“Holiday Card to Hilo”, 2 PM Sunday December 14, 2014, UH Hilo Performing Arts Center

holiday card to hiloclick on image to purchase tickets at the University website

concert location: UH Hilo Performing Arts Center at Google Maps


“Tapestry of Light” Christmas Concert, Sunday, December 7, 2014, 3 PM

HCC Poster 12-14001

Hilo Community Chorus Concert Set for December 7, 2014

The Hilo Community Chorus, conducted by Tom McAlexander and accompanied by Walter Greenwood, will present its annual holiday concert on Sunday, December 7 at 3:00 PM at the Church of the Holy Cross in Hilo. However, you will want to arrive early–by 2:45– to hear pre-concert music played by Greenwood on the fabulous Holy Cross organ.

The program opens with “Christmas…In About Three Minutes,” consisting of a number of snippets of well-known carols. You will be asked to count them, so be ready! Following will be several familiar carols as well as some fresh off the press. Members of the Chorus will be featured as soloists in several of the songs, and three members of the Christ Lutheran Church Bell Choir will join in a new arrangement of “I Saw Three Ships.”

In the second half of the program the Chorus will present Joseph M. Martin’s “Tapestry of Light: A Celtic Christmas Celebration.” They will be accompanied by a Celtic consort of Greenwood on piano, Loren Brownlea on violin, Herb Mahelona on cello, Cheryl Shine on flute and penny whistle, and Chelsea Pacheco on percussion. As in the first half, solos will be sung by Chorus members. In “Tapestry,” Martin, who will be in Hilo next October, has taken very familiar Celtic tunes and added new words to tell the Christmas story. Members of the Christ Lutheran Church Chancel Choir will join with the Chorus in this presentation.

This concert is free. It is presented as a gift to the community.

The Accidental Conductor by Tom McAlexander

Tom McI never intended to become a choral conductor; yet in 1996, at the age of 57, I found myself to be one. Now how could that happen?

I came from a singing family–we were always singing around the house. From around the age of 12 I’ve always sung in a choir, beginning in a church choir, then in high school and college, singing in the choir and ensembles. Later I graduated to a large, auditioned community chorus. But I was always just one of the tenors with no thoughts of conducting. Until that day. . . .

After retiring and moving to Volcano, Hawaii, I joined the newly-formed Volcano Festival Chorus, a group of about 20 singers created to sing the Advent/Christmas portion of Handel’s Messiah at the Volcano Arts Center’s annual Christmas program. It was led by Camille Almy, who had retired and moved to Volcano after a long career in opera and choral music on Oahu. Over the next couple of years we became close friends, and when she decided to move to California to be near one of her daughters because of health issues, she asked me to take over for her. At first I declined, not wanting to be a conductor. We then had a meeting to discuss the list of people who fit the criteria for the job: 1) know something about choral music; 2) have the time to do the job; and 3) be willing to work for nothing. After about an hour of discussion, we had come up with only one name–and so I became the new volunteer director of the Volcano Festival Chorus, a position I held from 1996 to 2011.

We had two concerts each year, a holiday themed concert in December and another concert in May. My first concert in December of 1996 was a marathon–twenty-three songs, including the 13-minute Fantasia on Christmas Carols by Vaughan Williams. Our first spring concert was music of Cole Porter, followed by music of George Gershwin. Later concerts ranged from Disney movie music to Beatles tunes to grand opera. I had no fear. The Volcano Festival Chorus is now part of Kilauea Drama and Entertainment Network, and is conducted by Roch Jones.

I never intended to become the conductor of the Hilo Community Chorus; yet, early in the twenty- first century, I found myself in that position. For several decades the community folk were in a union with the chorus at the University of Hawaii at Hilo, but when Ken Staton returned as professor/choral director after a long hiatus, I volunteered to help him in any way he needed. He soon found that there was a large influx of students who wanted to sing in the choir–about 130 of them–and there was not a room large enough to hold all of them and the community folk, so he asked me to rehearse them while he rehearsed the students and we would put them all together for the last few weeks (when the stage of the theater was available), and then they would all sing together in concert. This worked pretty well for a few years, and then Ken retired. By this time we were weaning ourselves from the University Chorus and we quickly formed a Board of Directors and were off and running as the Hilo Community Chorus with me as the volunteer musical director.

While the two groups were still together in the spring of 2007, Ken decided to present Karl Jenkins’ Requiem. Meanwhile, in New York, a new group was forming (Distinguished Concerts International New York) to present concerts at major concert halls, and Karl Jenkins was on the board of directors. They were looking for American choruses who had presented his Requiem. They found us through the publisher and invited us to sing with them at Carnegie Hall. About forty of us (students and community folk) went to New York in January of 2008 for that performance, along with other choruses from around the world. Since then, a number of us have been back several times for performances at Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center, which included more music of Karl Jenkins, Orff’s Carmina Burana, and Handel’s Messiah. We have a standing invitation to sing with them any time they perform with mass choruses. Chorus members have also traveled to China, South America, and Turkey for DCINY performances.

Our first full concert was in the fall of 2008–a concert of Spirituals and Appalachian Gospel Songs. It was memorable to me because I had Whipple surgery for pancreatic cancer in early August of that year, and got out of the hospital about a month before the concert. I conducted all of the spirituals except one, and Melanie Oldfather conducted the gospel songs. The one spiritual that Melanie conducted was “Ain’t Got Time to Die,” which I sang as a solo with choral accompaniment.

Later concerts included an all-Vivaldi concert (conducted by my old choral conductor, Barry Hemphill), Karl Jenkins’ Stabat Mater (conducted by Jonathan Griffith, principal conductor of DCINY), Messiah, Parts II and III, and a 9/11 commemorative concert featuring music of John Rutter and Karl Jenkins. Of course the group always presents a holiday-themed concert in December. I still serve as their volunteer conductor, and in May of 2014 the Chorus presented a concert featuring Haydn’s Lord Nelson Mass and Laudidsen’s Lux Aeterna.

Since 2007 the Chorus has also co-sponsored an annual Messiah sing along at the Church of the Holy Cross in Hilo. The Chorus sits in the audience and serves as section leaders, soloists are chosen for each performance, and I serve as conductor.

I never intended to become a church choir director, yet in 2012 when our organist/choirmaster left Christ Lutheran Church and our new organist didn’t really want to conduct the choir, I volunteered to become choir director. That year we presented the choir’s first cantata, Joseph M. Martin’s Season of Praise. In December of 2013 the choir combined with the chorus to sing Martin’s new cantata, Appalachian Winter, with a ‘bluegrass style” consort, both in concert with the Hilo Community Chorus and in church service, with some of the HCC singers.

I never intended to be a choral conductor, yet I truly believe that I am now doing what I am supposed to be doing at this stage of my life: conducting a community chorus and a church choir. I wouldn’t want to do anything else. As to why I would want to be a volunteer conductor, I have often wondered why myself until I recently had a conversation with my 83-year-old brother. He has been a professional steel guitar player in East Texas for nigh on to 60 years. I asked him if he was still playing, and he stated that he and a few of the boys still played every Friday night at nearby nursing homes. When I asked if they paid him, he said, “No…but I get to play.” So the answer came to me in that conversation: I do it because I still get to play.

Eternal Music, Eternal Light: Saturday May 10, 2014, 7 PM

Eternal Music Eternal Light poster spring-2 copy

Hilo Community Chorus performs “Eternal Music, Eternal Light”

On Saturday, May 10 at 7 p.m. the Hilo Community Chorus, in conjunction with the Palace Theater, proudly presents a program of two master choral works, Haydn’s “Missa in Angustiis” (more commonly known as the “Lord Nelson Mass”), and a work by contemporary composer Morten Lauridsen, the “Lux Aeterna” (or “Eternal Light.”)

The “Eternal Music” of our program, the “Lord Nelson Mass” was written in 1798. Haydn’s chief biographer, H. C. Robbins Landon, has written that this mass “is arguably Haydn’s greatest single composition”. Under the baton of conductor Tom McAlexander, the Hilo Community Chorus is proud to feature four of the finest performers in the Hilo community doing the demanding solo work. Kaui Trainer, soprano; Gerdine Markus, mezzo-soprano; Pedro Ka’awaloa, tenor; and Barry Brandes, bass, will be joined at the organ by noted accompanist Walter Greenwood.

“Lux Aeterna” translates from the Latin as “Eternal Light”, and is a five-movement requiem which, according to its composer, “is an intimate work of quiet serenity centered around a universal symbol of hope, reassurance, goodness and illumination at all levels.”

Morten Lauridsen is the most widely-performed modern choral composer in the world. In 2006, Lauridsen was named an ‘American Choral Master’ by the National Endowment for the Arts. In 2007 he received the National Medal of Arts from the President in a White House ceremony, “for his composition of radiant choral works combining musical beauty, power and spiritual depth that have thrilled audiences worldwide.”

Tickets on sale at The Palace Theater Box Office for only $12, or directly from Chorus members for $10

7th Annual Messiah Sing-along: Sunday, Dec 22, 2013; 3 PM


Seventh Annual Messiah Sing-Along

Why do people stand when the Hallelujah chorus from Handel’s Messiah is sung? Legend has it that the tradition began when, at the first London performance of Messiah in 1743, King George II happened to be present. He stood up (presumably overcome by the majesty of the music), and when the king stood up, everyone was expected to stand up, and the custom has carried through the years. Actually there is no record of King George II or any member of the royal family ever attending a Messiah performance. The legend is based on a letter written decades later by someone who was not present at the performance but who had heard the story from a friend who claimed to have been present. And so the legend was born.

This year, on Sunday, December 22 at 3:00 pm, the seventh Messiah sing-along will occur at the Church of the Holy Cross, 440 W. Lanikaula St. in Hilo. The Hilo Community Chorus will join the audience in singing the great choruses from Part I, the Advent/Christmas portion of the oratorio, with the addition of the Hallelujah chorus from Part II and Worthy Is the Lamb/Amen from Part III. The choral numbers will be conducted by Tom McAlexander, and the accompaniment will be provided by Walter Greenwood, organ; Rick Mazurowski, piano; and Armando Mendoza, trumpet. Soloists are Kaui Trainer, soprano; Gerdine Markus, alto; Pedro Kaawaloa, tenor; and Barry Brandes, bass.So bring your own score, if you have one, or borrow one from the church as you enter. Or, if you prefer, just come and enjoy the music. You may sit with your section (look for the signs on the pews), or sit wherever you please. And should you stand during the singing of the Hallelujah chorus? Just follow your heart.

–Tom McAlexander

Christmas Concert: Sunday, December 8, 2013; 2:45 PM

Upcoming Concert: Sunday December 8 2013; 2:45 PM

Please join us for our annual Christmas concert this Sunday December 8 2013 at the Church of the Holy Cross, 440 W Lanikaula St, Hilo, HI 96720.

Pre-concert music starts at 2:45. The chorus begins singing at 3:00.

THE CONCERT IS FREE, and there will be calabashes available for a free-will offering.

For more information about the concert, please read the post below.

Hilo Community Chorus concert slated for Dec. 8, 2013

tribune herald photo by

Hilo Community Chorus concert slated for Dec. 8

The Hilo Tribune Herald published a nice article about our upcoming concert ! Click the above link to go the Tribune Herald website. The photo is from a recent rehearsal and was taken by our conductor, Tom McAlexander. Tom also wrote the press release that was used for the story:

The Hilo Community Chorus will present “Appalachian Winter and Other Songs of the Season” in concert 3 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 8, at the Church of the Holy Cross in Hilo.

“And, the concert begins before the concert begins,” said HCC music director Tom McAlexander. “Roland Maurer, a retired professional bassoonist/oboist from Switzerland now living in Kona, will be playing pre-concert music by Friedrich Zipp, Johann Ernst Galliard and Johann Sebastian Bach, accompanied by Walter Greenwood on organ, beginning at 2:45 p.m.

“You won’t want to miss these outstanding musicians, so come early and enjoy.”

Maurer and Greenwood will also begin the second half of the program with Ennio Morricone’s “Gabriel’s Oboe.”

The concert promises to be varied and entertaining. The music for the first half of the program consists of new carols or new arrangements of old, familiar carols, all composed or arranged in the 21st century.

There will be two medleys of familiar carols; a blending of “Jingle Bells” with music from Tchaikovsky’s “Nutcracker Suite,” two new madrigals, an Irish “jig” carol and other carols, familiar and new.

The second half of the program features Joseph M. Martin’s “Appalachian Winter,” music that celebrates the legacy of early American carols and hymnody, including Sacred Harp tunes, Shaker hymns, and Appalachian melodies. A “bluegrass style” consort will accompany these songs.

The consort is composed of Walter Greenwood, piano; Susan McGovern, violin; Herb Mahelona, cello; Cheryl Shine, flute and recorder; Charlie Rosario, guitar; Steve Ryan, mandolin and banjo; and Chelsea Pacheco, percussion. The piece (and concert) ends with a rousing rendition of a blend of “Children, Go Where I Send Thee” and “Go, Tell It on the Mountain.”

The concert is free with calabash. For more information, call or email McAlexander at 985-7192 or tommac@hawaii.rr.com.

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