Pasión choir uses music to uplift, connect

The Colibri ChildrenÕs Choir perform at the First Presbyterian Church on Saturday, June 15, 2019, in McAllen. (Joel Martinez | jmartinez@themonitor.com)

McALLEN — Holding onto songbooks and dressed in all-black attire, the Pasión choir group of 23 local singers stood at the altar of the First Presbyterian Church here Saturday night. In harmony, the group sang songs that covered a range of themes — love, fear and confidence — while keeping their eyes focused on conductor Dr. Eric Posada, who stood in between the church pews.

The concert, “True Colors,” was Pasión’s second performance this year. In collaboration with Colibrí Children’s Choir of 10, Posada said that he was intentional about the songs he chose for the night’s program.

The Colibri ChildrenÕs Choir perform at the First Presbyterian Church on Saturday, June 15, 2019, in McAllen. (Joel Martinez | jmartinez@themonitor.com)

“The message is to be yourself and to be comfortable being yourself,” Posada, 40, said. “No matter how difficult and no matter if people don’t accept you.”

Posada founded Pasión, the first nonprofit choir in the Rio Grande Valley, in 2016. And although many challenges came with starting the organization, he was driven by his desire to offer a music platform to the people of his hometown, McAllen.

“For whatever is going on in the world — the chaos, the hate, the bigotry — I wanted to give voice to the people who may not be that comfortable speaking out,” Posada said. “It’s about spreading love, compassion and acceptance.”

Posada attended Texas Tech University for his bachelor’s degree, Sam Houston State University for his master’s and back to Texas Tech University for his doctorates. Though pursuing his higher education took him around the state, he said that he always wanted to bring his passion of music back home, where it all started.

Posada’s inspiration to sing began when he was young because his father loved music.

“He would always play oldies music and sing along,” Posada said of his father, who died when he was just 19. “He did not really match pitch or anything, but he loved to sing. So, I started loving it.”

The Colibri ChildrenÕs Choir perform at the First Presbyterian Church on Saturday, June 15, 2019, in McAllen. (Joel Martinez | jmartinez@themonitor.com)

Posada joined his first choir group in 6th grade. His choir director then, Beverly Bradburn, is now one of the board members of Pasión.

“As musicians, we live for the moments that give us goosebumps,” Posada said. “When we are singing, or in my case, conducting since the choir is my voice, (it is about) the friendships we have made and (about) coming together.”

Soprano singer Jenn Cervantes has been a member of the Pasión choir group since its first concert 2 years ago. As a choir teacher at Brown Middle School, she hopes to teach her students how to connect and find themselves in music.

“Music has always been a great expressive tool for me,” Cervantes, 32, said.
She added that as a child she considered herself to be reserved, but music was how she overcame her shyness.

“The times I have grown the most or (have been) healed is during music, always,” Cervantes said. “I feel like music understood me more than anyone else, and (music) spoke to me a lot.”

Eric Posada conducts the Pasion choir group as they perform at the First Presbyterian Church on Saturday, June 15, 2019, in McAllen. (Joel Martinez | jmartinez@themonitor.com)

That afternoon, Cervantes’ husband, Roy, and 1-year-old daughter, Anthem, was in the crowd.

Cervantes’ favorite song of the night was “Mae-e (Forward)” by Japanese composer, Kentaro Sato.

Before the choir filled the air of the church with the song’s melody, Posada shared that Sato dedicated this piece to the victims of the magnitude-9 earthquake and tsunami in Japan March 2011. Hitting the northeast coast of the country, the disaster, which lasted six minutes, resulted in about 16,000 deaths.

The english translation of the song says:

“When I close my eyes,
the image of our time together hovers before me
and I recall the peaceful tones of harmony in song,
when our voices fused”

Posada said that “Mae-e” is a special song to him since it speaks of optimism amid times of sorrow.

“In moments like that, as human beings, we experience farewells, and some of them we can’t prepare for since they are so sudden,” Posada said. “Many times we feel like the music stops and (Sato) tried to share that whatever happens, the music in you will continue on.”

cdeguzman@themonitor.com