After two years of virtual festivals, it is clear that both audiences and performers are thrilled to have the Hawaii Performing Arts Festival back in the Kahilu Theatre, live and on stage. Temperatures were taken at the door; masks were required and everyone was abuzz. The house was populated just right, with the center section mostly filled with only a bit of social distancing evident and the side sections filled with a scattering of eager listeners. The evening was a delight filled with performances by some of HPAF’s finest professional musicians and singers.
The opening number was Handel’s “Total Eclipse” from Samson, beautifully sung by William Nield Christensen, HPAF faculty, in his grand, resonant, tenor voice, accompanied by Val Underwood, professional, as always, seated at the Kahilu’s pride and joy, the Steinway concert grand piano. What a delightful way to start the evening.
Next came two movements from Mozart’s Quintet for Piano and Winds in E-flat Major, K 452. Paul Floyd at the piano, MaryAnn Shore on oboe, Norm Foster on Clarinet, Maria Serkin on French horn, and Anna Marsh on bassoon blended seamlessly to lead us through the piece, at times playful, at time somber, and ultimately joyful. These musicians are so accomplished at their craft that one can hardly resist being carried on the waves of glorious music.
Carl DuPont’s deep baritone did justice to Wagner’s beautiful aria from Tannhaüser, “O du mein holder abenstern.” Floyd, as an accompanist is a joy to watch, never overshadowing his performers, but always playing exquisitely.
Maurice Duruflé’s Prelude, Recitatif, and Variations Op.3 was one of the surprises and special treats of the evening. The trio, written for flute, viola, and piano, provides a rare juxtaposition of those particular instruments. Written in 1928, the piece seems at first like a conversation among three very different voices with quite different opinions. A climax is reached and the voices drop to quieter levels, seeming to find common ground. As they play with their interactions, swooning together, parting and returning, harmony at last reigns, and we, the audience feel satisfied and lifted. Sue McGinn on flute, Carlo Andrea Malanima on viola, and Ronny Michael Michael Greenberg on piano seemed an inspired set.
The program continued with three marvelously unique and enjoyable solo singers. Paulina Villarreal’s luscious mezzo-soprano voice and style can only be described as sexy and perfectly suited to “Carceleras” from Las hijas de Zebedeo (Rupert Chapi). Jennifer McGregor’s lovely soprano voice gave life to two pieces from the 21st century, Ricky Ian Gordon’s “Once I was” and Gordon and Ray Underwood’s “Coyotes.” Raw and emotional, these pieces are powerful. Justin John Moniz, accompanied by Rachel Saul on violin, Anna Callner Pare on cello, and Ronny Michael Greenberg on piano put us back in the 20th century with Craig Carnelia’s “Flight.”
In the words of the Festival Founder and Artistic Director, Val Underwood, “HPAF takes great pride in the artistic level of its faculty and instrumental staff. The Great Performance series provides both our audience and students the opportunity to experience their performances first hand.” And, indeed, we did.
The evening ended with Camille Saint-Saëns’ Septet in E-Flat Major, Op. 65. Piano, trumpet and five strings, including bass, cello, viola, and two violins make a heady mixture. Jason Gamer’s four-valve trumpet lent just the right tone to the piece. The opening notes sound almost Baroque then pull us into the modern world as the themes progress. Ultimately triumphant, the piece made a splendid end to a delightful evening. These very different pieces of music appeared as jewels of different colors and shapes, separate, yet connected in their luster and beauty.
About the author: Lisa Chu-Thielbar studied literature and journalism at UC Berkeley, creative writing at Stanford University, and worked as a science, technical and educational writer at NASA Ames Research Center in northern California.
Photos: Steve Roby
Concert date: 14/07/2022
A full calendar of HPAF events and tickets for all events are available by visiting https://hawaiiperformingartsfestival.org/. Tickets for Kahilu Theatre events may be purchased at https://kahilutheatre.org/ or via phone at (808) 885-6868.