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Big Island Tour Leaves a Big Impact on Choir Students

Ho'olōkahi Chamber Choir stands outside the Kona, Hawaii temple.
The Ho'olōkahi Chamber Choir standing outside the Kona, Hawaii temple.
Photo by Leilani Guerrero

The Brigham Young University–Hawaii Hoʻolōkahi Chamber Choir traveled to the Big Island to share a multicultural choral music and dance program and left with unforgettable experiences and cherished memories.

Members of the Ho'olōkahi Chamber Choir speak over 20 first languages and represent more than a dozen countries worldwide. Bringing their diverse experiences and cultural practices with them, the choir members shared their love for music with the communities they came in contact with during this year's tour.

Audience clapping their hands.
Photo by Leilani Guerrero

Choir director Erica Glenn shared that it had been over 20 years since a BYU–Hawaii choir toured the Big Island. As a result, they had to build new connections with charter schools, stake members, and community choirs to make the necessary plans and tour schedule. Despite this challenge, they had a total of eight performances in just four days. Further recounting the experience, Glenn shared, "The students, alumni, and community members we sang for across the island were brimming with aloha and were so grateful we were there."

In addition to performing the main evening concerts in Waimea, Hilo, and Kona, the choir met with schools to interact with and sing for the younger students. Their visits to Kanu o Ka' Āina, a Kindergarten through twelfth grade charter school, and the Kamehameha School Hawaii Campus in Hilo were particularly joyous and fulfilling. The children were visibly engaged and involved during the performances, then eagerly asked questions following the program.

Mia Malit-Cruz, a senior studying vocal performance, said the following of the experience, "After delivering our university's 'oli, the "Hiki Mai," to the Kanu charter school, one of the elder teachers led a response 'oli, and the entire charter school followed suit. Everyone's mana filled the room. Tears flowed from our eyes as we formed connections not only between schools but also across generations. We felt connected to those who came before us and to those who will come after us."

BYUH students holding hands with high school students while standing in a circle doing a vocal exercise.
Photo by Leilani Guerrero

The choir director at Kamehameha School in Hilo, Herb Mahelona, said the performance was "life-changing" for his students. He could already see a difference in how they sang and performed—commenting that it was "invaluable" for them to be exposed to this caliber of singing and music, showing them that hard work pays off.

BYU–Hawaii student Cris Wilson, a junior majoring in vocal performance, shared, "Words do not do justice on what we saw and felt as a group. The spirit was with us, and the spirit we felt from the people of the Big Island was unforgettable." Cris also expanded on the unique experience of performing for his mother and grandparents in her hometown and former high school in Hilo. He added that members of his family who were in attendance were "touched by the sweet spirit there and moved" by the program's message of "harmony in diversity."'

Chamber choir standing on stage with choir director and piano accompanist during a performance.
Photo by Leilani Guerrero

During their final day on the island, the choir performed at a church youth fireside with Bradley R. Wilcox, second counselor in the Young Men general presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Wilcox had asked them to incorporate a text he had written into one of the pieces they performed, making it a one-of-a-kind performance. Choir students experienced unique moments like this and many more throughout their time touring the island, making it a trip they'll never forget.