For those who live in Honolulu, but donʻt follow sports (like myself), it has been hard to ignore all the press about Marcus Mariota, this yearʻs Heisman Trophy winner from St. Louis School, a local private high school. Even I know that it is college football’s greatest honor for the most outstanding college football player of the year, and to have someone from Hawaii win the prize this year (first time ever from this state), was an incredible honor.
Well, yesterday, I went to a homecoming for another hometown hero, the concert by baritone Quinn Kelsey and his wife, soprano Marjorie Owens, accompanied by the Hawaii Symphony Orchestra. Here is an excerpt from his bio: For the Hawaii native, the last 23 years have taken him many places and have put him on many different stages in the U.S. and abroad . . . Most recent concert work includes an appearance at the Lanaudière Festival under maestro Jean-Marie Zeitouni in a tribute to Verdi…early last fall, Kelsey returned home to the Lyric Opera of Chicago for a brand new production of La Traviata . . . (he) makes a long-awaited return to the U.K. and English National Opera for Rigoletto. This spring, the Canadian Opera Company welcomes the baritone back to Toronto for Massenet’s Don Quichotte…and in the summer, Kelsey will join the San Francisco Opera for La Traviata. In August, the baritone will have the privilege of returning to Seiji Ozawa’s Saito Kinen Festival in Matsumoto for Falstaff. What a jetsetter!
So many in the enthusiastic audience could say, “I knew Quinn from way back when . . . ” as he got his start in opera by singing in the Hawaii Opera Theater chorus in 1991. His whole family are singers — mother Debbie and father Chris met at the University of Hawaii chorus, and sister Blythe graduated from Westminster Choir College (my alma mater!)
“Both parents have been so musical themselves — so for me, picking up skills and behavior came naturally by watching my parents. The music aspect was a strong bond in our family” was what Quinn said to Wayne Harada of the Honolulu Advertiser in 2005, “Baritone grew up in a musical Island family.”
In today’s paper, reviewer Ruth Bingham wrote: “His voice is now fully mature, a beautifully trained natural baritone, rich in timbre and with a marked strength in long, liquid notes. In roles he knows well, his acting is delightful, and he has a special affinity for the Italian style — Leoncavallo, Rossini, Verdi . . . It is often challenging to avoid be sidelined by the hometown hero, but Kelsey’s wife, lyric soprano Marjorie Owens, more than held her own. Owens has a large, spectacular voice with a sweetness of tone perfect for heroine roles. Her training is bel canto (perfectly smooth and even throughout her ranges), and she has a distinctive tight, trilling vibrato in her head voice.”
Years ago Quinn was even contracted by Carl Crosier to sing Bach cantata solos at the Lutheran Church of Honolulu, and I was thinking “Oh, Carl, you would be absolutely thrilled with how far Quinn has come!” In those days, everyone could tell that Quinn had a beautiful voice, but had difficulty learning the music. But he certainly knew the music last night!
Wow. All I can say is just Wow. Congratulations, Quinn — you are an opera superstar!
If you would like to hear samples of Quinn’s singing, go to his website.