As John Mount (Mus’69; MA’72) proclaims the couple united, the day’s latest Japanese wedding at Oahu’s Saint Catalina Seaside Chapel reaches crescendo. Japanese citizens love marrying in Hawaii. Mount makes their dreams come true. Of the estimated 20,000 Japanese weddings that took place in the Hawaiian Islands last year, Mount and late wife Lorna Mount (Mus’69) presided over more than 400.
“About five years ago, I gave up my job as choir director at Kailua United Methodist Church and now spend my Sunday mornings doing five or six weddings,” he said.
Lorna, a singer (mezzo-soprano), first drew him into the work: Over 40 years, she performed in more than 10,000 ceremonies.
“I enjoy meeting the couples and making their ‘American’ wedding a joyous experience,” John said. “Every wedding is unique. That’s why I keep doing these.”
The Mounts moved to Hawaii in 1975 after John accepted a position as a voice professor at the University of Hawaii Manoa. He continues to teach full time and also performs in operas, most recently with the Hawaii Opera Theatre and Honolulu Symphony.
Lorna died earlier this year. When John decided to join her in the Japanese wedding business — work they could do together — he imagined himself a singer, too.
“But it seems the Japanese couples prefer a female over my bass-baritonevoice,” he said.
Mount saw there might yet be a role for him. Most officiants in Japanese weddings in Hawaii have little in the way of formal training. He pursued a civil license from the state of Hawaii after receiving an ordination certificate from the Universal Life Church.
“A fellow minister gave me a copy of the service in Japanese, spelled out phonetically, and I worked with some Japanese friends until my Japanese was passable,” he said.
Mount leads the vows and a prayer in Japanese, with additional prayers and readings in English. Sometimes he adds a Hawaiian chant. At times, Lorna sang “Ave Maria” in Latin, too. Depending on the wedding package — all-day photographer, limousine, flowers ranging from an orchid bouquet to roses, white tuxedo and traditional white dress — the 20-minute ceremony takes place in a hotel wedding chapel or seaside location. Afterward, there’s usually a reception, John said, “even if it’s just the two of them.”
Mount and Lorna’s own love story had its roots in Colorado: They met at CU as students of Berton Coffin, then head of the College of Music’s voice department.
Their December 1968 wedding, during the semester break, took place in snowy George, Iowa, Lorna’s hometown.
“A blizzard chased us all the way home,” he said.
That never happens in Hawaii.