Crofton cantor goes with choir on a musical journey to Israel


February 15, 2000|By Nancy Gallant | Nancy Gallant,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

MELANIE SMITH has been singing since she was a little girl. Her father was a professor of vocal music at Arizona State University, and Smith loved the time she spent with him, training her naturally beautiful voice.

Smith became a bank examiner for the federal government, but continued to sing, focusing on liturgical music. She has been a cantor since 1983, beginning in a parish in Oklahoma.

In 1991, she moved to Crofton and became a cantor at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Roman Catholic Church and a member of the contemporary choir. Several months ago, at a national conference of Roman Catholic musicians, Smith heard about the American Pilgrimage Choir, a group of 50 Roman Catholic musicians from across the country The choir was planning a pilgrimage to sing in the Holy Land in January. Smith had always wanted to travel to Israel, so she sent an audition tape to the choir, and was chosen to be a soloist and cantor.

On Jan. 19, she and the rest of the choir traveled to Israel, where they repeated baptismal vows at the River Jordan. They gave a concert at the Church of the Dormition in Jerusalem, where tradition says Mary died, and Smith served as a cantor at the Church of the Beatitudes, by the Sea of Galilee.

The choir members also walked the Via Dolorosa, the path Jesus Christ traveled to Calvary.

The most unusual performance Smith remembered was at the Church of the Annunciation in Nazareth, where the choir sang a Mass in Arabic. None of the singers spoke Arabic, so they followed phonetic pronunciation. And the music was unfamiliar, so they sight read. But Smith remembers the experience as hauntingly beautiful.

After the service, the choir was asked to sing "Hallelujah" from Handel's "Messiah." Without a single practice, they burst into song.

Smith said that after this trip, she will never read the Bible in the same way. Each place in the Gospels is no longer just a word in a book, but a real place. She says she also developed a better understanding of the complex problems faced by the Palestinians and the Israelis.

Smith's life is back to normal. She goes to work. She sings at Seton. And she is actively involved in Arundel Habitat for Humanity. But she has also heard that the American Pilgrimage Choir is planning a new musical journey -- to Austria -- and Smith is sure to be there.

Magnetic attraction

Members of the Crofton Association of Retired Persons (CARP) will hear about alternative types of health care at the group's monthly meeting, at 10: 30 a.m. tomorrow in the Seton Parish Hall.

After a short business session, information on magnetic therapy and other alternative care will be presented.

The program will be followed by a luncheon, which costs $7. Membership is open to area residents ages 55 and older, with annual dues of $10. Information: Grace Walker, 410-721-8830.

Stafford art auction

Heisman Fine Arts Gallery of Ardmore, Pa., will present an art show and auction Feb. 26 at Jessup Community Hall, at Route 175 and Wigley Avenue. Proceeds of the annual event will benefit the Julia S. Stafford Memorial Scholarship Fund.

At her death in a traffic accident in 1996, Stafford was a Meade High School senior and an active participant in community outreach programs. The fund established in her name provides financial assistance to students graduating from Meade High School.

The fund has distributed more than $12,000 in scholarships.

The auction will present a variety of art, from prints to graphics. The $8 admission fee will include wine, soda, hors d'oeuvres and desserts. Door prizes and raffles will be featured.

Doors will open for a preview of the art at 7 p.m., with the auction at 8 p.m. Information or tickets: Dana Herbert, 410-796-7999.

Atlantic City for $10 (net)

Crofton Civic Association is sponsoring a bus trip March 4 to Atlantic City, with the bus leaving Crofton Elementary School at 8 a.m. and returning at 8 p.m.

The $25 cost for the trip includes transportation and $15 in casino tokens.

Information: Town Hall, 410- 721-2301.

Black history program

"Follow the Drinking Gourd," a Black History Month program, will be presented at 7 p.m. Feb. 22 at the county library system's Maryland City at Russett branch.

Children and their families are invited to learn the story of the underground railroad and how to create a family tree. Participants are encouraged to bring family photos and other memorabilia to use in a craft project.

Information: 301-725-2390.

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