Posted by: calloftheandes | December 17, 2010

Choir, Color and Comedy Entertain, Inspire Crowds at Quito Concerts

Story by R. Kurtenbach
Photos by: Wesley Dean

For Michio Ozaki, the conductor’s baton became a wand casting energy and joy as he directed the Vozandes Choir and orchestra, and even the audiences, at concerts presented by Radio Station HCJB in Quito, Ecuador, to celebrate the city’s founding in 1534.

Swirls of motion and color accompanied most songs as a contemporary dance troupe stepped, leaped and spun graceful pirouettes that illustrated the music. The six 2010 concerts were held at the elegant National Sucre Theater Saturday and Sunday, Dec. 4-5, even as Quito residents celebrated with parties, bullfights and rides in open buses called chivas.

The two-hour concerts continued a tradition first established by Radio Station HCJB in 1965 to thank and honor the station’s host city of Quito. Earlier choir directors such as Tom Fulghum and the late Gene Jordan and Lois Vásconez have left a legacy with their arrangements still being used on some songs.

Japanese-born but deeply rooted in Ecuador’s culture and music, Ozaki’s on-stage turnabout to face the audience brought rousing response from the crowd. Many raised their voices to sing along with the 70-voice choir.

As the choir sings Chulla Quiteño, a classic for decades in Ecuador’s Andean capital, Ozaki extends his hand, and instantly a lady from the audience is on stage dancing with him. Soon, he thanks her, steps back to the choir, and the wand is wielding its magic again with the voices before him.

“You can see it in his face,” said Mónica Lovato, an HCJB Global secretary and a contralto who has sung in the Quito Day concerts the last four years. “It’s not just music to him; it is really a part of him . . . and we in the choir can feel that.” She said Ozaki’s slight tap to his chest before beginning a song signaled to them all: “Sing from your heart!”

“It was all very beautiful,” said Anita Silva who attended with her two young boys and her mother. “Concerts in other years offered more music, but with this year’s comedy and dance, I thought it was better.”

Ozaki was thrilled to direct the choir again, having traveled from Houston where he ministers and lives with his Dutch wife and their two children. The two previous annual concerts had been led by Roberto Rojas, this time comfortably seated at stage right with either his trumpet or saxophone in hand. He also played percussion.

Rojas was joined by Ismael Aguirre as well as Billy Evans and Nick Bueno (both of Alliance Academy International) for several numbers as a saxophone quartet on center stage—a real hit with audiences. Rhythms—complex and simple all at once—came from Russ Reshaw’s bass guitar and a cajón, an acoustical box that a musician sits upon. It was played by Walter Aguas.

Reshaw and Aguas form part of the California-based band, Two or More, which took the stage for a four-song set. Renatto Aguas, the lead vocalist, explained the band’s Ecuadorian roots. He and his brothers, Walter and Eddie, grew up with Ecuadorian cuisine and music. The band offered a rendition of O Come, O Come, Emmanuel,” a centuries-old classic that they contemporized with guitars, bass and cajón. Faith as small as a mustard seed can move mountains was conveyed in the song, Grano de Mostaza.*

Ozaki’s arrangement of Noche de Paz (Silent Night) was near the concerts’ conclusion, and each concert ended with Rojas’ arrangement of Mosaico Navideño (Christmas Mosaic), a medley of Latin American Christmas carols. Nearly 5,000 people attended the concerts.

While celebrating neighborhoods of historic Quito, Chulla Quiteño profiles a chulla (high-class bum), wooing young ladies on their balconies as he passes on the streets of Quito. The song’s humorous portrayal augmented the comedy interspersed throughout by emcee Tony Tamayo.

Tamayo, along with his sidekicks, Coco Valdéz and Marco de la Torre, are all graduates of HCJB Global’s Christian Center of Communications in Quito. Their humor, primarily slapstick and zany, eventually led audiences to see and hear that God’s love, summarized in the Gospel of John, is the greatest gift of Christmas.

*Youtube video of Un Grano De Mostaza (Faith Of A Mustard Seed) as performed at a different venue.



  1. […] At the time his son, Michio, was in Ecuador to conduct concerts by Radio Station HCJB. See this post on Call of the […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: