But to miss the opportunity to experience symphonic music, Hawaiian style, would be a shame. Since the orchestra engaged the dynamic talent of Samuel Wong, widely considered to be "one of the most exciting conductors of his generation," an association with the New York Philharmonic was created resulting in over 30 performances that have validated the island State’s reputation for premiere orchestral music.
Additionally, beloved maestro, Matt Catingub, has infused the symphony’s Pop series with his own brand of charisma, often bringing new meaning to the game "musical chairs" as he alternates between conducting, singing, and playing a myriad of instruments to accompany pieces he has often composed and arranged. He is especially noteworthy for having expanded the Pops series to include more mainland and international entertainers. Due to his extensive technical talents, he is able to accommodate even those artists who would not typically work with an orchestral score.
It was the opening season of the 2003 Pops Series that brought me to Honolulu recently to enjoy my first exposure to the Blaisdell Center and the Symphony with James Ingram as headliner. I was more interested in hearing the orchestra itself and observing its interaction with a pop performer than I was with Ingram’s ballads per se, most top 40 hits of the ‘70’s. So it was an especially delightful surprise to find the Honolulu Jazz Quartet opening as the warm-up act. Lead by a "local boy" who plays a mean bass, supported by a snare-drum tight band, this act alone made the night.
Then James Ingram took the stage. Although he may have already sung his hits a million times, already found "One Hundred Ways" to "Keep The Love Alive," that night all he had to do was sing to win over the audience. By the time he introduced one of his final numbers by recounting the story of his true love at age 17, the woman to whom he has been married for life and with whom he has raised six children, no amount of air-conditioning could suppress the heat generated by the audience of middle-aged women lost in romantic nostalgia (or were those hot flashes?)
In any event, between the jazz, the beautiful ushers in their plantation dresses, maestro Matt’s pony-tailed, aloha conviviality, the classical musicians modeling their new-season Hilo Hattie shirts, or the inspiration born of strings, reeds and timpani reverberating the room, it was a glorious night at orchestra hall, revealing yet another unique aspect of Hawaiian culture.
Admittedly, the Blaisdell Center cannot boast the nation's best acoustics, but there is surely no orchestra that plays with more aloha.
by smmmarti guide
October 21, 2003
From journal Hawaii's Cultural Capital - Honolulu