Take a musical journey Saturday

The West Kaua`i Children’s Choir invites everyone to take “A Musical Journey” with them on Saturday, May 31 at the Waimea Theatre at 3:00 in the afternoon.

The inspiration for the choir came from Engelina Pellin. She said she had been watching the “fantastic way” the kupuna at the Hanapepe Hawaiian Congregational Church sang.

“I noticed Kaua‘i did not have a children’s choir,” Pellin said. “(I wondered) where is our next generation (of singers)?”

Pellin got together with two individuals with music backgrounds, Christobel Kealoha and Helen Sina, who became the choir directors. She started looking for grants and signed on the church as a sponsor.

“That’s how we started,” Pellin said.

Kealoha and Sina attended workshops on the Mainland on the Kodaly Method. The method strives for musical literacy and stresses the singing of traditional folk songs. The Hanapepe Hawaiian Congregational Church provided $15,000 grant for the choir directors to attend the Mainland workshop.

The choir group started with seven to nine children in September. They have 17 members listed on the program for Saturday’s performance. The program includes biographical sketches of each of the performers.

The youngest choir member is 5 years old and the oldest is 11, although they will accept students up to 15 years of age. Amelia Styan had to wait until her birthday in April, when she turned five, in order to join the group.

“Amelia is interested in getting involved in things,” said Sarah Styan, Amelia’s mother. “(The choir) looked like a good opportunity.”

The opportunity has turned out to be lots of fun for Amelia. Two aunties from O‘ahu plan to attend the performance at Waimea Theatre.

Alyssa Pigao said the choir is a good way to get to know other people and to have fun.

“I like the Filipino songs because I am Filipino and I like the Japanese songs because I am Japanese,” Pigao said.

Ashley Okino wanted to be able to sing better, so she joined the choir. She, too, thinks it is a lot of fun.

“I can learn new songs from different countries,” Okino said.

Keatin Mariano-Hardy and Gabriel Smith are the only two males in the group. Both boys said they like everything about the choir. It will be Smith’s first recital. Mariano-Hardy said he is used to performing.

Ethereal Harmony will accompany the choir on selected numbers. They will also provide intermission music.

Sina began the group in 2005 “as an opportunity for string students to develop their performance skills.” She uses an apprenticeship model, where she rehearses and performs with the group.

Ansley Handy is a member of Ethereal Harmony. Sina described her as an example of sterling commitment.

“She lives in Kekaha and travels by bus for all the violin things,” Sina said.

Handy has been studying the violin off-and-on for four years, starting in Michigan where she lived before moving here about two years ago.

“I joined because my two friends were joining and they thought it would be a very important experience in my violin playing,” Handy said.

WKCC co-director Kealoha recently retired from the state Attorney General’s office. After 22 years as an attorney, she has returned to her starting point. After graduating from Waimea High School, she got her college degree in music education. She taught for eight years before going into law.

“Music is everything to island people,” Pellin said. “Let’s just keep bringing more music in … it’s such a wonderful lifestyle and children here are gifted at that.”

The choir rehearses three Sundays a month from noon to 1:30 p.m. at the Hanapepe Hawaiian Congregational Church. Their final rehearsal for Spring was on May 25. They will begin their fall rehearsals in August.

The choir is open to any child of any faith who lives on Kaua‘i. The choir is limited to 30 children. There is a monthly fee of $10, with reductions for additional children from the same family.

Pellin can be reached by e-mail at engeleihitu@aol.com or by phone at 332-7485.

• Cynthia Matsuoka is a freelance writer for The Garden Island and former principal of Chiefess Kamakahelei Middle School. She can be reached by e-mail at aharju@kauaipubco.com

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