Tooting our own horn

When a reviewer’s employer produces a CD for sale to the public, he or she is presented with a dilemma: Either ignore the project, thus sidestepping any gnarly ethical thickets, or cover it for publication and run the risk of being branded a company flack.

I happen to work for SN&R, which is selling a CD titled The Music for “A Call for Unity, the proceeds of which will benefit organizations that are working to revitalize Oak Park and some other city neighborhoods. The CD was recorded on September 11, the first anniversary of the 9/11 tragedy, at the Sacramento Memorial Auditorium.

Because so many members of the community came together to make music that night, we would be remiss if we ignored this. Are we tooting our own horn here? Perhaps. Nevertheless, the question remains: How does “A Call for Unity” stand up as a CD?

People who attended the concert might have an opinion based on what they recall from that night. I wasn’t there, so my impressions came solely from listening to the music on this disc.

Straight up, this is an album of religious music. If you are not comfortable hearing music that expresses love to God in his (or her—or its) various expressions, this disc might not win you over. Most of the songs here came out of the liturgical tradition of choral group singing, but the gravity of the event inspired a certain emotional resonance from the performers.

The set opens with an a cappella “Amazing Grace” by Sierra Williams, Stephanie Reid and Sierra Peters and closes with a Paul Robeson-like rendition of “God Bless America” by California Highway Patrol officer Jim Harris. In between are 17 songs performed by groups of various types: Christian (Trinity Cathedral Choir, the Voices of New Testament, Sarah V. Hernandez and Credo), Jewish (B’nai Israel Ensemble), Hindu (Gordon and Rita Burnham), Native American (Cheewa James), Latter-day Saints (Galena Street East Youth Fireside Choir), gay choral (Sacramento Men’s Chorus) and ecumenical (Spiritual Life Center Choir).

In my opinion, the best music on A Call for Unity came from two groups. First, the Voices of New Testament, a mass choir from the New Testament Baptist Church, sang a pair of fine if rather treble contemporary gospel numbers. Second, Credo, a choir that performs at the Russian Baptist Church in West Sacramento, sang two songs, both of which were suffused with unearthly harmonies. Of the remainder, the Sacramento Men’s Chorus and the Burnhams’ “Hindu Chant” probably will hold the most interest for anyone who didn’t attend the event.

The disc is available for $12 at The Beat, Dimple Records, Tower Records and the front desk at the SN&R building, 1015 20th Street, and online at