Esther Yoo, Artistic Director, O‘ahu Choral Society
Since 2008, Esther Yoo has been the Artistic Director of the O‘ahu Choral Society. A native of Toronto, Canada, Yoo holds a Doctor of Musical Arts in Conducting from the College-Conservatory of Music, University of Cincinnati. She received her undergraduate degree in Music Education and a Master’s degree in Conducting, both from the University of Toronto studying with Raffi Armenien and Doreen Rao.
Yoo also graduated with an Artist Diploma in piano performance from the Hochschule für Musik in Munich and has studied extensively with Russian pianist Vera Gornostaeva. She has appeared in festivals and master classes in France, Austria, and Switzerland and has given recitals in Germany, France, and Italy. As a conductor, Yoo was invited as a conducting fellow at the Oregon Bach Festival and Toronto Bach Festival with Maestro Helmuth Rilling. She has also participated in conducting master classes with Robert Shaw, Sir David Willcocks, Harry Christophers, Stephen Darlington, and Dale Warland. Yoo brings professional choral singing experience, having sung under the batons of Robert Shaw, James Levine, James Conlon, and Helmuth Rilling, among others. A versatile conductor, she has worked extensively with high school, collegiate, and professional choirs, including choirs at Cincinnati Hills Christian Academy, University of Hawai‘i at Manoa, Hollins University, University of Toronto, and the University of Cincinnati, College-Conservatory of Music. She has also conducted concerts with Canada’s professional chamber choir, The Elmer Iseler Singers.
Since coming to Hawai‘i, Yoo has prepared choruses for performances with David Willcocks, Andreas Delfs, Jean-Marie Zeitouni, Andrew Litton, and JoAnne Falletta. She has also conducted major choral/symphonic works including J. S. Bach’s Magnificat and John Rutter’s Gloria with the Honolulu Symphony Orchestra. More recently she conducted Mozart’s Requiem, Haydn’s Nelson Mass, Carmina Burana, and Brahms’ Requiem with members of the Hawai‘i Symphony Orchestra, as well as Bach’s Mass in B minor and Dvorak’s Stabat Mater with the Hawai‘i Symphony Orchestra. She has also collaborated and conducted works with Hawai‘i Youth Opera Chorus, Hawai‘i Education of the Arts Choirs, Hawai‘i Youth Symphony, and Chamber Music Hawai‘i.
Yoo is active as a guest clinician and adjudicator. Previously, she held faculty positions at Hollins University in Virginia, University of Hawai‘i at Manoa, and Hawai‘i Pacific University. She is a member of Chorus America, National Collegiate Chorus Organization, American Choral Directors Association, Hawai‘i Music Teachers Association, College Music Society, and International Federation of Choral Musicians.
Angela Brown, Soprano
Angela Brown personifies the ideal soprano: sheer vocal power; luxurious finesse; and shimmering, high pianissimos. With a charming personality larger than life, she unites opera, pops, and gospel in one sensational voice. A featured artist on the Grammy Award® winning recording “Ask Your Mama,” Angela’s international reputation continues to grow. Her highly successful Metropolitan Opera debut in the title role of Aida captured instant attention from international print and broadcast media and catapulted Angela onto the world’s prestigious opera and symphonic stages.
Recent seasons include co-starring in the world-premiere performances of the American opera, Charlie Parker’s Yardbird with Opera Philadelphia in Philadelphia and at The Apollo in New York, returning to her hometown of Indianapolis for the 2014 Yuletide Celebration, performing with Asheville Symphony Orchestra, Buffalo Philharmonic, and the Tuskegee University Choir in a special Christmas concert. This season, Angela sings Beethoven Nine at Lincoln Center, reprises the role of Addie Parker in Yardbird for Lyric Opera of Chicago, Madison Opera, and The Empire in London, and sings solo recitals throughout the United States.
Throughout her career, Angela has joined forces with symphonic pops legends Marvin Hamlisch, Jack Everly, and Erich Kunzel while traveling the world for classical performances at Lincoln Center, Paris Opera, Vienna State Opera, Capetown Opera, Deutsche Oper Berlin, Edmonton Opera, Calgary Philharmonic, Shanghai World Expo, Moscow Performing Arts Center, and more.
Charlene Chi, Mezzo-Sporano
Originally from Toronto, Canada, Charlene is an active performer of operatic, chamber and concert repertoire. Last year, she had the pleasure of appearing as the Alto Soloist with the Hawai’i Symphony Orchestra & Oahu Choral Society’s performance of Bach Magnificat. For several years, Charlene was active in the Los Angeles and Santa Barbara areas, and has also provided solo and chamber recitals in the Pacific Northwest, Denver, Canada, Korea, Germany and Italy. Recently, Charlene appeared as a guest soloist in Rome’s Basilica de Santa Maria del Popolo, performing Pergolesi’s Stabat Mater with three women’s choruses, conducted by Maestro Fabrizio Fucile. She also collaborated in concert with celebrated Vatican organist Maestro Giancarlo Libertucci to present the newly restored and historically significant organ and mural in Bologna. In 2014, Charlene was honoured to be only the second singer ever to record her debut CD at the world renowned Fazioli Concert Hall in Sacile, Italy.
In April 2010, Charlene had her debut at the legendary Walt Disney Concert Hall as the Alto Soloist for Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9, to a full house in Los Angeles, California. She also appeared as a featured soloist at the funeral of the late President of South Korea, Kim Dae-Jung, where she had the honour of premiering a solo cantata which was composed specifically for the occasion.
In 2009, Charlene was a competition winner of the Beverly Hills Chamber Music Series. She was a first-prize winner of the Bohemian Opera Association of Los Angeles vocal competition. A recipient of the highly-acclaimed Léni Fé Bland Vocal Scholarship, she has also been honoured with numerous awards such as the USC Jeannette MacDonald Opera Scholarship, Marilyn Horne Scholarship for Vocal Performance, Flora L. Thornton Endowed Voice Scholarship Award, and was a recipient of the Arques Charitable Trust Fellowship. Charlene had received a special congressional recognition from the U.S. House of Representatives and the County of Los Angeles for her active involvement as a performer in the cultural musical development of the Korean-American community.
In 2005, Charlene made her operatic debut with Opera Santa Barbara as Suor Infermiera, in Puccini’s Suor Angelica, and has also performed over 14 roles including Carmen, Dorabella, Mélisande, Vanessa, Orfeo, Romeo, Siebel, and the Old Maid, in both full productions and opera scenes at UC Santa Barbara and at USC’s Thornton School of Music. She has also performed as an Alto soloist of oratorios, masses and requiems by Händel, Bach, Haydn, Mendelssohn and Duraflé.
Prior to pursuing her graduate degrees, Charlene applied her previous training in piano, violin and flute by teaching music in the classroom for several years (K-12), where she built and conducted choruses, orchestras and concert bands for Middle School and High School ensembles. At the University level, she was chosen as a graduate assistant during her Master’s and Doctoral training, where she was an instructor for Class Voice and individual vocal instruction to undergraduate and graduate students. For three years, Charlene enjoyed a vocal professorship at Hope International University in Fullerton, CA. Charlene was delighted to be the newest addition to the vocal department at San Diego State University’s School of Music and Dance in 2010, before relocating to northern Italy, and most recently was a Visiting Vocal Professor at BYU-Hawaii in Laie, Hawaii.
Currently, Charlene resides in Honolulu, with her husband Paul, their daughters Natalia & Kaleia, and their dog Zeus.
Leon Williams, Baritone
American baritone Leon Williams has performed Mendelssohn’s Elijah (Honolulu Symphony and Florida Orchestra), Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony (Hawaii Symphony/Andrew Litton), Orff’s Carmina Burana (Florida Orchestra, Baltimore, Reading, Alabama, Lima, Westchester, Grand Rapids, Jacksonville, Hartford and Colorado Symphonies, National Philharmonic, and at the Berkshire Choral Festival); Vaughan-Williams’ A Sea Symphony, Britten’s War Requiem, the Mozart and Fauré Requiems and Haydn’s Creation with the Colorado Symphony; A Sea Symphony with the Portland, Colorado, Grand Rapids and Illinois Symphonies and Florida Orchestra; Fauré’s Requiem with Raymond Leppard and the Kansas City Symphony; Brahms’ Requiem with the Alabama, Springfield and Santa Barbara Symphonies; Weill’s Lindberghflug with the American Composers Orchestra at Carnegie Hall; Mahler’s Rückertlieder at Japan’s Sapporo Festival, and the composer’s Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen and Eighth Symphony at New York’s Bard Festival; Copland’s Old American Songs with the Warren Philharmonic, the Verdi Requiem with the Modesto Symphony and Lee Hoiby’s I Have a Dream with the Amarillo Symphony. Among the other conductors with whom he has worked are Leon Botstein, David Lockington, Andrew Constantine and Marin Alsop. As well-versed in “classical” and “pops” literature, Mr. Williams is celebrated for programs of spirituals, Holiday and popular standards and showtunes. He appeared on Broadway and on tour in the musical Ragtime, and has been guest soloist on “Pops” programs with the Grand Rapids, Elgin, Stockton, Westfield and South Bend Symphonies.
Opera credits include Anthony in Sondheim’s Sweeney Todd at Toledo Opera, Papageno in Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte and the same composer’s Figaro at Hawaii Opera Theatre. A much-in-demand Porgy and Bess principal, he sang Porgy with Yuri Temirkanov conducting in St. Petersburg, Russia; Sportin’ Life with Markand Thakar and the Duluth-Superior Symphony and Jake in the Dallas Opera production, as well as for his Los Angeles Philharmonic and Boston Symphony debuts, both under Bramwell Tovey.
Passionately devoted to the art of the song, Mr.Williams has performed Brahms’ Vier ernste Gesänge with Sarah Rothenberg and the Da Camera Society of Houston (to which he returned for a special program of the music of Charles Wuorinen, repeated at the Guggenheim under the baton of James Levine); an “Art of the Spiritual” program at San Francisco’s Herbst Theater; an all-American program at Japan’s Tochigi Music Festival and Maine’s Arcady Music Festival; and given recitals in Hartford, Pittsburgh, Princeton and throughout his native New York City, including Carnegie’s Weill Recital Hall, Merkin Hall (the songs of Richard Hundley) and the 92nd Street Y (a much-acclaimed all-Poulenc program with Michel Sénéchal and Dalton Baldwin). Mr. Williams has won top prizes in the Naumburg, Joy-in-Singing, and Lola Wilson Hayes Competitions. He holds a Master of Music degree from Juilliard and Bachelor’s degree from Westminster Choir College of Rider University.
His recordings include Frederick Delius’ Appalachia – Variations on an Old Slave Song with Final Chorus and Sea Drift with Stefan Sanderling and the Florida Orchestra on the Naxos label; The Art of Leon Williams, Leon Sings Noël and Handfuls (see: http://www.watchfiremusic.com/artist.php?arid=34].
Keith Ikaia Purdy, Tenor
Keith Ikaia Purdy, tenor, was named „one of the brightest stars in the tenor heavens“ by Germany’s leading newspaper Die Welt. Ikaia-Purdy was born in Hawaii, beginning his musical studies while a pupil of the Bishop Estate Kamehameha Schools. He continued his musical education in California, graduating in vocal performance from the University of the Redlands. He completed his formal training as a scholarship student of the legendary tenor Carlo Bergonzi, under the auspices of the annual Accademia Verdiana seminar in Busseto, Italy.
Ikaia-Purdy began his professional career in the United States, concentrating on roles such as Don Jose (Carmen), Rodolfo (La Bohème), Cavaradossi (Tosca), Roberto (Le Villi), Duca (Rigoletto), Ernesto (Don Pasquale) and Aroldo (Aroldo). In 1989 he made his European debut as Corrado (Il Corsaro) in Busseto, whereupon he was engaged by Amsterdam’s Concertgebouw for the Berlioz Requiem, and by the Hessen State Theater, Wiesbaden for Don Carlo in the International May Festival. He remained in Wiesbaden for two years, adding roles such as Faust (Faust) and Rodolfo (Luisa Miller) to his active repertoire. In the same period he debuted as Werther with the Hamburg State Opera in the premiere of Harry Kupfer’s new production.
In May 1992 he joined the ensemble of the Vienna State Opera, first appearing as Alfredo (Traviata). He appeared in the following 15 seasons in over 265 performances of 23 leading roles; among them: Cavaradossi (Tosca), Edgardo (Lucia), Gustavo (Ballo in Maschera), Don Carlos (Italian and French), Arnold (Guillaume Tell), Gaston (Jérusalem), Stiffelio, Hoffmann, Des Grieux (Manon), Faust (Mefistofele) and Fernand (La Favorite). During his final season, after making his company debut as Arrigo (in Vespri Siciliani with Nucci, Radvanonsky and Burchaladze,) he was one of twelve tenors honored to sing in Intendant Ion Hollender’s Farewell Concert.
Guest appearances have brought the artist to such leading theaters as the New York MET (Hoffmann), La Scala, Milan (Jérusalem), Covent Garden (Alzira), Teatro Colon Buenos Aires (Faust), The Norwegian Royal Opera Oslo (Don Carlo), Copenhagen (Don Carlo), Carnegie Hall (Jérusalem), Athens (I Vespri Siciliani, I Lombardi, Rigoletto), Salzburg (Carlo), Munich’s Bavarian State Opera (Ballo, Bohème, Carlo, Butterfly, Rosenkavalier, Traviata) Trieste, Berlin (Bohème, Butterfly, Ballo), Dresden, Tokyo, Toulouse, Zurich (Ballo, Lucia, Traviata), Geneva (Hoffmann), Liege, Strasbourg, Stockholm (Werther), Hong Kong (Don Carlo), Shanghai (Don Carlo) and, the Ludwigsburg Festival (Ballo, Corsaro, Stiffelio, Nabucco, I Due Foscari, the Verdi Requiem, and Berlioz’ Damnation of Faust).
Further, beginning in 2002, until the end of the Achim Thorwald Intendanz, the tenor was a leading member of the Baden State Opera, Karlsruhe where he was acclaimed in productions of Luisa Miller, Elisir, Bohème, Tosca, Butterfly, Boccanegra, Carmen, Turandot, Manon Lescaut, I Masnadieri, Don Carlo and La Gioconda.
Summers have found the tenor appearing in prestigious festivals: Savonlinna (Rigoletto), Schleswig-Holstein, (Butterfly), Rheingau and Ravenna (Mefistofele with Florence’s Maggio Musicale, under Riccardo Muti, internationally broadcast on RAI 1), Glimmerglass (Cavalleria Rusticana), The Puccini Festival-Torre del Lago (Bohème), Miskolc (Hoffmann,) Toblach Mahler Festival (Das Lied v.d. Erde.)
On the symphonic stage the tenor has appeared with R.Chailly and the Amsterdam Concertgebouw, Z. Mehta and the Israel Philharmonic, Sir C.Davis and the Dresden Philharmonic, F. Luisi and the Orchestre de la Suisse Romande and Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra, in repertoire ranging from the Beethoven IX and Missa Solemnis, Rossini Stabat Mater, Verdi Requiem and Mahler Das Lied v.d.Erde. He has appeared on the DGG label (DVDs: “Ion Holender – Vienna State Opera Farewell Gala from June 2010; Rosenkavalier; C. Kleiber); EMI (“Le Belle Epoch” with A.M.Kaufmann), ORF DVD (“Christmas in Vienna”), and Koch-Schwann (“Verdi in Ludwigsburg.”) In April 2007 his CD recording of the Berlioz Requiem with the Orchestra and Chorus of the Dresden Staatskapelle under Sir Colin Davis was released on the Profil (Naxos) label, winning both the German Echo Classic Award and French Diapason d’Or for „outstanding vocal recording.“ On television he has been featured in Rigoletto with Leo Nucci from Timisoara, in the film “The Star and the Elementary School Teacher,” as a guest host of “Nix wie raus” as well as a soloist with the Vienna Choir Boys in “Christmas in Vienna”, in a French Opera Gala with the NDR under Fabio Luisi, as well as in numerous televised excerpts with the VSO on ORF.
Currently, in addition to to his active performance schedule, Keith Ikaia-Purdy is the Director of Vocal Studies at the Rheingau Institute of Vocal Arts; and since November 2012 he has been the Artistic Director of Opera et Cetera, a touring company of young professional singers based in Central Germany. At the date of this writing, in addition to his mentoring work, the tenor is busily performing recitals and gala events throughout the Central German region, a Finger Lakes Festival Opera Gala in Upstate New York, and a return to his island home for the Verdi Requiem.