Exploring new sounds: Kona Choral Society’s Youth Chorus presents ‘Awakening Spring’

  • Kona Choral Society's Youth Chorus will perform a concert, "Awakening Spring," on Friday, May 11 at Hale Halawai. (Kona Choral Society/Courtesy Photo)

Tidings of new beginning are often celebrated through song. The Kona Choral Society’s Youth Chorus’ “Awakening Spring” concert, at 5:30 p.m. on May 11 at Hale Halawai, will leave behind the old familiar melodies for new musical experiences.

The free concert will center around a repertoire of musical arrangements, organized by Kona Choral Society’s Youth Director Wendy Buzby, that have helped the children of the Youth Chorus understand music through its complexity and challenges. The beginning of what Buzby describes as a foundational learning that allows the students to familiarize themselves with a new world of sound, by exploring the harmonies and literature of captivating international and multi-ethnic music.

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“The inspiration for the concert was folk songs from around the world,” Buzby said, who will be accompanied by Gloria Juan on piano and Sharon Cannon on percussion. “Much of the reason these songs were chosen was to help expose students to different types of music, language, and build on their skills.”

The intentional pairing of songs for each performance group was decided upon as a means to allow the singers to explore new elements of musical study. The Children’s Choir, comprised of Elementary school-aged children, will perform three musical numbers. The first number, “Two Jests for Fun,” is a lyrically challenging song that has vocalists focusing on the interrelatedness of the pitch and rhythm. Next is “Tick-Tock Clock,” a new take on an old nursery rhyme, and third, “Two by Two,” a song with a religious feel that includes choreography.

For this age particular group, Buzby has been focusing on building bonds through practice; helping students to solidify a musical foundation through reading music and singing advanced harmonies. “They are being challenged and exposed to new skills and there has been such growth from concert to concert,” noted the artistic director.

The oldest members, the Youth Chorus of middle and high school-aged singers, will treat audiences to four vocally demanding numbers that highlight several soloists. Leading off with a gentle lullaby, “Fairest Lady,” featuring soloist Kam Zara Friday, followed by “If I Could Catch a Rainbow,” a jazz-inspired piece with unique tonal qualities and a solo appearance by Kathy Fraser. Next, “Kyrie Gregorianus,” based on a Gregorian melody, will highlight the quartet of Shea Sanders Piaz, Isabel Rodriguez, Misty Bera and Aisha Elmer leading the chant and repeat. Rounding out the eldest group’s performance will be “River in Judea,” the popular gospel-styled song, with soloists Misty Bera, Charlotte Dadzie, Pomai Magoon Haider, Isabel Rodriguez.

This musical selection is about, “Relating to others through song. It’s about reaching forward and reaching back, combining old nursery rhymes with different melodies and sounds,” the conductor explained. Buzby worked with the teenage group to broaden their musical palette, to try something more sophisticated, reading music with different rhythms, staves, systems, and part following.

The youngest group, the Primary Chorus, of children in Kindergarten and lower Elementary, will delight audiences with their multilingual number, “Head and Shoulders,” a song performed in English, Italian, and Hawaiian. In addition to the language, the fun song is meant to bring joy and amusement and has helped the youngest singers build skills with rhythm and movement.

The culmination of the show will feature all members of the chorus joining together to perform “The Rhythm of Life,” a spring-inspired song, and the Hawaiian ballad, “‘Ulili E,” a traditional Hawaiian arrangement featuring Lile Talasinga and Bella Dadzie on ‘ukelele.

The message that Buzby works to convey through her concerts is the storytelling and emotional connectedness of song. Her vocalists learn the value of communicating with listeners, allowing a relationship to build between their song and their audience, and the cultivation of that relationship. Between the Kona Youth Chorus and their audiences there has been a reciprocal feeling, as was evident by the over 200 attendees at the previous holiday winter concert.

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Buzby, still within her first year at the helm of the Youth Chorus, is excited about sharing the hard work and dedication of her students. She looks to continue to build relationships with the Kona community and perpetuate the Hawaiian language and culture through song, and open the musical realm of possibilities.

For more information, visit www.konachoralsociety.org