New Vietnamese Music Director

When Huy Doai Le was a little boy, he begged his father for piano lessons. At the time, his family thought Le was too young to study music seriously. 

But when he turned 12 years old, Le again was invited to study music at his local parish in Hanoi, Thai Ha, where he soon thrived as a musician and, later, a conductor. 

“Our rector allowed me to join the music class, where we had various keyboards and performed during Mass and in recitals, but I wanted to join the conducting class,” Le recalls. “I was only 13 and the priest wouldn’t allow it until my father had a long conversation with him and he said ‘OK.’” 

Le says working in Vietnam was a lot of fun, “but I needed to go out into the world to learn more. Here, music will be my full-time job, and I want to do my best for the Vietnamese community and the Christ Cathedral parishioners.” 

After a lifetime of impressive honors and invitational performances – especially noteworthy because of Le’s young age – the Diocese of Orange and Christ Cathedral are proud to have selected him as the cathedral’s first director of Vietnamese music, following an extensive international search. 

“Mr. Le is not just a Vietnamese musician,” says Dr. John Romeri, the diocese’s director of Music Ministry. “He has conducted English-speaking choirs and is a master conductor of music in any language.” 

Le, now 29 years old, has been involved in music ministry for his parish in Hanoi since the age of 14. As the first and only musician in his family, he graduated from the National University of Art and Education with a BM in Music Education in 2012 and continued his studies in Symphony Orchestra Conducting at the Vietnam National Academy of Music.   

He then became a choir director for the Thai Ha Parish and continued his ministry at the St. Joseph’s Cathedral Hanoi, serving both the Vietnamese and English communities. 

“I want to be able to make beautiful music and have beautiful liturgies here and to have beautiful Vietnamese choirs,” Le says of his hopes for his ministry in Orange County.  

A pianist, he says he loves classical music; in particular, he is drawn to works by Gustav Mahler, the Austro-Bohemian late-Romantic composer, and one of the leading conductors of his generation, who as a composer acted as a bridge between the 19th century Austro-German tradition and the modernism of the early 20th century.  He says he fell in love with Mahler in 2010 when he first heard the composer’s works. 

“I can feel the humanity in Mahler’s music, which is very colorful,” he says. Le’s face is transformed with awe when he discusses the effect Mahler’s music has on him. “I feel it here,” he says,
beating his fist on his chest, above his heart. “Mahler’s works fill the auditorium with color.”  

Le has conducted many choirs – the undergraduate choir of Theory & Composition, Conducting Department of VNAM, Solart Vietnam Choir, Hanoi International Choir, Freude Choir (Japanese choir), Vietnam National Opera & Ballet Choir, Vietnam National University of Art Education Choir, and many church choirs.  He also has served as a guest chorus master for the Vietnam National Symphony Orchestra since 2015. 

Le founded and conducted the Hanoi Catholic Youth Choir (HCYC), which received much acclaim from viewers when its members competed on the reality TV show “Vietnam’s Got Talent” in the 2015-2016 season, finishing in the final round.  

The HCYC won the fifth Vietnam International Choir Competition held by Interkultur in June 2017. This competition was comprised of 32 choirs from 10 different countries and regions. The HCYC received the Silver Prize, Level 10 in the sacred choral music category. With the Solart Female Choir, he also received the Silver Prize at the 10th annual International Johannes Brahms Choral Competition in Wernigerode, Germany in July 2017. 

“The Vietnamese have a great love for the Catholic Church,” Le notes.  He says he was honored to conduct the premier of a work by famous Vietnamese composer Hai Linh, “Khuc Ca Mat Troi,” or “Song of the Sun,” for his first conducting appearance during Easter week services. 

Le is excited to join the Music Ministry here at Christ Cathedral Parish and looks forward to working with all of the Vietnamese choirs and community, as well as all of the many choirs of Christ Cathedral.   

“I want to build up a beautiful Music Ministry with international-quality choirs that can sing any kind of music,” Le says of his future plans for the Vietnamese diocesan and cathedral choirs. “I want our choirs to retain the character of Vietnamese music as well. We must keep our culture, but if we want to go all over the world, we need to be an international choir. 

“I love Vietnam,” he says, “but I feel blessed to be here in Southern California.”

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