In the past four years, a walk across the St. Mary’s University campus always held the possibility of being treated to an impromptu musical performance.
Maggy, Marta and Mary Moipei, who graduated this past Saturday with music degrees, have a habit of randomly humming melodies or breaking into snippets of song.
The 24-year-old identical triplets from Kenya long have been a singing trio, and they cannot seem to help themselves — at this point, music appears woven into their DNA.
Campus bathrooms and stairwells are prime settings, Maggy says, because “the acoustics are great.”
But the sisters’ talents often have been on more formal display during their time in San Antonio, from campus functions and productions to concerts at the Tobin Center to a crowd-pleasing rendition — operatic yet lilting — of the national anthem at a 2015 Spurs playoff game. Last year, they sang at Mayor Ron Nirenberg’s inaugural celebration.
Once, while attending Mass at San Fernando Cathedral with one of their professors, Ray Leal, the Moipeis joined in as the choir sang. Leal remembers congregants looking around in confusion and wonder, taken aback by their “angelic” voices. On another occasion, they sang after a meal at a local restaurant.
As triplets, the sisters have an unusually close emotional bond that is apparent in conversation and when they sing together. It elevates the quality of performance, said Meredith Kiesgen-Schilling, their voice professor at St. Mary’s.
Because they are the same size, the women’s voices have similar “size” and “color,” she said, but each still is distinctive — Marta has a deeper voice, Mary is a high soprano and Maggy is somewhere in between. Together, their voices beautifully complement each other.
“They can feed off of each other in a way that other students that are singing in a trio don’t,” Kiesgen-Schilling said.
“The Moipeis are dedicated. They are passionate. They love singing. They love music,” Kiesgen-Schilling added. “When you ask them to do something, they jump in. They dive in, they do it. They do it with 100 percent of their being.”
While the Moipeis’ musical abilities have flourished at St. Mary’s, they have been practicing their craft since they were small girls growing up in Nairobi, under the guidance of their musician parents, and had formed a nationally known quartet with their sister, Seraphine.
Their father, Nicholas Moipei, taught them from a young age, introducing them to music theory, the piano and different musical genres. Their mother, Christine, frequently drove them to concerts and lessons.
The sisters also extended their range of instruments — besides the piano, Marta learned the trumpet, Mary the clarinet and saxophone and Maggy the flute and piccolo.
The four sisters competed in Kenyan music festivals, toured with an opera company and sang at a Kenyan presidential inauguration. YouTube videos of their singing have racked up hundreds of thousands of views. By the time the triplets came to America, they already were famous at home, and since then have missed Seraphine’s bass contribution to their vocals.
They visited St. Mary’s at the encouragement of the Rev. Martin Solma, the university’s chancellor and provincial of the Marianist Province of the United States. Solma, who lived in Kenya more than 20 years and is a longtime friend of the Moipei family, thought the university’s faith-based, close-knit environment would suit them.
He was right.
“St. Mary’s chose us, so we came,” Maggy said.
“It was like we had been here the whole time,” Mary added.
The Moipeis explored the city’s food and culture. They attended shows at the Majestic Theatre. They found stores that stocked items from back home. They performed at the Tobin to a sold-out crowd. When they got homesick, they listened to Broadway musicals to lift their spirits.
By many accounts, the sisters left a mark on the university community, both with their talent and kindness toward others. One professor joked about the need to flunk them in a class so they would have to stay longer, Solma said.
“For them to be able to share themselves here, it’s a real gift to the university,” Solma said. “And it’s also a gift for them as well. Their time and experience here has really broadened them.”
With school life now behind, the Moipeis are set to perform another concert at the Tobin called, “Too Darn Hot!” on May 26. After that, the sisters hope to stay here for another year, either performing or exploring graduate programs. Whatever they do, they will do it together.
All they really need now, Solma said, is their big break