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Oakland sends sound of hope to Haiti

on January 26, 2010

On Sunday evening in Oakland, approximately 3,700 miles away from devastated Haiti, more than 180 Bay Area musicians got together to deliver the sound of hope to the Haitian people.

During the Haiti Earthquake Relief Concert, the voices of the Grammy Award-winning San Francisco Boys Chorus and acclaimed mezzo sopranos Frederica von Stade and Zheng Cao reverberated throughout the fish bladder-shaped worship space at the Cathedral of Christ The Light, as if that the music would actually reach to Haiti.

“I think it is a good cause to help Haiti, because they are not doing so well. By doing this we can give all the support to them,” said James Bartan, 12-year-old San Francisco Boys Chorus member. His friend Lamar Turner agreed. “I really feel that we could reach them and we can help them. I do feel great about this,” he said.

Indeed, the boys came up with the idea for this fundraising concert. “I got calls from boys who said, ‘How we can help the people in Haiti?’” said Brian MacInerney, the executive director of the San Francisco Boys Chorus, which has in the past put on fund raising concerts for Hurricane Katrina and tsunami relief.  “So I said, ‘Why don’t we do it again?’”

The San Francisco Boys Chorus spearheaded the project and within ten days, some of the Bay Area’s renowned divas, including von Stade and Cao, members of the San Francisco Opera Chorus and the International Orange Chorale, were on board.

Even though they did not have time to rehearse as a group, audience members were mesmerized by their music during Sunday night’s performance. Attendees were asked donate at least $25 and all the money directly went to the Haiti Response Fund through Catholic Relief Services. “This was a wonderful concert with a wonderful cause. Why not pay as much as I pay for an opera? It turned out that it was much better than opera, and the money is going to Haiti,” said Hugh Coughlin from Sonoma County, who donated $250.

Although donors sometimes question how their contributions will be used, audience members at the concert were confident that their money will be used for good causes. “The money we contributed directory goes to orphanage the pastor of the church knows. I also heard that only five percent of the money goes to advertisement,” said Anneliese Haas, who drove from Napa Valley for the concert.

“I heard all the tarps [Haitian residents] used to for tents were torn.  That hit me the most. Unfortunately, all the homes are gone but it is nice to know that my money is go to help shelter the people,” said Rosie Vensa, an Oakland resident.

The San Francisco Boys Chorus called the concert a great success, and said that it attracted 2,000 people. So far, the event has raised at least $27,000. “We had about five times more people come than when we did a fundraising concert for tsunami [relief],” said Christine Weicher, a board member at the San Francisco Boys Chorus.

Catholic Relief Services is still accepting donations For more information, click here.

The San Francisco Boys Chorus performs “Ave Maria” to benefit Haitian tsunami relief efforts.

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Photo by Basil D Soufi
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