By Hayley Gastmeier
Top Japanese choir Chor-Farmer left Featherston yesterday with a spring in their step.
At a wreath laying ceremony at the Memorial Gardens on Messines Way, Tauherenikau, South Wairarapa Mayor Adrienne Staples surprised choir members by making them all honorary citizens of the district.
The male choir visits Featherston bi-annually to play a concert as part of their Goodwill Tours, which this year celebrates its 20th anniversary, and members, who travel abroad at their own expense, are hosted by residents of the town for the duration of their stay.
Chor-Farmer and their Featherston billets, which included district councillors Colin Olds and Solitaire Robertson, gathered in the sunshine yesterday morning to bring this year’s Wairarapa visit to a close by paying tribute to the 48 Japanese prisoners, and New Zealand guard Wattie Pelvin, who lost their lives in World War II when a riot broke out at Featherston’s Prisoner of War Camp in 1943.
Choir founder Hiroshi Masumoto and Mrs Staples together unveiled a new sign, naming the cherry blossom garden of remembrance ‘Sakura Garden’.
Mrs Staples then surprised the crowd with an unexpected announcement.
“We believe that Chor-Farmer are family, are friends, that they are part of our hearts. So council has decided to make you all honorary citizens of South Wairarapa.”
The almost 30 choir members were tickled pink at the news and Mrs Staples handed each of them a certificate.
She said the choir were “wonderful ambassadors” for Japan.
“We wish you a safe journey back home and we look forward to seeing you in 2018.”
Concert organiser Phil Dittmer said it was great the choir had been acknowledged for their commitment to Featherston.