Pacific chorus to take on Barbershop competition in USA

A Wellington chorus formed four years ago by singers who love a capella music will be taking on the world at an international barbershop meet in the USA in July.

Tagata Pasifika reports the Pacific Connection chorus will represent New Zealand at the International Barbershop Harmony Society competition in Louisville, Kentucky after winning the national barbershop title in 2022.

“People from our local community just love to sing,” says Chad Va, co-director of the group.

“What better opportunity than to bring them together in this awesome little ensemble we have going and looking forward to taking them overseas.”

Va says they will be going up against some really experienced singers from around the world who have been in the game for a long time.

“Us as a very new choir, with some experience in there, but also just experience from just singing in church, we love to bring that on the stage and our culture so they can see who we are, who we really are.”

The choir of around 30-plus members is made up of students, artists, lawyers and health professionals who just love to sing.

Brenda Leasi is the president of the chorus and is proud to follow other Pacific barbershop singers who have paved the way.  

“We had groups go before us that had done this craft and it was all unfamiliar but then, when we saw them do their thing on stage; groups like southern harmony, musical island boys, it actually inspired us so we all decided to have a go at it and the rest is history.” Leasi says.

They’ve already started on a high note as the first chorus to sing in Pacific languages on a barbershop contest stage. And one of the young singers, Adah Setefano, has learnt about her Samoan culture and other nationalities in the group.

“Not only am I singing in my own languages, I get to embrace everyone else’s cultures around me. I think it’s so important especially for us New Zealand-born,” Setefano says.

Another member, Julian Wright, is proud to not only showcase his Fijian roots but also represent it overseas.

“We come as wasawasa vata the one ocean we take that with us so, while we represent New Zealand, we also take our countries, our families, our ancestors with us,” Wright says.

Although predominantly Pacific, the vocalists are from all backgrounds. Peter Setefano is one of the senior members and has been singing praises since he and his family joined.

“I joined for a few reasons to make connections with my children, my wife and my wife’s family and the other beautiful families of Canon’s Creek but also to show the world and make a statement that people from Canon’s Creek can succeed,” he says.

Also in the choir is the Esera family who will take part in another category at the competition.

Solomon Esera of ‘5th Melody’ says it’s a privilege to sing alongside his family.

“It’s a lot to carry, it’s a lot to represent but we are just happy that we get to compete as siblings on stage, as a quartet.”

On their way to the competition, the muso’s will stop in New York City for a special show.

All up, including the Big Apple, the trip will cost about 280 thousand dollars. The group have set up a Givealittle page and participated in community fundraisers to get them closer to the US.

Pacific connection co-director Henrietta Hunkin-Tagaloa is excited about the opportunity to take our harmonies abroad thanks to the support of their families.

“I think for us it’s taking everything that we’ve learnt that our parents have taught us, our grandparents have taught us and taking those opportunities and turning it into something that we love to do and then sharing that with the rest of the world in an art form that is not necessary ours but something that we’ve taken and put our spin on it.”


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