Chorus is Ready to Hit the Road to Colombia
by Steve Sonsky Miami Herald
Wednesday, October 17, 1979

In their first attempt at the song, the women were butchering the Streisand hit when chorus director Marilyn Smith mercifully cut them off.
"You're not going to breathe out on 'the luckiest people in the world,'" she snapped. "That's one phrase. Again..." Sitting off to the side, Eleanore Flanagan, a second alto since the Broward Women's Chorus' inception seven years ago, sighed. "She works us very hard," Flanigan said of Smith. "It's a fun time, but she pushed us. We go home tired. But it's a good system - because those that can't make it realize it and drop out." The 69-year old Flanagan is typical of those who stay...she has never sung professionally, only in high school and college and for a women's club up north. But she does have a certain level of ability. And when she and her husband retired to Ft. Lauderdale in 1971, she reviewed her situation and came out singing - again. "To me, there are two ways to retire," she said. "You can either retire and stagnatem or you can retire and have fun. And singing is always fun - and not just in the bathtub." Flanagan was sitting out this practice session at the Aldersgate Methodist Church in Tamarac because she wasn't going to be going with the Broward Women's Chorus on the trip in which they would be singing Barbara Streisand's People. That trip is to Medellin, Colombia - Fort Lauderdale's designated "sister city" for the last 12 years in the Sister Cities International orogram. When Smith heard of that program, she thought taking her chorus to Medellin would be an ideal cultural offering and she went to work on the arrangements.

As for Flanagan, "I just didn't think it would be fair to desert my husband and leave him at home alone for a week. Besides, it would be a little tiring for me," she admitted. But even without Flanagan's booming alto, the Women's Chorus goes on - and it's probably a good bet that by the time the 15 or so other women leave for Colombia November 1, taskmaster Smith will have their rendition of People fine-tuned. It may take a few more of their weekly Wednesday practice sessions at the church, but Smith is determined.

Smith, a 42-year-old from Fort Lauderdale, started the Broward Women's Chorus seven years ago when she and her husband moved back to South Florida from Peru, where he had been working for a pharmaceutical company. In that South American country, she had been utilizing her background in music by working with two Peruvian choruses. "But I wanted to do my own thing here," she recalled. So, shortly after arriving, Smith organized the Broward Women's Chorus through the county's adult education department. The chorus went independent three years ago when the department suffered some cutbacks.

It currently supports itself, breaking even through nominal membership dues and the fees it charges (roughly $75 a performance) to play local engagements in the likes of condominium, churches, the Salvation Army, morning and late-night television religious shows, and an occasional wedding.

The chorus' song selections vary, depending on where it's performing, Smith said, but can usually be counted upon to feature a mixed bag of pop and classical standards. On the Medellin tour (which the women are paying for themselves at a group rate of about $260 each), they'll be performing some American patriotic and folk tunes, some religious numbers, some pop songs, a medley of 1930's hits, and some Colombian folk songs, to be sung in Spanish. As it stands now, they'll be performing in a market, atop a hill in a replica of an old-style pueblo, in a school and in a modern textile factory. There'll also be a reception the evening the chorus arrives, led by the mayor of the 1.3 million population city, Colombia's second largest.

Smith is appreciative of the opportunity to have the group do a little travelling, and is excited about performing before a foreign audience. But she sees the most important function of the Broward Women's Chorus as one of a typical community activity.

"It's very important, it's great. I see the warmth and satisfaction these gals can bring to audiences, the director said. "But primarily, I think (the chorus) is a vehicle for these gals to express themselves creatively. It's a source of great pleasure. When you get those occasional moments of real beauty, it's a wonderful thing."