Busy mom finds her voice, singing in two ancient-music groups


LONGTIME SAVAGE resident Ellen Waff has done more than raise a family, serve the Savage Community Association and work as a midwife. She has another side, no less public, but less often displayed here. She loves to sing.

Waff likes it so much that she has long been a member of musical groups. Two of them - Camerata Musica and Fol-de-Rol - specialize in ancient music. Camerata Musica is to perform tomorrow at Borders Books and Music in Columbia. Waff joined in 1987, three years after the group was founded.

"We sing mostly medieval and Renaissance music, with the occasional exception [PDQ Bach] and which is not quite period but fun, and some holiday stuff," said Waff, who has lived in Savage with her husband, Bill, for a quarter-century.

Tomorrow - St. John's Day and the traditional Midsummer's Day, Ellen said - Camerata Musica plans a program with a summer solstice theme. Included in the repertoire is "Summer Is A-Coming In," the oldest English language song known, Ellen said. It's a two-part round, with the male voices singing one round, "Sing Cuckoo" - the boring part, she says - while the female voices sing a round carrying the verses and the melody.

The singers will be appropriately garbed, sporting fashions from the late medieval period. It's an interesting group, Ellen says.

"We're beyond democracy - we're an anarchy," she said, referring to the organization's structure. "If you open your mouth too much, you get to be the director."

Ellen became director for a year some time ago. "Right now, one of our college students, Bethany Smith, is the director," she said. "We're not an easy group to direct."

The group meets weekly, usually at someone's home and most often in the Savage-North Laurel areas. The roster fluctuates, with an infusion of new singers in the summer from students on vacation. The ages range from 12 to 72.

The roster changes often, with students returning to college and singers attached to Fort Meade leaving the area. The group has about 20 singers and is looking for a few more tenors.

"People come in who've seen us at the Renaissance Festival [in Crownsville on autumn weekends] and join us," Ellen said. "We don't usually audition; we figure if they sing with us for a while, that usually works for us. You know then if you want to do this."

It does help to love ancient music and madrigals, although not every singer likes every song. This year the group voted - each attending member cast a ballot for his or her five least favorite songs, with the winning songs disappearing from the roster. "We have a very interesting system, but it seems to work," Ellen said.

Camerata has sung all over the area - most often at the Renaissance Festival - and has devoted fans who return each year for the group's performances. Members also have sung at bookstores, the Howard County Library, nursing homes and the Lake Elkhorn Festival in Columbia.

Information: George Kenter, 410-730-1792.

Church news

Emmanuel United Methodist Church has announced that pastoral intern Mary Dennis has graduated with honors from Wesley Seminary after three years in the program. She also graduates from a part-time position to full-time status at the church.

The church has hired two part-time Youth Ministry directors, Donna Meoli and Jack Treiber.

Meoli has been a longtime active member of the church. She teaches elementary grades in Prince George's County. Treiber is a student at Wesley Seminary and a former member of Savage United Methodist Church. While there, he led teen trips and taught Senior High Sunday School. Between them, they bring a wealth of experience and knowledge.

Emmanuel also noted the efforts of those who help in other ways.The church staffs the Laurel soup kitchen, Elizabeth's House, on the first Saturday of the month - preparing a hot meal and sandwiches and cleaning up afterward.

Kudos to these April volunteers: Vanessa Giddings and family, Chris Morris, Halley Boring, Sara Zaycer, Ann Thompson, Sean Dean and Carolyn Taylor. Also, thanks to May servers Nancy Herron, Vanessa Giddings, LaVerne Books, Susan and Dan Arday and to Carolyn and Tyrone Taylor.

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