December 7, 2013

Concert in Modesto to remember Sandy Hook victims one year later

Kindermusik teacher Ginger Colla was shocked by the shootings that killed 26 victims at Sandy Hook Elementary School a year ago. She wanted to do something to bring remembrance and hope on the one-year anniversary, so she and husband, Rich Colla, put together a special memorial concert as a gift to the community.

Longtime voice teacher, choral director and Kindermusik specialist Ginger Colla said she was so impacted by the fatal shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School a year ago that she wanted to do something to mark the one-year anniversary Dec. 14.

“We were all so shocked and saddened by that event,” she said. “Since I teach Kindermusik to children, it especially got to me.”

Especially a photo of 7-year-old Daniel Barden, one of the victims of the tragedy that ended in the deaths of 20 children and six adults. In the photo, the red-headed Daniel had a wide smile with two front teeth missing. “It just got to me,” she said. “He looked so full of life.”

Then, when she and her husband, Rich Colla, director of music at Trinity United Presbyterian Church and of the community Opus Handbell Ensemble, attended a national choral directors convention in Dallas last year, “we heard ‘Mass of the Children’ conducted by the composer John Rutter. Much of it is sung by children’s choirs. My heart just melted there, and I thought we needed to do something beautiful in remembrance, full of solace and hope in the face of such evil.”

There was one big problem, she said. She has led choral groups at Modesto High School; Modesto Junior College; California State University, Stanislaus; and elsewhere over the years, but “I don’t have a choir of my own. I was doing the MJC community choir, but they canceled it. Here I was wanting to do this concert with no choir, no orchestra, no money.”

So she teamed with her husband, the Trinity United choir, a young women’s ensemble from Johansen High School, and volunteers from the MJC orchestra and other community musicians. The result: “A Musical Memorial Tribute to the Victims of Sandy Hook.” It will begin at 4 p.m. Saturday at the church.

The concert will feature “Mass of the Children,” followed by a photo montage and a reading of the victims’ names to the tolling of handbells.

“Each person will be represented by one (different) bell. It’s been kind of a magical thing,” Ginger Colla said. “There will be photos of the children and adults who lost their lives that day. Their spirits live on in the hearts and memories of everyone.”

After that, the choirs will sing Vivaldi’s “In Memoria Aeterna (For the righteous shall forever be remembered),” and conclude with Daniel Gawthrop’s a cappella anthem, “Sing Me to Heaven.” Ginger Colla called the latter “an uplifting piece, a statement of remembrance with solace and hope.”

There will be a brief presentation about Sandy Hook Promise, a community organization that has supported the devastated community and promoted discussions about issues of safety and mental health. That group, when informed about the memorial concert, wrote that it “sounds like an absolutely beautiful event. ... Our hearts are warmed by all the beauty and generosity of people around the country and the world that has come out of our town’s tragedy.”

The concert is free; no offering will be taken. Soloists include soprano Duana Demus Lesley and baritone Rich Colla. Ginger Colla will conduct; Grace Brummel is the organist.

“I think there are a lot of people who feel strongly about (the tragedy),” Ginger Colla said. “I hope we have a standing-room-only crowd.

“For me, it’s kind of a culmination of all of those feelings that washed over me as I watched the news that day and the days following. This is a beautiful offering, to counter the face of evil with something beautiful. I think it will make people remember – it is a time of remembrance, and then solace, and then that sense of hope for the future.”

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