Children’s Opera Group Stay True To Their Hawaiian Roots
The Hawaii Youth Opera Chorus (HCOC) visited Molokai last weekend with six concerts in three days, showing a vibrancy that challenged the stuffy perception of opera lovers. Molokai residents were impressed by the group, which sang a range of traditional Hawaiian songs as well as the western music which they have become renowned for.
Singing at many places such as the Mitchell Paole Center, La'au Day at One Ali`i fishpond and the Kalaiakamanu Hou and Wailua United Churches, thirty children came on the tour of Molokai. Aged from ten to twelve, the singers are part of the Cora ensemble of the youth chorus, one of eight ensembles which are grouped according to age and ability.
The Chorus has over 200 children from Kindergarten to Grade Twelve of all ethnicities and backgrounds. They are offered lessons in music theory and healthy singing techniques, learning through many fun and exercises which Molokai children tried during three workshops at Kualapu`u school. Many experienced the fun of music whilst expanding their musical abilities and learning new songs with the children of Oahu.
Although the children perform many songs from the Pacific, their musical repertoire includes Broadway songs, traditional Western European music, Sacred music, Secular music and music from the many cultures of Hawaii. As well as two songs composed by adult staff members Herb Mahealona Jr and Stacey Mailelauli`i Naki, who visited Molokai on a retreat ten years ago. The children’s performance at MPC included six traditional Hawaiian songs such as “Moloka`i Nui A Hina,” “Ka Paniolo Nui O Moloka`i” and the Filipeno folk song “Ahay Tuburan.”
The children were accompanied on their trip by the adult chorus which celebrate their tenth anniversary this year. The adult, a capella group are named “Kawaiolaonapukanileo,” which means “The Life Giving Waters of Those Who Unite In Song.”
HYOC was founded in 1961 to provide children for the Hawaii Opera Theatre (HOT)'s production of La Bohème by Puccinni. Children from the Cantilena and Scelto ensembles have recently taken part in the operas Il Trittico and Tosca, while past HYOC members have been involved in Turandot, La Bohème, Carmen, and Cavalleria Rusticana.
As Hawaii's only kids opera chorus, the company were approached by the state and asked to become responsible for the preservation of Hawaiian choral music. This honour was accompanied by a grant from the State Foundation for Culture and the Arts (SFCA) and the American Masters Grant. The chorus are ideal candidates as they have performed across the globe from Wales to Beijing and are delighted to host this summer's Pacific Rim Children's Chorus Festival.
Despite their busy schedule of performances and travel from Mo`omomi to Halawa, there was enough time left for the children to explore Molokai and work at Keawe Nui, learning about Hawaiian fishponds before heading home. The Cora ensemble was delighted with their first visit to Molokai and HYOC will be welcomed back anytime.