#20 - Christmas with the Honolulu Boy Choir

People often ask me how I amassed such a vast collection of Hawaiian recordings. Naturally there was no one source of all of these beautiful recordings. Many were gifts from cherished aunties and uncles. Some were the result of scouring record stores in every city I have ever visited. Some were from the eBay era – paying top value for practically one-of-a-kind must haves from such unlikely regions of the world as Australia and France. And, on rare occasion, it has been through the kindness of strangers who knew I would preserve this music long after it had been forgotten by others. 

In the 1970s and 80s the place to find Hawaiian music was the House of Music, a retail store which occupied a significant amount of square footage in the Ala Moana Shopping Center in Honolulu and which was managed by Hawaiian music historian Lydia Ludin. I sometimes fancy myself a Ludin acolyte. If you called her up on the phone and asked her which albums Sonny Chillingworth played guitar on, she could tell you without even pulling a 3x5 card out of a file box. Before the Internet made the world a slightly smaller place and eBay made it possible to find anything you’d ever wanted (or once had and somehow lost), when I got my first job and made my first buck, most of it went to the House of Music which was only a phone call away. Eventually I befriended their shipping department, the head of which was a Hawaiian who hailed from Chicago but who had returned to his O`ahu home, Art Ryan. Art and I chatted monthly for a period of years, and so he knew better than anybody how much money I dropped on that store. 

One day around 1989-90, I returned home from work one day to find an unusually large box from the House of Music, and I wondered what it could possibly be when I hadn’t ordered anything. I opened it to find more than 100 sealed records on the Hula, Lehua, Makaha, Mahalo, and Waikiki labels – some of which I owned but which had seen the ravages of time, and some of which were completely new to me. It turns out that the House of Music was having a sidewalk sale – an opportunity that this New Jersey resident obviously could not take advantage of – and without my knowing, Art shopped the sale for me – holding back one copy of every record he put out in the bins. And every sealed, brand new record was marked at the whopping price of 99 cents! The lot was accompanied by a note: 


We had a sidewalk sale, and I didn’t want you to miss out. You probably have most of these, so only pay us for the ones you don’t already have. 


Uncle Art 

Obviously I paid for the entire lot since I was shocked that anyone would think of me from so far away, because I valued my relationship with the House of Music, and because the sealed copies of records I already had were in much better condition than my time-worn copies. 

Sadly, that was my last communication from Art Ryan. I never heard from him again, and my collection grew so vast, so quickly that some of the records from that sidewalk sale are still sealed nearly 25 years later. Perhaps I should have a sidewalk sale? 

Among the albums in the box that I had not heard before were two by the Honolulu Boy Choir whom I had only seen on TV specials hosted by Jim Nabors or Dolly Parton. Having sung in choirs most of my young life, I was naturally enthralled. This was a top-notch choir of young men rivaled only by the Harlem Boys Choir (whom I had first heard live in Toronto at a week-long choral festival in 1989). And from the arrival of that box, Christmas with the Honolulu Boy Choir has been a staple of holiday listening for my family ever since and ranks among Ho`olohe Hou’s 25 Greatest Christmas Albums from Hawai`i. 

Because the album has been rereleased in the digital era, you and your `ohana can join my family in celebrating the season by dialing up the album on Spotify, Rhapsody, and other streaming music services or by purchasing the MP3 version from iTunes, Amazon.com, and practically anywhere MP3s are sold. 

And whenever you think of Christmas and Hawai`i, remember the kindness of my friend Art Ryan and consider giving someone you love the gift of Hawaiian music. 

Next time: #19 on Ho`olohe Hou’s list of the 25 Greatest Christmas Albums from Hawai`i