RSVP group celebrates 10 years of community support

By: Teresa O'Hanlon, Placer Herald Correspondent
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Julie Adams has seen music move people. The Rocklin musician, co-conductor of the Sacramento Children’s Chorus, and singer in the band Steelin’ Dan, knows a good melody can have major impact on an audience. Often first comes an emotional connection, then soulful sounds might feed folks spiritually. But to get a crowd to physically make change for the better is Adams’ greatest gift. Ten years ago Adams started a nonprofit singing group called Reconciliation Singers Voices of Peace or RSVP to use music as an instrument for positive change. The group never charges for concerts and performs a wide variety of music like classic choral, pop, vocal jazz and folk songs. “I’d always loved the idea of reconciliation, which means to restore to friendship or harmony,” Adams said. “Basically it’s tearing down walls between people and connecting people. I also liked the name Voices of Peace and when I put them together I realized it became RSVP, which asks our audience to respond to what we are saying.” RSVP is based in Placer County with 16 university-trained singers who put on the concerts to highlight different charities and organizations that help the community. “Each of our concerts uplifts something that some organization is doing — what I call the undercurrent of good,” Adams said. “Good that’s going around that people may not know about, like the Placer Adult Literacy Group or The Neighborhood Breakfast Program in Roseville.” RSVP has raised more than $50,000 in donations for local community groups. The singers have also encouraged hundreds of audience members to join up as community volunteers or even become a member of a group’s board of directors. RSVP recently performed at Temple Or Rishon in Orangevale to inform the public about Rebuilding Together Sacramento, a nonprofit creating safe and efficient housing particularly for low-income seniors. Following the performance, 400 audience members signed up to help the effort. “Everyone was inspired at every concert and people would come up to me and talk about how RSVP has really broadened our community,” said Shari Carter, former Rocklin resident and RSVP founding board member. “When it starts with Julie and that team always giving 100 percent of their inner being to a project, everyone listening is inspired to turn around and give to someone else.” RSVP also joins with other community groups like high school choirs. “I wanted to do that in particular so the teenagers could see they could use their music to support other teenagers,” Adams said. Her son Chris Adams, a senior at Whitney High School, often accompanies the group on drums or piano. “We went to a children’s receiving home and I played drums,” Chris said. “It was really cool. It was really moving because these people were in such a rough position. It was really powerful watching how the concert affected them.” Beth Hassett, executive director of Women Escaping a Violent Environment, said working with RSVP was a great opportunity. “We were able to speak before the concerts and when I spoke… someone came up and gave us $10,000, so it really exposed us to a whole group of people who maybe didn’t know much about our organization,” Hassett said. RSVP will now celebrate their 10th season with four community thank you concerts. Assistant Conductor Sarah McQueen Cunningham said she is looking forward to performing a variety of songs including Biebl’s “Ave Maria,” U2’s “MLK,” and a soulful “Haitian Kalinda.” “The ‘Kalinda’ is intrinsically difficult, musically speaking,” McQueen Cunningham said. “The song is about joy and victory and it’s a really positive message.” Reconciliation Singers Voices of Peace Celebrating 10 years with four free concerts to be held: • 3 p.m. April 18, Temple Or Rishon, 7755 Hazel Ave., Orangevale • 7:30 p.m. April 23, First Presbyterian Church, 515 Sunrise Ave., Roseville • 7:30 p.m. April 24, Faith Presbyterian Church, 625 Florin Road, Sacramento • 7:30 p.m. May 7, St. John’s Lutheran Church, 1701 L St., Sacramento