Concerts & Clubs / For holiday musical offerings, the Hawaii Vocal Arts Ensemble serves up a smorgasbord of the tastiest confections in town at their 21st annual Christmas Concert series. The menu ranges from the Renaissance serenity of Palestrina to the evocative freshness of Norwegian composer Ola Gjeilo. These advanced repertoires are full of close harmonies beyond the skills of lesser mortals: even their setting of stalwart “Lo How a Rose” is Hugo Distler’s, written shortly before his suicide while WWII raged forth, full of tortured harmonies too close to slip a razor between. Each tune is a musical marvel.
Harpist Becky Walker and cellist Jeffrey Hamano augment the vocal ensemble for selected tunes, including Gjeilo’s “Serenity” and Clausen’s setting of “There is No Rose,” both lovely works by living composers. Rounding out the serious side of the program are two majestic masterworks by Poulenc, superbly suited to the rarified acoustic atmosphere of the Mystical Rose Oratory.
The performances do include some fun toward the end with a couple of classic show tunes and a familiar sing-along. The common threads are the unparalleled quality of the music and the stellar voices, singing the most unique program of the season. This show promises to be a peak holiday experience.