Joyful voices: UH hosts Christmas concert Sunday




Tribune-Herald staff writer

A beloved Big Island maestro and a graphic artist will be honored Sunday at the University of Hawaii at Hilo’s holiday concert “Season of Light.”

The program, which features the UH-Hilo’s Kapili Choir and University Chorus, the Hilo Community Chorus, and Kamuela Philharmonic Orchestra under the direction of Madeline Schatz, is scheduled for 2-5 p.m. at the UH-Hilo Performing Arts Center. The concert is open seating and tickets are $12 general, $7 discount and $5 for UH system students with valid ID and children 17 and under.The honorees are Ken Staton, longtime conductor and retired faculty at UH-Hilo, and Darin Igawa, a UH-Hilo graphic artist whose poster art has for years invited the public to the performing arts events at the university, according to Amy Horst, who’ll conduct the university’s two choruses.

“Madeline Schatz is going to acknowledge Ken’s influence on the local music scene over the last 50 years, and he’s going to be present at the concert,” Horst said. “She’ll make some remarks thanking him for being such an influence on the choirs and orchestras on the Big Island.”

Horst added that a retrospective of Igawa’s poster art supporting UH-Hilo’s performing arts will grace the theater lobby.

Horst said she’s particularly excited about a seldom-heard Christmas composition titled “Oratorio de Noel” by Camille Saint-Saens. She called it “a keystone performance of the two university choruses combined with the Kamuela Philharmonic.”

“We just fell in love with it and it turns out that our maestra, Madeline Schatz, is very familiar with it,” Horst said. “She has been coming over from Kona to work with the choirs and she has just energized everybody. It’s a privilege and honor to work with her. She doesn’t toot her own horn that much but she is a conductor who came up with conductors like JoAnn Falletta of the Buffalo Philharmonic … that generation of women conductors. … She arrived on the Big Island a world-class conductor.”

The piece will feature five well-known vocal soloists: sopranos Julianne Cross and Melanie Oldfather; mezzo soprano Gerdine Markus; tenor Pedro Ka‘awaloa; and bass Barry Brandes.

Horst said the concert will also “highlight some of the work that our students do.”

“We have students who have created instrumental arrangements for us,” she said. “A first-semester student named Ryder Furukado studied orchestral arranging with Herb Mahelona at Kamehameha Schools and came to UH-Hilo and wanted to do more. Another student, Erin McClure, has done some percussion arrangements for two of the numbers that we’re doing.

“And Chris Tomich is going to be conducting one of the Kapili Choir pieces. He’ll be acknowledged in the program as a student conductor for the Kapili Choir. He just finished his senior project where he conducted a small string ensemble and a chorus of 25 voices as part of ‘The Spoon River Project.’”

Horst said the show will feature “some Christmas favorites and Christmas carols that people might not know but they’ll really enjoy.”

“One that the University Chorus is going to sing is called ‘Betelehemu’ and it’s a Nigerian carol that we don’t usually sing in Hilo, Hawaii. It’s really captivating and it’s one that Erin McClure did the percussion line for,” she said.


“We’re trying to highlight what every group does best and give every group its opportunity. And everybody is onstage at the end for one of our classic Christmas concert blowout finale numbers. This will be a smaller string orchestra than what we’ve had in the past, so it will be a cozier feel, but we’ll still be going for the big finish.”

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