News Story

BYU—Hawaii Concert Choir Tour Concludes in Tahiti

Choir and audience members share powerful spiritual experiences during South Pacific "Voyages of Light" tour

The Brigham Young University—Hawaii Concert Choir performed four memorable concerts in Tahiti on June 11, 12, 14 and 15.   


In addition, they shared musical numbers and some of the choir spoke at a devotional for young adults on June 13 at a Latter-day Saint building in Papeete. 

Audience members at all the concerts in Tahiti erupted with applause and singing when the choir sang Tahitian favourites. 

Over 900 people attended the concert on 14 June. At the end of concert, audience members sang along with the choir, holding up the flashlight feature of their phones.


Elder Benjamin Sinjoux, a Latter-day Saint leader in Tahiti, presided at the devotional on June 13 and gave concluding remarks.

He thanked the choir for bringing a powerful spirit with them, on the heels of last month's visit of Church leader, President Russell M Nelson.   


Three choir members, Mouria Ngati Au, Kai Phung and Ayanna Schlag, spoke at the devotional with a translator.   

Laura Tevaga, from the Communications office at BYU—Hawaii, also spoke to the congregation in French. 

Two other choir members acted as narrators during the song "Hosanna" from the oratorio Lamb of God. The choir also performed  “How Great Thou Art, “Children Holding hands around the world," and a special arrangement of “God be with you 'till we meet again.”  

After the devotional, choir members visited with attendees.

One guest, Klaus Tuera, said “the spirit was really strong tonight because they were singing hymns.” 

He also said the choir brought a special spirit to Tahiti with their songs and "how they live." 

“It was very great tonight,” he added.

Vicenta Varney said "the devotional was beautiful. Through songs I just feel the Spirit. Their music will help me through my day." 

She said she loved all the music but "Hosanna" was her favourite. 

"The Spirit filled my soul when they sang it," she said. "You can see the light of Christ in their eyes."

Alicia Hootini, a young adult who served a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Barbados, was especially excited to hear the choir and meet the choir members. 

She will attend BYU—Hawaii in the upcoming fall semester 2019.   

"Being able to attend BYU[—Hawaii] is really an opportunity for me to open my horizons to something different, something greater I hope,“ Alicia said. She met with several enthusiastic choir members after the devotional.



The concert tour had a profound effect on many choir members. 

Will Strong, from Wisconsin, said: “When we sang the Māori song ‘Kua Rongo’ for audience members in New Zealand and got those specific words right...they were crying and so happy and excited about how well de did." 

He noted how proud they are of that song and how appreciative they were that the choir sang it. 

Will was very impressed by the way the children knew and respected their culture. "There were all these little six-year-olds that know the Haka and do it amazingly," he said. 


McKell Fechser, a soprano in the choir, said: “I’ve been really amazed by the people that we’ve interacted with. I was of course excited about travelling to New Zealand and Tahiti. I dreamt about going to New Zealand since I was a kid, but I did not expect to be so touched and so affected by the kindness and the welcome that we had from the people in both locations. 

"They instantly made it feel like home, even when we were staying with host families, which a bunch of us were quite nervous about because they were strangers. But they took us in, gave us everything we needed and loved us. We had a lot of tearful good byes when we were leaving in the mornings.”


Group member Anne McCarrey was born and raised in Hawaii and is an anthropology major at BYU—Hawaii. 

“It is special," she said, "that we get to sing together and to sing praises to God. When we sing “How Great Thou Art” every night I learn something new every time."

She added, "It can be overwhelming just how strong the Spirit is and just understanding a little bit more about God and his plan for all of us."


Clarissa Tekeiaki, another choir member, said, “I feel like we are furthering the work of the Lord. I served my mission in New Zealand and I was able to get in touch with the husband of a woman I taught in Tauranga. She was baptized and then died two weeks later from kidney failure. I’ve been wanting to do her temple work for her, and her going to help us with that.”


“A huge blessing for me," Kai Phung says, "has been getting to know [and] connect with the other members of the choir, because although we’ve been in the class together all year, a lot of us would admit to not knowing each other."

He added, "On this tour we’ve had a lot of meaningful conversations with each other. It’s taught us who we are and how we are really connected to each other.”


Michael Belnap, a professor of music and voice, as well as director of the BYU—Hawaii Concert Choir, felt very positive about the tour to New Zealand and Tahiti.

“I think it’s been a great tour," he said. "I think we’ve accomplished the best of everything we could do.” 

He said the choir "really want to work hard and they have the will and the spirit to do it.”   

Choir members have described how singing “How Great Thou Art” is always a spiritual experience for them, and Dr. Belnap agrees, “It is for me too.”  

He described in one of the concerts how choir members were overcome with emotions while singing that hymn. 

“It's always such a spiritual song and the way the kids sing it is very dynamic. From the very first concert we did in Kerikeri, I just felt the spirit so strong, it was one of my favourite concerts. It was spiritually charging for us. It was exactly what we needed to get us on to the tour,“ Dr. Belnap said.   

"I loved it. I really, really loved it."

Style Guide Note:When reporting about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, please use the complete name of the Church in the first reference. For more information on the use of the name of the Church, go to our online Style Guide.