This year’s Holokū queen Imiloa Borland ’20 and Academy choir members performed “‘O Mauna Kea” in this special presentation, which honors the week-long celebration of May Day and Holokū. This video blends hula from Holokū with voices from three Academy choirs – talents that might not otherwise have come together if it weren’t for these unique times.
This project began earlier this year when Borland, the Holokū queen and Chorale member, asked Academy Choir Director Lauren Chang ’01 Williams to help translate the Hawaiian song she had chosen to dance to into English. Over spring break, when it became clear that plans were about to change as the School moved to distance learning, Williams says she was heartbroken that Borland would not be able to perform. Williams hoped for a way to create something “truly special and unique” that would allow Borland to still be featured as Holokū queen.
Students in Punahou’s Chorale, Academy Chorus and Elements choirs combined to create a virtual performance, including seniors Ann Ngo, Jenny Kojima, Ashley Alagao, Aime Komatsu, Emma Lim and Jonathan Ellis. Williams and fellow choir director and Academy Music department head Mike Lippert partnered with University of Hawai‘i West Oʻahu’s conductor Justin Ka’upu, who arranged the song in a way that would work in this unique setting. Punahou faculty and Punavision Director Andrew Ryan, Punahou Music School faculty Duane Padilla, as well as musicians Nick La‘a ’19, Jay Koseki ’00, Wil Tafolo ’06 and Joey Misailidis ’23, also helped make this project a reality.
The project was unique in that it was all done virtually. “A lot of the virtual choirs you see out there are things that students had worked on previously with their teachers, face-to-face,” Lippert said.
In this case, students had to learn the song in a way they’re not typically accustomed to. Just as the song describes Mauna Kea being built from its foundation to its summit, Lippert says the project was created in the same way. “Everyone did whatever they could to build this thing up, literally from the ground up,” he said.
Both Williams and Lippert are extremely proud of how students rose to the challenge and made the most of these difficult times. “It’s just been such a joy to see Imiloa grow and mature over the years and reach this point in her career at Punahou,” Williams said.
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