The Madrigal Singers of Santa Barbara High School, under the direction of Phillip McLendon, celebrated the 45th anniversary of their founding by performing on a concert tour of England and France. They were met with rave reviews during their June 10-21 tour. The group was invited to perform full-length concerts in noted historical venues. At four of these sites, the Madrigal Singers hold the distinction of being the first American high school choir invited to perform and at one site they are still the only American high school choir to have been accorded the honor.

The Madrigals’ tour concluded with two concerts in Paris, one at Notre Dame Cathedral (fifth appearance) and the other at Eglise de la Madeleine (third appearance). Audiences at both concerts responded to their performances with standing ovations. Educational side trips included visits to the British Museum in London, the Louvre Museum in Paris, and the World Heritage Site of Mont St. Michel in Normandy, where they sang informally.

During their 45 years, the Santa Barbara High School Madrigal Singers have been honored for musical excellence by many agencies and organizations, including The American Choral Directors Association, the former Music Educators National Conference, the city of Santa Barbara, the California Assembly, and the U.S. State Department.

The Madrigal Singers and Mr. McLendon wish to thank the choir’s parents and family members; the city of Santa Barbara and Santa Barbara High School communities; Principal John Becchio; as well as friends and alumni of the choir in the United States and Europe for their support in fundraising for their 2013 tour of England and France.

The sweet songs of Christmas greeted visitors arriving in Santa Barbara on Monday as the Santa Barbara High School Madrigal Singers kicked off a week of music at theSanta Barbara Airport.

About two dozen high school students offered up holiday classics, with the airport’s ample new lobby providing impressive acoustics for the music. One after another, travelers descended down the escalator toward the lobby, each lighting up with a smile after seeing the singers.
Travelers aren’t the only ones who are invited to enjoy the festive tunes this week. The public is welcome to attend the concerts, which last through Friday, according to Lynn Houston, the airport’s marketing specialist.

On Tuesday, the Dos Pueblos High School Jazz Choir & Combo will perform beginning at 5 p.m. On Wednesday, a whole day of music is in store, with theSBCC In-House Brass Quintet beginning at noon, the Isla Vista first-grade group playing at 4 p.m. and the Young Singers Club at 5 p.m.

On Thursday, the San Marcos High School Madcappella will begin at 9:15 a.m., and the week closes out at 5 p.m. Friday with the Young Singers Club.

Parking is available at the airport’s short-term public parking lot near the airline terminal. The parking rate is $2 for the first 60 minutes and $1 for each additional hour. 

Changes to the program schedule will be posted on the airport’s Web site,

— Noozhawk staff writer Lara Cooper can be reached at Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk@NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.


Bass-baritone Evan Hughes is pictured singing the role of Lord Sidney in this summer's Music Academy of the West opera production, Rossini's "Il Viaggio a Reims ." He makes his New York City recital debut this afternoon.
Note for Note: A music-filled childhood inspires the burgeoning singing career of Evan Hughes
October 29, 2006 8:42 AM

Trees to climb. Bushes to burrow between. Pools and fountains and big, beautiful buildings to explore. For Evan Hughes, the Music Academy of the West was the world's best backyard.

The son of the school's buildings and grounds manager, Mr. Hughes literally grew up on the historic Montecito campus. For 10 months of each year, "that magical property was my playground," he said.

But during the summer, he experienced a different kind of magic, watching and listening as gifted young musicians practiced and performed. From an early age, he decided he wanted to emulate them and spend his life making music.

This afternoon, Mr. Hughes will take a huge step toward achieving that goal. The 23-year-old bass-baritone will make his New York City recital debut in the chapel of St. Bartholomew's Church on Park Avenue .

"I can't tell you how excited I am," he said in a telephone interview while riding the train from New York to Philadelphia . "Nothing gives me greater joy than to perform."

A UCLA graduate, Mr. Hughes returned to the Music Academy this summer, where he had the distinction of being the student with the shortest commute. More importantly, he won the Marilyn Horne Foundation's annual Vocal Competition. This afternoon's recital is part of his prize.

In a statement, Ms. Horne called him "one of the bright lights of talented young singers." The legendary opera star added: "I expect big things from him."

Mr. Hughes is the product of two intensely musical cultures. His father, Alan Hughes, is from Wales . His mother, prominent Santa Barbara voice teacher Agatha Carubia, is a New York native of Sicilian ancestry.

The two met during the summer of 1981, while Miss Carubia, a recent Juilliard graduate, was studying at the Music Academy . They married soon after. She was pregnant with Evan during the summer of 1983, when she sang Mimi in the Academy's production of "La Boheme."

"I was always fascinated by my mom's singing," Mr. Hughes said. "Even when I was a little kid, I loved the sound of her voice and the music she sang. So it was a natural progression for me to start singing, and get involved with opera and art song.

"As my voice started developing, and I realized I had the ability to make a career out of singing, I definitely ran with that. Nothing makes me happier than music."

Mr. Hughes' parents divorced amicably when he was 11. While he lived with his father on the academy's grounds, he remained close to his mother. When he was 13, she became his first voice teacher.

During his teens, Mr. Hughes attended almost all of the Music Academy 's vocal concerts and master classes. While he desperately wanted to participate, "I made a promise to myself that I wouldn't audition until I was ready," he said.

Two summers ago, in the middle of his undergraduate studies at UCLA, he auditioned and was accepted into the summer program. "It was absolutely amazing," he said. "I got to do two master classes with Warren Jones, which were some of the most inspiring musical experiences I have had."

Two months ago, following his second summer as a Music Academy student, Mr. Hughes moved to Philadelphia to pursue graduate study at the renowned Curtis Institute. His primary teacher is the highly respected Marlena Malas; he commutes to her New York City studio every Monday via Amtrak.

"She's an incredible lady," he said. "She has already made a positive impact on my technique."

That said, technique is not an end in itself to Mr. Hughes. "I'm not interested in a technically beautiful sound," he said. "It needs to have something underneath it."

Back when he was a student at Santa Barbara High School , Mr. Hughes did a lot of acting, and he still has a number of thespian friends. He appreciates the emotional openness they bring to their work, and tries to convey that same quality in his singing.

"My intention whenever I sing is to be as honest and authentic as I can be," he said. "I've started to realize that you can do something really special when you are really open and truly give yourself to the audience."

Discovering the emotional underpinning of a piece of music "takes an incredible amount of research," he added. "You have to know not only what the song is about -- what its story is, what it means metaphorically -- but you also have to know what the composer was going through as they wrote it.

"It's really important to know as much as you possibly can about each thing you sing, I think. It will layer and richen your performance. It's a lot of work, but it's really gratifying when you feel like you actually understand what the composer was trying to say."

Mr. Hughes has no set-in-stone career plan at this point. He loves art songs (especially Schubert), opera (especially Mozart) and sophisticated musical theater (especially Sondheim). He hopes to work in all those arenas, and is particularly excited by the prospect of premiering new music.

Mostly, he just loves to sing.

"When I get to the place where I let go of nerves and let my voice and my body be a channel for the music, it's like nothing else I have ever experienced," he said. "The more I sing, the more I realize it's not really about me; it's about the music.

"I think it's incredible what art can do -- the power that art, expressed truthfully, can achieve," he added. "I think it's one of the saving graces of the world."


Montecito Union graduate and Santa Barbara High School “Music Of The Night” co-creator Blake Berris is about to become a daytime soap opera star. He recently signed a four-year contract to appear as the handsome but nerdy genius Nick Fallon on NBC’s “Days Of Our Lives” (1 pm daily).

“Think Napoleon Dynamite,” Blake says during a telephone conversation from his home in Westwood. “Nick Fallon is new to Salem ,” he explains, “and is a genius, a brainiac. And, he’s really dorky,” Blake laughs. “When I went into the first audition,” he continues, “I went in like really, really geeky-looking. I went all out. People were looking at me, like, ‘Are you from L.A. ?’ I just walked in with a smile on my face and was ready to go.”

Casting Director Fran Bascom liked Berris’s presentation, however, and called him back the following week to meet with the producers of the show. She did ask him, however, to play the character “not quite so geeky,” and so he will, beginning with his first appearance on Tuesday, November 7.

Blake attended Montecito Union School (and Montessori, when it met at MUS, before that) from kindergarten through sixth grade, and attended SBJHS and SBHS. At Santa Barbara High, he, along with Evan Hughes (Blake’s UCLA roommate who recently won a Music Academy-sponsored opera recital in New York City), Portia Burton, and Ashley Rogers, co-founded and co-created “Music Of The Night,” which has become an annual talent showcase ever since. This past year, Blake’s sister Riley Berris was one of the (still four) directors of the popular musical revue.

Before filming the series this fall, Blake spent the summer in Oxford , immersed in a Shakespeare program. It was something, he says, that prepared him perfectly for the amount of memorizing required for his new job. “Days Of Our Lives” began filming the week of October 9, and Blake works a five-day week. “It all depends how much of the storyline” he’s involved with that week, he says. He says he gets the script “at least a day before, sometimes earlier.”

Now that he’s found steady work, he chuckles, he will probably buy a new car. He sold his ’88 Toyota Camry before leaving for Europe, he explains, and when he came back had to borrow his sister’s car and “was essentially living out of it” until his apartment became available.

The things he remembers most about his school days in Montecito? “The cool thing to do was to go to the Wine & Cheese Shop in the Upper Village after school. I remember playing on the huge map of the United States in the [MUS] playground, and music class with Pam McClendon. I also had the good fortune,” he says, “of having her husband, Phil McClendon, in high school.”

Blake and another Santa Barbara friend, Hannah Utt, are part of a theater group that started at UCLA; they have three productions slated for this year. Blake wrote one of them, “a drama or dark comedy” called “Privilege” that he hasn’t finished yet.

That Blake may become a daytime star will probably come as no surprise to his show-biz parents. Dad, Ken Berris, was a creative director at an ad agency before turning to directing, whereupon he created more than 500 television commercials. As writer-director-producer, Ken is a pioneer in the interactive film business. “Spycraft,” made nearly 10 years ago, was made with the direct cooperation of former CIA director William Colby and ex-KGB head Oleg Kalugin. Ken also produced “Pinocchio” with Martin Landau and Jonathan Taylor Thomas. Blake’s mom, Lauren Berris, is a freelance writer, has worked as costume designer and stylist, and serves on the board of the Marjorie Luke Theatre .

Montecito Journal