Friday, August 2, 2013

Chorale Bel Canto Sings in President's Home State


“Absent Buses and Present Friends”
by Linda de Vries

July 4, 2013. Four members of Chorale Bel Canto joined over 50 other singers from all over the United States to sing “Salute to Valor” aboard the USS Missouri in Pearl Harbor, Hawai’i.

The concert was the culmination of a combination tour and rehearsal process. Under the musical direction of conductor Wesley Martin (the director of the All American Boys’ Chorus in Costa Mesa, California) and the piano accompaniment of Stephanie King, the choir met for morning rehearsals in a banquet room of the Waikiki Hilton Hotel and toured Honolulu in the afternoons and evenings.

The arrangements, organized by Corporate Travel Service, allowed for both group events and lots of individual free time. We arrived in Honolulu on June 29th, coming from Florida to California and states in between. We were delighted to realize we had a beautiful view of the bay from our hotel windows and could walk just two blocks to the beach at Waikiki.

June 30th began with a morning rehearsal. In the afternoon we were given a “Little Circle” coach tour of the entire island of Oahu, with stops along the way to photograph breath-taking coastal views. Dinner was on our own, and Mark and Nancy Hodgson of Chorale Bel Canto took the opportunity to add to their collection of revolving restaurants!

We had the day to ourselves on July 1st, and CBC my fellow alto, Brigitta Weger, and I headed to Hanauma Bay to swim and snorkel—the first time for me! After waiting for the city bus for over an hour, we finally joined with another couple from the Choir of the Sound and a woman from Arizona unconnected with our tour and taxied to the bay. Warm water, kindly people, new friends, a beautiful view, gorgeous fish, and no sunburn! Again facing bus problems we taxied back with a group of “twenty-somethings” from Germany and Switzerland—more new acquaintances!

After morning rehearsal on July 2nd, Brigitta and I walked to a nearby hotel to pick up a shuttle bus to a submarine ride. Today we found the theme of our tour--“absent buses and present friends.” Again, the shuttle company almost left us! Our slightly anxious wait ended happily, though, and we made a new friend, a young woman from Azerbaijan who is a graduate student at the University of Colorado. First time in a submarine for all three of us! The evening was occupied with a group luau and Polynesian dance show at another nearby hotel.

Morning rehearsal and then Brigitta and I headed north to the Polynesian Cultural Center for a full day of cultural immersion, dinner, and another show, “Ka: The Breath of Life.” The Cultural Center is run by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and staffed mostly by students of the Honolulu Brigham Young University. Again, while awaiting the glad-we-caught it shuttle, we met three new friends from our group!

First, overlooking a central lagoon, we viewed dance performances from each of the Polynesian cultures as they passed by us on oared rafts—Hawai’i, Tonga, New Zealand, Samoa, Fiji. Next, we took a canal boat ride through the center of all the different “villages,” followed by a walking tour. As we moved from village to village we were able to witness basket weaving, take a hula lesson, practice throwing fishing spears, eat freshly made poi, and watch a Maori dance presentation in the New Zealand meeting house.

On July 4th our group toured the USS Arizona monument before gathering on the USS Missouri for dress rehearsal. The monument sits atop the sunken Arizona itself, and from within you can see, not far below the surface, the still-rusting portions of the ship. A natural, quiet hush pervaded the crowd as we stood atop the graves of so many seamen.

Mark and Nancy Hodgson Depart the USS Arizona Memorial

The large, tented performance area on the deck of “Mighty Mo” was filled to capacity for our climactic event, a musical festival to honor the men and women of the United States Military and commemorate our national holiday of Independence.

Brigitta Weger and Linda de Vries at Hanauma Bay, Oahu

The Entrance to the USS Missouri

The concert included traditional and contemporary compositions by Irving Berlin, John Williams, Randall Thompson, and others, with a beautiful rendition of the traditional “Hawaiian Wedding song” sung by Dolores Chambers and Michael Carter, and an audience sing-along on “I Can’t Help Falling in Love with You.” Before ending with “The Battle Hymn of the Republic,” the choir sang a medley of the anthems of each of the armed services, with members asked to stand when their salute was sung.

In every concert I sing there is always a moment that evokes tears for me, but as men and women stood throughout the audience and members of the choir who had served raised their arms in salute, I could barely summon voice. On their feet in applause, the audience clapped us out to a rousing encore of “Proud Mary.”

After the concert, the wonderful Corporate Travel staff was ready with a bottle of iced water for each singer, and that night they treated us to a sunset dinner cruise of the harbor, where we were wowed by a brilliant red, white, and blue fireworks display! Quite the day.