Wow! When someone’s passion shows, it really shows, and especially when you are Connie Fortunato directing the summer Celebration Choir! This community group comes together for six weeks of rehearsal in July and August with August performances at Mt. Herman and The Community Church of the Monterey Peninsula. This is the 18th presentation. This nicely balanced group includes all ages who exuberantly demonstrate their love for what they are singing. It makes a difference when the music is memorized with a more intimate connection to the audience.
The repertoire of spirituals was filled with the arrangements of the icons of this style – Moses Hogan’s “Music Down In My Soul,” “My Soul’s Been Anchored” with the beautiful solo work of EliseClaire Roberts, “Walk Through The Valley In Peace,” “Didn’t My Lord Deliver Daniel;” Rollo Dilworth’s “Walk In Jerusalem;” William Dawson’s “In His Care O.” “Soon-Ah Will Be Done” and the rollicking Barbara Baker version of “The Storm Is Passing Over.”
Added to this mix was the incredible talent of the “back-up” group featuring Marti Williams on piano, Tony Bolivar on multiple reed instruments (even playing both the alto and tenor saxes at the same time) in an outrageous version of “When The Saints Go Marching In.” Along with these two phenomenal musicians were the talents of Mark Kenoly on bass and Dave Rodriguez on percussion. An amazing highlight of the program was the “request medley” that Ms. Williams performed. Song titles were called out from the audience and what transpired was absolutely brilliant. Using the requested “chop stix” as the beginning, “Whispering Hope,” “Amazing Grace,” “Für Elise,” “Star Spangled Banner,” “Bumble Boogie,” Onward Christian Soldiers,” “Let It Go,” “Do You Wanna Build A Snowman” were all woven in with amazing styles and meters, and even throwing in a little Rachmaninoff. “Chop Stix” kept weaving it’s way through the entire set. This really brought down the house! Earlier in the program Ms. Williams did a set of Gershwin tunes beginning with a bluesy “Summertime” so evoking the lazy days of summer and evolving to several other themes.
In addition to these local productions, Ms. Fortunato’s main passion is the work she does with the non-profit group she founded: Music Camp International. This incredible organization works with more than 1500 children in Ukraine and Romania each year. There are camps for blind and deaf children. The short video shown during this program highlighted children from the poorest areas involved in the making of music by singing, learning and playing instruments and enjoying something vastly different from their lives. More amazing information can be found at www.musiccampinternational.org. If there were ever a true ambassador for making music with impoverished children and giving them hope, it’s Connie Fortunato.