Led by artistic director Liana Savard

Led by artistic director Liana Savard

Orpheus men’s choir, Go-Gos in harmony at Surrey concert

Sold-out event, held at Fleetwood's Northwood United Church, benefits African grandmothers

It was harmony for a worthy cause when the voices of the Orpheus Male Voice Choir got together with the Go-Go Grannies of Surrey to raise money for African orphans, Saturday at Northwood United Church in Fleetwood.

The sold-out concert, To Africa With Love was a fundraiser for Ubuntu Ogogo (“compassionate grandmothers”) group, which supports the Stephen Lewis Foundation efforts to help grandmothers in sub-Saharan Africa who are raising grandchildren orphaned by HIV/AIDS.

Chorus member Rob Forbes predicted the concert, after expenses, would clear some $4,500 for the project.

Although based in Vancouver, the Orpheus Choir has a strong White Rock and South Surrey contingent – 11 of the 50 members hail from the Peninsula.

And Forbes said it was a pleasure to perform in a community that seems like the choir’s second home – particularly for such a cause.

“The wife of one of our members – Barb Warren – is a key member of the Greater Vancouver Gogos,” Forbes said.

“She recruited us for an event more than a year ago.”

Now celebrating its 20th year, the choir – currently led by dynamic conductor Liana Savard, with piano accompaniment by Barry Yamanuochi  – is noted for an eclectic repertoire that ranges from rousing male-voice classics to sacred and folk songs, Canadiana, pop ballads and even rock ‘n’ roll.

Joined by versatile percussionist Bruce Henczel, the ensemble rocked the rafters with such African themed pieces as the ever-popular Wimoweh, Kwmbayah and the traditional Zulu and work song Siyahamba (We Are Marching), which featured Forbes as soloist.

But the multi-national feel of the concert was apparent in everything from traditional Latin sacred music (Dona Nobis Pacem) to An Irish Blessing, the spiritual Steal Away and Oseh Shalom (A Prayer for Peace); while the rich vocal blend of the choir was showcased in such popular pieces as Paul Simon’s Bridge Over Troubled Water, Victor Young’s When I Fall In Love and Leonard Cohen’s anthemic Hallelujah.

Video interludes also showed the importance of the Stephen Lewis Foundation’s Grandmothers to Grandmothers campaign.

In the 15 African nations hardest hit by the HIV/AIDS pandemic, grandmothers are caring for close to 15 million orphaned grandchildren.

Even more than uniforms, shoes and school supplies, the children need help fealing with grief and post-traumatic stress, and the foundation supports more than 350 separate projects, including home-based care, bereavement counselling, education on AIDs and anti-retroviral drugs, plus play, art and dance therapy, nutrition, and the construction of homes and community gardens.

Since 2006, Canadian grandmothers in 240-plus groups have raised more than $13 million; including 23 groups in the Lower Mainland, Sunshine Coast and Bowen Island region who have raised more than $1 million through special events, concerts and craft and bake sales.

Next chapter in the Orpheus Choir’s relationship with Surrey will be when it co-hosts the B.C. Choral Federation’s Chorfest 2012 at Pacific Academy in May.


Surrey North Delta Leader

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