The Sacramento Choral Calendar
Interfaith Council of Greater Sacramento
3rd Annual Interfaith Night of Music and the Spoken Word - August 15, 2013
by Dick Frantzreb
According to its website (http://sacramentointerfaith.org), part of the mission of the Interfaith Council of Greater Sacramento is “to promote respect for all faiths and religious human rights for all, to encourage faiths working together for better understanding and acceptance of all faiths and their people….” Again from their website, participants in ICGS include, “Christians, Jews, Muslims, Sikhs, Buddhists, Hindus, Unitarian-Universalists, Baha'is, and members of the Spiritual Life Center and the Church of Scientology.” It seemed that nearly all these groups were represented at last night’s 3rd Annual Interfaith Night of Music and the Spoken Word, held at the Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament.
It was quite a multicultural experience, mostly attended by the performing groups and their families and friends. Jon Fish, President of the IFGC began the evening asking, “Brothers and sisters, might we begin?” Then Father Michael Kiernan gave a brief welcome to the Cathedral, after which Adnan Syed intoned the traditional Moslem call to prayer. It was a truly remarkable experience to hear this integral part of Islamic religious practice delivered in a Catholic cathedral. As I listened, I couldn’t help but appreciate the musicality of it, and afterwards Syed gave us the translation of the Arabic words. I can’t imagine that it often happens that the call to prayer draws applause, as it did last night.
After a prayer by Rev. David Lyman of the Spiritual Life Center, celebrating the “one truth that is common to us all,” the musical program began. (Click here to open the program in a new window.)
It’s a rare audience that doesn’t find delight in a children’s choir, and two of the first three performers this night were children’s choirs: the Folsom Lake Youth Choir and a choir consisting of children from Congregation Beth Shalom, St. Francis Church, and Trinity Episcopal Cathedral. The audience responded warmly to them and their sweet sounds. At one point, I found myself noticing one little girl (though there were others like her) who was obviously loving the experience and pouring her heart into her singing. One can bring a lifetime of sophistication, analysis, practice, and refinement of technique into the simple act of singing, but what I saw in this little girl was what our “art” is really about: the profound joy of expressing what we feel in music. I can’t get her – and the lesson she represents – out of my mind.
Throughout the evening, there were a couple of solo performances, but it was mostly choirs from different congregations: LDS, Unity, Spiritual Life Center, and Hindu. What I heard was not so much quality choral singing as strong expressions of faith and brotherhood – and more of that pure joy in singing that the little girl represented. The performances were spirited – maybe even inspirational at times. And some of the performing groups were committed to getting the audience involved, so at different points we were on our feet, singing along, holding hands, etc.
Stepping back for perspective, though, I have to say that it was thrilling to see all these people of such great good will assembled together, respecting each other’s traditions. That was pushed to the limit, though, by the three Sikh Gudwara musicians, who, though fascinating to watch and hear as they sat on the floor, playing their instruments and singing – went on a bit too long.
Although I have to say that the choirs that performed throughout most of the evening produced nothing like the sounds I've heard in the various choral concerts I've heard over the past year, that changed with the entrance of the Valley Choral Society. Their appearance in concert dress signaled a higher standard of musicianship, and that was what they delivered in the two pieces they performed – "Come to My Garden" and "Danny Boy" – both delivered in four-part harmony (naturally), and with a pleasing tone and balance that belied the fact that they were significantly below full strength due to vacations, etc.
The event closed with the Valley Choral Society performing “May the Good Lord Bless and Keep You,” as Director Paul Allen turned to lead the audience in singing along. I, for one, was glad to have experienced this event: it was certainly broadening, often entertaining, and the positive energy was palpable.