Hakuoh Handbell Choir’s Hawaii Tour Includes Concert At LCC

The Hakuoh University Handbell Choir is back on Oahu for the 22nd year of its Goodwill Tour, and its students are bringing their “instrument of peace” to link the world to the bells’ unique, beautiful sounds.

Director Hirotaka Arai and his handbell choir from Hakuoh University are here on Oahu for their 22nd anniversary tour, and they will perform free concerts at three venues, including Leeward Community College Theatre on Valentine’s Day. Photo from Karen Hayashida.

Leeward Community College Theatre will host a free public concert by the 20-member choir at 10 a.m. Feb. 14. Directed by its founder, Hakuoh professor Hirotaka Arai, the group will share a repertoire of classic to Broadway tunes, such as Beethoven’s Symphony No. 7, Phantom of the Opera and Hawai‘i Aloha. New this time will be the addition of three male bell ringers to the formerly all-female choir.

Seventeen generations of students have been in the choir since it began in 1988, after Arai was captivated by its fresh, flowing sounds. Finding the right instruments was a challenge, according to a historic account of the choir, and students worked and fundraised to purchase the expensive, delicate bells. While they are here, the handbells will rest on special cushions, stored and maintained by an Aiea couple, Roy and Sandra Hamasaki, who are fans of the music.

The choir can offer a range of seven octaves with 100 to 120 separate pieces of bells, some weighing up to 15 pounds. “The handbell is amazingly strange and wondrous musical equipment,” Arai has noted. “They can bring forth a limitless variety of tones and sounds.”

The choir has performed in the U.S., Great Britain, Canada, Australia and South Korea, and it enjoyed a 10-minute standing ovation in Brisbane, Australia, following the Strauss operetta, Die Fledermaus.

The choir also performs at 7 p.m. Feb. 13 at Windward Community College’s Paliku Theatre and at 7 p.m.Feb.15at United Church of Christ on Judd Street.

Hakuoh is a private, four-year university in Oyama City, Tochigi Prefecture, Japan — about 50 minutes north of Tokyo via bullet train. For more information on the choir, call 956-0321.