The holiday season calendar tends to fill up pretty quickly, so it's not too soon to start your shopping for classical music concerts in December. One classy upcoming program to keep in mind is the Columbia Orchestra's next concert on Saturday, Dec. 1 at 7:30 p.m. at the Jim Rouse Theatre at Wilde Lake High School.

Just as chestnuts are roasting on an open fire at this time of year, the program ignites with beloved musical chestnuts by Tchaikovsky and Rachmaninoff. However, it also includes the Maryland premiere of a short piece by New York-based composer Nkeiru Okoye.

The familiar portion of the concert is anchored by Tchaikovsky's Piano Concerto No. 1. Its thunderous romanticism is sure to come to boisterous life at the hands of soloist Anne Koscielny.

A former faculty member at the University of Maryland, College Park, this pianist's performances over the years at Howard Community College and elsewhere in the area make it noteworthy that she will be sitting down again at a local piano.

Also likely to stir romantic emotions in the concert hall will be the Columbia Orchestra's performance of Rachmaninoff's "Symphonic Dances," a work that came at the very end of that Russian composer's career.

Combining well-known selections from the standard repertory with something as recent as Okoye's concert-opening "Voices Shouting Out" is part of Columbia Orchestra music director Jason Love's scheduling strategy for the 2012- 2013 season.

"This season we're taking masterworks and pairing them with something a little newer," Love explains.

Those two Russian masterworks are themselves a natural pairing in a concert program.

"There is a Russian lyrical tradition, with Tchaikovsky in the 19th century and Rachmaninoff in the 20th century both taking on Russian romanticism," Love says.

As for Okoye's "Voices Shouting Out," it's very much a piece from the early 21st century. Indeed, she was inspired to compose this piece by the tragic events of Sept. 11, 2001.

"She responded not so much to the tragedy as to how the world responded to the tragedy," says Love.

He adds that the emotions conveyed by Okoye's eight-minute piece are "resilience, unity and pride."

The Columbia Orchestra performs Saturday, Dec. 1 at 7:30 p.m. at Jim Rouse Theatre at Wilde Lake High School, at 5460 Trumpeter Road in Columbia. Tickets are $10- $25. Howard Community College music department faculty member Bill Scanlan Murphy gives a free lecture at 6:30 p.m. Call 410-465-8777 or go to http://www.columbiaorchestra.org.