Brian Wise covers the classical music business for WQXR, including aspects of performance, technology, philanthropy and institutional trends. He produces the Café Concerts series and the podcast/show Conducting Business. He manages the station's homepage and makes sure what you hear on air is what you see online. Follow him on Twitter at @Briancwise.
Metro-North Derailment Victim Beloved Member of NYC Chorus
Audio: DCINY Artistic Director Jonathan Griffiths on Donna Smith
Tuesday, December 03, 2013 - 05:00 PM
A choral singer who was on her way to Manhattan for a performance of Handel’s Messiah was among the four victims in the Metro-North train derailment on Sunday.
Donna Smith, 54, from Newburgh, NY, boarded the Manhattan-bound train in Beacon with her sister and fellow chorister, Linda Smith, 46, on Sunday morning. The close friends had planned to spend the day in the city before the 2 pm performance at Avery Fisher Hall.
At 7:20 am, disaster struck. The train careened off the tracks near Spuyten Duyvil in the Bronx. Donna Smith was thrown from the car and killed; her sister sustained bumps and bruises but was not seriously hurt.
“Linda and her sister would do so much together and that’s why they were two peas in a pod when they would sing together in our concerts,” said Jonathan Griffiths, the artistic director and conductor of Distinguished Concerts International New York (DCINY), the concert production company that put on the performance.
Linda Smith, a math teacher, had encouraged her sister to audition for the DCINY chorus a few years ago, according to Griffiths. Yet while both had performed Messiah together in the past two years — among the thousands of choristers who toil in New York venues every holiday season — this time, Donna Smith simply was going to watch her sister perform and enjoy the concert. The conductor got word of the accident just minutes before the concert began.
Linda Smith could not be reached for comment on Tuesday.
According to reports in the Times Herald-Record and Newsday Donna Smith worked as a paralegal for a law firm in Fishkill, NY and did volunteer work in the Girl Scouts and with her church. She was said to be a good neighbor and had recently completed extensive renovations on her historic home in Newburgh. She and her sister were season ticket holders for the Hudson Valley Renegades, a minor league baseball team, and regularly met for dinner.
Griffiths said that Linda Smith took singing very seriously, and wanted her sister to experience the grandeur of choral singing. "I know when the two of them sang together it was joy for them to share in that experience," he said.
Photo: Donna Smith/Facebook