Hawaiian culture
An ensemble from the HYOC sings and performs a hula at the Aha Aina Christmas program at the Nehelani, Schofield Barracks, Dec. 2. They sang in French, Hawaiian, English and Chinese.

SCHOFIELD BARRACKS, Hawaii -- Two dozen middle school students filed onto the stage; the girls' long blue muumuus gently swayed.

The lone two boys wore matching Aloha shirts.

All watched for the signal to begin singing.

Nola Nahulu, also wearing a blue muumuu, stood in front of the group and motioned it was time to start. Voices then filled the Nehelani, here, with angelic sounds.

Nahulu, director of the Hawaii Youth Opera Chorus, or HYOC, led her young charges through a musical journey, here, Dec. 2, at U.S. Army Garrison-Hawaii's annual Christmas party for spouses and children of deployed Soldiers.

"Our first selection ('avec garde le montante') is in French, but set in Seville, and is from the opera 'Carmen.' They play the street children who imitate a group of marching soldiers," Nahulu explained.

The HYOC's repertoire -- sung in a variety of languages, including French, Hawaiian, English and Chinese -- included operatic selections, traditional Hawaiian songs and hapa haole, or mixed English and Hawaiian songs.

The hapa haole song "Mele Kalikimaka," or "Merry Christmas," was the most popular selection. Audience members, glancing at sheet music, sang along with the help of chorus members who walked out into the audience.

After the performance, chorus members sat at their assigned tables for dinner. In between bites of prime rib, they answered questions from the audience.

Thorin Jean, who attended the event with her mom, Chriztina, wanted to know how many hours a week they practice.

"We practice on Thursdays from 3:45-6:15 p.m.," said Trisha Hirano, 14. "Then we practice on Saturdays, too."

Trisha, who attends Mid-Pacific Institute in Manoa, said she's been in the chorus for as long as she remembers.

"We all grew up together," she said, "and we're like family."

About 200 kindergartners through high school seniors are members and perform in age-based ensembles. Besides performing in operas, they sing in festivals in places such as Europe.

Organized by the Native Hawaiian Liaison Office, USAG-HI, the event was the latest quarterly Aha Aina, or feast.

Col. Douglas Mulbury, commander, USAG-HI, and the evening's host, said that the Native Hawaiian Liaison Office performs an important function within the garrison. He said that the office is instrumental in strengthening cultural understanding and building friendships between the Army in Hawaii and the native Hawaiian community.

Mulbury recognized the children in the audience whose parents are deployed.

"We remember them and include them every night in our prayers," he said.

To learn more about upcoming Native Hawaiian events, email nhliaison@gmail.com or call 808-655-9694. See more photos and videos of this event at www.flickr.com/usaghawaii.

Page last updated Fri December 9th, 2011 at 17:40