Oh my, we were all excited and expected big things in the Polynesian Cultural Center’s 50th Anniversary musical “fireside” in the BYU–Hawaii Cannon Activities Center — the first official activity scheduled during the September 1-8, 2013, eight-day alumni reunion — but we just didn’t realize at the start of the evening how absolutely spectacular the program would be, and the special spirit it would bring to mark the beginning of the PCC’s Golden Jubilee.
The crowd of community residents and PCC alumni who came from as far away as Australia, New Zealand, Samoa, the U.S. mainland and probably other distant places, filled every seat in the BYUH CAC that was not already occupied by the hundreds of members who comprised the 11 choirs. It was heart-warming to see the many people who met old friends and co-workers for the first time in many years.
A large Samoan choir drew the honors to sing the prelude song, then in his opening remarks, PCC Chief Operations Officer Leilua Logo Apelu [pictured at upper right] — who is also chairman of the PCC 50th Anniversary committee — welcomed everyone home, and said, “We are all gathered here this week for one reason, to express our gratitude and appreciation to the Lord for the Polynesian Cultural Center and the positive impact and the profound influence it has on each one of us and our families.”
“Wherever we served or worked at PCC, we as alumni have also impacted the lives of more than 37 million guests who have visited the sacred grounds of PCC since its opening in 1963.”
“As we enjoy the festivities of this week and rekindle our friendship and feel the spirit of aloha during the celebration, let us lift one another in conversation and in action. Let’s continue to radiate the spirit of God in every way and every day of this celebration Fifty years is a significant milestone for the Center and for all of us. It is truly a voyage of faith for all of us who are here this evening and for those who are unable to join us, and particularly our brothers and sisters who have gone to the other side of the veil.”
Apelu then acknowledged the many leaders, visitors and missionaries at the fireside, and thanked BYU–Hawaii for allowing the use of the Cannon Activities Center. He also thanked Bobby Akoi and Esther Dela Rosa Macy, who organized the musical fireside program.
“Last but not least we express our heartfelt thanks to all the choir presidents, directors, organists, food providers and choir members for the many long hours and effort gone into planning and practicing the compositions that will uplift our spirit this evening,” he said. “Thank you for your profound love and loyalty to the Polynesian Cultural Center as demonstrated in your participation this evening. This is such a delightful sight to see.”
Following the opening song and prayer, the choirs began rotating one at a time to the risers, starting with…
The Hawaiian choir:
Uncle Joe Ah Quin introduces the Hawaiian choir song
Under the direction of Uncle Joe Ah Quin of Laie, the Hawaiian choir san Jesus My Savior, with Lynne Hansen as pianist.
The Chinese choir:
The Chinese choir, led by Alex Chun Ling Chan and accompanied by Benjamin Ung, sang My Father in Heaven Loves Me.
The Tahitian choir:
The Tahitian choir, with André Tauraa as conductor, sang a medley of The Lord’s Prayer and To Give.
The Filipino choir:
Under the direction of Eliza May Shumway, with Pia Valeriano at the piano, the Filipino choir sang a medley of There’s Still Tomorrow and I am a Child of God.
The Fijian choir:
The Fijian choir sang a medley of How Great Thou Art and Each Life That Touches Ours for Good, with Lice Rama-Niu as conductor and Diana Solomone at the piano.
The Koolauloa Children’s Chorus:
A version of Esther Macy’s Koolauloa Children’s Chorus, consisting of children and grandchildren of PCC alumni, sang the theme song of the Polynesian Cultural Center’s 50th Anniversary, Voyage of Faith, lyrics by PCC alumna and former vice president Vernice Wineera. Dan Bradshaw accompanied the choir.
The Samoan choir:
The Samoan choir sang a medley of Firm as the Mountains Around Us, I Need Thee Every Hour, Give Praise to God and High on the Mountain Top — Pulefano Galea’i conducting, with Stella Ale and Fu’a Tapusoa accompanying on the piano.
The Korean choir:
The Korean choir sang For the Beauty of the Earth, under the direction of Deohyung Choi, accompanied by Mina Park.
The Maori choir, with Te Aroha Nui Company alumni and friends:
Members of the original Te Aroha Nui Maori Company choir that sang at the dedication of the Polynesian Cultural Center on October 12, 1963, joined other Maori from the PCC and surrounding community to sing Kia Kotahi Tatou and My God and I, under the direction of Grant L. Pearce and accompanied by Shannon Galea’i.
The Japanese choir:
The Japanese choir sang a medley of As Sisters in Zion and Armies of Helaman, directed by Mikiwa Asano, with Didi Asanuma at the piano.
The Tongan choir:
Under the direction of Tevita Toafa, with Lupe Niutupuivaha and Musie Lauhingoa at the piano, the Tongan choir sang If the Way Be Full of Trial, Weary Not.
In introducing the number, PCC alumna Lupe Funaki Piena said, “This is a theme — even a personal motto — for many who have been part of building the PCC vision from the very beginning, which also explains how it grew from its humble beginnings to become the best international attraction center of its kind.”
“It seems to me it was not an accident that a prophet of God chose this place, Laie, as the gathering place for His international learning laboratory. This also suggests that God has a soft place in His heart for the people of this land, that He would have the confidence to bring people together from all over the world to learn how to live and to teach others the art of living together in peace and harmony. To our brothers and sisters from Hawaii, we say mahalo for sharing your homeland with all of us to be a part of building God’s Kingdom internationally.”
By the end of the stunning song, the Tongans had provided an incredible end to the music portion of the program. Everyone agreed, they were fantastic. Mālō ‘aupito, kāinga Tonga and conductor Toafa: Faka’ofo’ofa lahi. In fact, PCC musician Dallin Muti later described them as the “Tonganacle Choir.”
In his closing remarks, PCC President & CEO P. Alfred Grace said, “We want to thank all of you who came tonight, and we’re so grateful for all who shared their gift of song with us.” He also thanked BYU–Hawaii, “our sister institution,” for allowing the PCC alumni to use the Cannon Activities Center.
President Grace also thanked all the alumni who could come; and, referring to the children who performed earlier, he said they reminded him of “the promise of the future that can be radiant and glorious.”
“I hope all of you will look forward to the remainder of this week as an opportunity to create many more lifetime memories,” he continued. “Today, we are all the recipients of those who came before us. We are eternally grateful to them. May we remember that we are as links in a chain leading to eternal life, and that we must remain strong and true so that those may have the same benefits. That’s what we need to do to show our true thanks to our Father in Heaven.”
Following the fireside, the large crowd enjoyed cocoa-rice and banana bread refreshments outside the CAC.
And so it begins…
— Story & photos by PCC alumnus Mike Foley