In a year when physical distance has transformed our sense of community, the virtual creativity of the Kona and Windward choral societies has redefined the spirit of togetherness. This holiday season, the societies, known collectively as Na Puukani, will open their virtual doors to usher in Christmas with a Zoom “Messiah Sing-Along” from 4-5:30 p.m. Dec. 13.
For the past 30 years in Kona, the Messiah performance has been as customary as putting up the Christmas tree, Kona Choral Society artistic director Susan McCreary Duprey shared, quoting a long-time member of her Kona society.
“We’re not letting a pandemic slow us down,” said Duprey, who has been hosting weekly virtual Zoom rehearsals since the summer. “We are going to use what we have and people from all over the world can join in. We’re continuing the tradition.”
The free online community showcase will feature the multi-movement Part I of G.F. Handel’s famed Messiah, including the iconic Hallelujah Chorus. This season, Duprey welcomes guests from any time zone to join in the festivities, bring their own score (or follow along on Zoom or download a copy) and partake in this vocal and instrumental December capstone event. While the combined chorus Na Puukani have pre-recorded the concert, live soloists will include: Amy Mills, soprano; Wendy Buzby, mezzo soprano; Bernaldo Evangelista, tenor; and Dan Garrett, bass.
The process of revising the choral system, transferring and blending sounds from a physical to virtual space, had an arduous learning curve. Kona Choral Society singer Peter Anderegg helped with technology to open up online scores and videos to help support singers as they practiced. Duprey moved singers into smaller breakout sections on Zoom and shared the subtleties in the notations of the music itself.
“We were able to focus on the intricacies of our sound and I was able to share with my singers the score through my eyes,” Duprey explained. “We’ve been hearing things differently and have taken our ears on a journey. I’m sharing with my singers what I do and what I’m listening for. It’s helped us become more well-rounded choral musicians.”
Concerts the size and scale of choral performances may well be some of the last events to reopen, but choral societies haven’t sat idly by. Membership has grown, as both organizations have gained new singers, such as elderly folks who can sing from home and former members now living on the mainland who can join Zoom rehearsals.
“We’ll continue to be safe and creative and safe in our creativity,” Duprey said. “There is healing in the process of creating music and we all sing with the anticipation of being physically together again soon. I have been so proud of their (her choruses) courage, tenacity, and ability to learn on the fly. We are on this journey together, by holomua, moving forward in the most positive actions.”
For now Duprey and her “joyful merrymakers” will continue to bring the community together through these new avenues of choral performance and share the undeniable healing power of communal singing.
For the concert Zoom link or for more information, contact KonaChoralSociety@gmail.com or WindwardChoralSociety@gmail.com. Space is limited. While the event is free, donations are appreciated and can be made online at www.konachoralsociety.org or www.thewindwardchoralsociety.org.