Hundreds of spectators gathered Dec. 10 for the third annual Na Mele o na Keiki (Music for the Children) Holiday Concert at the Neal S. Blaisdell Concert Hall here.
The free concert was presented by U.S. Marine Corps Forces, Pacific and sponsored by BAE Systems, a worldwide partner with the USO, and featured holiday performances by the MarForPac Band and an all-star lineup of guest artists. Carole Kai and Kimo Kahoano served as celebrity emcees, and singers Anita Hall and Amy Hanaiali’i, guitarist-singers Chris Vandercook and Henry Kapono, and gifted young ukulele sensations Aidan Laprete Powell and Nick Acosta, who are both students of ukulele master Roy Sakuma, performed a variety of holiday favorites backed by Marine musicians.
In addition to spreading holiday cheer and showing support for the community, members of the Marine Corps Reserve’s Toys for Tots Program were on hand to accept donations for children in need living in Hawaii.
Lt. Gen. Duane D. Thiessen, MarForPac’s commander, and Sgt. Maj. James Futrell, the MarForPac sergeant major, set the tone for the evening’s event by having some fun with the crowd.
Thiessen and Futrell divided the audience into two teams, asking them to demonstrate which side of the audience was more motivated by shouting “ooh-rah,” a Marine battle cry, as loud as possible. Thiessen thanked the audience for their participation and, moreover, their support for the Toys for Tots Program.
“You are doing the right thing, at the right time, for the right cause,” Thiessen said. “Thank you all for your support.”
With the introductions made, the complete MarForPac Band took the stage and wowed the audience with their precision playing and holiday cheer as they played traditional Christmas tunes.
Singer Anita Hall, who has participated in every Music for the Children Concert, took the stage and dazzled the crowd with her voice.
“This is such a great opportunity for the community to step-up, bless the keiki (children) and to bring the community together with its service members,” Hall said. “I just love seeing how the concert is evolving and it just gets better and better every year.”
The night provided a great opportunity for fans to come out and support their favorite local artists.
One of Hawaii’s best known local artists, Henry Kapono, who played “Dream” off his unreleased Christmas album, also took the stage playing his original holiday number “Merry Christmas to You,” backed by members of the band’s Jazz Ensemble.
By the end of the concert, none were more pleased than members of the MarForPac Band with the turnout and the caliber of everyone’s performances.
“This was just a great gig,” said Staff Sgt. Charles Harbison, a bass guitarist with the band. “It was great for the kids, the community—it went very well. I especially enjoyed getting to hear Henry Kapono play. I’ve wanted to hear that for a long time. I hope this event is around for years to come. It’s a good thing for everyone involved.”