Handbell Choir Shares Peace Songs At Paliku

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, here on Oahu for their 22nd an- niversary tour. Three men join the group as handbell players this year in performances at Paliku Theatre and other venues. Photo from Karen Hayashida.

The 20-member choir will play in a free public concert at 7 p.m. Feb. 13 at Windward Community College’s Paliku Theatre. Directed by its founder, Hakuoh professor Hirotaka Arai, the group has a repertoire of classic to Broadway tunes, such as Beethoven’s Symphony No. 7, Phantom of the Opera and Hawai‘i Aloha. Three male bell ringers will join the formerly all-female choir for the first time.

Seventeen generations of students have been in the choir since it began in 1988, after Arai was captivated by the fresh, flowing sounds. Finding the right instruments was a challenge, according to a historic account of the choir, and students worked and funraised to buy the expensive, delicate bells. In fact, while they’re here Feb. 13-15, the handbells will rest on special cushions, stored and cared for by an Aiea couple, who are fans.

The choir offers a range of seven octaves with 100 to 120 separate bells, some weighing up to 15 pounds.

“The handbell is amazingly strange and wondrous musi- cal equipment,” Arai has noted. “They can bring forth a limitless variety of tones and sounds.”

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

The choir also performs at 10 a.m. Feb. 14 at Leeward Community College Theatre and at 7 p.m. Feb. 15 at 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.