Though there will be no snow on the ground for the holidays in Hawaii, there is no doubt people are in holiday spirits.
The sounds of jingle bells and holiday songs resounded as U.S. Marine Corps Forces, Pacific and BAE Systems, a worldwide partner of the USO, presented Na Mele o na Keiki, “Music for the Children” Dec. 10 at the Neal S. Blaisdell Concert Hall here.
Several local artists donated their time to perform and help the Marine Corps Reserve’s Toys for Tots campaign in the first of what is hoped to be an annual event.
“It’s wonderful that the Marine Corps does things like this,” said Elizabeth Baldwin, who came to see the show with her husband, Jack. “In addition to fighting for our country, they play wonderful music and do charity as well. That is why I support the organization.”
Hawaii’s ambassador of Aloha, Danny Kaleikini, and entertainer Carole Kai acted as master and mistress of ceremonies, leading the crowd of about 1,500 through the night’s program.
“This show truly brought the Hawaii ohana (family) together to benefit Hawaii’s keiki (children) this Christmas,” said Kaleikini. “Music has the power to do great things.”
Jasmine Trias, third-place winner on season three of American Idol, kicked off the show performing a few of her favorites, including “Joy to the World,” as the U.S. Marine Corps Forces, Pacific Band, directed by Chief Warrant Officer-2 Bryan Sherlock, played accompanying music.
“I chose to sing this song tonight because I think we need to spread more aloha and more joy to all the world,” Jasmine told the audience.
Guitarist and singer Chris Vandercook performed several songs and played accompanying music as Staff Sgt. James Wallace, a member of the band, sang Harry Connick Jr.’s “It Must Have Been Ol’ Santa Claus.”
A talented group of children was also featured during the nearly two-hour-long performance.
The Honolulu Boy Choir ascended onto the stage, performing a variety of cheerful songs, including a comical Hawaiian version of “The 12 Days of Christmas.”
The choir also introduced the audience to “Hawaii Santa,” who surfs and does the hula.
Singer Anita Hall praised the band for their quick learning of new material. She expressed her amazement that the band had learned two songs from her latest CD, entitled “Send Love,” which were performed at the show.
The final performer brought a new twist on the traditional sounds of the ukulele.
Jake Shimabukuro, one of the world’s most renowned ukulele players, wowed the crowd with his arrangement of “Ave Maria.”
“He had me completely captivated. I think everyone in the audience was awe-struck with the beauty of the sound,” said Baldwin.
“I am all about supporting the keiki of Hawaii,” said Shimabukuro. “I am glad I was able to be home to participate in this event and see all the community support.”
The artists were grateful for the chance to join the Marines in making a difference in the community.
“This is truly one of the best experiences I have had in my musical career,” said Vandercook. “I won’t ever forget this. It’s a privilege to perform with the Marine band and their phenomenal musicianship.”
Members of the band were delighted to have had the opportunity to perform with local artists.
“It was something different for us. We’re used to performing at ceremonies and parades, so it was exciting for us to come out here and have a little fun,” said Cpl. Sarah Potts, flute player with the band.
The Hawaii Toys for Tots campaign received commendations from Hawaii Governor Linda Lingle and Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hannemann for its ongoing efforts to make the holidays brighter for less-fortunate children.
More funds and donations were generated for Toys for Tots through the program. The Danny Kaleikini Foundation presented a $1,000 donation to Gunnery Sgt. Chris Whitley, Toys for Tots coordinator.
In addition, guitar builder and designer Buddy Blaze created a unique guitar, which Vandercook played and will be auctioned off with funds going to the Toys for Tots campaign.
The fire-red, colored Buddy Blaze guitar, valued at no less than $3,000, bears the Marine Corps logo and has been signed by all the performing entertainers.
Blaze has created guitars for such bands as Aerosmith, White Snake, Ted Nugent and Sugarland.
“The guitar is a symbol of my support for the Marines and all their efforts with Toys for Tots,” said Blaze.
Blaze’s creation will be auctioned at www.ksskradio.com beginning Dec. 15, with bidding starting at $1,500.
“This was a fabulous show and I am amazed at how well received it was by the community,” said Col. Cosmas R. Spofford, commander, MarForPac Headquarters and Service Battalion. “It was a great job by all.”