Thursday | November 23, 2017
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Time to rejoice

<p>The Kona Music Society in earlier times. Special to West Hawaii Today</p><p>The Kona Music Society chorus membership has grown by leaps and bounds. The ensemble will present three concerts this holiday season. Photos special to West Hawaii Today</p><p>Members of the Kona Music Society’s youth chorus perform at the Sheraton Kona Resort and Spa at Keauhou Bay. Special to West Hawaii Today</p><p>Kona Music Society’s Artistic Director Susan Duprey talks to the audience at an earlier performance.</p>

Kona Music Society’s Artistic Director Susan Duprey and her 70-member community chorus invite Hawaii residents to embark on a musical adventure as the organization presents its annual holiday concert series: George Frideric Handel’s “Messiah” at 7 p.m. Nov. 30 at Kahilu Theatre in Waimea and at 5 p.m. Dec. 1 at King Kamehameha’s Kona Beach Hotel in Kailua-Kona. A free third annual “Joy to the World” community concert will be held at 4 p.m. Dec. 22 at Old Kona Airport Park’s Makaeo pavilion.

The director and a dedicated volunteer cast of vocalists have prepared for both the classical holiday performances and world music concert in a rehearsal style in accordance with Duprey’s choral pedagogy. “We work with the layers of music and bring the poetry alive,” said Duprey. “We work not only with the notes and pitches of a song (in four, six, and eight-part harmonies), but the lyrics as well.”

The trained musician, who is in her fourth year at the helm of Kona Music Society, prides herself on being a workhorse, expecting the most of her singers’ energy and talents — not a far stretch for someone who travels by airplane from Oahu to attend weekly rehearsals. She has the ability to push at her singers’ vocal limitations to extract the desired unified effect of a one-voice ensemble. “I make them work. But gosh darn it, do we have fun,” she laughs, noting she is constantly breaking into different accents, including her “native” pidgin. Her choir members would agree. Her commitment and high expectations are what have enabled the group to continue to expand both geographically –with participants traveling from Waimea and Volcano — and musically, through the complex compositions and arrangements demonstrated through their latest performances of Morten Lauridsen’s “Lux Aeterna” and Johannes Brahms’ “Requiem.”

“I absolutely love Susan Duprey’s artistic leadership,” said Gloria Juan, accompanist for both the adult and youth choruses, who has been involved with the organization for 24 years. “She comes exceptionally versed in musical abilities and understanding of the human condition. Through her direction the singers come to see the full range of emotions that music brings — sorrow, pain, grief, anger, exuberance, joy, and peace.”

Duprey’s mother was a singer and her late father, John McCreary, was the organist and choirmaster at both St. Andrew’s Cathedral and Duprey’s alma mater Iolani School. “Music followed me everywhere,” she recalled of how, at a young age she tried to resist her natural inclinations. Her undergraduate degree in Spanish from Gettysburg College in Pennsylvania eventually led to singing professionally during her studies abroad in Spain and Mexico.

She later pursued a graduate degree at Westminster Choir College of Rider University in Princeton, N.J., where she graduated with distinction with a master’s of music degree. She credits her diverse experience to her vocal participation with the Westminster Choir, the New York Philharmonic and The Philadelphia Orchestra; and her vast knowledge to the tutelage of tenor Thomas Faracco and conductor Joseph Flummerfelt.

However, for Duprey, music and home were intrinsically linked, and she returned to Oahu to lead the choral department at Hawaii Pacific University. She delved into large-scale choral productions founding the Hawaii Pacific University International Chorale and Vocal Ensemble and later prepared the HPU Vocal Ensemble for its Carnegie Hall debut in 2004. She directed choirs at First Presbyterian Church in Honolulu, Hispanic and African-American churches and performed with the Hawaiian ensemble, Kawaiolaonapukanileo.

While not dismissing her choral and directorial accomplishments, Duprey longed to return to the “country choral scene.” So in 2008 she founded Windward Choral Society in Kailua, Oahu, and began her journey back to her musical roots — the ohana-based perpetuation of live choral singing for the enjoyment of local communities.

Two years later, former Kona Music Society president Kate Limbos called. Based on the recommendation of a friend of Limbos and former college classmate of Duprey, Limbos inquired if the Kailua director would be interested in leading the Kona chorus on an interim basis. “After the year I was asked to stay on, and here I am,” said the interisland conductor. “I just worked the flight into my commute. I love it. It’s great. The group is wonderful.”

This holiday season Duprey will look to break down musical barriers. She will present “Messiah” – the first two shows of Big Island concert series — through what she described as “not tuxedo music, but board shorts and slippahs.” Duprey’s trained ensemble will engage the audience behind the accompaniment of a baroque orchestra.

Capping the Kona Music Society’s series of holiday performances will be the free community concert at the Old Kona Airport Park pavilion. The performance will showcase both the adult and youth choruses and will feature brass, string, percussion and woodwind accompaniment. A compilation of cross-cultural world music will include songs in Hawaiian, Hebrew, Latin, Russian, Spanish, Swahili and Swedish. Joining the society this year to perform a collection of Appalachian Christmas carols will be Patti Amelotte, from Los Angeles, playing the hammered dulcimer. The chorus will also encourage audience participation for a number of traditional Christmas carols.

“KMS provides more than a nice afternoon of listening to good choral music,” said Juan about the volunteer community chorus events. “It provides a vehicle for the singers and their audience to understand what it means to be human – the human experience needs to be a shared experience. In an age of technology where interacting with people face-to-face is being replaced by virtual communities, making and listening to live music brings us together.”

It is for the reasons that Juan described that Duprey flies weekly to work with KMS. For Duprey, this caliber of musicianship and outstanding talent, “worthy of any stage,” cannot be contained within the walls of the rehearsal space. Choral music, its message, and the pure sound of human voices joined together in song should be communally heard and celebrated.

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