A few weeks ago, I traveled to Hawaii for a two-week choral residency featuring the island's high school and college choirs. During those two weeks, I never expected my life to change in so many ways. The warmth and generosity I experienced from the people on the islands was simply breathtaking at times. Dr. Alec Schumacher, the coordinator of the Hawaii High School All-State Festival, agrees with my assessment of the island. "I feel that the nicest people on the planet live in Hawaii", said Dr. Schumacher when describing the choral culture of Hawaii.
What I appreciated the most during the residency, was their enthusiasm for singing. During both the high school and collegiate festivals, people were energized by singing. It didn't matter if they were in the middle of a 4 hour rehearsal, the singers never fatigued, they just keep going. I attribute that to the strong singing culture found on the islands.
Dr. Schumacher shared with me that this festival is different that most high school all-state festivals. Rather than excluding students, they start by inviting all of the high school choral programs from the islands to participate. During the concert, each choir sang a selection, and eventually combined to create a mass choir of 240 students. On top of that, the students learn a hula each year celebrating the rich and expressive culture from Hawaii. As I sat watching them learn that hula, I was thankful that I was the conductor and not a student, because some of those moves were quite difficult to master!
The collegiate festival the following week proved to be just as rewarding. I really appreciated the fact that each college choir brought varying levels of experience to the table, but all of them sang with honesty, commitment, and joy. After reflecting on the entire residency for a day, I decided to debrief with Dr. Miguel Felipe, the director of choral activities at the University of Hawaii - Manoa and the president of the Hawaii's American Choral Directors Association chapter. Dr. Felipe said something that I found to be quite profound when describing life in the choral world on islands.
"When you think about living in Hawaii, and you think past the beautiful weather (which is no small part of living here), you realize that you are living not in the middle of nowhere, you are living the in the center of everywhere. Everyone comes to Hawaii! It is a fantastic place to live, be an artist, express oneself, and learn."
To hear the complete story in this week's episode of Sing To Inspire, click the audio player above.
#SingToInspire Performance of the Week
Hawai`i Aloha - Hīmeni - Lorenzo Lyons
The Rose Ensemble, performer
Jordan Sramek, artistic director and tenor
#SingToInspire Pictures of the Week Picture of the Talent Show from the Hawaiian High School All-State Festival
"Gloria in excelsis Deo" from Gloria, RV 589 by Antonio Vivaldi
The 2016 Nā Leo Hou Festival Choir opening with Vivaldi's "Gloria in excelsis Deo" led by Tesfa Yohannes Wondemagegnehu.Nā Leo Hou is Hawai'i's All-State High School Choral Festival and is co-produced by Hawai'i ACDA (HI-ACDA) and the Hawai'i Youth Opera Chorus (HYOC).Posted by Hawai'i Chapter of the American Choral Directors Association on Wednesday, March 2, 2016