Kairos Youth Choir in the Opening Chorus

Berkeley’s premier youth choir, Kairos has offered comprehensive vocal music education to children ages 6 to 15 for over twenty five years.

The youth choir is featured in the opening chorus of our St. Matthew Passion performances. John Eliot Gardiner compares that movement to the immense altar paintings from the 16th century, where an entire story is told, with different scenes playing out at the same time. Following that idea, we can imagine a procession of mourners in the streets, with death bells sounding in the bass part in the orchestra. Witnesses of what has been happening in Jerusalem (Choir I) invite onlookers (the believers, or Daughters of Zion, Choir II) to join them, and speak of Jesus’ suffering, including him carrying the wood for his own cross.

Gardiner says: “The music seems entirely complete … and we marvel at how smoothly [Bach] makes room for a series of antiphonal exchanges between his two choirs and orchestras. But there is still more to come: at the moment when the first choir refers to Jesus as a bridegroom, and then as a lamb, Bach brings in a third choir with the chorale “O Lamb of God, unspotted,” in an abrupt expansion of the sound spectrum: a G Major chorale within the E minor context of the main piece. Sung in unison by a group of trebles, the effect must have been stunning.”

The congregations in Leipzig, where the St. Matthew Passion was first performed on the afternoon of Good Friday in 1727, would have heard this chorale, also known as the German Agnus Dei, earlier that day at the conclusion of the morning service.

Our St. Matthew Passion concerts feature members of Kairos' Aphaia and Agape choruses. In addition to performing at the all-Kairos winter concert each December, Aphaia and Agape choristers sing at the Junior Bach Festival and other events throughout the year, and are regular guests at KPFA radio. Kairos presents a fully staged musical play every spring, showcasing educationally rich stories such as A Midsummer Night's Dream and Fiddler on the Roof. In recent years, Kairos has toured Norway, Denmark, Italy, Greece, and Austria.

Kairos founder and conductor Laura Kakis Serper received her degrees in music education and voice performance from University of the Pacific Conservatory of Music as well as Westminster Choir College and Aspen Music Institute. Her Greek heritage inspired the name of Kairos Youth Choir and its choruses. Kairos [Kah-ee-ros] means time measured by quality, the moment when all things work together in harmony. Aphaia is the Goddess of Light; Agape means Love.

Ms. Kakis Serper is also the director of choral music at The Crowden School, and is a former artistic director of San Francisco Boys Chorus. She was recognized at the California State Senate for her excellent musical service to the community through Kairos Youth Choir programs.

Kairos, with director Laura Kakis Serper and pianist and composer Arkadi Serper in front, after a successful concert at the Votivkirche in Vienna, Austria • Photo by Geoffrey Biddle