Brazilian College Choir on Tour

The choirs of our leading colleges in every land should be in demand in the civic and religious centers of the community, winning friends, breaking down prejudice, exemplifying the spirit of Adventism, and winsomely witnessing to the world as people with both skill and a mission. Our choirs should be different from all others.

By WALTER R. WHEELER, Choir Director, Brasil College, South America

[This recital is worth pondering, first, in the recog­nition that these excellent renditions received in high Brazilian circles ; and, second, in the message con­veyed through the choice of numbers presented. The choirs of our leading colleges in every land should be in demand in the civic and religious centers of the community, winning friends, breaking down prejudice, exemplifying the spirit of Adventism, and winsomely witnessing to the world as people with both skill and a mission. Our choirs should be different from all others.—EDITOR. ]

On September 2 we began the most successful tour in the ten-year history of our college choir.. Our choir left by train for Sao Paulo and arrived Friday morning in Rio de Janeiro, the Brazilian capital. Friday we rested, then on Sabbath morning we left Rio de Janeiro in a fleet of cabs to go to the world-famous hotel Quitandinha, where an international industrial exposition was being held. On this particular day a banquet was to be tendered by the Brazilian Government to the president from the neighboring country of Uruguay.

Our choir had been chosen to present a pro­gram before this august assembly at this time. We first gave the program in our church at the city of Petropolis. Then we were rushed by bus to Quitandinha. The choir filed in before more than three hundred people, including gov­ernment officials from Brazil and Uruguay. The Brazilian president, the president from Uru­guay, and the governor for the state of Rio were all seated at the center of a large U-shaped table. Our choir of sixty voices took its place at one of the points of the U. There we were, an Adventist choir ready to present a program of sacred song before this select audience. The director of the banquet informed me that we were selected as Brazil's best choir to show the visitors to what extent choral music had advanced in this country. After presenting four numbers the choir withdrew. There was hearty applause which really called for an encore. The arts director rushed out saying that the presidents wanted us to come back to sing during the dessert.

While singing the first group of songs the choir had been photographed by still cameras and now as we entered the banquet hall a sec­ond time, the movie cameramen rushed to set up their equipment. We were photographed at every angle for several minutes while we sang two more sacred numbers. We were then lashered up to within six feet of the president's table where we sang the Brazilian national anthem. As we sang we were filmed, and these pictures appeared in the newsreels throughout the country. Having finished the anthem, the choir quietly withdrew. As I walked out along­side the extensive table many extended their hands in appreciation. Some said, "Where are you from? We did not know that such a choir existed here in Brazil." Later the Uruguayan president's wife told me in a most enthusiastic manner how she enjoyed the concert.

The arts director came to me all wreathed in smiles. He said that it had been a great day for him. It was the first time he had been privileged to organize a program for two presidents, and because they liked the singing of the choir so much, they had called him over to the table to ask him who were were and whence we had come. It was at this point that they had re­quested us to go back and sing. Those respon­sible for the programs in the theater at the hotel asked that we stay over and present a program that night, to which we agreed.

Before and after the banquet we had appoint­ments to sing for our own people, first at the church in Petropolis and later for our young people near this same city. It was wonderful to see with what enthusiasm we were welcomed. After this we were taken by bus back to Hotel Quitandinha. Because our fourth program for the day did not end until midnight, you may be sure that it- was a tired but happy group that wended its way back to Rio de Janeiro. If we had paid for the two banquets and transporta­tion, we should have had to spend over twenty thousand cruzeiros, or one thousand dollars. But the government paid all. God be praised for such a miracle in the Catholic country of Brazil.

On Sunday and Monday nights the choir sang in our central church in Rio to a packed house. Emmanuel Zorub was holding an evan­gelistic effort, and we were happy to assist him in this way for two nights.

Tuesday, the seventh of September, was Brazil's Independence Day. The radio station controlled by the ministry of education spon­sored a commemorative program in which our choir presented half an hour of song. The en­tire program was recorded. The one in charge informed me that the station had used our for­mer recordings of four years previous every year to celebrate this holiday, and that now they were glad to have new material.

Wednesday night was a high spot in our lives. For years we have tried to get permission to present a program in the large Baptist church, but all to no avail. The Baptists here in Brazil have been anything but friendly. But by special arrangement we were now enabled to present a program to more than two thou­sand people in this huge church. The Baptist pastor had invited all the other Baptist congregations to attend the concert. As the choir took its place on the platform, the pastor told the waiting audience that they were going to hear South America's best choir ! You could have heard a pin drop, things were so quiet during the two hours of song. Tears streamed down many faces as the choir sang such meaningful songs as "Follow Me," "Is It Far to Canaan's Land ?" and "Never Part Again." God blessed our humble efforts in a special sense, and many were led nearer the throne of grace as they listened to this heavenly music. As a result of the contact there at the Baptist church we are heartily invited to return next year.

On Thursday night we once more spread the gospel by radio. The national hook-up paid us $250 for a half-hour program. The speaker was very enthusiastic and even went so far as to say to his radio audience that they were hear­ing South America's best choir. Once more God's guiding hand was felt.

Friday night found us in concert before the Brazilian Press Society where our sacred songs made a universal appeal. On Sabbath morning we were all in time for Sabbath school at the Meyer church in the suburbs of Rio. For the hour of worship we presented a message to one of Brazil's most appreciative church groups.

On Saturday night were were scheduled to concertize at the Flurninese Football Club ; but due to a torrential downpour this was canceled.

Going back to Thursday afternoon, I wish to relate an experience which shows the growing sentiment in favor of the choir. The arts direc­tor for the Municipal Theater called me by phone saying that, due to the insistent appeals from the public, he was making every effort to arrange a Sunday morning concert by the choir. He asked whether that would be pos­sible; and if so, he said that they would post­pone a symphony concert to the following Sun­day. After a time it was finally arranged for the choir to sing in that magnificent and beau­tiful hall.

Imagine yourself present at the Municipal Theater. This is what you would have seen and heard. At ten o'clock the choir took its place before a crowd of more than two thousand who had come despite the rain. As it was the birth­day of the secretary of education, the program was dedicated to him. One of my choir boys made a speech in his honor, then the choir sang "Happy Birthday" in English and Portuguese. This little feature captured the good will of the audience right from the start, and it seemed that nearly every number brought calls for an encore.

During the first group on the program, the movie cameramen kept busy filming the choir. After the choir went backstage, the symphony orchestra director for the theater told me that the choir was singing in perfect pitch, had won­derful harmony, and that the basses sounded like the sonorous waves of the sea.

Spurred on by the thunderous applause, the choir did even better in the second group of songs, after which the secretary of education came backstage, made a beautiful speech, and was filmed with the choir.

Now came the third and last group in a pro­gram of twenty songs, including encores. Six­teen of the twenty selections were sacred music. God's Spirit could be felt moving upon the hearts of our attentive audience. As we finished that memorable concert with the song, "Never Part Again," many in the audience were greatly moved. Twenty or thirty came backstage for autographs. The mayor of the city, senators, musicians, lawyers, churchmen, and society high lights had heard the message in sacred song and liked it.

Next year we are invited to give two con­certs in the Municipal Theater and programs in all the other halls where we made appearance. This year's tour was sponsored by the Rio-Minas Conference, and its treasurer, Jorge Lobo, deserves most hearty thanks for his co­operation.

When we left the theater on Sunday morn­ing, one worker came to me and said, "Brother, that was heavenly music. You are preparing to sing in heaven above." Another said, "You have done more to reach the upper class and those in authority than we can do in twenty years," Still another stated, "The receipts for next year's Ingathering here in Rio de Janeiro will be much higher as a result of the choir's ten-day stay." Surely sacred song does have its place in the mission program. Yes, God can and has used our Adventist choir in a special manner to reach the higher classes here in Brazil. His name be praised for the modern miracles in music in a Catholic country like Brazil.

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By WALTER R. WHEELER, Choir Director, Brasil College, South America

February 1949

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