A distinguished honor: Eight members of area choruses to perform at Carnegie Hall

  • HOLLYN JOHNSON/Tribune-Herald Tanya Lee, an alto, practices with the Hilo Community Chorus Thursday at First United Protestant Church in Hilo.
  • HOLLYN JOHNSON/Tribune-Herald University of Hawaii-Hilo junior Adrianna Zablan poses for a portrait before practicing with the Hilo Community Chorus Thursday at First United Protestant Church in Hilo.
  • HOLLYN JOHNSON/Tribune-Herald Tom McAlexander, artistic director of the Hilo Community Chorus, conducts a practice for the chorus Thursday at First United Protestant Church in Hilo.

Accompanied by more than 200 singers from America, Europe and Asia, eight members of the Hilo Community Chorus and Hilo University Chorus will perform at Carnegie Hall in January.

The performance, part of the Distinguished Concerts in New York, or DCINY, concert series, will be the world’s first performance of a new piece by acclaimed composer Sir Karl Jenkins.


Tom McAlexander, artistic director of the Hilo Community Chorus, said the chorus has been involved with the DCINY since the concert series’ inception in 2008, which also featured the music of Jenkins.

In 2007, the Community Chorus performed Jenkins’ “Requiem” after an associate heard the piece while traveling in Europe. Not long after, the DCINY contacted the Community Chorus to participate in a joint performance of “Requiem” at New York City’s legendary Carnegie Hall, joining several other worldwide choruses to create the Distinguished Concerts Singers International.

“They were looking for a U.S. chorus that had already sung the piece,” McAlexander said.

Now, 10 years later, DCINY will debut the world premiere of a new piece by Jenkins, called “Sing! The Music Was Given,” its title and lyrics taken from a poem by 19th century Irish poet Thomas Moore.

“We’ve been rehearsing for about two months now,” McAlexander said, adding that the select Hilo Community Chorus members performing rehearse together for half an hour each week before the full chorus’ regular weekly rehearsals.

McAlexander said Hilo Community Chorus members, himself included, have been involved with DCINY every year since 2008, with many members choosing not to participate year to year due to the high cost of travel to New York.

Among those choosing to go this year is University of Hawaii at Hilo junior Adrianna Zablan.

Zablan said she was awestruck when she learned she had the opportunity to perform at Carnegie Hall earlier this year.

“It’s very exciting,” Zablan said.

“My family’s really shocked.”

Zablan, a soprano and a performing arts major, said this will be her first trip to New York. Zablan’s family will join her on her trip to support her and for “touristy stuff,” she said.

Zablan said Jenkins’ piece is an unusual composition for the chorus, divided into eight separate movements that vary greatly in style. She estimates the piece takes approximately 40 minutes to perform all at once.

Tanya Lee, an alto and member of the Hilo Community Chorus for 30 years, said “Sing!” features “odd” lyrics that are a far cry from the composer’s usual religious themes.

“There’s a lot of ‘Do Re Mi,’” Lee said. “We’re not singing ‘Do Re Mi Fa So La Ti Do,’ but there are times when we’re going, ‘Fa Fa Fa Fa So So So So,’ and that’s very strange.”

Lee said she has performed at about “five or six” DCINY concerts since 2008, as well as several DCINY performance tours overseas, including in China, Argentina and Spain, headed by DCINY co-founder and principal conductor Jonathan Griffith.

Lee, Zablan and McAlexander will join some 200 other choristers from 14 other choirs around the world, including the Cheyenne Capital Chorale from Wyoming, the Tokyo Oratorio Society, the Norwegian Nittedal Bygdekor, the Dutch Stedelijk Koor Enschede, and more.

“I’m very excited to meet people from all around the world,” Zablan said.

Jenkins typically attends each DCINY performance of his work and meets with choir members at a post-concert party, said Lee, who hopes to speak with the composer about his recent knighthood, awarded in 2015.

Despite the prestigiousness of the occasion, neither Lee nor Zablan said they feel nervous.

“What’s cool about DCINY is that we show up all knowing the basics of music,” Lee said.

“Everyone’s already an experienced musician; Griffith just has to fit everyone together.”


The Distinguished Concerts Singers International will perform “The Music of Sir Karl Jenkins” on Jan. 15 at Carnegie Hall in New York.

Email Michael Brestovansky at mbrestovansky@hawaiitribune-herald.

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