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Okinawa international chorus June concerts

Date Posted: 2001-05-25

The Okinawa Chorus, a group of around 30 American and Japanese singers, will hold their second annual concert in early June. The founder and director of the group is Consul George T. Novinger of the American Consulate General, which is sponsoring the concert. According to Novinger, “The program this year includes many types of music: classical pieces by Mozart, Bach, Verdi, and others; traditional Okinawan accompanied with sanshin, Japanese and American folk songs, spirituals and gospel music, jazz, show tunes, and we even have a barbershop quartet! It is fun stuff, and I’m sure the audience will enjoy it.”

The chorus was founded about a year ago, and held its initial concert lasts June. The music for those concerts were chosen according to the “Okinawa G-8 Summit Theme.” The group performed two concerts for very appreciative audiences. Novinger says, “The basic idea behind the chorus is to give Americans, Okinawans, Japanese, and people from other countries a chance to share and deepen mutual understanding through their participation in the chorus. In keeping with the international philosophy of the group, I choose a rather eclectic musical repertoire, with songs in several languages and from several different time periods. It is especially satisfying to see the Americans learning Okinawan and Japanese songs that we perform at the concerts.”

The chorus rehearses weekly on Monday evenings, and membership is open to all with past choral experience and at least a basic understanding of Western written music forms. About half of the singers in the group are Japanese, and the other half is comprised of Americans. Novinger says that “Although we are serious and work hard together to perfect the music we are learning, we really have fun and enjoy doing so. Break time is always a very positive time of social interaction among the singers.”

George Novinger currently serves as the Administrative and Consular Chief at the American Consulate General in Okinawa. He came to Okinawa with his family in August 1999. His wife Michiko manages the chorus, and Novinger confesses “I couldn’t do it without her!” Novinger is a native Californian, who enjoyed lots of body surfing, water skiing, and other aquatic activities growing up near the southern coast of the state. He earned his Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Choral Music Education from Occidental College in Los Angeles.

He left California for Tokyo, Japan after several years of teaching and coaching (swimming and water polo) at a local high school. He met and married his wife there, and spent four years in Tokyo teaching English, consulting, coaching swimming, and directing a church choir. He joined the State Department as an officer in 1989, and has since held postings in Hong Kong, Osaka, Paraguay, Brunei, and Okinawa. At each place he either formed or sang in and assisted in directing choirs of mixed nationalities. Highlights of George’s career as a choral conductor include performances for the G-8 Summit, for the Prince and Princess of Wales in Tokyo, and for former US First Lady Hillary Clinton in Paraguay. “For me, my involvement in these groups has been much more than a hobby, indeed, it is a passion,” he states, adding “and I could not be completely happy without choral music as a part of my life.”

The group’s two upcoming concerts will take place on the evening of June 1 at 7:30 p.m. at Gushikawa Civic Fine Arts Theatre, Hibiki Hall, and on the evening of June 2 at 7 p.m. in the Camp Foster Chapel. Tickets (Gushikawa - ¥500 Yen, and Foster Chapel – free) are available from the American Consulate General (876-4211), from director George Novinger (935-2559), from choir members, or at the door. Those without SOFA status wishing to attend the concert on Camp Foster must obtain tickets in advance to enter the base. “I hope to see you all there at one of the concerts for a fun evening of great music!” Novinger says.

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