The Sacramento Choral Calendar
RSVP (Reconciliation Singers Voices of Peace)
Forgotten Peoples - November 10, 2012
by Bruce Higley
To begin with, I should clarify the fact that, although I’ve always loved music, my technical knowledge of it and experience in performing it are extremely modest. But I think I’ve come to the point where I recognize musical excellence when I experience it. And RSVP is “it”! My wife and I had been to an RSVP concert last year at the same spot (St. John’s Lutheran Church in Sacramento) and had so loved it that we resolved to attend again this year on November 10th. We were NOT disappointed!! And the friends we brought along (new to RSVP) loved it as much as we did!
The acoustics in St. John’s seem exemplary, but I can’t imagine the RSVP singers sounding less than superb in any setting. There was not the slightest doubt they were totally prepared, with a relaxed, friendly, yet highly professional demeanor. I’ve been to musical performances where a few people seemed to be trying a little too hard to act happy. One thing I’ve especially enjoyed about RSVP is that they always look very contentedly “lost” in the music — which allows me to “go there,” too. For me, that’s a huge plus!
All of RSVP’s concerts are free, but part of their purpose is to focus on and raise money for worthy causes. This season they were drawing attention to Courage Worldwide (courageworldwide.org), an international organization “dedicated to building homes around the world for children rescued out of sex trafficking” and to helping them rebuild their lives. At each concert, all donations are completely voluntary and collected after the concert with no sense of pressure whatsoever.
This concert, a collaboration with “Sacramento’s own modern chamber ensemble” called Citywater, was named “Forgotten Peoples.” It was introduced and directed by Julie Adams, whose genuine, quiet humility greatly underplays her achievements in creating, guiding, and directing such a pre-eminently talented a cappella choral group since 2000. I hear she will soon be moving on to new accomplishments, and I’m sure she will be sincerely missed. This highly talented chorus deserves a new Artistic Director of equally high caliber and vision, and I’m sure their talent will attract one.
As for Citywater, I’ve not always been thrilled by “new” music, so it was a real pleasure to experience their professionalism and excellent playing. They were able to present what, to me, was totally unfamiliar music so skillfully that I felt the elation of pure, perfect execution for the sake of simply producing beautiful, organized, “spot-on” sounds. The feeling reminded me of Gershwin’s An American in Paris and was absolutely refreshing. Like RSVP, this young, attractive group was effortless to watch because they were so totally engaged in the music that I became so myself — until they stood to very enthusiastic applause and solidified the spell with their well-deserved, radiant smiles.
It’s impossible, really, to single out any one player in this excellent ensemble, but I must say Jennifer Reason’s piano playing was particularly impressive in a piece called “Three Preludes” by Garrett Shatzer. It seemed as though the first two parts, dirge-like, were a set-up for the third (“Sleeve”): a rambunctious finale that caught me off-guard — but I loved it!
(Click here to open the concert program in a separate window.)
Speaking of “lovin’ it,” a few words about some selections I especially enjoyed: In a piece called “Livonian Heritage” by Veljo Tormis from Forgotten Peoples, the truly transparent tenor of Grant Mulligan wafted its way from behind a wall to punctuate the delightful intonations of the foreground voices. A song called “Dance” from Ballade, Pastorale, and Dance by Eric Ewazen was powerful and entrancing. “Sister My Sister” by Sue Johnson was rich with feeling, beauty and stunning harmony. The poignant program finale, “The Call of Wisdom” by Will Todd was lyrically beautiful, aural “milk and honey” — I wished it would never stop.I hope RSVP never stops either! I think RSVP’s purpose of presenting inspiring, uplifting performances in support of worthy causes is the kind of thing of which we need a lot more. The lengthy and thunderous standing ovation at the end suggested I have a lot of company in that respect.