Chamber Orchestra of Kona holds its first performance at new venue, honors American Legion

  • Susan Bickell
  • Logo for the American Legion.
  • The Chamber Orchestra of Kona will host its concert, a tribute to the American Legion centennial, at its new home at the Pirates Outreach Community Center. (Laura Ruminski/West Hawaii Today)

KAILUA-KONA — An adjutant with the American Legion and a veteran of the United States Navy, Susan Bickell feels a close connection to the music she and the Chamber Orchestra of Kona will be performing this weekend.

A tribute to the organization the American Legion’s centennial year, the orchestra will honor the country and veterans on Saturday with performances of songs that have come to define patriotism in the U.S., including “Stars and Stripes,” “America the Beautiful,” and “1812 Overture.”

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“Kona, I find, is very supportive of the troops and of the veterans,” said Bickell, who is also president of the Chamber Orchestra of Kona (COOK). “Whenever we have something out in the community, like parades, I see everybody waving at us, cheering and saying thank you.”

The concert will be held at 6 p.m. Saturday at the Pirates Outreach Community Center, the newest performance venue in the Hualalai Center in Kailua-Kona. It will be the first performance by the orchestra in its new home.

The American Legion is a nonprofit organization for U.S. veterans formed in 1919 with a local post in Kailua-Kona. Bickell, who also plays bass clarinet with the orchestra, believes holding concerts for different groups of the community helps contribute to the orchestra’s reach on the Big Island.

“We want to be diverse and catch a lot of people in different areas of the community, because not everybody likes the symphony,” Bickell said.

Proceeds from the concert will benefit the new Pirates Outreach Community Center, to pay for the new stage being built, new lighting, and a new sound system. The orchestra’s debut performance at the center will also be a test to see how well audiences can enjoy performances there.

“This will be our first concert here in this community center, so I’m excited to see how well it’s going to work out,” Bickell said. “Even though we’re not completely done with the theater yet, we’re still going to do the best that we can and see how the people on the outside like it.”

Bickell said the center’s owner, Nick Traxler, is allowing the orchestra to rehearse at the center every week for free, finally creating a permanent space for the orchestra, which has been playing in Kailua-Kona since 2003.

“It really is our home now. It is our home base,” Bickell said of the orchestra’s move to the new center. “We’re putting money into the theater to make it better for orchestral music. We needed to extend the stage, which we are building this week, so it’s all coming together.”

The improvements being made to the theater will benefit all groups who will use the venue in the future.

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“It’s important to have the community center in Kona, because there really isn’t anything like this right here in town,” Bickell said. “It’s already being used a lot by veterans and children. I see them in here every day.”

Info: Tickets for the Chamber Orchestra of Kona’s Tribute to the American Legion Centennial are $10 and can be purchased chamberorchestraofkona.com. Admission is free for audience members 18 and under.

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