The community is invited to spend Christmas Eve with soprano Melanie Oldfather and friends in a special concert at 6 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 24, at United Community Church at 1110 Kilauea Ave. in Hilo.
Pre-concert music “for coming together” will begin at 5:45 p.m., said Pastor Merle Lai.
Oldfather, who directed music at United Community Church for 10 years, said she is “delighted to ‘come home’ for this Christmas-birthday concert,” which will feature some of her seasonal favorites. She will be joined by two of her long-term musical collaborators in East Hawaii: Gerdine Markus, vocalist, flautist and pianist, and Geri Tolchin, a keyboard artist.
Lai said the three “will join with members of the congregation to bring in a new star of love and hope for the coming year.”
“Other musicians contributing to this very special birthday concert will include the Rev. Duckyong An and Misuk An of the Hilo Korean Methodist Church and entertainer Mark Yamanaka,” said Lai.
The church sanctuary, built in 1937 with a red roof topped by a pagoda-like bell tower, features a stained glass window in which Hilo’s volcanoes overlook a scene of Jesus washing the feet of one of his disciples.
“On Christmas Eve, those volcanoes will overlook Hiloans as we hear selections which will vary from baroque recorder music, Bach, Handel and Adam’s classic, “O Holy Night,” to 20th-century art songs written for the Christmas celebration. Traditional hymns are also featured. “
Oldfather said, “From pure joy to celebration and contemplative worship, music will guide the way!”
Prior to moving to Hawaii in 1986, Oldfather, who holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Vocal Performance from the University of Kansas in Lawrence, studied and performed opera and art song for eight years in New York City. She taught voice and music at the University of Hawaii at Hilo for 14 years, accompanying the Chamber Choir and Kapili Singers and working with Ken Staton, Amy Horst, Matt Howell and Don Bremmer.
Her Big Island appearances include as a soprano soloist with the Waimea Community Chorus, Kona Choral Society, Hilo Community Chorus and the Kanilehua Chorale, and serving as music director of the Chorale for four years. She was a winner and adjudicator in the Public Radio Art Song Contest and also judged entries for scholarships presented by the Hamakua Music Festival.