Honolulu Boy Choir founder Roy Hallman, 82
By Wayne Harada
Advertiser Entertainment Writer
By Wayne Harada
Roy Hallman, founder and former director of the Honolulu Boy Choir, died at his Hawai'i Kai home yesterday. He was 82.
Hallman died peacefully in his sleep of heart failure, his daughter Kathryn Hallman said. He had suffered a heart attack last May. His wife of 58 years, Nyle, who was the long-time accompanist for the choir, was with him at the time of his death.
"He set the foundation, not only for myself, but for other current entertainers who were part of the Boy Choir as kids," said Maui singer Sean Na'auao, a member of the choir for six years as a youth. "He taught us to be better people in life, as far as work ethics go." Na'auao joined the choir in 1976 when he was 7 years old.
During Hallman's 20-year tenure with the choir, the 7- to 13-year-old singers, who came from public and private schools and a variety of ethnic and economic backgrounds, recorded albums, appeared on local and national television specials, and made numerous performances, not only in Hawai'i but around the world.
Hallman insisted that applicants have a decent singing voice, a good scholastic record and a positive, cooperative attitude.
Choir size ranged from 60 to more than 100 members. An estimated 3,500 to 4,000 youths have sung with the choir since its formation in 1973.
Hallman's joviality and animated presence often led him to resemble a grown-up version of a choir member.
Meredith Willson, the composer of "Music Man," once saw the youths perform in Honolulu and praised them as "a fabulous group."
The choir's signature song was Keola Beamer's "We Are Young Men of This Country," as well as the seasonal "Twelve Days of Christmas," with added Island-specific lyrics.
Before he retired, Hallman was minister of music at Central Union Church. At the time of his death, Hallman was minister of music emeritus at the church.
"He was a wonderful person and had a marvelous vision to create the Honolulu Boy Choir," said Jeanne E. Rolles, who had a 20-year association with the choir. Rolles ended a 10-year tenure as the choir's chairwoman a year ago. "His vision was the right one — to enable the boys to sing and keep them out of trouble — because it has endured all these years. He and his wife, Nyle, have been wonderful to a generation of boys, and we'll all miss him."
Singer-entertainer Jeff Rasmussen, a charter member of the choir who joined when he was 9 and stayed for about five years, said Hallman taught future performers valuable lessons about stage presence and the etiquette of music. "He has been such an influence on my music and character today," Rasmussen said.
"Hallman was like a second father to me," said Kalani Brady, the church's tenor soloist. "And he had vision. Even in his retirement, with his advanced age, he wanted to create another metropolitan choir in Honolulu. He brought instrumental music to Central Union, developing liaisons with the Honolulu Symphony. He always had a magical way with kids — always warm, always caring, always nurturing his singers."
Rasmussen, who was both singer and fire-knife dancer with the choir between 1974 and 1979, said Hallman used to recruit boy singers on the beaches. "He'd find kids surfing, and he'd ask, 'Wanna sing? Can you sing?' He was all about enthusiasm, looking at us, sometimes shouting, 'Eyes! Eyes!,' always wanting us to make eye contact," Rasmussen said. "He wanted us to put on happy faces, so he'd explain a song and tell us that we had to live and feel what the composer envisioned.
"He was a disciplinarian, but also gentle, caring and giving. He brought out the best of us kids."
Hallman was born on Jan. 23, 1925, in Chicago and moved to Honolulu in 1969 to take a job at Central Union Church.
"He was a medic in the Navy, coming to Hawai'i during World War II," said Kathryn Hallman. "He was certain he would return, but I think he thought it would be a vacation. When he learned of a job opening (at Central Union), it was everything he wanted."
Hallman had a lifelong history with boy choirs, having sung in one conducted by his father, Willard, in his youth. After the director of the Portland Boy Choir wondered why Honolulu did not have a similar organization during a 1973 visit, Hallman decided to start one.
With start-up funding from Central Union, the choir was formed. No fees were charged to participants, who learned not only conventional choral music, but Hawaiian and secular selections as well.
Besides daughter Kathryn and wife Nyle, survivors include daughter Gretchen Hallman of Cuernavaca, Mexico, and Robert Hallman of Kapa'a, Kaua'i.
Services will be held May 1 at Central Union Church, with visitation from 3:30 p.m., followed by services at 5 p.m. Borthwick Mortuary is handling arrangements.
In lieu of flowers, donations in Roy Hallman's name may be made to the Central Union Church Organ Fund, Central Union Church, 1660 S. Beretania St., Honolulu HI 96826, or to the Kaua'i Bible College, c/o Calvary Chapel Kaua'i, P.O. Box 1062, Kapa'a HI 96746.
Reach Wayne Harada at email@example.com.