I was warbling along to Handel's "Messiah" when I pulled into the parking lot of Iao Congregational Church in Wailuku last Tuesday night. Light poured out from the church's tall windows into the darkness as I switched off my engine and got out of the truck.
For a moment, I thought I'd left the stereo on. "Arise, shine, for thy light is come!" The music was still going!
But now it sounded even better. I followed the angelic voices up the stairs and into the church where 30-some members of the Maui Concert Chorus were rehearsing for the upcoming "Sing-It-Yourself Messiah." The ninth annual event will be held at 3 p.m. Sunday in the Monarchy Ballroom at the Hyatt Regency Maui Resort & Spa in Ka'anapali.
JOHN HENRY photo
Celia Canty conducts an enlarged chamber ensemble of 12 players this year, as well as the Maui Concert Chorus, the soloists and the audience in this “annual gift to the community” returning for its ninth year at 3 p.m Sunday at the Hyatt Regency Maui Resort & Spa’s Monarchy Ballroom.
Music books in hand, men and women were lifting their voices together in song: "Say unto the cities of Judah, behold your God!"
They sounded perfect to me, but Celia Canty, longtime leader of the Maui Choral Arts Association, had a keener ear. "It's JUUU-dah, not Ju-DAAH!" she gently chided the singers.
This year's sing-along is especially exciting to Canty. Ever since its debut back when MCAA was still part of the Maui Symphony, the event has incorporated a new aspect every year. This time, the new aspect is really more of an old one: a return to historic tradition.
Composed by George Frideric Handel in 1741, "Messiah" was originally performed as a fundraiser for children's charities. "In fact, during Handel's time, he never once conducted the piece for self-benefit, always for communities needing help," Canty explained."Now, over 250 years later, the piece is still commonly performed all over the world as a Christmas concert; however, the idea of its being performed as a charitable fundraiser has long left the tradition."
Canty is restoring that idea by inviting local nonprofit organizations to share the space as a way to spread awareness of their causes and encourage donations. She hopes participation in the "Charitable Gift-Giving Fair" will grow every year.
Canty is a big believer in getting involved, I soon witnessed when she called me to join the singers. Shyly, I made my way to the wooden pews at the front where the women made room for me and gave me a musical score.
Memories of high school Concert Choir came flooding back as I did my best to follow along with the resounding lyrics. "Wonderful! Counsellor! The Mighty God! The Everlasting Father! The Prince of Peace!"
As we plunged into the vibrant "Hallelujah" chorus, I realized I was guilty of what Canty called "accenting the 'yah.' " Fortunately, my seatmate, seven-year MCAA member Mary Lynne Boland, showed me a little trick of leaning forward with each "lu," and "HalleLUjah!"- much nicer.
The pieces are demanding to say the least, racing up and down the scale and through lengthy, multinote melismas-including a 57-noter on the word "born" in "For Unto Us a Child Is Born." Experienced chorus members aren't fazed, but what about "Sing-It-Yourself" audience members?
Boland acknowledges the challenge of Handel's "Messiah," but encourages people to come to the sing-along anyway. "A lot of people don't sing; they just enjoy the music," she said (although trying NOT to sing during the standing "Hallelujah" chorus would be quite a challenge in itself!)
The first half of the show will be Part 1 of "Messiah," and the second half features familiar Christmas carols. The soloists are Maui's own Leighanna Locke Edwards, Robert E. Wills and Karyn Sarring. This year features the largest chamber ensemble yet, with 12 players from Maui, Molokai and Oahu, including players from the Maui Youth Philharmonic Orchestra. The event also includes a crafts table for keiki, a professional family photographer, and an appearance by Santa Claus himself.
"The event has really become our musical gift to the community!" Canty said.
Driving home later that night, I cranked up the "Messiah" CD and sang along happily at full volume - 57-note melismas and all.
Advance tickets (until Friday) are $10 for adults, $5 for youth 18 and younger; tickets at the door are $15 for adults, $13 for seniors, $8 for youth. The Hyatt is offering kama'aina room rates and special discounts for "Messiah" attendees. For tickets, call 838-3006; or for more information, visit www.mauimusicarts.org.
It may be 80 degrees outside, but inside Wailuku's Historic Iao Theater, it's Christmas! Maui OnStage presents "Revealing Christmas," a holiday celebration of music and dance featuring many of Maui's best-known performers.The family-friendly event is directed and choreographed by Alexander Cardinalli (rumor has it he might even reprise his roles as Trepak and a Rat from the recent Ballet Hawaii production of "The Nutcracker"), and features traditional holiday songs and stories, contemporary music and creative dance numbers. Showtimes are Friday at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday at 3 p.m. Tickets are $10; available by calling 242-6969 or online at www.mauionstage.com.
On Saturday, the Historic Iao Theater will resound with the sweet sounds of Maui's Hawaiian Choir, Na Leo Lani O Maui, in its inaugural holiday concert, "A Christmas Wish." The event features kumu Uluwehi Guerrero, Ahumanu, and radio personalities Alaka'i Paleka and Uncle Poki and friends. Showtime is 7:30 p.m. A portion of the proceeds will benefit Maui Food Bank. Tickets are $20; available by calling 280-8557.