When the Sacramento Philharmonic and Opera Chorus begins its opening piece from “Die Fledermaus” on Saturday night, singers will be missing one of their most charismatic tenors.
Rodney Parada, 47, a member of the chorus since 2011, was diagnosed in January with Stage 4 prostate cancer that has moved into his bones. Weakened by chemotherapy, he’s had to leave his construction job and is in too much pain to rehearse with the group or even walk. On Saturday, his fellow singers will take the stage in his honor.
“The Promise of Living: A Concert to Benefit the Parada Family” will take place at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday at Sacramento State’s Capistrano Hall. The title is a nod to composer Aaron Copland, and also a message of hope from the 30 or so chorus singers who are donating their time to perform the program.
He is one of our own. We need to do this for one of our own.
Nina Ankelé, manager for the Sacramento Philharmonic and Opera Chorus
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“I look at it as a family,” said soprano and chorus manager Nina Ankele. “When we’re rehearsing a piece or when we’re in production for an opera, everyone lives cheek by jowl. They were shocked by Rodney’s diagnosis. He is one of our own. We need to do this for one of our own.”
For the past few months the Parada family has had to rely solely on income from Rodney’s wife, Ingrid Hercules, to support their two boys, ages 9 and 13. Hercules was recently diagnosed with Stage 1 thyroid cancer and is undergoing radiation while continuing to work at the Sacramento Native American Health Center.
“Right now, it’s me and the kids,” Parada said. “What we do is we have breakfast in the morning before my wife leaves, and she leaves me lunch ready to warm up – that I can do. And then I wait and hold in there.”
A native of El Salvador, Parada calls himself a modern-day troubadour. When not singing with the opera chorus or its associated caroling group during the holiday season, he can be found accompanying himself on the guitar while belting out pop, folk and Latin tunes.
Friends in the chorus describe Parada as an extrovert, an energetic performer, and “kind of a ham.”
During his very first opera with the chorus, a production of Leoncavallo’s “Pagliacci,” a singer was injured, leaving a feature role as a trumpeter open. Parada was happy to fill in.
“I was a little extroverted, and the director had already noticed me and offered it to me,” he said. “So you had me, up in front of the stage in a special suit, pretending to play the trumpet with kids all around me dancing, it was fun.”
Since he’s been home sick, Parada has been uploading dozens of live recordings to his YouTube channel – ranging from the Beatles to Portuguese love songs. In the videos he wears a knit cap to hide his hair loss and strums vigorously into a microphone, throwing all of his energy into the music.
Music is his life, and it’s a huge part of our lives. We all share in the passion. This (benefit concert) is a way to celebrate his life
Raùl Valdez, tenor
Raùl Valdez, another tenor in the group, said rehearsals have not been the same since Parada has been out.
“Music is his life and it’s a huge part of our lives,” he said. “We all share in the passion. This (benefit concert) is a way to celebrate his life.”
The concert will feature performances from internationally acclaimed soloists Carrie Hennessey, Kelley O’Connor and Darron Flagg. The program includes pieces from operatic classics such as “Faust” and “Carmen,” as well as from favorites such as “West Side Story” and “Peter Pan.”
Profits from the concert will go directly to the Parada family to help with medical and living expenses.
“It’s the least we can do to help out a little bit, and to show our appreciation and our love, as a group,” said chorus member Javier Murillo. “We are all waiting for a miracle, and hoping for a miracle.”