The Sacramento Choral Calendar
Kenya Malacare Fund Raising Concert - January 10, 2015
by Dick Frantzreb
Why do we sing? Many of us sing for the sheer joy of making music, but for many others there is something more: they sing as an expression of faith. There are many church choirs in the greater Sacramento region for which this is true. But there are some faith-oriented choirs that are not tied to a single church or whose performance schedule includes events outside the church service. The Renovassom Group is one of these.
I’m a little shaky on the origin and status of this group, but from what I understand, the singers are all members of the Reformed Seventh-day Adventist Church (SDARM). The Renovassom Group itself was founded in 1988 in Săo Paulo, Brazil to sing not only in churches but as a community service in hospitals and other facilities. In 2005 half of the group was part of a migration to the Sacramento area, and after arriving here, they decided to continue their singing ministry.
The purpose of this concert was to raise funds for the Malacare Orphanage (Malacare Children’s Education Centre) in Kisii, Kenya. The concert itself was held in the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Our Redeemer, a small church that apparently shares its facilities with this SDARM congregation. It was a Saturday afternoon, and though this was billed as a benefit “concert,” it had many of the characteristics of a church service, and I sensed that nearly everyone in the audience was part of this SDARM congregation.
The concert itself was preceded by a fine violinist (unnamed in the program) accompanied by an equally fine pianist, playing concert arrangements of the Welsh hymn “Ton-y-Botel,” Malotte’s “Lord’s Prayer,” and a piece I didn’t recognize. The congregation’s minister opened the concert explaining that we would be “praising the Lord through song.” He read a Psalm, and added that he hoped we would “leave feeling closer to the Lord than you do now.” Explaining the purpose of the concert, he made a brief reference to church members having visited the orphanage. In concluding he invited us to kneel in prayer, which everyone in front of me did.
Another speaker gave some background of the Renovassom Group while soft background music played. Then the 15 singers entered quietly, all apparently in their 20s and 30s. Before they began, they wished the audience a “happy Sabbath,” a greeting which many in the audience echoed.
I won’t comment on all the songs. (Click here to open the program in a new window.) But the format for the 8 or so songs by the Renovassom Group was similar. Each singer held a microphone as they stood in mixed formation in a single line across the front of the church. Each piece had a deeply religious text. Half of them were sung in Portuguese, the rest in English (occasionally both languages in the same song). There was a screen behind the singers with a religious image and the title of the piece or in at least one case that I can recall, the English translation of the Portuguese words. Most pieces were sung to a recorded track, but at least one had piano accompaniment, and at least one more was sung a cappella. For one of the pieces, “Where He Leads Me, I Will Follow,” the audience was invited to sing along after the chorus had sung one verse.
These were clearly excellent singers who produced beautiful harmonies. They sang without a director, but included a lot of finesse (e.g. crescendos and decrescendos) in their performance. The music was mellow with what I only know to describe as a soft pop sound. The several occasional soloists had strong, listenable voices. When a piece concluded, there was no applause: most of the singers simply said “amen,” as did a fair number of audience members.
At several points during the concert there were readings from SDARM texts (in English and displayed on the screen).
About mid-way through the program, Pastor Cruz described his visit to the orphanage and explained that they were trying to raise $7,000 to give them a proper kitchen. Baskets were circulated throughout the audience while piano music was played, and we all stood at the end during a prayer for the offering.
Next there were several guest performers: the Ladies of Faith trio, a male quartet, and the 13-voice church choir. Afterwards the Renovassom Group returned for 4 more songs, for the last of which past members were invited to join the singers. Then a final prayer, and people were invited to stay for refreshments.
I’ll confess to being a little uncomfortable because this event was more of a church function than I anticipated. To the extent that it was a concert, it was a very specialized one. Still, there was a lot of good music from good singers, and I applaud this group (or should I say “amen”) for the spirit of charity behind this event.