Listeners can hear 'Ave Maria' sung in the language Jesus spoke.
By D.A. WILKINSON
VINDICATOR RELIGION EDITOR
YOUNGSTOWN -- Marsha Heather Long's new and unique CD offers something for just about everyone.
"Ave Maria: The Universal and Timeless Hymn" features the New York musician and vocalist performing the "Ave Maria," or "Hail Mary" prayer.
In fact, Long sings the prayer 26 times on the CD, but no two versions are the same. She said she chose the beloved prayer and song since it is familiar to so many people.
But other numbers are worth noting:
On the CD, Long sings in 14 languages, including English, Latin, Spanish, Italian, German, French, Polish, Gaelic, Hungarian, Nigerian Yoruba, Tagalog (from the Philippines), Greek, Arabic and Aramaic, the language Jesus spoke.
"It's nice to hear biblical music in a biblical language on biblical instruments," said Long.
The musician performs on 16 instruments, including organs, pianos, harps, the harpsichord and drums.
Many of the compositions are by great musicians including Bach, Schubert, Verdi and Puccini. Long arranged the versions of those classics and wrote 11 new compositions for the album.
Long, a soprano, can sing in four octaves.
And "Ave Maria" is the first CD produced by Alba House Communications, according to the Rev. Jeffrey Mickler of Canfield.
The CD appeals to people of faith and those who appreciate it for its blend of music from around the world, said the priest. And, he added, the CD is appealing to people who find it soothing and meditative.
The CD has its roots in a snowstorm about two years ago.
"I was appearing in a show in the Midwest and was driving a truck of my instruments back to New York during a terrible snowstorm," said Long. "It was really a whiteout. I'm from San Diego and not used to driving in snow."
She stopped and called the Society of St. Paul in Canfield, since she knew Father Mickler was in the area. He and others from his order helped her. While she was waiting for the storm to pass, one of the society's brothers suggested she make a CD.
The musician credited Father Mickler with starting the project, but he credits Long with coming up with the idea.
"It's really a project of her genius," said the priest.
Long said she envisioned the multiple-language CD during her then-job at a Catholic cathedral in New York.
Both Catholics and those of other faiths often came in as part of visits to loved ones in a nearby hospital.
"They were coming in because a family member was across the street, facing death possibly," said Long. "People become very religious at a time like this."
People began to ask her if she knew a hymn in their native language.
"Every time someone came to me, no matter what country, I wanted to sing a prayer for them," said Long. She could incorporate the prayers into the music she performed just before Mass.
She learned Spanish growing up in California and was fluent in French after studying at France's Conservatoire National de R & eacute;gion de St. Maur. She also holds a doctorate of musical arts in organ from Juilliard School in New York. She began doing songs in the languages she heard around her in New York.
So she did one song because of the large Filipino population in New York, then a German version.
"I did a Polish one, and it just grew and grew," said the musician. "They weren't pieces that I struggled over. They were pieces that really came to me in work in my music ministry. It was a painless and wonderful thing."
But Long didn't dash off to the studio and knock out a CD. She began to study the languages and the appropriate instruments that she would play.
For instance, she said she bought an ancient lyre to play on the Aramaic version.
"I love language. I've been interested in language all my life," said Long.
At Juilliard she studied the international phonetic alphabet.
"With IPA, I can hear any language and dictate it and reproduce it immediately because there is a symbol for every sound," said Long. "This has been a tremendous aid."
Then she studied under various teachers to get the languages exactly right.
Gaelic, for example, "is disappearing from Ireland," Long noted. The CD, she said, may inspire someone of Irish ancestry to learn it, she said.
Of all the languages, the hardest to learn was Arabic.
Learned new instruments
Musically, she learned some new instruments and acquired some, such as the lyre she plays on the album. She said she sold some of her jewelry to help pay for it.
Why go to this extraordinary effort?
"So I could give my best," said Long.
She recorded the different versions in different locales, including a pop version at the Hit Factory in New York, where American chart toppers turn out albums.
Long hopes her music brings people closer to God. But she said others who have heard it are finding comfort in it. One is a friend who is struggling during recovery from an addiction.
"Maybe he will go back to church and I can be a little part of that," said Long.
XThe CD is available at Alba House stores, at Border's in Niles, and the Flaming Ice Cube in Boardman, or by calling (800) 533-ALBA.