On May 14, Columbia Pro Cantare (CPC) presented “American Voices,” a compilation of music that reflects our American heritage of inclusion and our goal to create a society of many voices that come together as one. In honor of the late great Civil Rights leader and Congressman, the Hon. John Lewis, CPC featured a newly commissioned piece by Roland M. Carter set to the words of the late American hero. Columbia Pro Cantare was led that night by conductor Laure Lee Fisher, with guidance from the group’s founder and director, Frances Montyca Dawson.
The whole night was one to just sit back and enjoy…a delight.
The whole night was one to just sit back and enjoy. I had not had a chance to hear the group in person since the pandemic and they are still a delight. From the upbeat sounds of the opening “I Will Sing” by Rosephanye Powell to the final serene piece by Aaron Copland, “‘The Promise of Living,” with that touch of Americana so associated with the composer. I am partial to those selections where the chorus sings and, that night, was greatly moved by the exquisite voice of Kayla Currie, a regular member of the group, who was chosen to sing the music by Carter with the Hon. John Lewis’ words. You could just picture Lewis walking across the Edmund Pettis Bridge in Selma, Alabama is his fight for civil rights. (The Howard County Council passed a Resolution in honor of the evening.)
Included with the wonderful choral pieces were two instrumentals. As a duet, Ronald Mutchnik, violin, and Lior Willinger, piano, masterfully performed “Sicilienne” by Lev Zhurbin; “Mother and Child” by William Grant Still; and a jazzier piece, “Graceful Ghost Rag” by William Bolcom. Willinger opened after Intermission with a solo in “Fantasie Negre.” The piece had elements of African American spirituals and was written by Florence Price, the first black female composer to have a symphony performed by a major American orchestra, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.
The flawless piano of Isaiah Shim, with assistance from Willinger, accompanied CPC. Currie also returned to sing another moving selection, “Steal Away, “an African American spiritual. Currie has a career as a teacher and music therapist, but it was impossible to tell she was not a professional operatic singer.
The group performed fully masked, but it never interfered with their talent or the enjoyment of the concert.
Running Time: One hour and 45 minutes with one intermission.
“American Voices” was presented on May 14, 2022 by Columbia Pro Cantare at the Jim Rouse Theatre and Performing Arts Center, 5460 Trumpeter Rd, Columbia, MD 21044
Columbia Pro Cantare will be back next season starting on October 22, 2022 with “Mendelssohn and Bach” at the First Evangelical Lutheran Church in Ellicott City, MD. They will also be performing their program of “Handel-Messiah” on December 4, 2022 at the Jim Rouse Theater. For more information, season subscriptions, tickets, or to make a donation, visit their website.