Music for Haiti: the 2012 Tour

Since the devastating earthquake of January 12, 2010, the Diocese of California has entered into a partnership with the Episcopal Diocese of Haiti and its Bishop Jean Zaché Duracin through the work of Holy Trinity Music School in Port-au-Prince. This school, whose buildings were destroyed in the earthquake, continues to offer advanced musical training to over 1,000 students, regardless of their faith tradition and economic circumstances.

For the second year in a row, a group of nearly forty young musicians from the Music School visited the Diocese of California from October 1 to 8 as part of their annual concert tour. Congregations and schools throughout the diocese were treated to magnificent performances by Les Petits Chanteurs, Holy Trinity’s boys’ choir, and the school’s instrumental ensemble. The group began their visit at St. Columba’s, Inverness, where thanks to the enormous generosity of the parish they were housed and fed without cost for two nights in the church’s beautiful retreat center overlooking Tomales Bay.

Other venues for the tour included Trinity Church in Menlo Park (the group’s namesake!), St. John’s in Ross, and St. Mark’s in Berkeley. The group also visited St. Augustine’s in Oakland, where Les Petits Chanteurs sang for the parish’s Sunday morning Eucharist. Each night, the group was generously hosted by volunteers from these churches and their neighboring communities.

During the day, visits were arranged at several Bay Area schools, at which the group performed a mini-concert, participated in classes and sports, and ate lunch together with students. Thanks to the Lycée Français in San Francisco, the Cathedral School for Boys, and Menlo School in Atherton for their hospitality, and for providing a unique opportunity for Bay Area children to learn and play alongside our Haitian visitors.

Les Petits Chanteurs also enjoyed the experience of singing alongside two of our finest diocesan children’s choirs as part of the tour. At St. Mary the Virgin in San Francisco, they rehearsed, dined, and performed with the parish’s children’s and youth choirs, culminating in a concert enjoyed by a large audience of parishioners and friends. At Grace Cathedral, they offered a magnificent Evensong with the Choir of Men and Boys — including two contrasting settings of Psalm 150, and the opportunity for both groups to sing together for Mendelssohn’s beautiful Nunc dimittis, written during the last year of the composer’s life. The instrumental ensemble provided prelude and postlude music for the service.

Following Evensong, members of the congregation were offered the opportunity in Gresham Hall to see excerpts from a new documentary film by Owsley Brown showcasing the work of Holy Trinity Music School before and after the earthquake. We hope that this documentary, due to be released in 2013, will be instrumental in both spreading the story of these talented young musicians and informing a wider audience of the hardships they have experienced since their school was destroyed.

None of this would have been possible without the generosity of so many, especially those individuals and congregations whose gifts of over $30,000 prior to October covered the costs of the tour and enabled the donations we received at the concerts to be invested in the future work of rebuilding the school. Thanks also go to the dedicated members of the Music for Haiti planning group: Bishop Marc and Sheila Andrus, Matthew Burt, Helen Harwood, Joseph Mathews, Monique Moore, Francesca Pera, Richard Schaper, and Calvin Sherwood. We look forward to a third tour in October 2013, including a gala performance at Grace Cathedral alongside diocesan children’s choirs to celebrate the feast of St. Francis on Friday October 4. To find out more, or to donate online, please visit www.diocal.org/musicforhaiti and www.facebook.com/musicforhaiti.