Archive for Men’s Chorale

Here to there…

As I’m typing up this on my flight to Brazil, I couldn’t help but switch my iPod to the last Men’s Chorale album, Restoration. Sorry for the onslaught of the last few entries, but it was worth typing out.

We said our quick goodbyes and finished off tour as we all arrived at APU and then split, but I’ll definitely miss those not returning and those graduating. The legacy of this group is something special… I spoke about it at the group gathering on the North Shore, but those that have come through the Chorale owe it to each other and to the guys coming in year after year, to pass on what this group means to them. To pass on the brotherhood that is created with each new group that is formed year after year. To each person, it means something different, but I can tell you that there’s great significance.

Personally, I owe a big thank you to those that came before me. For the way they accepted people like myself, fostered a relationship that only a group of guys can experience, and really kept the leadership of this group going.

As I’m jumping to four different time zones within the span of two days,… (Honolulu, LA, Dallas, Sao Paulo), I’m laughing to myself at the two extremes I’m going between…

Singing. Side by side with 65 other men. Fettke, McKay, and Wilhousky. No rehearsals, Just stage to stage. Crazy roommates.

Viola. With my three colleagues in the quartet. Schubert, Dvorak, and Beethoven. Personal practice, rehearsals, teaching, performing. Own room.

Wow. If I come back a little out of sync, you’ll know why. It’s gonna be a fun one!

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So this entry was obviously done earlier. Just wanted to let anyone out there know, you can feel free to post comments about anything; I’d love to see who’s out there also!

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North Shore!

Before our run of performances for Sunday, we had a last squeeze of free time let on the island. The whole group took a trip to the north shore of Oahu and spent the rest of the day there. First stop: Waimea Bay Beach Park. Simply incredible!!!

Thanks to the Beck and Peck family, we had snorkeling gear and boogie boards to play with. This could be a dangerous beach, with the waves breaking pretty high right on the beach, but nobody got hurt.

Jeremy was able to catch some incredible photos of the waves in action… and everyone getting swallowed by them! I mean, you can just see the terror in people! And nobody beats Eric, not in this case!

The rest of the night, we went a bit down the coast to the home where the Beck family was in and had a delicious backyard dinner. Backyard meaning Banzai Pipeline beach… 😉

Now this is where the waves can be deadly. They hold the biggest competitions on this beach and the waves get high up. But we couldn’t ask for more: enjoying our last couple days on the island with the sunset and a warm breeze while the moon came up. Be sure to check out some of the photos from this!

As with Men’s Chorale tradition each year on tour, we take time right before the last concert, and as much time as is needed, to have an open time of thanks, comments, encouragements, whatever else you want to call it. Never is it more an emotional time for the graduating seniors, those leaving, those who have been it for a good amount of time. With this tour being different, we didn’t have our own final church concert to do this, so we settled for this ‘backyard’. There were jokes, thank you’s, cockroaches… wait, what?! Luckily, I didn’t encounter them, but one corner of the group get squirming in quick jolts. Think they found some friends crawling around them…

Many photos courtesy of Jeremy McDaniel. They’re awesome, thanks!!! See the rest on Flickr!

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Finishing up

On Friday, we gave a performance at the beautiful Hale Koa hotel. For years, this is the place where our soldiers come back and rest from overseas, Iraq, Afghanistan, etc. They meet their families here and it’s usually the first place they come to back in the States.

Again, General Cockett gave us a wonderful introduction with some nice acclamations. Despite being outside in a courtyard, under a cool tree, with the construction going all around us, it did feel like there was extra effort to sing out and beyond. I don’t know about anyone else, but I was hoping some ears out there were those that we were paying tribute to with the Navy Hymn, Battle Hymn, and all the patriotic literature.

Then we headed a few blocks away to the Royal Hawaiian shopping center. Right there by the main street in the middle of this gigantic, upscale outdoor mall, we sang and shared testimonies. Of course, Jonté decided to conduct the first number. It was alright… he done good.

Afterwards, I got to meet a really cool couple that was watching us with their adorable kids! They are APU alumni, and he’s actually in the military and stationed on the island! I also found out they graduated with Jeff and Clara of Marmac Theater and who also teach drama at my high school. Anyway, shout out to our new acquaintances, Graham and Diana, and thanks for coming to the last few days of our performances!

I dare to say our biggest crowd came next at the Ala Moana Shopping Center. They have a center stage where they often have local performers and high school share music and dance of some sort.

Something like three of four levels high with a food court nearby, I’d say it was pretty fun to sing to this crowd of all kinds of people! A couple teenagers saw us all clustered together in our outfits and threw out a “hey, looking good you guys!” to which I responded with an ecstatic, “Hey thanks!” Pretty sure the blip of sarcasm registered a little too late for me. Whoops. Regardless, I saw that group of teenagers standing and listening to us for most of the performance while we were on stage. Sweet.

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Some interesting performances…

After our trip to Diamond Head, a few of us decided to make the run up Diamond Head like some of the joggers that crossed our path earlier! Wednesday morning started off quite exhilarating! Until those stairs of course… going from a full run and skipping off rocks and ledges to a … nice complete grappling of the stair railings, one step at a time! Phew…

Aside: if you ever get a chance to try coconut pancakes WITH a coconut syrup, then do it. 🙂

Wednesday night’s big event was the famous Kawaiaha’o Church. Likened as the Westminster Abbey of the Pacific, it has a simple, colonial grandeur to it that made a very warm sound for performances. This night was the first annual Na Kane concert ever. Translation? “The Men”. It brought together the Honolulu Youth Opera Chorus, the Somoan Gospel Heralds, Aaron Mahi’s Alumni Glee Club of the Kamehameha School (who we’d rehearsed with the night before), and a barbershop choir, The Sounds of Aloha. The night ended with a full combined choir performance of Honolulu by Neil McKay featuring the very famous Hawaiian dancer, Kanoe Miller!

Our preparation for it got a little interesting however. With no group rehearsals ahead of time, the dress for the concert was a bit confusing. Turns out every group had their hawaiian shirts and slacks on, and we had arrived in our coat tails! Alas, it was too hot in the building for jackets; our tuxes with the white shirts and kakui nut necklaces looked pretty darn good.

The next day, we took a smaller group to visit Castle High, the school where Bryan Clay attended before coming APU. It was a bit of work singing all morning for the students, but we had fun. The first was a polynesian music classes that included a ukulele army with a few guitars and vocalists. As they played a few songs for us, we all couldn’t help but notice how relaxed their sound was! It just made me happy… the singing in Hawaiian, the ukuleles,… yes, I can see it now. Palm trees and white sand. Perfect. We finished the high school visit by checking out their wind ensemble rehearsal and the track team, gave some promo material, and headed onto our next performance with the rest of the chorale.

The First Presbyterian Church on Oahu was on a golf course, one of the hardest in the world, I hear… the Ko’olau Golf Course. It was a beautiful location, Jurassic Park seemed to be right outside the window. Unfortunately, the VOG wasn’t helping. The middle of this week brought a smog mixture of volcanic ash from the big island; a volcano had gone off and the wind blew the stuff over to this island. I don’t think most of us felt it as much as all the newspaper headlines were yelling out. We’re from LA after all. Well, we were to perform that evening, along with two other musical groups. Our numbers were at the beginning, and the very end.

What happened next was pretty amazing for most of us. Having finished the performance, the audience, other bands, and all of us shared some fellowship time with baked goods and coffee. A lady came up to me quite flustered asking for a schedule of our next performance, so I told her and she went on her way.

As the last people left for the night, we were getting ready to board the bus. A few whistles from Harold brought us all back into the lobby of the building. There was the lady I had spoken to along with her husband. They had driven for hours to get here tonight, but had lost there way and made it just in time to catch the last few chords of the performance! We couldn’t let that go now… an impromptu concert came about and we circled the couple in a round and sang for them. Wow, first, what joy we had brought them, a special performance for them. Secondly, what joy we sang with. To repeat what other guys said later that night, we seldom sing so freely and without any hindrance!

Turns out the gentleman is head of something at the Salvation Army and they were from England. Who knows how the chorale will be used in the future, especially having him express how he’d like to keep in contact and use us!

On another note, I wonder how many people know about this. So, all the rage for the last few days has been Cha Cha. Do you know Cha Cha? Got a question? You should ask Cha Cha.

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Where’s the crowd?

One of the dynamics of this tour being so different has been the audiences we sing for. As grateful as we are to be in a beautiful place like Hawaii sharing our ministry, it is hard to suppress some frustrations that have run its course through a good part of the chorale.

What’s made this tour a bit different?

We’ve performed in public venues for come-and-go crowds, not church concerts. It’s not quite our normal routine, and it may feel like it’s outside of the normal ministry that we are to do. Almost all of the places we have sung in so far feels as though we lack a crowd, and it can feel incredibly disappointing.

Surf the Nations on Waikiki beach with a few people in front of the stage and some little kids.

The performance at New Life Church.

Bishop Square Downtown.

Pearl Harbor’s Aviation Museum.

There’s more… but here’s the point. The crowd may feel sparse, but each and every time we’ve sung under these circumstances, I’ve realized after the fact that to say it was fruitless is completely false. At this point, I will cease to believe that a performance is fruitless even if there is ONE person there because of what I’ve seen and heard now.

Surf the Nations? Well, turns out the organizers of the event said we held the biggest crowd over the two-day event and were heard all the way down Waikiki Beach, sharing Jesus Christ over the loudspeakers! Where was this crowd? They had settled in the shade on the grass right behind the stage! Not one of us knew it walking away, disappointed, but they were there! The name of Christ through those loudspeakers in one of Hawaii’s most popular destinations. Better believe it.

New Life Church? If that didn’t bring all the local people associated with APU for the alumni gathering and concert that evening, it became a blessing for those that were there. The parents with us, the school staff, the founders of Surf the Nation,… I could go on.

Bishop Square? People may have come and gone during their lunch hour from work, but a man came up to Harold saying how much he needed to hear us and the effect it had on his heart.

Then the Aviation Museum? Let’s not discount the museum staff that was behind that video camera. I’m sure the gift shop that was just a wall away heard us. Who knows how many ears we’ll have reached and and who we’ll encounter!

As an example, the other night at the First Presbyterian Church, we finished singing our number in a joint concert with a band. As we met and greeted people afterwards, a couple came up asking for our performance schedule, very flustered. Not knowing, I just directed them to our table and they received a schedule. Not more than 30 minutes later as we were about to leave on the busses, a whistle from Harold brought us all back into the building. Right in the lobby was that same couple. They had driven for over an hour or two, lost their way, and made it just in time for the last five chords of our performance!

Right there in that lobby, we embraced them by circling around them, and began singing. Ending with Holy, Holy, Holy and the Amen chorus, the gentleman then prayed for us. I later found out he heads up part of the Salvation Army, so he might’ve been a really big deal, and he wants to use us. And they were from England. Just goes to show, who knows what could be in store for the chorale down the road.

If this can be any encouragement to our guys that are reading, or anyone out there for that matter performing, ears do get reached, and in this sense, the Holy Spirit definitely comes in play, whether our minds are tired, our voices fatigued, our bodies exhausted from being on the road for fifteen days. What little we can give, turns into a lot for those sitting beyond the stage. We just don’t know so many times.

I just finished a book, Dispatches from the Edge, by CNN anchor and correspondent, Anderson Cooper. In a very telling memoir of his journeys through Niger, the Tsunami, Iraq, and then Katrina, he opens himself up to an incredible place of vulnerability and recounts his childhood, the incredible losses in his family, and his urge to keep moving from place to place. At one point about hurricane Katrina, he mentions all the loss that he saw. Yet the networks had given him wonderful ratings and viewership and told him to ‘keep it up’. From what he says, it seems like he never cared, understood, needed the ratings. He needed to help these people. Reminded me of what we’re doing here. We’re continually blessing people with our voices whether we recognize it or not.

If it’s also any consolation, the first part of our tour was in northern California. One of our bus drivers, Marie, told a couple of us at the very last concert in Napa, “I really needed this.” She didn’t come expecting it, but she needed this so much, she quietly passed onto us. Wow. This is what happens. She had come along and heard our performance for those five days on tour. “What do you wanna do this Mother’s day mom,” she said her daughter will ask. “I’m going to church!”

‘Nough said.

So whether it’s singing for what seems to be about 15 people in the audience, or some public park waterfall overtakes your sound, or waking up at 5 a.m. (Harold and Andrea!) for a television station interview, it isn’t fruitless. Maybe it takes a lot to trust that this might have touched someone and something could come to fruition a decade from now. This tour has been different. We usually minister to God’s own people in churches, and it is encouraging. But this time around, we were out by the streets, in the malls, on the beaches. What more opportunities could we have asked for? We’ll see, right?

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Pearl Harbor, USS Missouri, and Kamehameha!

Among the hassles of 70 men traveling together in close proximity for 16 days, illness! Yippee! There’s definitely a bug going around and we’re doing everything we can to cut it down. Traveling, waking up, speaking, just that much more effort exerted. Oh yeah, and it makes for difficult singing. But on a broader look at things, we may have arrived on the island for only five or six days at that point, but it’s easy to forget the first part of tour actually brings it to the tenth or eleventh day. Exhaustion sometime sets in, tempers run high and patience low. Just some of the things to keep each other accountable and in-check throughout tour. Best of luck to the small groups tours this summer from APU! What is it, six weeks?

One of the high points of this tour was the visit to Pearl Harbor and the performance at the USS Missouri! In the same way that these men and women in uniform stand side by side to defend our very freedom to wake up, walk, and sing that morning, here was our chance to stand as men, side by side, to honor and pay tribute to those fallen, especially in that very harbor on the 7th of December sixty-seven years ago.


With the Memorial of the USS Arizona in the background, we sang with a great verve that gave our liaison from the Missouri’s staff “chicken skin”. She was so joyous that we had the chance to sing on that pier, she barely got all her words out! There may not have been a big crowd, but it’s times like that that we realize, it does affect people, and if it can get to one person out there, then fulfilling our purpose.

There are some people we’re very grateful to have on tour with us. Andrea McAleenan, the special advisor to the President of APU, is the one who coordinated all these great opportunities for us, and opened the way for us to carry out the ministry of the choir to the island of Oahu. She’s worked tirelessly for hours on end to make sure those everything actually happens, and those bumps we feel along the road are nothing compared to what has actually been taken care of without us even knowing! We also have with us the wonderful staff of the School of Music too! It’s been a blessing to have them with us, I think they’re enjoying the performances each and every time, if I can tell by their faces while in the audience! Glad you could be with us!

We went onboard the Missouri and I definitely felt an air of respect for all the events that have happened aboard what is the only operational battleship still left in the world. The battles it has been in, the navy personnel who have made this their home, the surrender of the Japanese empire in 1945. Yes, the surrender deck was probably the high point of my visit; to imagine all those eyes on that day peering over the railings and from the bridge while in Tokyo Harbor, the efforts of those who died culminated into that very moment of triumph, not of either side, but of a peace signing that ended a long and very hard war.

Here’s some fun photos from aboard the Missouri! Check out some other photos from my Flickr photo album!

And for old times sake, I had to do this one and this one again…

On our way to perform and sing at the Pacific Aviation Museum, I met a couple who was with a Norwegian tour group who wanted to come hear us sing for a little while. Seeing our shirts with “Azusa Pacific” on them, they started talking to me about the Azusa Street Revival of 1906! Turns out they were a pentecostal group and they were excited to have been there to listen to us… you never know who might be listening sometimes!

As an interlude, Doug apparently had an incredible plate of Pineapple-Spam Fried Rice from the museum’s restaurant, and one of our buses broke down, prohibiting a small part of the group from traveling to the next destination.

As we walked along Punchbowl National Cemetary, our guide brought us by some of the notable names among those buried there. One that he explained quite briefly caught me right away: Ernest Taylor Pyle. Ernie was a solder of World War I, but it was during the second World War that he became known as a true gem of a journalist. Few have written in the manner that he has, and he captured the hearts of readers everywhere with his narrative style, having made his subjects so close and personal to the reader, allowing them to be enveloped in the circumstances and environment of his subject. I would not have caught this if it weren’t for my friend’s post on our community blog… thanks Hector! I encourage you to go and read it!

We ended the evening by visiting Kamehameha School, a very prominent traditional school of the island that only allows those to attend that have Hawaiian blood and heritage in them. It’s quite prestigious. In the chapel waiting for us was the Alumni Men’s Chorale, led by Aaron Mahi.

They had such a warm and friendly sound, I couldn’t help but smile as they sang traditional Hawaiian chants and other songs. It really painted the picture of the waves and water that the culture holds so dearly!

We then sang for them, and especially on Ka’ililauokekoa, there was a standing ovation! They loved it! In fact, they said they’ve heard the Yale Glee Club, and their sound was nothing like what we had produced that night! I mean… the chapel was pretty good sounding 🙂

Some photos courtesy of Brian Hadfield! Thanks!

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Day 9: Diamond Head, Downtown, and Recording!

Wow, what a start to the day! Hiking Diamond Head with a few guys and Terry Franson to start the morning off! About twenty of us took the 30-minute hike up for some spectacular views of both the south and the east coast of Oahu from the summit! There were some stairs (fun…) that went through tunnels and bunkers from when the crater used to be a point of defense for the island.

At the top of Diamond Head, we got in a round and began to sing Holy, Holy, Holy. With a view of the whole tip of the island, the chorus rose louder and louder. It was so freeing doing that in view of God’s creation and the strangers around us taking everything in as well.

Our next performance was at Bishop Square in downtown Honolulu. It was a beautiful area in the middle of the business district, so we had some fun people-watching as we set up risers and speakers among the high rises.

I also found a bird that just sat there in the middle of all the guys while we set up. Didn’t move for a few minutes, just chillin’. Even the birds here relax… I could learn something here!

There were people coming by, stopping, going, so it felt sparse, but it’s always incredible hearing a gentleman coming up to us afterwards saying how blessed he was and that he needed this so much. We never really know what we do in the moment, but we just trust that God does open up a lot of ways for this ministry to be as effective as it is!

We were also greeted by General Irwin Cockett and his colleague. Quite an honor receiving their compliments as the first Hawaiian general of the US Navy, as I understand. Even better? They liked our pronunciation on the song Ka’ililauokekoa! Score!

After we sang downtown, one of the guys received a text message from our friend and brother, Lucas. He couldn’t be with us on tour because of a significant surgery for his lungs this morning. He had been in our prayers for this situation for months now, and it had come down to this hour. The text was from Lucas himself saying the surgery had been successful and he is recovering without too much pain! We stood there in the middle of the city, arms over each other and just gave praise for this good news!!! Lucas, we’re glad you’ve come through and that the Lord does answer our prayers. Hope that you have a restful and quick recovery! We miss  having you with us!

After singing and eating at Bishop square, I sat with a few guys, Andrew, Josh, Daniel and myself. There was a nice elderly lady who came up to us and asked plenty of questions… her name? Barbara. Swingin’ Babs… that is! She kept telling us she liked hanging out with the younger, hipper crowd; of course, she loved dancing, been doing it since she was little and never needed to diet… she told us to drink water and ice tea (with our sodas in hand). But she sure was fun to talk to… we took a few pictures, got some hugs and she went on her way, saying how much we made her week! With the hugs she gave us, she said we need to always be accepting of hugs. If we can’t, then maybe we need to find a way to be able to do so. Some truth in that, eh?

We went from there straight to the State Capitol building. Not at all what we expected. The architecture of the building resembles a volcano, so the building was an open building. So much for a ‘rotunda’! We still sang in the center of it

With the evening left, we got to look forward to our recording session in the Cathedral of Saint Andrew. This beautiful sanctuary had a nice warm sound and a long reverb to it that just gave us goosebumps,… or chicken skin as some people on the island have put it!

As we prepared for recording, we were filled with excitement, yet exhausted from the full day of performing, walking, thinking about what’s ahead. It was pretty difficult to keep the energy going as 9 p.m. rolled around, the sanctuary was just a tad toasty (and by toasty, I mean locker room toasty, whatever that entails!).

Among one of the pieces recorded was our Hawaiian number, Ka’ililauokekoa. Try saying that. Now, three times in a row. Now use it in a sentence. 🙂 Props to Harold for getting it pretty well when we perform it also… As we neared the end of our recording session, we pulled together and did something that astounds me each and every time. When it’s time to get down to business, the chorale gets this energy and focus that gets us incredibly in-the-moment! We pound out this piece that has gotten us flustered and worried on pronunciation and articulation, but it’s tonight that we really nail it and bring it home! Be sure to look for it on our next album… it’s become one of our favorite pieces since we came on tour!

Anyway, I’m sure the church organist had to air out the cathedral after.

Some photos courtesy of Jessie Bullock and his dad. Thanks!

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