Honolulu Children's Opera Chorus

Na Leo Hone (The Sweet Voices)

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The Honolulu Children's Opera Chorus might easily be called the Honolulu Opera Children's Chorus; the group performs children's choral parts in productions by the Hawai'i Opera Theatre. As a children's chorus supporting a local adult organization, it is similar to those in many other American cities -- perhaps the sound is a bit less polished than some. The program opens and closes with cheery English-language songs written specifically for children's choirs; these are the sort of thing heard at school assemblies all over the U.S. Nevertheless, the music has a distinct Hawaiian flavor in many ways. While mainland choirs may begin with traditional classical selections and proceed to popular material, here the order is reversed -- the traditional material consists of Hawaiian song, mostly in the Hawaiian language, and the group then turns to pieces of European-style polyphony, the most familiar being Andrew Lloyd Webber's Pie Jesu. Both adult and child soloists appear; soprano Debbie M.K. Kelsey, in Hawaiian Lullaby, track 3, offers a good example of the unusual and curiously rich vibrato favored by many Hawaiian singers; it has a musical-stage quality and perhaps comes from the relative prominence of that genre in Hawaii as compared with Western opera. The choir is accompanied by piano, organ, a synthesizer that adds ersatz string sounds to the more sentimental pieces, and in one case an ipu, the gourd percussion instrument that often accompanies hula dances. This collection isn't quite as satisfying as some of the others issued by Hawaii's prominent musical groups; the young singers sometimes have a bit of a dutiful quality. But it's no less specific to its very unusual place. The origin of the disc is not clear; text on the package warns that it was originally recorded on analog tape, but no recording date or place is given. Booklet notes are sparse, but all Hawaiian or Latin texts are translated into English.

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