Just over six years ago (inspired either by the discovery of his own Jewish ancestry or perhaps that of a friend), Portuguese-speaking Brazilian gospel artist Leonardo Gonçalves embarked on a music project different from anything he had done before.
The result is Avinu Malkenu, a twelve-song album from Sony Music sung entirely in Hebrew. Some of these you will instantly recognize (Avinu Malkenu, Adon Olam, Yerushalayim Shel Zahav, L'cha Dodi, V'haer Enenu), while others are settings of beloved texts like Jeremiah 33:10-11 ("a song shall be heard in the cities of Judah..."), "L'shana ha'ba'ah b'Yerushalayim," and Yeshua's prayer (Avinu Shebashamayim).
I would venture to say that the quality of musicianship on this album is equal to anything I've heard, and Gonçalves's voice soars exultantly on top of it all. His arrangement of "L'cha Dodi," in particular, is my favorite I've heard.
Here is a live rendition of Gonçalves singing "Avinu Shebashamayim":
If you read Portuguese, you can glean some more background knowledge on Gonçalves from this interview at GospelPrime. You can also follow him on Twitter or talk to him directly there.
As for me, I'm hoping Stuart Dauermann can somehow get Gonçalves on Shalom Talk so we can hear a more extended interview (in English!). I'm especially interested in what what motivated Leonardo to do this project (which obviously took a lot of time an effort). In the above interview Gonçalves also reveals his hopes that the album will go beyond simply being a curiosity for Evangelical Christians, but perhaps even open the door for a possible "artistic-musical" dialogue between Jews and Christians. Sounds like Shalom Talk kind of material to me!
Regardless of Gonçalves's success in furthering artistic collaboration among people of faith, I'm hoping he finds another unexpected result--a warm ambrace of his music in the Messianic Jewish community.
Limited copies of Avinu Malkenu are available from Amazon.com, so get yours now!