On Saturday, March 18, 2023, The Columbia Orchestra, under the direction of Maestro Jason Love, performed their much-acclaimed “Symphonic Pops.” The Columbia Orchestra, which all-volunteer, has been performing in Howard County for over 40 years. Residents have always counted them as a local treasure. For the last 24 years, they have been led by Jason Love. Maestro Love will be retiring after this season, but his energy and humor as conductor will be sorely missed. Sadly, also retiring after over 30 years is their Concertmaster, Brenda Anna. Ms. Anna is also a first violinist.
The night was a huge triumph for The Columbia Orchestra.
The “Symphonic Pops” concert is one the community looks forward to every year. Saturday was no different and it was sold out. The night was rich in wonderful music, most of which was recognizable to almost everyone and no one was disappointed.
The night began with “Sunrise” from “Sprach Zarathustra, Op.30” by Richard Strauss. Most will remember that from the opening of the movie “2001: A Space Odyssey.” It was a powerful and dramatic opening then just as it was for this performance. It was followed by “Ride of the Valkyries” from “Die Walküre” by Richard Wagner. This suspenseful and stirring music was used in the movie “Apocalypse Now.”
Changing pace, vocalist Shaun Mykals joined the orchestra and brought the audience some music from the 1960s and 1970s. It included “What a Wonderful World” made famous by Louis Armstrong, the Temptations’ “Ain’t Too Proud to Beg,” which was the title of the Broadway show, and Stevie Wonder’s “Sign Sealed, Delivered (I’m Yours).” The house was reeling and rocking.
Visions of cowboys and horses came to mind with the orchestra’s rendition of “Theme from the Magnificent Seven.” That contrasted with the more subdued John Williams piece from “Lincoln”—”With Malice to None.”
The first part of the program ended with “Blue Danube Waltz, op. 314” written by Johann Strauss II. I am sure when it was first performed, it created mental pictures of European rivers or 19th century dances. Later, it would be used in calliopes and created, for some, images of merry-go-rounds. It was used in television commercials, especially an infamous one for dog food. For anyone familiar with Stanley Kubrick’s “2001: A Space Odessey,” waltzing space satellites are imprinted in our brains when the music is played. The orchestra caught the essence of the piece, and I just closed my eyes expecting to hear the computer voice of HAL.
For the second half of the program, it was more John Williams with the “Shark Theme” from “Jaws.” Williams, recently in an interview, revealed that the piece is really just two notes that represent the shark. It is how they crescendo and how shrilly they are played that makes this music so chilling. The musicians recreated that sense of dread.
The same can be said for “Prelude to Psycho” by Bernard Hermann. The music was sometimes scarier than the movie. Part of the effect is done almost entirely with the string section. Maestro Love, in a very deliciously humorous moment, exchanged his baton for a rather large knife which he used to conduct the piece.
From there, the orchestra took us to the fantasy world of Peter Jackson with Howard Shore’s “Symphonic Suite” from the “Fellowship of the Rings.” The talented young singer from the Peabody Children’s Choir, Erin Finnigan, joined the musicians in the last section.
The orchestra made a quick switch then to Frank Loesser’s “Guys and Dolls” with familiar songs such as “Luck Be a Lady” and “Sit Down You’re Rockin’ the Boat” which were real treats to the theatre buffs. For the “Love Theme” from “The Godfather” by Nino Rota, two mandolins and a melodica were added to give it a real Italian flavor.
Mykals came out one more time to sing the Carpenter’s song, “Superstar,” which was done more soulfully than the original hit. He then did a very bluesy version of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” from “The Wizard of Oz,” written by Harold Arlen. It was dedicated to his father, and we all teared up along with Mykals as he sang this great song.
Jason Love was not going to let the evening go by without opening our minds to a little traditional, classical music. The Columbia Orchestra, in all its glory, performed Jean Sibelius’ “Symphony No. 2 in D Major, Op.43.” The night was a huge triumph for the Columbia Orchestra. Jason Love and Brenda Anna will be sorely missed.
Running Time: Two hours with one intermission.
“Symphonic Pops” was performed on March 18, 2023 by The Columbia Orchestra at the Jim Rouse Theatre and Performing Arts Center, Wilde Lake High School, 5460 Trumpeter Rd, Columbia, MD 21044.
Don’t miss Jason Love’s last night as conductor on Saturday, May 20, 2023 when The Columbia Orchestra will be performing “Rhapsody in Blue” by George Gershwin along with Aaron Copland’s “Symphony No.3” and Valerie Coleman’s “Umoja: Anthem of Unity.” The featured artist will be Carlos César Rodríguez, piano, and performed at the Jim Rouse Theatre. There will also be a Young People’s Concert of “Peter and the Wolf” on April 15, 2023—a great way to introduce kids to the classics. Check out their website for tickets and information.
Watch for Maryland Theatre Guide’s upcoming interview with Maestro Jason Love on his time with The Columbia Orchestra and his future plans.