Christina and James Roldan are Passages Alumni (Summer 2018) and fellows (Winter 2018). They are Americans of Brazilian and Chilean descent. On Monday, March 9th, 2020, the siblings had the opportunity to perform the Brazilian National Anthem for President Jair Messias Bolsonaro of Brazil, First Lady Michelle Bolsonaro, and the Brazilian delegation in Miami, Florida. Here’s the inside scoop as to how it happened, what it felt like to perform for one of Israel’s great allies, and what the next step is…
Q: How did the performance opportunity come about?
CHRISTINA: Since Summer of 2019, James and I have sung for various Brazilians delegations who have visited South Florida; among them, senators, ministers and political influencers. Our parents are highly involved with “Yes Brazil USA,” a Brazilian political group that hosts these delegations. Through these events, we became known as “the singers of the anthem” throughout the Brazilian community.
Q: How did you rehearse?
JAMES: We practiced quite a bit at home. Our mom would record us on her phone and then we would watch the recording, paying close attention to our harmony and lyrics. Fun fact – it was actually the first time we went “off book” for the lyrics. The Brazilian anthem is quite unique because unlike in other countries, it is customary to sing two entire stanzas, so essentially, we were having to memorize two “song’s worth” of music.
Q: What was it like “backstage”?
JAMES: The event was held in an auditorium-like place at the Miami Dade Medical Campus. Prior to singing, we waited in the lobby saying hi to some acquaintances. The Consul spotted us and then called us over to the area where they were checking in guests. With one gesture he basically said “they’re with me” and we entered the VIP area. It was interesting getting to practice beforehand; there were some reporters setting up, but the room was mostly empty – in stark contrast to later when the room would be packed. We actually befriended one of the Secret Service agents, James, as well as a member of the Brazilian Secret Service, Bruno. I felt like I was 100% Brazilian and 100% American at every given moment!
Q: What did it feel like during the actual singing? Were you nervous?
CHRISTINA: It was quite amazing! We were told to be ready to go at the very beginning of the ceremony, which would last no more than an hour. As we walked up the stage to stand in our places, I felt an adrenaline rush as the familiar tune started playing from the speakers; I was determined to have a good time. By the second stanza we were just having fun and “jamming out” – I believe it shows in the video!
Q: What happened afterwards?
JAMES: One small touch I suggested to Christina was adding the famous motto, “Brasil acima de tudo, Deus acima de todos!” (Brazil above everything, God above everyone!) at the very end of the National Anthem. This was very well received by the crowd and even prompted President Bolsonaro to allude to that quote during his speech!
Q: You have a pretty sweet selfie with First Lady Michelle Bolsonaro – how did that come about?
CHRISTINA: This was a memorable moment for sure. After the event ended and as the delegation was quickly exiting backstage, Mrs. Bolsonaro and I made eye contact, and everything changed. She stopped, turned and placed her hand on her cheek. She looked at me and James and exclaimed “Lindos, vem cá!” (Beauties, come here!). She then proceeded to overpass her own Secret Service, give us each a hug and express her gratitude for our rendition of the National Anthem. She then paused for several selfies and again hugged us. I told her we pray for her and her husband every day and I could tell she appreciated that comment.
Q: What’s next? How does this relate to Israel and Passages?
JAMES: The importance of an event like this is not only the lasting impression of the memory it leaves but also, of course, its significance at large. It is widely known that President Bolsonaro is an adamant supporter of Israel. Bolsonaro plans on moving the Brazilian embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem and seeks to emulate certain Israeli technologies such as the desalination of water in the drought-prone area of Northeastern Brazil. An act of singing like what we did serves of great importance to strengthen international ties.
CHRISTINA: Yes! It’s an exciting moment for us as vocal members of the Passages family to have this additional connection with one of our countries of origin. We definitely hold dear to our roots but first and foremost to our faith. As we become more aware of the international body of Christ, we are able to open up to unexpected opportunities such as this one. You never know who else is going to meet a prominent world leader. You could be used to bridge gaps and be the salt and light to a situation you never expected!