For more than 25 years, Bob and Linda Chasnow have followed musician Robyn Helzner's career.
The Columbia couple watched her play guitar and lead stories during children's services at a Washington synagogue. They attended her concerts, where she performs both as a solo artist and as a member of the Robyn Helzner Trio.
And, they've followed her from afar as she sings her repertoire of Jewish music in four languages around the world.
"Her voice is crystal clear, sweet and strong at the same time," Bob Chasnow said. "Even if you don't speak the language, you get the gist of the music. Her spirit and harmony … it carries you through the song."
That's why on Sunday, Jan. 12, the Chasnows and the Jewish Federation of Howard County are hosting the Robyn Helzner Trio's "From Beijing to Biloxi — A Concert of World Jewish Music" at the Jim Rouse Theatre and Performing Arts Center in Columbia.
"I thought it would be great to have her come to Columbia," Bob Chasnow said. "It's a unifying occasion for the Jewish community and others who enjoy ethnic songs."
Chasnow is a board member for the Jewish Federation of Howard County, a nonprofit organization that supports and serves the Jewish community in Howard County and throughout the world.
About 17,500 Howard County residents are Jewish as are more than 7,500 households, meaning a household that includes at least one self-identified Jewish adult.
The Robyn Helzner Trio concert, a fundraiser for the federation, is just one of many events the federation sponsors to engage, educate and entertain the community, said Michelle Ostroff, executive director.
Each year, the federation hosts Purim Palooza, a carnival with children's games, crafts, food and entertainment. On Dec. 25, it hosts Mitzvah Day, a day of community service throughout Howard County. The federation also sponsors Shabbat Tots, a children's group filled with singing, storytelling and crafts, and educational programs for area seniors.
"No matter where you are in your Jewish journey, we have programming and events for you," Ostroff said.
About one-third of money raised by the federation goes toward local enrichment programs, Ostroff said. Another third goes toward local social services like the federation's Jewish Community Services — a human services agency that provides guidance and resources for Howard County families facing emotional, financial, career and behavioral challenges. The other third goes to overseas partners, including the Jewish Agency for Israel, the American Jewish Joint Distribution Center and World ORT.
"We do everything from Shabbat Tots, which is the youngest and most local, to making it possible to support typhoon relief in the Philippines," Ostroff said.
The concert is the federation's main cultural event for the year, she said.
Helzner, who is a cantorial soloist at Temple Sinai and at the Sixth and I Historic Synagogue in Washington has previously performed in Columbia, but this will be a first for the trio, Helzner said.
The trio, made up of Helzner, Matt Holsen and Dov Weitman, will perform Jewish world music in Hebrew, Yiddish, Ladino and English.
"It's very spiritual music," Helzner said. "It's joyful, and it's a lot of fun. I think people will really enjoy it."
Throughout the concert, stories will accompany the songs, she said.
"I want (the audience) to come away with a sense of how rich our Jewish musical culture is," Helzner said.
Six cantors, cantorial soloists and song leaders from area synagogues will also perform with the trio.
Chasnow said he expects a good turnout.
"This simply fits all age groups," he said. "It's a concert for everyone."
The Robyn Helzner Trio's "From Beijing to Biloxi — A Concert of World Jewish Music" is on Sunday at 3 p.m. in the Jim Rouse Theatre and Performing Arts Center, 5460 Trumpeter Road, Columbia. Tickets cost $10 in advance and $15 at the door. Children ages 5 and under are free. For more information or to purchase tickets, go to http://www.jewishhowardcounty.org or call 410-730-4976.