Before going to last night’s concert by the Nā Wai Chamber Choir, I checked out their Facebook Event page and noticed this information about the price of admission:
Tickets are $7.00 for Adults, $5.00 for kūpuna and keiki
Now for those of you who don’t live in Hawaii, or know the Hawaiian language, keiki are children. And here’s a definition of kūpuna from Kahikahealani Wight, Professor of Hawaiian Language and Literature, Kapi’olani Community College:
Throughout Hawai’i, this Hawaiian word is widely understood to mean elder, grandparent or an older person. What is less recognized is the fact that the word has at least three distinct, but related meanings. First, a kūpuna is an honored elder who has acquired enough life experience to become a family and community leader. The term has been stated to be the embodiment of natural respect . . . . a practitioner of aloha (love), pono (righteousness), malama (caring), and spirituality. In ancient times, they were teachers and caretakers of grandchildren and that bond was especially strong. Even today, the kūpuna is expected to speak out and help make decisions on important issues for both the family and the community.
Kūpuna also means ancestor and includes the many generations before us who by their spiritual wisdom and presence guide us through personal, familial or community difficulties. We look to our kūpuna to help us find and fulfill our pathways through life. Included among our kūpuna are the family guardian spirits or ‘aumakua who take physical shape, [for example] in the form of a honu (turtle), mano (shark) or a pueo (owl), and come to visit, warn and communicate with us.
Finally, kūpuna means the source, the starting point or the process of growth. This meaning is related to the notion that our direct forebearers and those of the distant past remain living treasures who continue to help us grow in numerous ways. They are a source of experience, knowledge, guidance, strength and inspiration to the next generations.
At least in age, I think I qualify as a Kūpuna! So when I approached the doorway with Jason Anderson, I was told “Two adults, $14.”
“But I am a Kūpuna!”
The Nā Wai Chamber Choir is “A choir devoted to the preservation of Hawaiian choral music, and repertoire for women, by women.” The director is Jace Saplan, who was born and raised in Hawaii but is now a doctoral candidate in choral conducting and studies with Dr. Karen Kennedy who herself was the choral director of the University of Hawaii for a number of years, making a huge impression on the choral scene here. In August 2017, Jace will be taking a position as the Director of Choral Activities and Assistant Professor of Music at Hamilton College in Clinton, NY.
Last night’s program began with an Oli (Hawaiian chant), then moved right into Britten’s Ceremony of Carols, with Connie Uejio masterfully playing the harp, a work she has probably done a zillion times. I remember Connie writing my late husband Carl Crosier that she played one of her first gigs in Hawaii at the Lutheran Church of Honolulu, at Carl’s invitation. And it was Britten Ceremony of Carols!
The tone of the 13 women was just exquisite, with beautiful dynamic contrasts and especially soft singing. The only thing I found a tiny bit uncomfortable was the sometimes too long spaces in between pieces, but otherwise it was pure perfection. The roster of the choir included (Sopranos): Melissa Bumbach, Naomi Castro, Carson Chappins, Taylor Ishida, Lilinoe Kauahikaua, Erin Richardson, Christine Toguchi; (Altos): Sienna Ah Chong, Karyn Castro, Carlyn Costales, Elyse Espinosa, Amy Johnson and Lena Ann Sullivan. Both Naomi Castro and Karyn Castro sang solos, and I couldn’t have been more proud. As you know both of them grew up in the Lutheran Church of Honolulu and under Carl Crosier’s influence!
The second half of the program was a couple of other Hawaiian selections, “Five Hebrew Love Songs” by Eric Whitacre, and a commissioned work by Dana Kaufman, “Be Still My Heart.” The pianist on the Whitacre pieces was Steven Severin, who played very sensitively and did a beautiful job. He is my organ student, now playing at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church, whose wife, Erin, sings in both in the church choir as well as in this group.
In the afternoon I went to the Hawaii Symphony Orchestra concert, which was an all-American program, “Made in America,” with JoAnn Falletta conducting. I came out of there with “a spring in my step,” as the orchestra ended the program with a spectacular and exhilarating performance of Leonard Bernstein’s “Symphonic Dances from ‘West Side Story,’ ” filled with familiar melodies such as “Somewhere,” and “America;” driving rhythms and mixed meter changes. This was the first time I had seen the orchestra doing non-musical things such as snapping their fingers and shouting “Bravo!” So much fun!
What was also fun was that William Wolfram, who played Gershwin’s “Concerto in F” on the first half, came out and presented Maestra Falletta with a lei! Normally, it is Symphony volunteers who do the honors of giving the leis, so it was so delightful to see this!