Music News Archive

Apr 2022

Celebrating Saunder Choi’s new music

 
 
UUSM Music Director Saunder Choi is headed to Purdue University this week for a residency, where Jacob Stensberg and the acclaimed choirs of Purdue Musical Organizations will be performing several of his works, including a new piece, “I Came To Your Shore as a Wayfaring Stranger” on April 1 — and he’s presenting a short lecture on Philippine Choral Music on March 31!
 
Afterwards, Saunder is headed up to Chicago for the long-awaited premiere of “Verum Corpus” (it was one of the cancelled premieres of 2020!!!) with William Southerland and the Windy City Performing Arts (Windy City Gay Choir/Windy City Treble Quire) — featuring the poetry of Amir Rabiyah. He is sharing this concert premiere with fellow composer Kyra Leigh! Performances are April 2 and 3.
 
The Windy City Performing Art’s Facebook page describes Verum Corpus as “a beautiful, multi-movement work for chorus and string quartet that sets text from trans and two-spirit, disabled, queer, femme poet Amir Rabiyah alongside the Christian text Ave Verum Corpus. Choi’s collaboration with Rabiyah and Rabiyah’s text on the story of transformation, completion, and attainment of the true body has delivered a stunning commission that draws parallels relevant to the experience of queer and transgender survivors of abuse and marginalization.”
 
Congratulations, Saunder!
 
 
 

Dec 2021

Meet UUSM’s Amazing Team of Talented Musicians

 
Photography by Charles Haskell and Carol Ring.
 
Ryan Humphrey, Pianist
 
Ryan Humphrey started playing piano for UU services at a young age, having grown up attending the Greenville UU Fellowship in South Carolina (earliest remembered performance: either “The Circle of Life” or the theme from Jurassic Park). He helped found the women’s choir, Bon Voyage, at the UU Congregation of Columbia while in grad school, and prior to joining UUSM’s staff, he served for five years at First Unitarian Church of LA, first as accompanist and later as Director of Music. When not at a keyboard, Ryan mainly spends his time as an orchestrator, having worked on the scores to WandaVision, Frozen II, Ant-Man and the Wasp, Minions, and more. He dabbles in bagpipes and pipe organ, but always plays responsibly.
 
 
 
 
 
Saunder Choi, Director of Music
 
Our music director, Saunder Choi, is a Los Angeles-based Filipino composer and choral artist whose works have been performed internationally by various groups including the Philippine Madrigal Singers, Santa Fe Desert Chorale, Los Angeles Master Chorale, and the World Youth Choir. As an arranger and orchestrator, Saunder has written for Tony-Award winner Lea Salonga, the Singapore Symphony Orchestra, Orquestra Filarmónica Portuguesa, the Gay Men’s Chorus of Los Angeles, and many others.
 
As a choral artist, he sings with the L.A. Choral Lab, Pacific Chorale, Tonality, and HEX Vocal Ensemble, as well as in film scores such as the soundtrack of Disney’s The Lion King (2019), Mulan (2020), and Turning Red (2022).
 
Born and raised in Manila, Philippines, Saunder moved to the US in 2012 to pursue studies in music. He holds degrees from De La Salle University – Manila, Berklee College of Music, and the USC Thornton School of Music. His first encounter with Unitarian Universalism was as a staff singer at First Church Boston in 2013-2014. He grew up in a multi-faith family, where, he says, “we practiced an odd mix of Catholicism, Buddhism, and traditional Chinese lore.”
 
He believes in music as advocacy, using the media as a platform for diversity, equity, inclusion, and justice. His compositions are focused on narratives and conversations surrounding immigration, racial justice, LGBTQ+ advocacy, and other social causes. In addition to serving as our Director of Music, Saunder is a teaching artist with the Los Angeles Master Chorale’s Voices Within and Oratorio Project. His works are published and distributed by MusicSpoke, Earthsongs, MuzikSea and See-A-Dot Music Publishing.
 
Sander’s website: http://www.saunderchoi.com/
 
 
Chloé Vaught, Soprano Section Leader
 
Chloé Vaught is a native of Los Angeles, California. In December 2020 she received her BA in Vocal Performance from UCLA. During her time at UCLA, she performed with Seraphic Fire, Tonality, and attended the Aspen Festival and School of Music. In 2020, she received a Grammy for her choral performance in Richard Danielpour’s The Passion of Yeshua with the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra and Chorus. Chloé frequently records for independent films, background vocals sessions, and enjoys contributing to others’ passion projects. As a soloist, she possesses versatility and loves to sing early music, contemporary classical, jazz, and more. Chloé wants to continue recording for film and television, premiering pieces in collaboration with contemporary composers, and performing in the Los Angeles area.
 
 
 
 
Jyvonne Hasken, Alto Section Leader
 
Jyvonne Haskin serves as Alto Choir Section Leader at the Unitarian Universalist Community Church of Santa Monica and is Co-Executive Director for Selah Gospel Choir. As a session singer and live performer, Jyvonne has sang with Lady Gaga, Janelle Monáe, U2, Michael Bolton, Arcade Fire, and Roger Daltrey. She *loves* making music with her LA Opera group, The DC6 Singers, an a cappella Gospel/Motown Experience, and is currently melding many of her heart goals as a Founding Partner of GreyLoc Entertainment and singing broadly within LA’s choir community.
 
Jyvonne’s website: https://www.jyvonnehaskin.com/
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Darita Seth, Tenor Section Leader
 
Teaching choral artist and composer, Darita Seth was born and raised in Columbus, Ohio. He is the son of Cambodian refugee immigrants and is the first generation of his family born in the United States. His identity has shaped his entire professional career. An early composition, “This Tan Skin,” includes music and text that he wrote as a student at Interlochen Arts Academy and Camp about his struggle with the “model minority” myth.
 
He is Founder, President, and Artistic Director of CHORAL AUDACITY, a project-based ensemble choir centering stories of marginalized communities through programming of underrepresented composers with a roster of underrepresented singers. He is the Director of the Chamber Choir at Cantabella Children’s Chorus. Before relocating to Long Beach to work on a Master of Music degree in Choral Conducting at CSU Long Beach (graduating in 2023), Darita was the Director of Music at St. Timothy’s Episcopal Church in Danville, California, an Associate Director of the Danville Girls Chorus, and the Director of Vocal Music at Stoneridge Creek Retirement Community. He was the former Interim Director of the Grammy Award-winning Pacific Boychoir Academy and recently concluded his tenure with Chanticleer, the Grammy Award-winning, San Francisco-based men’s vocal ensemble.
 
While pursuing his undergraduate degree at the Capital University Conservatory of Music in Columbus, Ohio, Darita began studying countertenor while immersed in the sacred early music at Saint Joseph Cathedral in Columbus. Darita is also a proud alumnus of Interlochen, where he participated in the composition, opera, and choral programs, as well as spending summers working for the offices of Advancement and Arts Administration. Darita is an active member of ACDA, NATS, and ASCAP.
 
Outside of music and teaching, Darita enjoys cooking meals from his proud Cambodian-American heritage, weight-lifting, and being a dog-dad to his American Dingo, Remy Martin.
 
Darita’s website: https://www.daritaseth.com/
 
 
Carl Oser, Bass Section Leader
 
Carl Oser (he/him) is a vocalist, pianist, and educator based in Los Angeles, California. He has taught music at K-12 institutions such as Sierra Canyon School (Los Angeles, CA) and the Harker School (San Jose, CA). At the university level he has taught at San Jose State University and Berklee College of Music’s “Instituto de Música Contemporánea” in Quito, Ecuador.
 
Carl is proud to perform as one half of kartercarl (instagram.com/kartercarl) and as a core member of the Los Angeles-based vocal ensemble, Tonality. As a collaborative pianist he has accompanied for many choir, cabaret, and musical theater productions.
 
Carl earned a graduate degree in Choral Conducting from San Jose State University. His graduate recital theater featured over 40 performers, 150 audience members, and the North American premiere of Maarten De Splenter’s Pax Pro Patria for saxophone quartet and choir. Carl graduated magna cum laude from the Thornton School of Music at the University of Southern California where he studied with Grammy-winning pianist Russell Ferrante.
 
 
 

Apr 2021

Celebrate Earth Day 2021 with UUSM
TAKE ACTION ON CLIMATE CHANGE

Happy Earth Day!  We’re all on this spinning blue planet together, and it will take all of us to make a difference. Take part in UUSM’s Earth Day celebrations and learn how you can help.
 
On Friday, April 23, 2021, from 7:30 to 8:30 pm,  join the UUSM choir for an evening of music, readings, and reflections about the Earth in a free concert, “Rising Green.” The concert will stream live on our Facebook page and YouTube Channel. Want to support our wonderful choir? Any donations will be appreciated. There are three ways to give: text, website, or mail a check and use the code OTR. Using your smartphone, text 844-982-0209 with the donation amount and the code OTR for where the funds will be posted; for example, “$20 OTR.”
 
On Sunday, April 25, the Rev. Jeremiah Kalendae , along with Worship Associate Alison Kendall, will discuss how we face the future and the challenges of addressing the Climate Crisis during our Sunday service. “Earth Sunday: A Spring for Change” will stream at 10:00 am on Facebook and YouTube.
 
Climate change didn’t start overnight, and it won’t end overnight. If you want to learn more about how you can reduce greenhouse gas emissions, build community resilience, and promote climate justice, sign up for the Drawdown Ecochallenge. UUs across the country are taking actions to protect our shared future. Use this link to start your path to greener future and join UUs across North America in a collective commitment. The results will be reported at General Assembly in June.
 
Want to do more? Refresh your commitment to a greener future throughout the year by checking in with the UUSM Green Committee. The next meeting is Sunday, May 2, 2021. RSVP to greenchair@uusm.org for the Zoom link.
 

Jul 2020

UUSM Musicians Make a Guest Appearance at Online Fundraiser for CLUE

 
uusm-choir-at-clue-virtual-march.png
 
 
On Tuesday, June 30th, UUSM musicians made a special appearance at Clergy and Laity United for Economic Justice’s annual Giants of Justice Awards
 
CLUE is an LA-based organization whose members accompany low-wage workers, immigrants, and communities of color in the struggle for safety, dignity, and good jobs. By working in partnership through CLUE, faith communities, alliances, and unions can work more effectively to build a more equitable and humane society. 
 
CLUE and UUSM have a long history of collaboration. CLUE’s program director, Jeremy Arnold (son of board member Abby Arnold), grew up in our congregation. Rev. Rebecca Benefiel-Bijur served as CLUE’s development director after departing our congregation in 2017. Now I am working with CLUE to help with fundraising there. Dozens of our congregants are active in CLUE’s organizing committees and as supporters of CLUE’s work. 
 
As CLUE wrestled with retooling its largest fundraiser of the year as a live-streamed event, I wanted to take advantage of the online medium. UUSM choir director Saunder Choi has done an astounding job of music production in our new landscape. So it seemed natural to invite him to put together a piece for CLUE’s fundraiser.
 
He suggested a song. We acquired streaming and performance rights, and gave him some photos. Saunder then worked his magic with UUSM choir section leaders Jyvonne Haskin and Chloe Vaught, as well as guest musician William “B.A.” Washington. 
 
The resulting music video of the John Legend/Common song “Glory” was a moving end to the program. 
 
It felt so good to be able to support our outstanding musicians while we are in this unprecedented situation. 
 
Hundreds of faithful people from across LA and Orange Counties attended Giants of Justice. UUs across the region were well represented. And it was a wonderful event.
 
You’re invited to learn more about CLUE’s work and check out the performance here. The UUSM musical performance is about 90 minutes into the stream. If you listen to the entire stream, you’ll get to hear another familiar artist. UUSM pianist Ryan Humphrey provided the prelude and postlude music for Giants of Justice.
 
 

Jun 2019

Divas and Drag Queens: A Choral Concert and Drag Bingo Fundraiser
JUNE 8, 2019 AT 7 PM IN THE SANCTUARY

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
The UUSM Choir presents “Divas and Drag Queens,” a musical fundraiser celebrating Pride and Empowerment. We will be showcasing a variety of pieces ranging from classy to camp; arias from Donizetti to tunes by Whitney Houston, Lady Gaga, Christina Aguilera, and showstoppers from Priscilla Queen of the Desert!
 
The event will be hosted by the lovely Ms. Beverly Luxe and we will be playing bingo through the night. You are welcome to dress up in your campiest, most colorful attire. Tickets are $20 at door or online through www.uusm.org/make-a-donation (choose Program Support > Dining for Dollars > choir concert
 
For more information, contact Saunder Choi.
 

Apr 2019

Spring Music Fundraiser (Immediately After SSS.) - Leslie Beauvais and Friends in Concert

 
Sunday, April 14th, 2019
After Second Sunday Supper
Doors Open at 7:15 PM
Concert 7:30 - 9:00pm
 
Come and join us for an evening of everything from
Broadway and Jazz Standards, to original Singer-Songwriter music, to Blues, Pop, Folk, and Classical selections. 
 
The concert features Leslie, along with Pat Quinn, Saunder Choi, Thomas Ahern, Ken Alexander, Teri Bond, Kai Landauer — and a few surprises!
 
New Orleans born and raised, Leslie’s musical journey began in musical theater, performing with the Young Americans in the national Broadway touring company of “Les Miserables”, and in the original production of the Richard Rogers Award winning musical “Hidden Sky”. Leslie has recorded several fine albums, including “Stop the World” and “Waiting for My Conviction”. Her latest CD, “Chemistry”, is an album of personal transformation — a savory gumbo of Pop, Rock, Country, Folk, and Jazz, with just a touch of New Orleans spice. Check out her website to hear and purchase her albums at www.lesliebeauvais.com.
 
Sanctuary doors open: 7:15 pm
Concert starts: 7:30 pm
Suggested donation: $15 (or whatever you can pay)
 
Your donation helps the Music Fund pay our lead singers, buy music for the choir, and tune up and repair our piano and organ.
 
Bring your friends to see Leslie Beauvais and Friends in Concert. We’ll see you there!

 

Jan 2019

Choir and Friends – Spreading Holiday Cheer!

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
On Saturday, December 1, a few of our choir members and friends got together to share seasonal music and good cheer with two care facilities in our neighborhood – Sunrise Assisted Living and Seaport Care Center.
 
We were greeted warmly at both venues by both staff and residents. At Sunrise, word must have gotten out that we were coming because the residents, many of whom were dressed in cheerful holiday garb, came out in large numbers to listen and sing along. And, at Seaport, one member of the audience could sing pretty much every verse of every carol along with us without referring to the lyric sheets we handed out.
 
If you love this season and want to contribute your voice and a couple of hours of your time, we’d love to have you join us next year. No experience necessary! This is a great way to let our neighbors know we are here, and that we care about them.
 

Sep 2018

Goodbye to Zanaida

 
UUSM said goodbye to Zanaida Robles on Sunday, August 26, in an emotional ceremony led by Reverend Greg.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Aug 2018

Music Director Zanaida Robles Moving to Pasadena Congregation

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
“This is a church that prides itself on being a singing congregation,” says Zanaida Robles, Director of Music for UUSM. “Music enriches the spiritual experience, and helps create worship that reaches people.”
 
Zanaida announced in late June that she has accepted the Director of Music position at Neighborhood Unitarian Universalist Church in Pasadena and will be leaving UUSM at the end of August. She also holds a full-time position as the director of four choirs at Harvard-Westlake School.
 
Leading UUSM’s music program for the past two church seasons has been a time of growth for Zanaida, both personally and professionally, as well as for the church’s music program, and for the choir itself. “Choir rehearsal time has been most precious to me. It is a time of spiritual awakening. The community has really broadened,” says Zanaida. She lauds the commitment of the members of the UUSM choir, who rehearse for two hours each week and for the hour before each Sunday service.
 
UUSM’s section leaders are a major church asset, Zanaida says. “They are like an all-star baseball team and are the envy of the town.”
 
Zanaida has deep appreciation for the UU canon of music in our hymnal, Singing the Living Tradition, and its 2005 supplement, Singing the Journey. “It is imperative that we maintain our understanding of music,” she says, noting that a UUSM favorite, “Blue Boat Home,” is an adaptation of an historic Welsh hymn known as “Hyfrydol.” She appreciates the way that the UU canon “bridges traditional and contemporary music, spiritual but unfettered by dogma.”
 
As she leaves for Neighborhood Church, Zanaida urges UUSM to continue its commitment to the music program. “Lives are changed,” she says. “The heart is there. Good people make good worship.”
 
– Abby Arnold
 
 
  
 
 
 
 
 

Jun 2018

Choir Treats to a Motown Music Evening

 
 
The Dining for Dollars Choir Concert will be held in the sanctuary on Saturday, June 9 at 7 pm, presenting Motown music from the 1950s, 60s, and 70s. Tickets are $20, and include a fabulous after-party in Forbes Hall.
 
Tickets can be purchased at the door. The concert supports the UUSM operating budget.
 
This annual fundraiser is a congregation favorite; don’t miss it!