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Music for the heart and the soul

  • Bill Buley / The Garden Island

    Greg Shepherd leads the chorus of Chamber Music Kauai.

  • Bill Buley / The Garden Island

    Katherine Welch, center, plays the violin during rehearsal.

  • Bill Buley / The Garden Island

    Greg Shepherd, Chamber Music Kauai, take the stage for free performances this weekend

  • Bill Buley / The Garden Island

    Greg Shepherd directs Chamber Music Kauai in rehearsal.

If you’re looking for something beautiful and positive to kick off the holidays (who isn’t?), then Greg Shepherd wants to see you this weekend.

He’s directing “A Winter Concert” by the Chamber Music Kauai this weekend. Performances are set for 7 p.m. Saturday and 5 p.m. Sunday.

Both concerts are free and are at St. Michael and All Angels Church.

Shepherd founded the group that specializes in music in the European classical tradition. Studies, he said, have shown the uplifting effect of that type of music.

“I wanted to make that a kind of a mission because it’s such beautiful and positive music,” he said.

The Kauai Community College professor said he wanted to counter “the negative stuff” that he believes permeates popular culture.

‘I think it can be toxic, especially for young people, to be exposed to that,” he said.

A Winter Concert will be the opposite. Bad vibes must be left outside the doors.

“This is so uplifting and it’s nourishing for the heart and soul,” Shepherd said.

The 30-member group includes a chorus and orchestra. Monica Chung is the accompanist. The show will open with three dances from “Terpischore” arranged by Shepherd.

It will be followed by performances of different music, including “Eternal Source of Light Divine,” by G.F. Handle, “Brandenburg Concerto No. 2” in F Major by J.S. Bach, and “Dona nobis pacem,” also by Bach.

“The Bethlehem Star” written by Shepherd will also be performed by Chamber Music Kauai.

Mary Jean Abigania, a soprano, and Tia Lardizabal, an alto, are both part of the group for the first time this year.

Albigania said she’s a busy mom who still wanted to join because the music they play is uplifting and relaxing, “not like the busyness of the coming holidays.”

“We’re not just a group. We trust each other, we work well together, we blend together,” she said.

She said the concert will be a great way of welcoming Christmas and listening to classics, “which we don’t hear much anymore.”

And for sure the audience will not leave disappointed.

“You’ll go away with that Christmasy feeling,” she said.

Lardizabal said she attended a Chamber Music Kauai concert and got chicken skin as she listened. A month or so later, she ran into Shepherd and thanked him for directing it.

He encouraged her to join – so she did.

“I stepped out of my comfort zone,” she said.

It’s been a wonderful experience.

“I feel like a part of an ohana,” she said.

Lardizabal said Shepherd is disciplined, a great teacher and director. She encourages people, whether they are fans of classical music or not, to “step out of your comfort zone and check it out.”

Shepherd started Chamber Music Kauai last year. It includes “like-minded people willing to make the commitment to rehearsal.”

“We’ve getting terrific responses. That’s what makes it really worthwhile,” he said.

Shepherd fronts the money himself to cover any costs and whatever comes in donations at the concerts is what he gets back.

“If I don’t make it back, that’s OK. I don’t care. I do this not for money,” he said. “If I lose some money, I don’t care. I really see it as an important thing.”

More important, he said, is “working with these talented people.”

“It’s an exhilarating experience to work with people who are able to do this kind of music and who enjoy it,” he said. “There’s a real synergy, and a real uplift one can sense at the rehearsals and the concerts of people loving what they’re doing.”

While Shepherd is the founder and director of Chamber Music Kauai and arranges the concert, he doesn’t want it to be about him. Rather, he said those who attend a concert this weekend will come away with “a real uplift, a sense of joy, happiness. It’s just perfect as the lead in for the holiday season.”

It’s not necessarily a Christmas concert but it does have spiritual elements. Music should have a sense of deep joy and peace, he said.

“I think that’s a huge component of music,” Shepherd said.

“Those things are so important and they’re really not emphasized enough,” he said. “ Everything is to commercial. That element is so in danger of being lost in our culture. Come to our concert if you want to feel it.”

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