The Philosopher’s Tones have been entertaining audiences in the Washington DC area since 2003. We perform in Maryland, Virginia, and Washington, DC, but we are always happy to travel to new and exciting places.

We specialize in unique arrangements of traditional music, and we add a magical flair with our voices, harmonies, and performances.

Although we have eight members, we customize our number to fit your needs. We can perform as a duo, trio, quartet, or quintet for your special occasion.

Get to know the Tones.

Izolda Trakhtenberg, Soprano, Group Manager

Born in Moldova in the former Soviet Union, Izolda has been singing since before she can remember. She sang folk music with her professional vocalist mother and studied classical violin. She graduated from the University of Michigan with a BA in English Drama.

After she moved to Washington, DC, she performed with a cappella trio Fleur-de-Lis and the band, Kiva. In 2003, she formed The Philosopher’s Tones, an a cappella octet that performs traditional and ancient music as well as swing, jazz, pop, and holiday carols. In 2011, she formed Open Fifth with stellar pianist Valerie Higgs. Together, they perform swing, pop, jazz, and show tunes at colleges, universities, and at private and corporate events.

Izolda also performs solo and accompanies her singing with guitar, fiddle, flute, and recorder. She teaches voice privately, has been an adjunct at Howard Community College, and in her Work In Harmony singing workshops. She and her husband reside in Brooklyn, NY.

Catherine Thorpe, Soprano/Alto

Cathy has been praised by The Washington Post as having “a voice of liquid silver” and The Boston Globe described her as “[a]n accurate and committed musician with a voice that can meet any demand, no matter how extreme, with secure and attractive tone.” Ms. Thorpe’s roles and musical stylings are as varied as her vocal range: from leading roles with the New York City Opera National Touring Company to featured solos with The Boston Pops and as the “girl singer” with the Sammy Kaye Orchestra, The Providence Journal, aptly noted that she has “stage presence and range to spare…”

She has enchanted audiences throughout the United States, Europe and Asia-Pacific in numerous operatic roles, orchestral concerts and solo recitals. A versatile musician and vibrant and engaging presence on stage, Soprano Catherine Thorpe is equally comfortable performing numerous vocal styles, from Opera to Early Music to Big Band standards. For many years she was the featured Girl Singer with the famous Swing-n-Sway with Sammy Kay Orchestra on stage and appeared on specials broadcast by PBS stations across the country.

She made her professional operatic debut with the Baltimore Opera in Mozart’s Le Nozze di Figaro with Leon Fleisher conducting. Singing the leading role Marie in Donizetti’s La Fille du Régiment with the New York City Opera National Company she toured across the United States. Other credits include La Rondine at Caramoor, Gianni Schicchi, Tender Land, and The Mighty Casey with the Juilliard Opera Center and Dido and Aeneas with Mark Morris Dance Company at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C.

On the orchestral platform Ms. Thorpe was the featured soloist on tour with The Boston Pops Orchestra under the baton of Keith Lockhart. She was the soloist in Karl Orff’s Carmina Burana in a special performance for the Imperial Family of Japan at the renowned Bunka Kaikan Theatre in Tokyo. She has also appeared as soloist with the Tokyo Philharmonic, the Boston Pro Arte Chamber Orchestra, Portland Symphony Orchestra, Telemann Chamber Orchestra of Osaka, the Baltimore Early Music Consort, and the Boston Chorus Pro Musica.

An acclaimed champion of new music, Ms. Thorpe performed the world and U.S. premieres of Ruth Lomon’s Songs from a Requiem, Arvo Paert’s Te Deum with the Boston Coro Allegro, Robert Ceely’s opera The Automobile Graveyard at Jordan Hall, as well as numerous concerts with the Auros Group for New Music in Boston. She can be heard singing the role of Merry on the Delos recording of William Schuman’s opera The Mighty Casey, conducted by Gerard Schwarz. Ms. Thorpe’s discography also includes Souls on Fire, and Kings and Fishermen, two new oratorios by Charles Osborne, with Souls on Fire featuring Leonard Nimoy as Narrator, and Hear Our Voices, songs from the ghettos and camps of Theresienstadt, both on the label of HaZamir Recordings.

Four other collaborative ensembles, as well as solo work, reveal in Ms. Thorpe an ambitious quest for new expression. Lady Parts shares space in her performing world with Aria Code, presenting solo and small ensemble operatic, opera, and classical styles based on programmatic themes; a new collaboration with guitarist Chris Ladd explores Spanish and guitar-focused vocal chamber music; and The Cat Pack, her newest project, a jazz standard collaborative with top-shelf colleagues who enjoy performing for private parties and events.

Melinda Kernc, mezzo-soprano

Melinda hails from a musical family, leading vocals from the age of seven. She performs as a soloist and with ensembles in many styles: sacred and secular classical, holiday, popular, jazz/blues, musical theatre, folk and rock music. She holds a B.A. in vocal performance and communication from Principia College.

Melinda has devoted her career to music instruction and administration as former Music Director of Clairbourn School (preK-8) and Executive Director of the California Philharmonic. She currently serves as Development Director for the Alexandria Symphony and full-time church soloist as well as maintaining a private music studio. She was recently elected President of the Alexandria Arts Alliance.

Charles K. Parris, Baritone

Charles E. K. Parris, Bass has served as a member of the United States Army Field Band Soldiers’ Chorus, the military’s premier professional touring musical ensemble. While enlisted, he was featured as a soloist with the ensemble, as well as the Columbus (OH), Jacksonville (FL), and Nashville Symphony Orchestras. He was also Non-commissioned Officer in Charge charge of his own vocal ensemble, Meade Camerata, and served as an enlisted conductor.

Additionally, Mr. Parris has performed as one of the twelve professional Gentlemen of the Choirs at Washington National Cathedral , Cathedra, the National Cathedral’s resident professional choir, Choir of the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Reception, Cathedral Choral Society, Nashville Symphony Chorus and Chamber Singers, and the Choir of Christ Church Cathedral, Nashville. Mr. Parris’ concert/oratorio solo credits include Handel’s Messiah, Mendelsohn’s Elijah, The Faure and Duruflé Requiems, Ich Habe Genug and other cantatas by Bach. His stage credits include “Uberto” in Pergolesi’s La Serva Padrona, “Porgy” in Porgy and Bess, both with Tennessee State University Opera Workshop, and “Lion” in “The Wiz” with Salama Urban Ministries, Nashville.

Mr. Parris holds the Master of Business Administration and Master of Science in Cybersecurity Technology from UMUC, as well as the Bachelor of Science in Music from Tennessee State University where he studied voice with Dr. Darryl Glenn Nettles; his principal teachers have included the legendary bass-baritone Simon Estes, Inci Bashar Paige, Mark Oswald, and his current teacher, Marianna Busching. When not singing, Mr. Parris works as a cybersecurity professional in the D.C. Metro/Baltimore corridor.

Michael Allison, Tenor

Farah Kidwai, Soprano/Alto

Soprano Farah Kidwai holds an M.M. In voice pedagogy and performance from Westminster Choir College. She relocated to the DC area recently from California, where she was a member of the world-renowned Los Angeles Master Chorale for eight seasons. While there, she lent her voice to several world premiere performances and recordings, including collaborations with Gustavo Dudamel, John Adams, Morton Lauridsen, and Eric Whitacre. As a session musician, she has appeared in several film and TV soundtracks, including Mission Impossible 2: Ghost Protocol, Oblivion, and Disney’s Planes 2.

Tim Howe, Tenor 

Tim Howe was born into a large musical family and has been singing and performing as long as he can remember. A lyric tenor, he has sung professionally in virtually every style, from Gregorian Chant to Vocal Jazz to good old Rock n Roll. He performs frequently in musical theater productions. He holds a B.A. in Music from Hamilton College and a resume as long as his arm. Local credits include long periods of service in the Schola Cantorum of the Cathedral of St Matthew, and the Choir of the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, local rockers the Cousin John Band and Vocal Jazz quartet DC Express. He is looking forward to a long and fruitful collaboration with the Tones!

Steve Fenton, Baritone

Steven has been involved in music since a very young age.  Starting at age 6, he took classical piano until college, where he studied Trombone and Vocal at Humber College in Toronto. His Baritone voice has been a feature of the Tones since they were founded in 2003.

Gregory Scott Stuart, a professor of voice and opera at Frostburg State University, is a performer with a broad experience in the arts, encompassing oratorio, concert and recital appearances, roles in opera and musical theatre, non-musical acting engagements, work as a church musician, and as a stage director. He has appeared as a soloist in concerts with orchestras including in world premieres of Paul Leavitt’s Cantata Emmanuel, his Magnificat and in premieres of his Requiem in Washington, Paris and at Lincoln Center, NYC and on CD.  He has sung numerous leading roles in opera with local and regional companies, including principal roles in La Traviata, Il barbiere di SivigliaLucia di Lammermoor, Così fan tutte, Hänsel & Gretel, I pagliacci, Amahl & the Night Visitors, La Bohème and The Merry Widow. As an actor, he played several roles in the world premiere of 19, the Musical,  in celebration of the anniversary of the passage of the 19th Amendment granting women the right to vote, a smash hit run of Clue at Cumberland Playhouse, a summer season at the Okoboji Playhouse in Iowa, and in the Helen Hayes nominated ensemble of Optimism or Voltaire’s Candide at Spooky Action Theatre and has a slew of Shakespeare roles to his credit with Shakespeare Opera Theatre, Baltimore Shakespeare Festival, Three Rivers Shakespeare Festival, Seacoast Repertory Theatre, New England Shakespeare Festival, and has tread the boards at DC’s Studio Theatre and in musicals with Pittsburgh Playhouse, Bay Theatre & Ithaca Opera, including a national tour of Seven Brides for Seven Brothers. He has directed operas for Loudoun Lyric Opera, Bel Cantanti Opera, Victorian Lyric Opera & the US premiere of a French musical, Bigoudi, world premieres of Phillip Freund’s Jocasta and Sean Pflüger’s opera Children in the Mist. He earned a Bachelor of Music in Vocal Performance from Ithaca College, and a Master of Fine Arts in Classical Acting from The Academy for Classical Acting at The George Washington University. He is also a polyglot and teacher of French and yoga.


Adeste Fideles
Angels We Have Heard On High
Away In A Manger
The Boar’s Head Carol
Bring A Torch, Jeanette, Isabella (English and French)
Carol of the Bells
Christmas Song
Deck The Halls (Nos Galan)
Ding Dong! Merrily on High
Do You Hear What I Hear?
Dona Nobis Pacem (Latin)
The First Noel
Frosty the Snowman
Gloucestershire Wassail
God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen
Good King Wenceslas
Hark! The Herald Angels Sing
Here Comes Santa Claus
Here We Come A-Wassailing
The Holly and the Ivy
I Saw Three Ships Come Sailing In
In Dulci Jubilo
It Came Upon the Midnight Clear
Jingle Bells
Joy to the World
Little Drummer Boy
Lo, How A Rose E’er Blooming
O, Come, All Ye Faithful
O Come, O Come, Emmanuel
O Little Town Of Bethlehem
O Shepherds of Bethlehem (Pastores a Belén, Spanish and English)
Pastores a Belén
Riu Riu Chiu (13th Century Spanish)
Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer
Santa Baby
Santa Claus Is Coming To Town
Silent Night
Still, Still, Still (English and German)
Twelve Days of Christmas
Ubi Caritas (Latin)
We Three Kings
We Wish You a Merry Christmas
What Child Is This?
Winter Wonderland