The excitement in the rehearsal room was palpable. Students rushed to pack last-minute items in suitcases, rechecking their music records. Terry Crull, director of choral activities at Fort Hays State University, used color-coded stickers to determine which students were riding in which vehicles.
The concert trip the Fort Hays Singers have been planning and dreaming about for a year was finally about to begin. On Friday afternoon, the 26 members of the First FHSU Singing Group departed for Hawaii.
They were the only Kansas band invited to perform for the Pearl Harbor 80th Anniversary Commemorative Concert Series Dec. 4-9, and they will represent the state at the event.
Prior to their departure, however, they gave their concert Friday afternoon for alumni and community members who donated money to help them leave, as well as other interested members of the University community.
Then they loaded the 10 vehicles that were going to camper out to Denver. After spending Friday night at a Denver hotel, the group boarded a plane Saturday morning for the long flight to Hawaii.
The singers will perform four times in Hawaii: at a church service followed by a mini-concert at Kawaiaha’o Church on Sunday morning; an outdoor concert at the Royal Hawaiian Center on Honolulu’s Main Street Mall Monday night; then the “big one, in Crull’s words, at the aviation museum near the USS Arizona Memorial on Tuesday;” and in the USS Bowfin staging area Wednesday at noon. The group will arrive in Hays on Friday.
Tuesday’s concert marks the 80th anniversary of the bombing of US naval forces by the Japanese on December 7, 1941, at Pearl Harbor.
Crull said the Fort Hays Singers were selected to start the gig with “The Star Spangled Banner”, so the first music ensemble he picked after that was patriotic songs. Then Crull said he picked songs that were popular in the 1940s. The concert ends with sacred and gospel selections, he told the audience on Friday.
The trip cost about $ 2,500 per student, and that’s where the fundraising came in. Singers accompanist Pam McGowne said that in any normal year the Singers could have given multiple benefit concerts and set up tables to collect donations.
But the COVID pandemic in 2020 put an end to these traditional fundraising efforts. Thus, a commemorative sunflower wreath was created by Carol Staples of Flowers of Francis, 2424 A Vine St. Staples donated her time and all the materials needed to make the wreath.
Anyone making a donation to help cover student expenses could have a service member’s name and branch of service written on one of the crown petals. McGowne said: “People can donate money for any veteran, any period, any branch of service, deceased or still alive, and residing anywhere in the United States. “
No minimum donation was required, she said. World War II veterans have been awarded a Gold Star. People could honor multiple servicemen with a single donation.
The wreath, which was shipped in advance, will be hung in the Kansas section of the Pearl Harbor Visitor Center, where it will remain on permanent display, McGowne said.
This visitor center is one of the places students will go as part of their tourism activities, Crull said. Other highlights will include the USS Arizona Memorial; the USS Missouri, where the surrender took place; Waikiki Beach; Diamond head; and downtown Honolulu.
Hiking to Diamondhead is one of the things Garrett Cole, Jr. Hays, looks forward to.
He also said, “I’ve never been to the ocean before so I’m really excited to see this. I have flown over the ocean before, but I have never seen it up close.
Luis Valencia Zamora, Leoti senior, said his late mother lived in Hawaii when she was a teenager, so he is “looking forward to seeing some of the things she saw and experienced while she lived there”.
He added: “I am so grateful and delighted that the State of Fort Hays has provided us with all of these opportunities to travel and play.”
Then there was the student, who will remain anonymous, who has a very specific activity in mind while he is in Hawaii – he is considering proposing to a certain young woman in the group.
Does he have a particular place in mind, say a romantic moonlit beach? “No,” he said, shaking his head, smiling, “I’m just going to fly away. “