John Heath

John Heath

Orcas singers solo in Bach, Vivaldi

  • Sun Apr 21st, 2019 1:30am
  • Life

Submitted by the Orcas Choral Society.

You see them in Island Market, picking out fruit. Just regular islanders. But May 4 and 5, they’ll be shining stars. Six amazing Orcas singers – plus one international luminary – will solo as Orcas Choral Society sings Vivaldi’s “Gloria” and Bach’s Mass in F at the Orcas Center. Concerts begin on Saturday, May 4, at 7:30 p.m. and again on Sunday, May 5 at 2 p.m., Tickets are $18, $5 for students and are available from the Orcas Center box office or at

“These works give us glorious, soaring arias that are just a joy to hear,” artistic director Marianne Lewis said. “I’m thrilled that we have excellent vocalists to sing them. This will be a treat.”

Who are these hidden talents?

John Heath leads off in Bach’s piece with his rich, deep bass. As a teenager, he says, “Directors were looking for people who could do the work, and I got picked.” He soloed in “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” on the radio for church choir and Schubert’s Mass in G at school. Heath since has sung with community choirs everywhere life has taken him, including Lesotho in southern Africa and Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. He’s sung with the Choral Society since 2002, and soloed in masses by Schubert and Storch in 2016.

Versatile soprano Sharon Abreu, well-known to Orcas audiences, will sing a slow, gentle aria in the Bach piece.

“People who know Sharon’s folk, environmental and peace singing need to hear the other side of her voice,” Lewis said.

As a professional singer from New York, Abreu has sung lead operatic roles. She has sung with Pete Seeger and at the United Nations. Locally, she starred in a sold-out run of the musical comedy “The Taffetas” at Orcas Center and was the vocal coach for “Billy Elliot” and “Mamma Mia.” This will be Abreu’s seventh time soloing for the Choral Society.

Holly King and Shannon Quishenberry share a duet in the Vivaldi.

“The duet is so pretty,” said King. “It goes back and forth between us. And it’s a challenge.”

Both women have sung in choirs their entire lives. When she’s not singing, King can often be found at the Orcas library, where she manages the young-adult section. Quishenberry sang with chamber music groups for the last 30 years in Southern California, primarily classical but also Broadway. She joined the Choral Society when she moved to Orcas last year.

“I love working with Shannon – she’s a hoot!” King said.

Naomi Aldort is known in child-rearing circles for her book “Raising Our Children, Raising Ourselves.” She’s also a trained classical musician, and some of those workshops are on her “Natural Young Musician” teaching method. She also teaches piano and voice lessons.

“The Choral Society is a joy to be part of,” Aldort said.

Debbie Durand is in her second year with Orcas Choral Society.

“I hadn’t sung much since college,” she admits. “I missed it. … The Choral Society is a great social connection. My first winter was about getting my voice back in shape.”

Finally, from Seattle, American mezzo-soprano Kathryn Weld will take on lyric movements of both the Bach and Vivaldi pieces. “Kathryn sang with us before on Mozart’s Requiem, and we loved her warm, expressive voice and depth of interpretation,” Lewis said. “I’m looking forward to working with her again this spring.”

Weld has performed extensively throughout the United States, Canada, Europe and Japan. She has soloed with the New York Philharmonic and at Carnegie Hall, has sung opera in the United States and Europe, and is a favorite guest artist in chamber music concerts across the globe. Recent roles include portraying Julia Child in Lee Hoiby’s one-woman opera “Bon Appetit,” and the title role of the new opera “Kali” at Seattle’s On the Boards. Weld is senior instructor in voice and opera at Western Washington University.