Guest Artists

Men in Blaque

Men in Blaque

Men in Blaque, formed in 1997 at the University of California, Irvine, present the traditions in singing 15th – 21st century choral music in original voicing. Over 350 selections are in the repertoire of this eclectic repertory ensemble. Following the lead of Chanticleer and the King’s Singers, Men in Blaque performs music from many eras and genres. The singers include computer specialists, dancers, clergy as well as students majoring in music, biology, physics, history, computer science and business. The wide range of repertoire and performance programming includes scripted narrative, choreographic staging and concert positioning to help enhance and project the style of the music. At the invitation of the artistic director of the XX Semana Coral Internacional de Alava and Caja de Burgos International Days on Choral Music, found the men in Spain during the memorable and historical date of September 11, 2001. The concert that took place at the church in Izzara, in the foothills of northern Spain, was captured on a live digital recording. The Men in Blaque shared a workshop with the internationally acclaimed ensemble, Chanticleer, in February, 2005 at UC Irvine.

2006 saw the Men in Blaque invited to compete in the World Choir Games in Xiamen, China. Our two silver medal performances and gold certificate for the highest score in the preliminary rounds from 240 choirs afforded much excitement in the UC Irvine community. At the World Choir Games of 2010, a Championship Trophy, three Gold Medals and Category Winners in Shaoxing, China made the Men in Blaque celebrated winners. In July 2014 the men won championship Trophies in Bratislava, Slovakia. A concert tour to Cape Town and Johannesburg in July 2016 included programs with two of South Africa’s finest chamber choirs. Men in Blaque competed at the International Musical Eisteddfod Wales in July 2017 where they placed first in Male Choir and Folk Song; second in Open Category, and third in Acapella Catagory. Recently, the Men in Blaque participated in the World Choral Festival of Puebla-Mexico August 2018 and the Sacred Music Festival in Nis, Serbia in 2019.

Men in Blaque have recorded five CDs, the most recent being released in 2015. They have also commissioned 15 new works to date. Vytautus Miskinis, Javier Busto and Imant Raminsh are among noted composers writing for the award-winning ensemble. Kirke Mechem, America’s dean of composers, wrote SING!, premiered by Men in Blaque in November 2016. Sydney Guillaume composed RAMEN, RAMEN in 2019.

Founding director, Joseph Huszti is Professor Emeritus of Music in the Claire Trevor School of the Arts. During his tenure at Irvine, twenty-seven international concert tours included prize-winning performances at the International Musical Eisteddfod, Llangollen, Wales (1979, 1986, 1992, 1997, 2008, 2017), Béla Bartók International Choral Competition, Debrecen, Hungary (1988, 1994, 2000), the Koorfest, den Haag, Holland (1979), World Choir Games (2006, 2010) and Bratislava, Slovakia (2014). The University of California, Irvine choirs under his direction have performed concerts in the cathedrals of York, Sterling, Westminster, Coventry, Canterbury, Ely, Burgos, Liverpool and Boston as well as presenting formal concerts in London, Tokyo, Burgos, Shanghei, Beijing, Hong Kong, Seoul, Taipei, Budapest, Warsaw, Prague, and Vienna.

Before coming to California, Huszti headed the choral activities at Boston University’s School for the Arts and directed the Young Vocalists Program from 1972-1977 in Lenox, Massachusetts at the Tanglewood Festival. He collaborated with internationally renowned musicians including Leonard Bernstein, Aaron Copland and Norman Dello Joio.

In 2019, Dr. Ben Johns was named co-director of Men in Blaque. Dr. Johns holds degrees in Chemistry, Dance, Vocal Performance, and Choral Conducting from UC Irvine and in 2019 graduated with his doctorate in conducting at the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, NY.

From 2003-2016, he worked with the professional vocal ensemble, Chanticleer, as a tenor and as their Director of Education. Dr. Johns established Chanticleer’s first National Youth Choral Festival in 2010, a project which involved over 500 high school musicians from Virginia to Hawaii, saw the birth of Chanticleer’s elite LAB Choir program, and culminated in a series of performances at Davies Symphony Hall in San Francisco, CA. Under his direction, Chanticleer’s education program won Chorus America’s Education Outreach Award. He was artistic director of the San Francisco-based women’s ensemble, Musae, from 2012-2016. Dr. Johns also directed ensembles at UC Davis, Hobart and William Smith Colleges, and for Sonoma Bach, Clerestory, the SFUSD All-City Music Festival, and the Sing With Haiti Benefit Concert.

Dr. Johns has sung professionally at venues around the world, including the Musikverein in Vienna, the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam, the Paris Consulate, Tokyo Opera City Concert Hall, National Theater Taipei, Davies Symphony Hall, The Mondavi Center for the Performing Arts, and Walt Disney Concert Hall. In addition to his tenure with Chanticleer, he has sung with the San Francisco Symphony Chorus, American Bach Soloists, San Francisco Renaissance Voices, Seraphic Fire, and Clerestory.

Mollie Stone

Mollie Stone

MOLLIE STONE is a Chicago native. Stone holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from Amherst College, a Master of Music degree in conducting from Westminster Choir College, a Doctorate in choral conducting from Northwestern University, and has studied at the University of Cape Town. Mollie Stone serves as Choral Conductor and Lecturer at the University of Chicago, Co-Director of Chicago World Music Chorus (www.chicagoworldmusic.org), Co-Director of the Augsburg / Twin Cities Global Harmony Choir, and as a teacher for Village Harmony (www.villageharmony.org).

Stone lectures and gives workshops on Black South African choral music, working to promote the work of Black South African composers, conductors and choirs. Stone strives to teach singers how to create more informed and authentic performances of Black South African traditional folk songs, political songs, religious songs, and songs that address the struggle against HIV / AIDS.

Stone created the teaching DVD/Booklet Vela Vela, and, along with partner, Patty Cuyler, the Raising the Bar series, which consists of teaching tools to help musicians learn to perform choral traditions from South Africa, the Republic of Georgia, and Bulgaria, more authentically.

In Vela Vela, viewers can hear each song performed, learn individual voice-parts, dance movements, pronunciation, and background information directly from South African singers. There are also interviews in which South African singers talk about the power of music in their lives. In the Raising the Bar series, Stone and Cuyler show how high foreigners can raise the bar in their performances of music from other cultures with coaching from master teachers, Matlakala Bopape, from South Africa, Shergil Pirtskhelani of The Republic of Georgia, and Elitsa Stoyneva of Bulgaria.

Zedashe

Zedashe

Zedashe Ensemble is a polyphonic vocal choir and dance group based in the eastern medieval fortress city of Sighnaghi, Caucasus Georgia. It is one of the few mixed (male and female) choirs in Georgia that is led by women. Directed by Ketevan Mindorashvili, the ensemble was founded in the mid-1990’s to sing polyphonic chants, unique to Georgia, that were largely lost during the Communist era. The complex three-part melodies date back to pre-Christian times and comprise music sung for the Orthodox liturgical services. Zedashe’s repertoire also includes folk songs, instrumental melodies and accompanying dances, which were collected from old publications and learned from village song-masters from around the many diverse regions of the country.

Zedashe’s initial inspiration drew from songs of Kiziqian region, where their hometown Sighnaghi is located. Over the years though they have expanded to also include song and dance traditions of the various regions in Georgia, including Rach’a-Lechkhumi, Guria, Kartli, and Abkhazia. They preserve the unique musical and dance techniques of each region, as well as a variety of instrumental traditions: panduri (Kakhetian lute), chonguri (Gurian lute), ch’iboni (goat-skin bagpipes), accordion, diplipito (drum), and doli (drum).

Scot Hanna-Weir

Scot Hanna-Weir

Scot Hanna-Weir is an Assistant Professor of Music and Director of Choral Activities at Santa Clara University, and Artistic Director of the Santa Clara Chorale. He is recognized for his innovative programming, his fluency with technology in performance, and his engagement with issues of equity and social justice. In addition to regularly commissioning and premiering new works, he is also an active composer and arranger himself.

Scot regularly conducts the combined choirs of Santa Clara University and the Santa Clara Chorale in the performance of masterworks with orchestra. Recent performances include major works by Bach, Fauré, Handel, Haydn, Lauridsen, Mozart, Orff, and Rutter, alongside world, US, and regional premieres of works by Scott Gendel, Andres Solis, Cecilia McDowall, and Jocelyn Hagen.

As a composer and arranger, Scot’s works tend to present innovative fusions of technology in choral performance or highlight issues of injustice or suffering. His composition Sympathy (co-created with SCU Faculty Member and electronic musician Bruno Ruviaro) has been widely performed. Buck v Bell (2017), sets the text of the 1927 Supreme Court decision by Oliver Wendell Holmes that legalized the forced sterilization of the “mentally feeble”. The Wound, was commissioned by the San Diego Pro Arte Voices for their Disarm Hate project and highlights the role gun violence plays in suicide. His current projects include a 45-minute score for The Water Project, a collaborative theatre and dance piece that examines issues around water and a choral score commissioned by the Washington, DC-based vocal ensemble, Bridge, that serves as the musical underscoring of a spoken-word piece by poet Nina Brewton.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Scot’s SCU Chamber Singers were the first university ensemble in the United States to perform a live remote choral performance. He has presented on this topic and issues of pedagogy and practice in virtual choir production for organizations across the country. He serves as an advisor on virtual choirs for ChorAmor and as a member of the Western Region American Choral Directors Association board and conference planning team.

Scot holds a Doctor of Musical Arts in choral conducting from the University of Maryland, a Master of Music in choral conducting from the University of Wisconsin, and a Bachelor of Music in choral music education from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. His major conducting teachers have included Matthew Halls, Helmuth Rilling, Edward Maclary, James Ross, Beverly Taylor, William Carroll, and Welborn Young.

Marlissa Hudson

Marlissa Hudson

American soprano Marlissa Hudson has been described as a “superb lyric coloratura” (St. Louis Post-Dispatch), and as having a “lovely shimmer of her upper register” (Washington Post). At home both on the operatic and concert stage, she made her professional debut while a student, performing “Summertime” from Porgy and Bess with the Baltimore Symphony Pops Orchestra under the baton of Marvin Hamlisch.

Recognized as an international concert performer, Marlissa has been featured in Bulgaria and Paraguay, and has collaborated in the U.S. with such esteemed organizations as the Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra, Baltimore Symphony Pops Orchestra, National Philharmonic, Vocal Essence, the 92nd Street Y, and members of the Arianna Quartet. Recitals are a definitive niche, and she has performed as a recitalist across the continental U.S. and St. Croix US VI. She made her Carnegie Hall debut in 2017, performing Kirke Mechem’s Songs of the Slave with members of the OCWC under the direction of Eliza Rubenstein.

Marlissa’s 2020-2021 season highlight was a return to the St. Louis Symphony, with COVID-19 causing the cancellation of performances with the National Philharmonic (Carmina Burana), a debut in Brazil performing excerpts from Porgy and Bess, and a massive recording/release of the songs of Artur Schnabel in collaboration with renowned pianist Jenny Lin.

As a recording and performing artist, Marlissa has been featured on multiple labels singing the work of modern composers. Her discography also includes two albums, “Libera” and “Lust,” which was funded in part by a successful $15,000 Kickstarter campaign. Marlissa received her formal training at Duke University and the Peabody Institute of Johns Hopkins University, earning awards for music at both schools.

Brian Noel

Brian Noel

Brian Noel has appeared with the OCWC on numerous occasions, accompanying the chorus twice in their performances of Britten’s A Ceremony of Carols, Susa’s Carols and Lullabies, and Bernstein’s Chichester Psalms. He holds the Bachelor of Music degree from CSU Long Beach and a Master’s Degree in Music from Columbia University. Brian began his music career as a flutist, and while on active duty with the United States Military Academy (West Point) Band, he learned to play harp and has continued to perform on both instruments since returning to California. Other recent performances include appearances with the Pacific Chorale Chamber Choir, the Meistersingers of Orange County, and Kansas City Repertory Theater in their production of The Fantasticks. He currently serves as principal harp with Whittier Regional Symphony, and appears throughout the southland both as a soloist and in ensembles performing for weddings and other events. For more information on Brian and his latest CD click on Noel Music Enterprises

Dale Trumbore - composer

Dale Trumbore - composer

Dale Trumbore is a Los Angeles-based composer and writer whose music has been praised by The New York Times for its “soaring melodies and beguiling harmonies.” Trumbore’s compositions have been performed widely in the U.S. and internationally by ensembles including the American Contemporary Music Ensemble (ACME), Los Angeles Master Chorale, Los Angeles Children’s Chorus, Modesto Symphony, Pacific Chorale, Pasadena Symphony, The Singers – Minnesota Choral Artists, and VocalEssence.

Trumbore’s 2019-2020 season included performances at the NCCO National Conference, the Norton Simon Museum, and Walt Disney Concert Hall. She has served as Composer in Residence for Choral Chameleon as well as Artist in Residence at Brush Creek Foundation for the Arts, Copland House, and the Helene Wurlitzer Foundation of New Mexico.

How to Go On, Choral Arts Initiative’s album of Trumbore’s choral works, debuted at #6 on Billboard’s Traditional Classical Chart. Choral Arts Northwest, The Esoterics, Helix Collective, New York Virtuoso Singers, and soprano Gillian Hollis have also commercially recorded works by Trumbore. Her choral works are available through Boosey & Hawkes, G. Schirmer, and Graphite Marketplace.

As a composer who works frequently with words, Trumbore is passionate about setting to music poems, prose and found text by living writers. She has written extensively about working through creative blocks and establishing a career in music in essays for 21CM, Cantate Magazine, the Center for New Music, and NewMusicBox. Her first book, Staying Composed: Overcoming Anxiety and Self-Doubt Within a Creative Life, was hailed by writer Angela Myles Beeching (Beyond Talent) as a “treasure trove of practical strategies for moving your artistic career forward… not only for composers, but for performers, writers, and any other creatives.”

Trumbore holds a dual degree in Music Composition and English from the University of Maryland and a Master of Music degree in Composition from the University of Southern California. A New Jersey native, Trumbore lives in Azusa, CA with her husband and their two cats.