The Joys Of Harmony
Harmonized voices bring joy to Randy Leonard, so it’s no surprise that he serves as artistic director for Kauai Voices.
The Vermont native’s love for music began as a child, when he started taking piano lessons. But it wasn’t until he attended Keene State College in New Hampshire to study music that he shifted his focus from playing instruments to chorus.
“It’s the humanness of it — it’s the soul — it’s a human experience to the ultimate,” he says of making music with the voice. “It takes the spirit and soul, shares stories and emotions, and puts it all together. And when you have a whole bunch of people doing that, giving that gift to another group of people, it’s amazing.”
Leonard has been directing Kauai Voices since its inception in 2011, and he’s loved every moment of it. He is excited for the group’s ninth season, called “The Magic of Music,” which will include two performances showcasing film, stage and Disney tunes.
“It’s going to be quite fun,” he says.
Kauai Voices consists of 30 to 40 singers who must audition to join. Each year, members ranging in age from teens to their 90s come from all walks of life and musical backgrounds. Leonard looks for singers who are talented, have an ability to memorize songs, exude positive energy and can commit to group practice every week.
“Music is my life,” says Liz Hahn, a member of Kauai Voices who possesses all of those qualities.
Music was the only thing that kept her motivated in high school. And though she loves all music, like Leonard, she has an affinity for choral singing. “I like harmony, I like the energy,” she says. “There’s something special about a big group of people performing harmonically. It connects with your soul.”
She is grateful for having someone like Leonard leading the group.
“Randy throws his whole being into a song when he directs it,” she says.
Leonard, a registered nurse at Wilcox Memorial Hospital, believes he is the one with reason to be thankful for having a group that blends so well together.
“They have the motivation and desire to make incredible music,” he says. “I have a wonderful instrument to play with these voices.”
Stacy Ramos, another member of the harmonious group, has been singing her whole life. She has performed in various plays on the island, and prior to becoming a member, she wanted to find even more ways of being involved in the community. A friend encouraged her to join Kauai Voices and “plopped” her in front of Leonard for an audition. Now she can’t imagine not being a part of the musical team.
“It’s another family,” she says.
Music is healing for Ramos, and she’s always trying to find a way to bring more of it into her world.
“I feel like I can never get enough of it,” she says.
Kauai Voices regularly performs at St. Michael and All Angels Church, where the group has been welcomed with “open arms.” Their shows have been so successful at the Lihue venue that they routinely sell out well in advance. Their two January concerts of “Music of the Heart” sold out. Each performance was standing room only, and on the second night an additional 50 chairs were brought in and people even were seated outside.
“We were mobbed in a wonderful way,” says Leonard.
Music is obviously an intrinsic and valuable part of people’s lives. Hahn thinks it’s not only essential to the culture, but also is a necessary component of education. Yet, sadly, it’s often the first thing to be eliminated from school curriculums.
“Music is put in the bottom of the barrel,” she says.
Kauai Voices makes it a point to visit and sing with students at schools, including Chiefess Kamakahelei Middle School.
“To show them what’s possible,” explains Leonard.
Aside from bringing singing to more schools, Leonard is looking forward to the upcoming seasons and raising the bar even further. He anticipates the creative possibilities and what each member will bring to the table.
Auditions are held from mid-February to mid-March. Contact Leonard at email@example.com or 635-9009 to make an appointment. The ninth season officially begins March 24, and meetings are held every Tuesday evening in Lihue. Concerts are slated for July 17 and 18 at St. Michael and All Angels.
Visit kauaivoices.org for more information.