‘For the Children’ Earns Standing Ovation

Lauren Hsu and Kelthie Truong

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Harmonized voices tinged with heartbreak and passion radiated off the stage, pervading almost as fluidly as the glow of colored lights through the stillness of an awestruck audience.

All four choirs delivered an emotional performance on Oct. 17 in order to raise awareness for the southern border crisis. Unlike previous fall concerts, “For the Children” is the first to revolve around a specific theme.

“As musicians and as artists, we have a special responsibility and a special privilege where we can spread messages to the community,” choir director Adrian Rangel-Sanchez said. “We could just go in there and sing a bunch of random, fun songs, and the audience would probably think, ‘Wow, that was a nice concert,’ or we could give them something meaningful to think about and try to make more of an impact on not only ourselves but the audience.”

Collaboration with the art department transformed the concert into a multimedia experience, as a screen projection of student artwork accompanied Canta Bella’s and Portola Singers’ rendition of “Prayer of the Children” by Kurt Bestor. A number of distinctive art styles, expressed primarily through watercolor and pastels, provided personal interpretations of motifs like family, loss and freedom.

“Although it isn’t the same — I’m not being ripped away from my parents — I still lost a parent when I was a kid,” art student and junior Cadee Churchwell said. “It hurt me really hard. I wanted to convey that in my piece: it’s not easy to lose a parent, and it’s not easy not knowing what happened.”

While the border policies had little immediate impact on the student population, those contributing to the show empathized through cultural and emotional avenues.

“[The border crisis] is really devastating as somebody who’s the same culture as the children in those camps,” freshman and Treble Chorus soprano Valerie Estrada said. “It’s pretty special and near to my heart because it’s something I can attach myself to, so I think it’s really cool that we’re bringing attention to it.”

The choirs made extensive use of the hour, showcasing student voices in a variety of ways. Percussion and guitar helped magnify the voices of soloists and smaller ensembles. Poetry also preceded each of the pieces, which ranged from slow and solemn to cheerful and upbeat.

“When we tell people our message is about the crisis at the border, people automatically assume that we’re only gonna talk about the hurt,” Portola Singers and Vocal Performance bass and senior Nishad Francis said. “What a lot of people don’t realize is that along with spreading information about the problems, we’re also there to create hope. We had songs not only to show the pain, but also show all the ways we can grow and make everyone better.”

The final performance of Michael Jackson’s “Heal the World” even featured special guest Amelia Walker, the six-year old sister of sophomore performer Jamaal Walker. Her bright pink attire embodied the youthful spirit of the children whom the performers wished to represent through song.

As the night drew to a close, a student-organized donation box for families affected by the border crisis accumulated almost $450, according to Rangel-Sanchez. Moved by the overwhelmingly positive response, the performers hope to achieve a similar breadth of impact in their upcoming December concert.

“There’s literally people that we see every day that work to make this campus better…who are immediately affected by the issue,” Rangel-Sanchez said. “That’s how close this issue is to us. We’re all in service. We’re here not for ourselves. We’re here in service to the music, the cause and the audience.”