? What types of music you perform? How does it benefit your community?
It was founded in 1977 by Frances Motyca Dawson as a symphonic chorus to perform at Merriweather Post Pavilion with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra. The chorus is made up of auditioned amateur singers. It presents 5 concerts per year, one by the small group, the CPC Chamber Singers, and rehearses at least 10 – sometimes 11 – months of the year, weekly, with extra rehearsals before each concert.
Pro Cantare is now in its 42nd Season. The group usually performs classical selections from composers such as Bach and Mozart, plus an annual performance of Handel’s Messiah. Pro Cantare also performs at least one ethnic or special interest concert each year. It has performed all-Hungarian, Czech, Polish, Irish, Jewish, African-American, and Hispanic concerts, and such diverse music as jazz, American folk songs, music from World War I period, and Great American Songbook music from Broadway.
Pro Cantare offers a diverse and creative mix of music which reaches a large population in our area. It is attended by citizens from Howard, Baltimore, Anne Arundel, Prince George’s and Montgomery Counties, as well as Pennsylvania, DC and Virginia. Young singers just beginning their careers are often performers, as well as soloists who are internationally known.
How long have you been with the group? What are your proudest accomplishments?
I am the Founder/Artistic Director since its beginning.
Columbia Pro Cantare appeared several times with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, under Sergiu Comissiona, including being the featured chorus in the nationally- televised opening of Harborplace in 1980.
In 1987, Columbia’s 20th Birthday “Hail Columbia” Concert featured the Pro Cantare Chorus with Mr. James Rouse, founder of Columbia, who narrated Copland’s Lincoln Portrait at Merriweather Post Pavilion.
In 1991, Columbia Pro Cantare presented Dvořák Festival in Washington, DC (honoring composer’s 150th anniversary), with seminars and performances at the Kennedy Center and National City Christian Church.
In 1997 the CPC was featured in the inaugural concert of its home venue, The Jim Rouse Theatre for the Performing Arts in Columbia, MD, performing the World Premiere of Commissioned Work by Tom Benjamin, I Build A House, in honor of Jim Rouse’s dream. Edward Norton, actor and native of Columbia, narrated a presentation in honor of his grandfather, Jim Rouse.
On October 28, 1998, Pro Cantare was privileged to present a concert of Czech music at the Washington National Cathedral to commemorate the 80th anniversary of the founding of the Republic of Czechoslovakia in 1918. This concert climaxed a month-long series of cultural events by the Embassy of the Czech Republic.