Last Saturday night, I attended the Oahu Choral Society’s 20th Annual “Vivace” fundraiser and was I ever surprised to find myself seated at the head table! To my immediate right was Karen Kennedy, a choral directing legend in this town, and next to her was Wanda Gereben, and next to her was Nola Nahulu of Hawaii Youth Opera Chorus. All three ladies have made a huge impact on choral music in Honolulu. Also at the head table were Marita Young, who was instrumental in the administration of OCS at the beginning, John Renke of St. Andrew’s Cathedral (a former OCS honoree), Betsy McCreary and Jonathan Parrish, Executive Director of the Hawai’i Symphony Orchestra.
It was just four years ago in 2012, that the Oahu Choral Society honored Carl Crosier for his contributions to the choral music community. You can go back and check the photos that were taken that night by clicking here. In many ways, it seems like a zillion years ago!
Saturday night was full of music and fun, but bittersweet in many respects in that many of the recipients of the Dale R. Noble Award have passed away: Dale Noble, former choral director of Kamehameha Schools, Robert S. Hines, former choral director of the University of Hawaii, John McCreary, former organist-choir director of St. Andrew’s Cathedral, Joe McAllister, former Honolulu Chorale director, and Carl Crosier, cantor of the Lutheran Church of Honolulu.
(I’m guessing that the reason I was placed at the head table was that I represented Carl, as Betsy McCreary represented her late husband, John.)
As this was the 20th anniversary of the Oahu Choral Society, many stories were told about its history and how it started out as the Honolulu Symphony Chorus and only sang one choral work with the Symphony per year. When at one point, no choral works were scheduled in the Symphony’s season, it was Tim Carney’s suggestion that the chorus reorganize as a separate, non-profit entity. Since then, OCS continues to perform major choral works with orchestra, including the newly established Hawai’i Symphony Orchestra (HSO), as well as smaller works with chamber ensembles, organ, piano, and a cappella.
The Oahu Choral Society has been directed by four different directors over these twenty years: Tim Carney, Karen Kennedy, Nola Nahulu and Esther Yoo. All but Karen still live on Oahu — Karen lives in Florida and is Associate Professor and Director of Choral Studies at the University of Miami. She regaled us with three cataclysmic events which happened during her tenure, two of which were described in the Oct. 24, 2004 edition of the Honolulu Star-Bulletin:
Haydn “Creation:” From the sublime to the ridiculous, the beauty of live performance is that you never know what will happen. The first minutes of the oratorio depict the darkness and void before the creation, which is punctuated in brilliant fashion by the arrival of light.
Immediately after this epiphany, the story turns to the division of water from land. At this point those in the balcony heard a strange crackling sound, which grew in volume as the chorus forged bravely on. When baritone David Newman intoned, “And God said: Let the waters under the heaven be gathered together to one place,” the crackling turned to gushing, as it became clear that the roof had sprung a leak and water was pouring out of the ceiling onto the aisle. [Editor’s Note: Where else but in Hawaii would you have it “raining” indoors!”]
Moments like this define the experience of live performance; at last April’s Symphony Chorus performance of “Carmina Burana,” a choirboy fell from the stage in a faint with a clunk that brought the concert to a screeching halt. It turned out he was fine and walked out unassisted, but that is an experience you will never get from your CD player.
The other incident Karen related had to do with a bird which fell from the stage curtain onto the alto section of the choir during the performance!
Jeremy Wong and Naomi Castro, both products of the Hawaii Youth Opera Chorus, were absolutely great in their after dinner solos.
There were also four young men from the Hawaii Youth Opera Chorus called “Na Kane O Kuho’okahi,” who sang beautifully.
All in all, it was a great evening for the Oahu Choral Society and so much fun!