Kona Choral Society honors Black History Month with annual concert

  • Members of the Kona Choral Society. (Kona Choral Society/Courtesy Photo)
  • Conductor Susan McCreary Duprey, left, leads the Kona Choral Society in a song at Kona's annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Community Celebration. Kona Choral Society's annual Black History Month concert will be held Friday at St. Michael the Archangel Church. (Kona Choral Society/Courtesy Photo)
  • Binti Bailey leads the audience in song at the 35th annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Community Celebration. Bailey will be a featured soloist at the Kona Choral Society's annual concert celebrating Black History Month. (Laura Ruminksi/West Hawaii Today)

KAILUA-KONA — Binti Bailey wants to send a message to the people of Kona, through the power of song.

“I always sang in church growing up, and music has always been a part of me,” Bailey said. “It’s my voice. It’s my way of reaching people and touching people.”

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At 7 p.m. Friday at St. Michael the Archangel Church on Alii Drive, the local musician will be one of more than 100 voices reaching out to the community to celebrate Black History Month. Bailey will once again be a featured soloist at the Kona Choral Society’s third annual concert celebrating Black History Month, “The Storm is Passing Over: A Celebration of African-American Gospel and Spirituals.”

“I feel like a broken record when I say this, but the times we’re in now, this is very similar to the time when Civil Rights was at the forefront,” Bailey said. “This is a concert for all people. The music comes from a place of struggle. It sends a spiritual and inspirational message.”

Black History Month is celebrated through the month of February in the U.S.

“If you want to witness a very special event, that we rarely see on the island, you should come to the concert,” Bailey said. “Witness what a talented group of voices can bring together. Experience the essence of the African-American experience, through music, through gospel.”

Some of the songs in the choir’s repertoire for Friday’s performance will be “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” often called the Black National Anthem, “We Shall Overcome,” and the concert’s namesake, “The Storm is Passing Over.”

“It’s just the idea behind the song — it’s hope,” Kona Choral Society conductor and artistic director Susan McCreary Duprey said. “Our storms as individuals and as a community, they will pass, so you’ve got to keep on keeping on.”

The Kona Choral Society has been a part of Kona’s annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Community Celebration for years, and it was that event that inspired Duprey to create the concert to honor Black History Month.

“There’s not many places here (on the island) that celebrate Black History Month,” Duprey said. “But we celebrate so many different cultures, it seemed fitting.

“The music speaks to everyone, no matter their heritage.”

Another featured soloist at this year’s concert is Dan Garrett, a three-year member of the Kona Choral Society and participant in the Black History Month celebration. Garrett said he grew up listening and performing the music featured at the concert, but the songs shouldn’t deter any first-timers.

“I think it is accessible in a way to people that sometimes classical music may not be,” Garrett said. “I also think that it’s very important because the music is geared toward freedom. I think we are in times where it’s very important for us to remember we need to protect the rights of all human beings.”

Garrett pointed out one thing that makes this concert more accessible than others— audience members are encouraged to lend their voices as well.

“There will be some points where the audience will be singing to so it is wonderfully inclusive,” Garrett said. “In our very diverse culture here on the Big Island, I think it’s important for us to glory in that people of many different cultures make their home here. And we need to keep an awareness of the rights of all people, and I think this is a concert that promotes that.”

The concert is also free for everyone, making it easy for everyone in the Kona community to attend.

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“It’s really great to have an event like this celebrating the minority community on the island,” Bailey said. “People remember it as a beautiful night.

“I think it’s just awesome. I cried the first year. It was just a really moving experience.”