What I Love About HPAF
The Hawaii Performing Arts Festival’s (HPAF) Season of Self Discovery began its 18th year with its Life-Long Singer Showcase last Sunday at Gates Performing Arts Center (GPAC) at the Hawaii Preparatory Academy campus in Waimea.
Dr. Paulina Villareal, program director, and Dr. Paul Floyd, musical director/pianist, brought a fine production to the stage as our local friends and residents had the opportunity to sing to an enthusiastic audience. The venue was sublime – due to renovations in the Davies’ Chapel, productions that ordinarily would have been presented at the Vladimir Ossipoff-designed chapel will have the opportunity to be at GPAC. No need for our HPAF tush cushions; the Gates Performing Arts Center is luxurious with plush red seating, and the sound and lighting are impeccable. The intimate ambiance was comforting on a blustery evening.
Joanna Lipari began the show with Stephen Sondheim’s “Anyone Can Whistle,” followed by a Shirley Horn piece, “Where Do You Start?” and ended with another Sondheim ballad, “Losing My Mind.” The audience was enraptured as she soulfully performed these pieces – love hoped for, love longed for, how to get there. Kudos to this actress (she performed her one-woman show, Activities of Daily Living, at Kahilu Theatre’s Mike Luce Studio in January 2020.)
Delightful Dorothy Bowers shone in her heartfelt song choices – songs she simply loves! “Summertime” from Porgy and Bess and, for “Good Morning Starshine,” Bowers was a delight as she changed her attire to that from the musical Hair, which HPAF will present this season. I found myself bopping along and shining my cellphone’s light from the audience.
Steve Kaplan sang “Sally Gardens” by Benjamin Britten and was thoughtful to provide the translation for “Ici-Bas!” (Gabriel Fauré) as well as the lyrics for his final piece, Samuel Barber’s “Sure On This Shining Night.” Kaplan’s self-discovery is deeply layered in his choice of songs, and his range is not just a beautiful baritone but reaches tenor highs and lovely low bass tones.
What I love about the Life-Long Singer Showcase is the opportunity for non-professionals to sing for an audience and share their love in song. The singer is challenged to step out of their comfort zone, learn new vocal techniques, and overcome fears and anxieties to perform in front of an audience. The listener discovers the heart of the singer; the singer shares their discovery. ‘Twas an intimate, short, sweet soiree that warmed and brightened a cold, rainy Waimea evening. Bravo to the singers and their director/coaches, accompanist, and light and sound support.
I’m looking forward to the June 30 Thursday evening’s festival opener at the Fairmont Orchid: The Spirit of Hawaii with Hāwane Rios, Blayne Asing, Hula by Kaulu Amaral, Halau Ka’eaikahelelani, and Pomai Brown & Friends, with all proceeds going to the HPAF Scholarship Fund for high school students. Hāwane Rios studied with HPAF in 2013. Get your tickets now.
About the author: Rona Lee studied theatre arts and film at SUNY Purchase (Conservatory – College of Performing Arts) and Communications at the University of Arizona. She traveled abroad with Up With People! (1983-84) and moved to the Big Island from New York in 1990.
Photos: Steve Roby