The UH Hilo Jazz Orchestra – featuring The Orchid Isle String Orchestra
w/ Harmony On Tap
Hilo Performing Arts Center
May 3, 2018
It was nearly a half-decade ago when The Beatles released their final LP, Let It Be (May 8, 1970). They were such a pop phenom that when they arrived in some American cities to play concerts, it was front page headline news. Beatlemania was all the rage!
Trever Veilleux, musical director of the UH-Hilo Jazz Orchestra, pitched an all-Beatles’ tribute show to the University, and they approved All You Need is Love! for the band’s annual spring concert. To make it a very special evening, Veilleux added the Orchid Isle Orchestra for embellishments on certain tunes with string arrangements.
Veilleux and UH HJO, are best known for their annual Frank Zappa tribute concerts, and the subject of my 2017 documentary titled Zappa U. Just last December, they caught the attention of Zappa’s son Dweezil who accompanied them on stage for two shows at the Hilo Performing Arts Center. (See our review here.)
Veilleux, not technically a baby-boomer, dipped his toes in The Beatles musical pond last year when he and his Jazz Orchestra performed the “Abbey Road Medley,” as an encore for his Professor T CD release concert. Tonight’s show focused on the post-mop-top Beatles songbook, i.e., 1966-1969. In other words, no “Yeah, Yeah, Yeah’s.”
Opening the evening’s show was Harmony On Tap (aka HOT), an all-female six-member a cappela group, whose catchphrase is “Cool Women making hot music for a good cause.” Spokesperson Jeri Gertz explained how they got to be the opening act. “Since Harmony On Tap already has a few jazzy a capella Beatles tunes in our repertoire,” said Gertz, “I thought it would be a good fit… Trever took me up on the offer.” Gertz added: “I also rewrote the lyrics to “Penny Lane” to transform it to an homage to Hilo weather.” Listen below.
While not as elaborate as the Cirque du Soleil’s stage performance of The Beatles LOVE, Veilleux highlighted his tribute on several numbers with choreography by The 5,6,7,8s. The UH dance troupe is under the direction of Dori Yamada who proudly claims to be a huge Beatles’ fan. She and her dancers have worked with Veilleux on numerous past UH Hilo shows.
The Orchid Isle Orchestra sat in on “Eleanor Rigby,” “A Day in the Life” “All You Need is Love,” and “She’s Leaving Home.” When Assistant Conductor Walter Green introduced the latter song to the audience, he confessed the song made him cry in his youth. Another number that worked perfectly with OIO was “A Day in The Life,” the final track from the iconic 1967 album, Sgt. Pepper’s. Great attention was paid to the Lennon and McCartney masterpiece including the alarm clock sound effect that takes place in the middle. Pianist Madalyn Munoz had the honor of hitting the song’s final C Major chord.(Listen to the audio track below.) The chord inspired Apple to use it as the startup chime of the Macintosh operating system.
About halfway through the show, Veilleux announced that the Hilo Jazz Orchestra would like to perform in the 2019 Zappanale Festival, “But we don’t have any money,” said the conductor. Each year, the Zappanale festival attracts fans from around the world to celebrate all things Zappa over the course of three days. Reaching out to the concertgoers, Veilleux said the Orchestra now has a GoFundMe campaign for contributions, and there was even a donation basket in the lobby for cash donations. (See our story here )
The UH Hilo Jazz Orchestra have five talented singers who have proven that they can not only sing complex multi-time-signature Zappa pieces, but they can do justice to heartfelt Beatle tunes as well. Noam Akiba-Hajim, Bridge Hartman, Lilinoe Kauahikaua, Josh Timmons, and the soulful Mayumi Long, all have the chops to jump into a music biz career.
As the second set came to a finale, it was obvious that the Performance Center audience wasn’t going to let the musicians go without an encore. Guitarist Dustin Kneidl offered a solo acoustic guitar rendition of “Her Majesty,” the short simple song that closes out Abbey Road, with his best English accent. The standing crowd gratefully sang the endless “Na-na-na na’s” on “Hey Jude.” A splendid time was had by all.
For an expanded version of this article including more photos and text, click here: Big Island Music Mag May 2018 supplement
Learn all about the Hilo Jazz Orchestra at their official webpage, https://hilojazz.com
To contribute to the Hilo Jazz Orchestra’s Gofundme account, go here: https://www.gofundme.com/hilojazzo
Follow Harmony On Tap via Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/HarmonyOnTap/