80th Anniversary Pearl Harbor Commemoration    
By Sue Harrison
The Grand Rapids Chorus of Sweet Adelines had the honor to represent Michigan at the 80th Anniversary Pearl Harbor Commemoration in Hawaii from December 4-9, 2021.  When we first received the letter of invitation from the Mayor of Honolulu to perform at Pearl Harbor, we were excited and honored to be chosen to represent Michigan.  In 2004, we represented Michigan for the opening of the WWII Memorial in Washington, D.C., so we knew we had our work cut out for us. Some women from the Cedar Springs/Greenville area who are in the chorus are Sue Harrison, Chris Segard, Margaret Durga, Mary Myers, Julie Witbeck, and Marcia Shanken.  In addition to the Grand Rapids Chorus, there were nine other choral groups who were invited to Hawaii from Texas, California, Maryland, Nevada and Kansas.  There were also eleven bands and orchestras who performed including the Delton-Kellogg High School Symphonic Band from Delton, MI.  It was truly a memorable and historically eventful experience.
Flexibility - “the willingness to change or compromise” - was the mantra of the Grand Rapids Sweet Adelines Chorus throughout our entire planning and rehearsing for, and traveling to and around Hawaii for our performance.
Our first test of flexibility came from the COVID epidemic which limited our rehearsals to ZOOM meetings.  When we felt safe enough to meet together, we rehearsed outdoors, safely distanced but again very flexible each night because of the weather and mosquitoes.  When the time change affected our ability to see outside, we had to meet inside in a large church fellowship hall, distanced and fully masked, still testing our flexibility to sing with masks on.

Because of COVID and the Hawaiian requirements for traveling there, we not only needed our ID and a copy of our vaccination card to board our flight, but also a QR code scanned online 24 hours before our flight.  Despite the efforts of the airline to make the process “more efficient”, the results were chaotic.  Also our flight was delayed, then canceled, and a whole plane load of performers had to rebook a flight that included a second layover!  We ended up getting to Hawaii seven hours late.  Talk about flexibility!

Our first major performance was early the next day at the USS Arizona Memorial near the USS Bowfin.  Military protocols prevented our bringing any bags or extras into the memorial area.  We rode the launch out to the Memorial built over the sunken USS Arizona.  In that sacred place, we heard from one of the two men who still dive to the wreck to identify those in their final resting place.

During our outdoor performance at the USS Bowfin, the rain started and a downpour soaked us through all costumes, hair, shoes etc. We ran for cover, but no one had extra clothes to change into, so we wore the soggy costumes the rest of the day.  We presented a wreath at the USS Arizona Memorial, toured and took part in a flag-folding ceremony on the USS Missouri.  The highlight for many of us was a by-chance (flexibility) meeting with some WWII veterans from an Honor Flight who were exiting the USS Missouri as we were entering.  When we sang the “Armed Forces Medley” for them, one sat with his hand over his heart, many sang along and one stood from his wheelchair and saluted.  We shook hands with all of them and one even asked me for a hug!  What an emotional and humbling moment!

Because of pouring rain, flood warnings, and flooded streets and buildings, our December 7 performance scheduled for the Pearl Harbor Aviation Museum was changed to an indoor venue in a large Hilton Hotel.  We were very disappointed but, (flexibility), our performance went well and we got to see another singing group perform from Fort Hays University from Fort Hays, Kansas.

Later we toured the island of Oahu, saw one of the awesome Blow Holes along the coast, took lots of photos, and had a wonderful Japanese dinner prepared in front of us.  Our hotel was close to the beach, so when we had a little free time, I got my feet wet, but my husband Phil even swam briefly in the rough surf of Waikiki Beach. We visited the Dole Pineapple Plantation, walked through the beautiful Foster Botanical Garden, and attended a Polynesian show.

Despite the changes and flexibility in our schedule, our Hawaii trip was fun, educational, beautiful, and a great time with a wonderful group of women who share the hobby of singing barbershop in harmony.

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