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The need for music is always there

April 05, 2013|Kate Coleman

Here I go again.

Although I've said many times that I'm not a "music writer," I often find myself writing about music.

Well, of course. I've been previewing Maryland Symphony Orchestra concerts for years.

But here and now, I'm talking about my column that runs the first Sunday of every month in Lifestyle.

Even a quick glance at the archives reveals how often I reference song titles or lyrics to make a point.

No, I am not a "music writer" in the technical sense of the term. I can't read music. I took a few guitar lessons when I was in high school and a music appreciation class as a college freshman, but I have no formal musical training or actual expertise. I just love music. I seem to need it.

There always has been music in my life. I grew up the child of parents who sang — a lot. My mom did a lovely version of George M. Cohan's "Mary's a Grand Old Name" and had a repertoire of funny old songs, many with Irish roots. Dad led our little church choir and sang solos in the parish variety shows. His "easy listening" AM radio was always on during his weekend puttering; Dad sang along in his wonderful baritone. My parents had met in their church's drama club. They were in shows together.

It could be said that I followed in their amateur thespian footsteps, performing in every high school musical I managed to get cast in. As a senior, I was Maria in "West Side Story," the thought of which brings me back to the MSO.

Composer Leonard Bernstein's "Symphonic Dances" from that show will open the orchestra's final concerts of the season on Saturday, April 20, and Sunday, April 21. As we used to say in the olden days, I am psyched!

I suppose it could be my personal connection to "West Side Story" that makes me so fond of it, but I truly think it's the music itself.

About a year ago, I stumbled upon a YouTube video of the young conductor Gustavo Dudamel leading the Simon Bolivar Youth Orchestra of Venezuela in a 2007 performance of the work at The Proms, aka The BBC Proms. The Proms is the annual eight-week summer season of daily classical music concerts performed mainly in Royal Albert Hall in London. Dudamel is music director of the Venezuelan youth orchestra and the Los Angeles Philharmonic.

Wow. Tears-to-my-eyes thrilling.

For their spring birthdays, I sent the link — http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UjNi1dkvTcw%20 — to my middle school boyfriend Jimmy, who was Tony to my Maria in high school, and to my high school boyfriend Donnie. It was fun to catch up with such beautiful musical memories.

The London performance is vastly different from that of the high school musicians in the auditorium "pit." Our teenage willingness to suspend disbelief was strong, and however haltingly Bernstein's music might have been played, we were transported.

I trust that the MSO's performance of the Symphonic Dances also will be vastly different.

I am psyched to be transported again.

Kate Coleman covers The Maryland Symphony and writes a monthly column for The Herald-Mail.

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