‘Wise’ guy to guide Kauai Chorale

  • Contributed photo

    Morris Wise

The new director of Kauai Chorale has a message he wants to deliver to the community.

Here it is: “Please come join us. We’d love to have you.”

Rehearsals start 7:30 p.m. Monday at Island School for the musical group’s holiday concerts. That is when and where Morris Wise will begin the process of what he does very well — blending many voices into beautiful music.

“It’s a bit scary, but I’m very excited about it,” he said. “One of my great loves is choral music and I love conducting. I love the process of shaping voices together.”

Wise was selected earlier this year as music director of Kauai Chorale. He has, as they say, big shoes to fill. His predecessor, Lois Ricciardi, led the group for nearly 30 years and established a reputation for excellence and creativity.

Christina Alderete, who recently came on board as Kauai Chorale’s new president, has full confidence in Wise. She loves his enthusiasm and energy.

“I think his musical background speaks for itself,” she said. “And as nervous as he is, he makes me more calm.”

Wise made the search to find a new director an easy one.

“You know it’s a good sign when someone just falls into your lap,” Alderete said. “The more we knew about him, the more we knew this is our guy.”

Wise was born in Pennsylvania and was involved in music from a young age, taking voice and piano lessons. He joined the choir in high school, playing trombone, tuba and percussion, and played organ for church services. His grandmother, he said, could pick up and play any musical instrument.

After high school, he attended Pennsylvania State University and planned to major in electrical engineering. But he realized that wasn’t what he wanted to do, what he was meant to do.

Music, he said, was his passion. So, he changed majors and went on to earn master’s degrees in voice and choral conducting from the University of Denver.

He also is trained in organ building and servicing.

“Organ builders need to have skills in many crafts such as metals, woodworking, electrical, engineering, as well as architectural and fine arts knowledge such as the physics and acoustical properties of sound. I enjoyed all of these things and it was the perfect match for me,” Wise wrote in his introduction letter to Kauai Chorale.

He and his husband, Bryon, moved to Kauai in 2009. In 2013, they opened Ko Baker, which is doing well. They are planning to open a new bakery in October in Puhi.

Wise did musical direction for the Hawaii Children’s Theatre production of “Godspell” and for HCT’s “Willy Wonka,” and was music director for HCT’s production of “Les Miserables.”

He is also the project consultant for All Saint’s Church’s organ project.

“This opportunity was too good to pass up,” he said.

Anyone can join Monday night’s rehearsal, which will be preceded by registration at 7.

The holiday concerts are scheduled for Dec. 14 at Kauai War Memorial Convention Hall and Dec. 16 at Porter Pavilion at Anaina Hou in Kilauea.

Wise said directing a group with a long, defined history and reputation like Kauai Chorale is “a little disconcerting.” But he’s looking forward to getting to know members and uniting talents.

“I love working with people, I love meeting people,” he said. “l love working with people on music and helping them get better at it.”

Music is a team sport, Wise said.

“Even a solo performer has people who back them up,” he said. “Musicians are always involved with others and most people make music for others, so it’s a very giving type of thing.”

Music can make a difference in life, as well. It can pull people through hard times, inspire them, bring them joy, and mark special moments in their lives, he said.

Alderete agreed.

She said being part of Kauai Chorale has been one of her greatest joys and something she always wanted to do, but didn’t — until now.

“It comes much more naturally than I thought it ever would,” she said.

Wise described Kauai Chorale as “a loving musical ohana.” Their goal is to connect beautiful music with the community.

”We are going to have a lot of great music this season and I think everyone is going to really enjoy it,” he said.

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Bill Buley, editor-in-chief, can be reached at 245-0457 or bbuley@thegardenisland.com.

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