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Hispanic singer-songwriter in Perham August 16-17

Donna Pena, a nationally known Hispanic Christian singer and composer is coming to Perham August 16 and 17.

She will present a concert at Calvary Lutheran Church at 7 p.m. Saturday night, August 16.

That concert will be outside on the Summer POPS stage, weather permitting, or inside in the Fellowship Hall.

She will also lead music at both worship services at Calvary on August 17, at 8:30 and 10:45 a.m.

The concert is part of the second annual "Calvary POPS" summer concert series. Concert events include Sept. 13-14 performances with Jay Beech and local musicians, and a duo piano concert in October with Russ Bunker, Paul Heisler and Jane Stowman.

Pena is one of a new generation of Christian composers who express the ethnic richness of their own tradition in a way that is accessible to people from many churches and ethnic backgrounds.

Pastor Phil Holtan at Calvary says, "That helps us in our churches to cross all sorts of boundaries and begin to understand each other."

After the concert, Mexican cakes baked by one of Perham's best cooks, Blanca Alvarado, will be served, noted Holtan.

Donna grew up in a Mexican-American home in St. Paul, but did not learn Spanish as a child.

It was only when she reluctantly took charge of the music at the Spanish language service at her Catholic parish that she began to understand her heritage. As she began learning more and more about the Spanish communion service at her church, she realized the parish was using "music from a long, long time ago, just translated into Spanish and being called Hispanic music." At that same time a movement was starting for the Hispanic church to claim its identity, "and this music was not giving them an identity at all." So Pena, who composed music in English when she was in high school, started composing for her parish. The first challenge for her was to set aside her worries about not being considered Hispanic because her skin was too white and her language was English.

Today, Pena speaks Spanish fluently, having learned it through music. She also speaks it at home with her husband, a native of Mexico who plays in a local mariachi band, and with their children. Along the way, she had to learn a lot besides the language. She studied in the Chicano Studies program while at the University of Minnesota. Before she began composing Hispanic music, she belonged to a band that sang in Portuguese and Spanish, "and we were doing salsa and cumbia and all these Latin rhythms. So I learned what Hispanic music should sound like."

Pena combines rhythm and melody with her abiding appreciation of the connection between God and people

She composes music for worship that alternates between Spanish and English and some that can be sung entirely in one or the other language.

Often she works at a Lutheran church, Todos Los Santos, in Minneapolis.

For more on her music, visit the website