By Sr Bernadette Mary Reis, fsp
At the beginning of April, Portraits in Faith launched a series of Virtual Concerts for Protection and Healing. Since then, they have hosted 5 concerts, and at least another 13 performances have been confirmed for the future.
These concerts are featured on the Portraits of Faith Facebook account. The concert posts have received over 45,000 views since the concert series began, with about 1,200 hours of viewing time.
Daniel Epstein, Founder of Portraits in Faith, spoke with Vatican News about the concept of the concerts and who some of the upcoming artists are.
Portraits in Faith
Speaking about Portraits in Faith, Daniel Epstein says it is “about the oneness of humanity.” His goal is that people “have an experience of receiving the story of someone they perceived to be the other”.
Daniel Epstein founded Portraits in Faith when he was a Marketing Director for Procter & Gamble. As he traveled for business, he began to include a faith dimension to find, and then nurture, the “God-sized hole” inside. The spiritual exercise he incorporated into his life was that of interviewing people about their own personal faith lives. Over a period of 15 years, Epstein has interviewed 500 people living in 27 countries who come from 50 different faith backgrounds. So far, 115 of these interviews have been published, for a total of 300,000 views on YouTube. These testimonies can be found on the Portrait of Faith website.
The interview that has received the highest number of hits is that of Maria Carminia Lourdes Cynthia Arnaldo Gutierrez, also known as Chin Chin Gutierrez. At the time of the interview, she was a Filipino actress. She is now Sr Lourdes and has been a member of a Carmelite monastery since 2010.
Protection and healing through virtual concerts
That naturally led to the idea of providing virtual concerts online, Epstein says. “I just thought about bringing people together and giving them music and prayer from many different traditions so that we might be comforted. I say the concerts are for protection and healing.”
Response from artists
Epstein says that artists have been responding very positively to sign on to the series. Because many artists are not working, he is grateful to offer a small fee “which I know helps in difficult times”, he says. Artists in general, he continues, are “giving such a great gift. The outpouring of the creative community during this crisis has been amazing and that's been true for all the people I’ve contacted. They’ve been eager to give back”.
The most recent concert featured Roman Orona, a Native American. He shared “prayers and chants and drumming in Native American flute”. Another featured an Israeli artist. Upcoming concerts feature a Sufi spoken word artist, and “a major Catholic singer-songwriter John Angotti from Nashville who's going to be performing”. “It's really been a wonderful mix”, Epstein notes.
The concert experience
Each concert lasts one hour. So far, Portraits in Faith has hosted five such concerts. Every artist is invited to open and close the concert with a prayer from the tradition of their choosing. "It's been really beautiful so far”, Epstein says.
About 15,000 people have tuned in to the more popular artists. “Each tradition brings a certain amount of popularity based on its population in the world”, Epstein explains. He emphasized that it is obvious that people are “also watching traditions other than their own”.
Comfort and hope
In the end, Epstein hopes that these concerts provide both comfort and hope. “there's so many unknowns in this pandemic that I think people are definitely holding onto faith and trying to muster up faith”. This, he believes, “is what comes through in the concert for people”.