Hammond Elementary pupils experience opera - `It was unbelievable'

April 23, 2004

Yvette Lewis was opera-singer-in-residence last week at Hammond Elementary School in North Laurel.

In a program titled, "So This Is Opera," Hammond children in kindergarten through fifth grade trooped into the school's music room one class at a time to listen to a story, watch videos and learn two excerpts from an opera's arias.

"It was fantastic. It was unbelievable, what she could do with them in such a short period. Second grade sang in German!" said Angela Meade, parent of kindergartner William Mitchell and second-grader Thomas Mitchell.

"On Friday afternoon, we had an assembly with the whole school. Each grade stood up and sang two songs from their opera. And then she sang some songs for them, and did little skits. She would sing, and the kids would act out the stuff she was singing," Meade said.

The performances were accompanied by about 30 xylophones, played by children, and Lewis on piano, said music teacher Christinia Armstrong.

Mary Quinn, last year's cultural arts representative for the PTA, organized the program with Armstrong. Art teacher Heidi White taught the visual aspects of opera; the children's artwork was displayed at the reception after a 7 p.m. concert for parents and friends April 16.

Entries in a cake-decorating contest doubled as refreshments. The winning cake was topped by a half-dome labeled, "Hammond Opera House," surrounded by seats made of fruit roll-ups.

"We had 375 students come back that night ... and the kids were on the bleachers, crammed in there," Meade said.

Although the operas had been made child-friendly, some of the stories were still sad.

"Third grade did Madame Butterfly, and they made wedding invitations," Meade said. "At our school, what happened is, she gave the child to him, and she died of a broken heart. ... And [Lewis] told them, `Operas are usually tragic; they don't have happy endings.' "

The program was funded by the Hammond PTA and a grant from the Howard County Arts Council.

- Fay Lande

Community Block Party to be held Sunday afternon

Family and Children's Services of Central Maryland and the Southeast Horizon Council will hold a Community Block Party from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday to celebrate the opening of the new Family and Children's Services office in the Whiskey Bottom Shopping Center.

The event, which will be held on the shopping center parking lot, will include family entertainment and a barbecue picnic.

Admission is free.

Information: Cathy Smith, 410-461-3696.

Family and Children's Services, a nonprofit organization, provides counseling, a program for first-time parents, in-home services for the elderly and disabled and training for caregivers.

The Horizon Foundation provided funding to help open the North Laurel satellite office.

Around Town

Comedy: Laurel Mill Playhouse, 508 Main St., Laurel, is presenting Beau Jest, the off-Broadway comedy by James Sherman, at 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays through May 1, with a 2 p.m. matinee Sunday. Tickets are $12.50; $10 for students and senior citizens. 301-617-9906, or www.laurelmillplayhouse.org.

Basket bingo: Savage Volunteer Fire Company's Ladies Auxiliary will hold basket bingo tomorrow at the Savage Fire Hall, 8925 Lincoln St. Doors and the kitchen are to open at 5 p.m. Games start at 7 p.m. Admission is $15 in advance; $17 at the door, if tickets are available. Included in the ticket price are 20 games and door prizes. Seating is limited; children are welcome if they pay admission. 301-725- 6409 or 301-498-6813.

Homeschool club: The Savage branch library, 9525 Durness Lane, is offering a Homeschool Book Club for those in grades six through 12. Parents and friends are welcome. Participants can take a lunch; drinks will be provided. The group will meet from 12:30 p.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesday to discuss Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli. Books are available at the branch. 410-880-5980.

Backyard refuge: Patuxent Research Refuge in Laurel is offering workshops on transforming a back yard into a wildlife refuge. The second in a three-part series, "Bayscapes and Butterflies," is scheduled from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. June 19. The third, "Feeding Stations for Winter Wildlife," will be held from 10 a.m. to noon Oct. 23. The cost is a $10 donation per workshop to Friends of Patuxent. The Backyard Refuge Series will be held at the North Tract entrance to the refuge, off Route 198, between the Baltimore-Washington Parkway and Route 32. Registration is required. 301-497- 5887. To arrange for special accommodations, call 301-497-5763 at least two weeks in advance.

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