For the Kona Choral Society, their next concert has been three years in the making. The dedicated effort has resulted in the debut of two original choral works with the assistance of the respective composers. This one-of-a-kind concert, the “Hawaii Island Premieres of Island Home (Awakening) and Jubilate Deo,” will take place on Sunday, June 4 from 4-5 pm in the Grand Ballroom at the Hilton Waikoloa Village.
In recent years, Susan McCreary Duprey, KCS artistic director and conductor, had to hold rehearsals online via Zoom due to pandemic regulations. During the first year two events occurred while live choral music was left out. First, the KCS community welcomed new tenor Christopher Lee Fraley, and a connection was forged through his musical composition “Island Home (Awakening).” Second, extended Zoom meetings provided the community choir with an opportunity to delve into the score of Dan Forrest’s “Jubilate Deo,” a seven-movement masterpiece.
“It has been an incredible journey learning these pieces and I am impressed by the commitment and mutual trust of the singers,” Duprey shared of the weekly online sheet music study sessions. “This music feeds the soul.”
The evening concert will begin with the world premiere of “Island Home (Awakening)”. The five-minute piece will be accompanied by a full orchestra. In 2020, when Fraley, who has been composing for more than 25 years, was commissioned to write a celebratory song for the choral society’s 30th season, she originally sought to base the lyrics on a poem. However, she soon found inspiration for her composition through a spiritual connection to the land during her morning walks near her new home in Kailua-Kona. The poetic lyrics and resonant, melodic tone of the score will take audiences on a sweeping musical journey over the mountains and out to the ocean on the island of Hawaii.
The musical piece begins with a short overture before the chorus welcomes a new day and the “peaceful soft dawn” through a “lei of descending clouds”. The second and third verses highlight and honor the beauty and spirit of Hawaii as the piece builds to a climax and continues with the final chorus, encouraging listeners to “join in the vibrant chant/chant.” Fraley explains in his show notes that this recognition and appreciation of the island is the second spiritual awakening that the subtitle refers to.
“The text is simply impressive. It’s personal and vulnerable and beautiful,” said Duprey, who felt a significant connection to the lyrics as a call to action, especially given the group’s extended hiatus from in-person concerts. “We are so ready to sing together again and sing vibrantly.”
Having the composer and his wife Barbara, a contralto, sing with the choir was an exciting new experience for Duprey, who had never had a composer in the musical apprenticeship phase. “It was a really fun process,” he said. “I felt the freedom to interrupt and internalize the score and bring the dots to life on the page.”
The next opening piece, “Jubilate Deo”, will close the show and composer Forrest, a native of North Carolina, will be in the audience. Duprey credits the 50-minute work as a veritable “barn fire” and that it tested the singer’s limits of hers and herself during her years of online studio and live rehearsals.
The masterpiece is based on a meticulous score, packed with substantive content that asked Duprey to navigate multiple tempos, articulation notes, and dynamic markings to honor and bring to life the global confluence of the traditional text of Psalm 100.
Set in seven languages, the hymn “Make a Shout to the Lord, All Lands” has been composed to incorporate the wide range of cultural influences combined with Forrest’s own musical interpretation. The movements highlight seven languages and include liturgical Latin, intertwined Hebrew and Arabic, Mandarin Chinese, Zulu, Spanish, Song of the Earth (without accompanying words), and a final movement that merges several of these languages with English. The combination of language and culture is united through joyful connection and vivid images of the entire earth singing as one, “omnis terra, jubilation.”
Voices from the now 90-member KCS choir will be joined by 20 singers from its sister choir, the Windward Choral Society of Oahu, and will be supported by a 38-piece orchestra featuring concertmaster Iggy Jang of the KCS Choir. Hawaii Symphony. The performance will also feature the collaboration of pianist Gloria Juan and soloists Amy Mills, soprano, and Wendy Buzby, mezzo-soprano. Percussionist Sharon Cannon was instrumental in securing the instruments and gathering orchestra members from all over the islands for the highly anticipated performance.
The exhilaration of musical joy is precisely the thematic message that the KCS has set as its mission for this concert. “This work celebrates the expression of joy and this is our offering to the community,” Duprey said.
The director continued to emphasize that in recent years the common thread of connectivity for humanity has been the performing arts: for the heart, the soul, the body and the mind. “This concert is perfect for families. It is the perfect introduction to live choral music. Some parts are loud and bombastic, others quiet and contemplative.”
The audience is invited to stay after the concert for a chat with songwriters Dan Forrest and Chris Fraley and KCS Artistic Director Susan McCreary Duprey.
Tickets can be purchased online at www.KonaChoralSociety.org or at the door for $35 general admission, $50 reserved and $10 student. Validated parking will have a discount of $10, payable at the door. For more information, email [email protected].