Kaua‘i Chorale fans holiday spirit with performances of ‘Messiah’

Gripping, slicing and diving — the hands of musical director Lois Ricciardi command the attention of 100 Kaua‘i Chorale members present for Monday’s rehearsal. Over the next two weeks the chorale will perform Handel’s, “Messiah” composed in 1741 by George Frederic Handel.

“Don’t sit. Don’t talk. Turn to page 10,” Ricciardi directs her singers.

The main hall at Island School that moments before had quaked with enthusiastic chatter and tuning violins segues into a stream of voices and strings bent on a common goal: To unite as a force in honor of one of the great oratorios.

Joined by Kaua‘i Community College Orchestra with accompaniment by Virginia Shepherd, the Chorale will perform the first of three shows 7 p.m. Saturday at the KCC Performing Arts Center; followed by shows Sunday at Kaua‘i Christian Fellowship and Dec. 20 at St. Regis Resort. (See box for details.)

In Ricciardi’s nearly 20 years directing the chorale, this is her third time presenting “Messiah” — for its attraction to singers and audience appeal. Rich with harmony and solos, “Messiah” is a lavish production.

“Baroque is a sophisticated form,” Ricciardi said. “There are parts that overlap and play against each other.”

Ever the task master, Ricciardi drives her students toward that illusive note. If her chorale lags, she halts them to advise, “more energy” or to “remove a breath.” Her intent is clear — Ricciardi seeks a seamless flow of voices.

This 46 year old group is all volunteers. The epitome of a community chorale, no auditions are required.

“We have doctors, lawyers, the hippy-dippy crowd — people who wouldn’t be together otherwise are here but for their love of singing,” Ricciardi said.

Members from Kekaha to Haena meet for rehearsal in Lihu‘e. “Dedicated,” is how she defines them.

“If I said we need to stay another hour, 90 percent would stay. If I added another day of rehearsal to the week, they’d be there,” she said.

 The group has already performed three free concerts at Kaua‘i Museum, the County Building and Veteran’s Center; those in addition to regular rehearsals in preparation for the winter program.

Kaua‘i Chorale only takes summers off; practicing nearly every Monday the rest the year. Between the holidays and spring concert Ricciardi has a scant two weeks to choose the next program.

“That’s the biggest challenge,” she said. “I want something so members grow and that the audience enjoys.”

The quintessential educator, learning is at the top of Ricciardi’s list of goals for her students. From the vibe in the room though, her students are clearly here for the fun.

Chorale secretary, Lynn Spears of Wailua, sings second alto for the group. Spears returned to her home island in 2001 to be near her aging parents. After a 30 year hiatus, Spears returned to her girlhood love of singing as soon as she arrived.

“I sang with Mr. Steinhort at Kaua‘i High School,” she said. “I sing for stress relief and friendship.”

Past president of the chorale, Kay Koike of Kekaha, returned to Kaua‘i in 1996. This Westside girl sang in elementary school and continued even in her travels as an educator to Bond Germany.

“Once you start you can’t stop,” she said. “You may come tired but you leave here feeling more relaxed and alive. Music is so good for the soul.”

Another Kaua‘i born member is alto, Paul Chong of Kapa‘a. Like Koike and Spears, he too came home to be near a parent. Chong moved home four years ago after teaching on the Mainland for 31 years. For him this year’s program is especially poignant having recently lost his mother. Chong will perform solo, “The Trumpets Shall Sound.”

“It’s all about how the dead shall rise,” he said. “I’m singing this one for mom.”

Handel’s holiday masterpiece is considered the epitome of the season. Expect to hear, “For Unto Us A Child Is Born,” “And Suddenly, There Was with the Angel a Multitude of the Heavenly Host” and “Hallelujah Chorus.”

Tickets are $8 adults (pre-sale); $10, door; $5, students. For tickets call Kay Koike 337-1882 or visit one of the following outlets: Aloha ‘n Paradise, Waimea; Kalaheo Cafe and Coffee Co.; Lapperts Ice Cream, Koloa and Princeville; Pictures Plus, Lihu‘e; Zack’s Frozen Yogurt; Kaua‘i Music and Sound, Kapa‘a; North Shore Pharmacy, Kilauea; Dr. Ding’s Surf Shop, Hanapepe.

Want to go?

What: Kaua‘i Chorale concerts

When: 7:30 p.m. Saturday; 5 p.m. Dec. 13; 20

Where: KCC PAC; Kaua’i Christian Fellowship; St. Regis Resort

Cost: $8 adults pre-sale; $10, door; $5, students

• Pam Woolway, lifestyle writer, can be reached at 245-3681, ext. 257 or pwoolway@kauaipubco.com.


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