Buried for forty-one years on page fifteen of the June 1955 Emory Alumnus, the predecessor of Emory Magazine, this photograph reemerged last spring on a postcard announcing the 1996-97 Emory Classic Performances concert series. Almost instantly, its appearance sparked a new, intergenerational friendship within the Emory community. Bill Baites, director of the University Concert Series for the Department of Music, received a call from Caronelle Smith Landiss, Marie Smith's daughter, who told him that her mother (above), at age ninety-two, was alive and well and living in her home on Houston Mill Road.
On a sunny spring afternoon, Baites joined Mrs. Smith for iced tea on her porch. He learned that in the late 1950s and early 1960s, she served as Emory's organist and as the minister of music for Glenn Memorial United Methodist Church, in addition to conducting the chorale. She directed five vocal choirs and three handbell choirs, taught organ and piano, and assisted Men's Glee Club conductor Malcolm Dewey. Working at the heart of music at Emory in the 1950s, she has vivid memories of the era. "No other place in Georgia had the arts like Emory," Mrs. Smith recalls. "It wasn't hard to get people to come to performances."
One of her favorite stories is about the chandelier that hung from the center of the ceiling in Glenn Memorial. "When the church was first built, [benefactor Flora Glenn Candler] put in the biggest chandelier you have ever seen," Mrs. Smith says. "But people wouldn't sit under that thing. There was a hole [in the audience] as big as this porch, right out of the middle. It couldn't have fallen--there was no reason for them not to sit under there--but they finally took the thing down because people avoided it."
Mrs. Smith still keeps up her piano. She plays for a Sunday School class at Glenn Memorial, often "jazzing up" the staid Cokesbury hymns. "They love it when I play," she says. "It's fun now. I've played classics all my life, I've worked at it, I taught it. Now I don't have anybody to judge me; I can just sit down and mess it up that way."
"There are so few people in Atlanta now who can tell us about what music and the arts at Emory were like in a different time," Baites says. "I was thrilled to learn she was living right around the corner."--A.O.A.
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