BYU-Hawaii University Chorale students performed their end of semester concert on Feb. 11 alongside a visiting jazz band and vocal group from California’s Columbia College.
“[BYUH] is a beautiful place and a beautiful campus. Everyone is so nice here and so friendly to us,” said Dr. Rod Harris, a Columbia College professor and leader of Columbia College Jazz Series, the jazz group. The group included six student vocalists from Columbia College along with four professional musicians who Harris performs with.
Both groups were warmly received by the audience, but the jazz group was able to really reach the crowd with many attendees jumping up and dancing, or clapping and cheering.
The group played renditions of classic songs such as “Blue Moon,” “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” and “Stand by Me.”
“One of the things I love about Rod Harris is he is so easy going with the audience. He relaxes everybody,” said University Chorale director Jacosa Limutau-Ainuu. “He gets rid of awkwardness. He’s great at involving the audience and he has a high level of musicianship.”
Some of the chorale members said they were not completely prepared for how relaxed Harris’ group would be. The two groups performed together for the only time during the evening for the finale. The number, titled “St. Thomas,” featured Caribbean and Latin jazz influences.
With a blend of chorale and jazz music, the song highlighted what the two groups’ leaders say are the benefits of musical exchanges.
“Anytime musicians collaborate they always learn something from each other. They learn other styles, and other creative ideas,” said Limutau-Ainuu.
“I had never sung a jazz style piece,” said chorale member Kami Schultz, a freshman from Utah majoring in exercise and sport science. “It was really fun but I don’t know if I would do it again,” she said jokingly, referring to the improvisation involved with jazz music. “I like a little more structure to the music. It was different, but it was fun.”
Harris added, “You need to get out of your own little place and branch out. It’s very valuable.”
Because of the Christmas concert being halfway through the semester, chorale members said they didn’t begin preparing for this concert until after the winter break.
“I was really proud of my students,” said Limutau-Ainuu. “They were very nervous about memorizing the new songs in such a short amount of time, but they did it. They were hanging in there with the jazz group, even when the director was throwing in extra stuff.”
The night also featured several special numbers prepared by members of the BYUH University Chorale. They included several solos and duets as well as a trio. One of the numbers performed was “Ku'u Pua I Paoakalani,” a composition from Queen Lili’uokalani. Two dancers from the Polynesian Cultural Center’s Hawaiian village performed the hula at the same time.
“Everybody needs a taste of other cultures,” said Harris. “It’s multicultural here and we love the Polynesian way.”
Limutau-Ainuu emphasized, “We know we bring the Polynesian cultural element. Columbia College really seems to appreciate learning the aloha spirit.”
Harris has been bringing students from Columbia College to perform in Hawaii for 30 years, but according to Harris, his group has only been coming to visit the BYUH campus for the last 12 years. Harris called the experience of touring Hawaii and exchanging musical talent “very valuable and life-changing for him and the students.”