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Concert Review

Interfaith Community Chorus and Orchestra

Festival of Carols - November 22, 2014

by Nancy Bramlett

I loved this concert on so many levels.  It incorporated young and old, differing denominations, different styles, and stories – remarkable stories.

This was the 15th year of this Festival of Carols, raising money for the Interfaith Food Bank of Amador County.  It is inspiring to see people coming together for a good cause and working together even though they don't always believe all the same things.  It takes incredible courage, time and conviction to engage in such a task.

I loved how the concert opened with two young boys giving explanation, admonishment and merriment.  The evening was graciously begun with an opening prayer by Pastor Mark Johnson. Then the audience was able to join in with the traditional hymn, “Now Thank We All Our God.”

Two pieces ensued:  “The Last Words of David” and “Eternal Light Divine.”  Randall's powerful beginning and tender end were well executed by this approximately 72-member choir. The soprano solo descant added a sweet texture to the piece.  “Eternal Light Divine” was a soprano solo by Marie Bedard.  Her beautiful, crystal clear high soprano coupled with a trumpet solo was impressive.  I recommend checking out the program (click here to open the program in a new window) to read about the source of the music and the impressive resume of Ms. Bedard.  The section concluded with a rousing rendition of the “Battle Hymn of the Republic,” including the choir and audience, still maintaining the men’s and women's sections of the piece.  It was quite uplifting.

“Hark I Hear the Harps Eternal” struck me as Early American – I was right.  Mid-18th century, and there is more history is in the program.  It was a cappella, only accompanied by the timpani. A soprano soloist did a beautiful job on the descant.

There were four interviews interspersed throughout the concert, illustrating how many of us have found ourselves in a time of need.  Adeline Uba shared what it was like to live in the Philippines when she was a Philippine history heads would be cut off for a disagreement, American missionaries won the hearts of the head hunters with medical evangelism and brought them to Christianity.  Psalm 27: 4 was sung by Adeline's niece, a ten-year-old girl.  She had a pure tone and incredible breath control.  Her voice was powerful and courageous singing in front of 1000 plus people. I would love to know the arrangement.  Josie Vasilovich next shared how she lived in Italy and how she met Mussolini during the war at 8 years old, a brave young girl in the face of brutality. 

“How Great Thou Art” followed as a sing-along for the audience, accompanied by a gorgeous video of the earth's splendor.  “The Lord’s Prayer” was sung by a group of 10 women from three churches. It was a cappella and WOW!  Goosebumps!  The harmonies, the blend. Wonderful.

“O Quarteto” was then sung by 4 young men.  I was struck by the lyrics, “I anchored my soul, and sail the white seas no more.”  “Gloria” was from the Missa Kenya (“Mass of Kenya”) by Paul Basler.  It had a wonderful African rhythm and harmony as a soprano solo led the choir in the piece accompanied only by the timpani.  A unique and uplifting piece.

Tom Thompson then shared what a difference was being made by the Amador County Food Bank.  200 volunteers work at 15 remote sites and the Great Finds Thrift Store to make the work possible. Tom shared that through mid-November of this year, the food bank has served 2360 families (6109 individuals).  He also shared that in Amador County the percent of those who have received food assistance has been as high as 18% of the population and that before the recession, the rate was 11.1%.  It is impressive to see the county reach out to their neighbors in this way.

The music continued with “Every Valley” featuring a fabulous soloist with a resonant, flexible, warm tone and great expression with a wide range.  Then we were treated to Renovasson, a 13-member mixed chorus with a contemporary sound.  They performed a medley of 3 songs.  They had a fabulous sound with a superb blend, resonance and diction. And then we got to sing.  “Silent Night” was never so beautiful.

“African Style” was then performed by a group of three men and one woman.  It was a cappella with a wonderful sound and superb harmonies.  Then we had the privilege of listening to an African story.  Jesse Henda and two friends told about their childhood in Africa where the Angolan civil war resulted in going without food for days and where dinner was a little bit of rice in water, “if you could find the rice.”  Imagining the hunger leaves a hole in my soul. They shared that one time when their stomachs were “singing” from hunger, their father was able to procure 100 lbs. each of rice, beans and corn from a student of his who was running the food distribution.  It must have been like Christmas times 100.  “Jesus the Name” then blessed us with gorgeous soaring harmonies.

Dan Balbach shared his experience of being a drug addict and God allowing him to go through many things repeatedly, including hunger, to bring Dan back to Him.  We can be thankful if we have not seen these situations in our lives and thankful that God is there to protect us and to repeatedly bring us back to Him.

Holst's “The Dargason” was a wonderful orchestral piece employing cheerful folk music that brilliantly intertwined with “Greensleeves.”  And Holst's “Christmas Day” then blended “Good Christian Men Rejoice,” “God Rest You Merry, Gentlemen,” “Come Ye Lofty, Come Ye Lowly,” and “The First Noel” for a marvelous ending to an inspiring evening.

Nancy Bramlett is a Dramatic Coloratura Soprano from Kansas City, MO.  She graduated from Bradley University in Peoria, IL with a Bachelor’s of Music in Vocal Performance. She has most recently studied with Marla Volovna in San Francisco and Zoila Munoz in Davis.  Nancy has had the honor of traveling all over the US and to Europe with the Bradley University Chorale.  She has sung in several choirs since then, as well as performing in opera and musical theater productions and singing solos for local churches, as well as weddings and memorial services.  Nancy has directed choirs; taught voice, piano and Kindermusik; and has been a music director for musical theater. She is currently busy with Classical Music for Christ and as a regular soloist for Cottage Way Christian Church in Sacramento and the Placer County Youth Orchestra. Nancy resides in Rocklin with her husband Scott and three sons: Patrick, Riley and John.

 2014 Reviews