Shelter Outreach Plus and San Jose Symphonic Choir collaborate on a concert in Monterey to benefit outreach.
Thursday, May 17, 2012
There are plenty of obstacles Shelter Outreach Plus confronts as one of the oldest homeless services providers on the Monterey Peninsula – hunger, fear, stigmatization, stereotyping and insensitivity among them. So it shouldn’t be a shock that they didn’t let a measly fire slow them down.
An electrical panel fire at Golden State Theatre meant the venue scheduled for SOP’s big fundraiser was a no-go. But the program didn’t abandon its plans, coordinating efforts and contributions from San Jose Symphonic Choir with a new concert hall. The H’art for the Homeless concert will go on, which is good news considering demand for the services it supports are as high as ever – particularly rental assistance and job training.
“It takes four to six times the resources to get [people] back on their feet once they actually become homeless, than to help them stay in their homes,” says Tom Melville, SOP executive director. “SOP is always in need of funding, the list of needs goes up [annually], but funding has been flat-lining for years.”
Their most well known program, I-HELP (Interfaith Homeless Emergency Lodging Program), is supported by 60 faith communities who let homeless men who show they are sober and stable workers spend the night in their churches and enjoy a hot meal. This year marks its 20th anniversary, and I-HELP hasn’t missed a night since 1992.
“Once people know the services we provide are not a handout but a hand up,” Mellville says, “we get a good response, and support.”
The choir, with members from the former Monterey Symphony Choir, which was disbanded last fall, has assembled a varied program of Faure’s Cantique de Jean Racine, Dvorak’s Te Deum, Kodally’s Missa Brevis, and Vaughan Williams’ Toward the Unknown Region, based on the poetry of Walt Whitman. The collaboration between groups has led to harmonious results as harpist Karen Thielen, pianist Christopher Koezler and soloists Milena Georgieva (soprano), Joshua Hollister (baritone) and Pedro Ledesma (tenor) can all share the stage.
“The new persona of the regional chorus makes perfect sense,” says composer Leroy Kromm, who was the director of the Monterey Symphonic Choir and has been leading the San Jose choir since 1985. “The combination of piano, harp and organ just happens to be a lovely balanced and interesting program.”
To date, the SJSC has raised $85,000 for charities that benefit the homeless.
“It’s enormous work,” says choir spokesperson Jamie Awamleh. “It requires a lot of volunteers. We were just lucky to pick up the baton, that’s all.”
She feels lucky they’ll be able to play Missa Brevis too. With its dark heart-break tones and inspiration ranging from folk music to Gregorian chants, it’s a departure from the usual uplift and awe that comes from symphony choir compositions – and an empathetic note evoking the benefit’s cause.
H’ART FOR THE HOMELESS happens 7pm Saturday, May 19, at the Steinbeck Forum, Monterey Conference Center, 1 Portola Plaza, Monterey. $15/general, $10/student. www.shelteroutreachplus.org