by Ron Petrou
Andrea Smith, a resident of Chestnut Hill, will sing soprano in the chorus when the Ama Deus Ensemble (part of VoxAmaDeus), under the direction of Valentin Radu, performs Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony at the Kimmel Center on Friday, May 11, 8 p.m. In addition, the orchestra will perform Beethoven’s Violin Concerto with Thomas DiSarlo as soloist.
Andrea, 47, lost her husband, Lewis du Pont Smith, 54, to cancer, on August 12, 2011. Their 25-year marriage was a long love affair, inspired by their love of music, poetry, art and transcendent ideas.
Studying ballet and playing the piano, Andrea grew up in South Philadelphia, attended Catholic schools and then Penn State University. She met Lewis in Philadelphia, and they married in Rome in 1986.
Andrea and Lewis became members and associates of the Schiller Institute, a German-American friendship organization based on the writings and inspiration of Friedrich Schiller (1859-1805), who in the 19th century was known as the “Poet of Freedom.” He was a close friend of Goethe and was much beloved throughout the world, especially in America. A statue of him stands in Fairmount Park, and there are many others in cities throughout the country. His play, “William Tell” was inspired by the American Revolution. The “Ode to Joy,” Schiller’s most famous poem, was the inspiration for Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony. This poem had deep meaning for Andrea and Lewis.
Their marriage was inspired by and committed to the ideas of Schiller and the Italian Renaissance. They traveled extensively throughout Europe in the early years of their marriage and came to Chestnut Hill in 1992.
After purchasing a beautiful historic home in Chestnut Hill, Andrea and Lewis opened their home to gatherings of friends for conversation in the arts and sciences. They wanted to create in their home a kind of salon in the best European tradition, inviting people from all walks of life, all religions, all interests to attend presentations in politics, art, poetry and music to be enjoyed with good food and wine.
When it came time for schooling for their first child, they chose the Waldorf School of Philadelphia, opposite the Trolley Car Diner in Mt. Airy, in large part because the founder of Waldorf Education, Rudolf Steiner (1862 – 1925), took inspiration from Schiller’s writings. Schiller believed that the arts ennobled the feelings and thoughts of men and women.
Andrea said, “The marriage between art and academics in a Waldorf School was very intriguing to me. I feel that art and academics should never be divided. They should be integrated and refined in the mind and heart of the child, starting when they are in kindergarten. The Waldorf School curriculum nurtures the child in this way.”
Starting in 1997 Andrea wanted to pursue singing lessons and that’s when she met Bronwyn Fix-Keller, of Roxborough, who was teaching at the Bryn Mawr Conservatory of Music. Andrea explained, “I studied for about a year, and Bronwyn suggested I sing soprano with the VoxAmaDeus chorus. That’s how I met Valentin Radu. My first public concert was singing Handel’s ‘Messiah!’ For the last 15 years I have enjoyed singing with VoxAmaDeus chorus and their Renaissance Consort, a smaller group performing works of early music. Bringing VoxAmaDeus into the life of my husband and myself has been very rewarding. (VoxAmaDeus is now in its silver anniversary season performing in churches and concert halls on the Main Line, in Chestnut Hill and center city.)
VoxAmaDeus founder, Artistic Director and Conductor, Maestro Valentin Radu, is also a piano virtuoso. He has been for years a friend of Andrea and Lewis and an enthusiastic participant and performer in the Smiths’ salons.
In March of this year, the Philadelphia Forum for Anthroposophy, of which Lewis was a founding member and which strives to make available the ideas of Rudolf Steiner to a wider public, sponsored a YouTube presentation at the Chestnut Hill Library of Leonard Bernstein conducting the Vienna Symphony Orchestra in Beethoven’s Third Symphony, (the “Eroica”) with commentary by Valentin Radu. Andrea interviewed Valentin during this occasion.
Andrea said, “I very much feel the loss of Lewis with his generous heart and his passion for conversation. People gravitated towards him and were drawn into dialogue with him on profound questions. Now I continue this passion in honor of Lewis by myself, but now ‘I get by with a little help from my friends, family, and community.’”
Describing the Fourth Movement of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, Andrea said that Beethoven shaped the music so that at times the familiar melody sounds like an anthem, and at other times it sounds ethereal. A portion of the poem follows:
“Joy beautiful, spark of the Gods, Daughter of Elysium, We enter fire imbibed heavenly.
“Thy sanctuary, All men will become brothers Under thy gentle wing…” “Such music gives sustaining meaning to our lives,” said Andrea.
One of VoxAmaDeus’ three performing groups, Camerata Ama Deus (Baroque chamber orchestra), will perform “Vivaldissimo” (an all-Vivaldi concert) on Friday, June 1, 8 p.m., at the Church of St. Martin-in-the-Fields in Chestnut Hill.
For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 267-421-7749.