Kamuela Philharmonic Orchestra Finishes Season on a High Note

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The Kamuela Philharmonic Orchestra concluded its 2017-2018 season on a high note, with a sold-out fundraiser featuring Hawai‘i Symphony Concertmaster Ignace “Iggy” Jang at a private residence in Kailua-Kona. As the sun set on the Kona Coast and a nearly full moon shone overhead, Jang, accompanied by his wife, pianist Christine Suehisa-Jang, performed works, including Debussy’s “Claire de Lune” and Stampone’s “Mi Amigo Cholo,” that truly delighted attendees. As a soloist, Jang’s playing has often received praise for its excellent sense of style, impressive musicianship, and uniquely beautiful timbre, and his stirring performance that evening was no exception. After listening to Jang’s performance, attendee Joel Gimpel, principal second violinist in the orchestra, called the event “a musical delight that brought tears of joy to my eyes.” Before concluding his performance, Jang told audience members he had been honored to perform with his colleagues in the Kamuela Philharmonic Orchestra the previous weekend. He urged them to help with the orchestra’s ongoing efforts to support local music education, and provide audiences with live, high-quality symphonic music on Hawai‘i Island, as he has done for years with his involvement in events such as the Hawai‘i Performing Arts Festival in Waimea.

When Jang played Mendelssohn’s famous Violin Concerto in E minor with the Kamuela Philharmonic Orchestra at the orchestra’s “home,” the Kahilu Theatre in Waimea, on March 25, Big Island Music Magazine’s Meizhu Lui thought his performance was the highlight of the program, entitled “Remarkable Flair.” The showy piece gave Jang an opportunity to demonstrate his effortless technique and easy mastery of the instrument “making it all seem like a piece of cake.” The orchestra was elated when Jang joined their first violin section for Elgar’s Romantic short piece “Salut d’Amour,” featuring an “achingly beautiful” solo by concertmaster Ursula Vietze-Koehler, and Beethoven’s rousing Symphony No. 8, making a fine performance by the group even better. Students of Vietze-Koehler, violinist Joanie Collins and members of violinist Cathy Youngs’s Orchid Isle Orchestra also joined the orchestra for a “side-by-side” performance of Mozart’s Overture to “Così fan tutte,” which Lui called “a light and playful romp.” According to Lui, the audience was thrilled with the soloist, the conductor Brian Dollinger, and the orchestra, and advised readers “Go hear the KPO. You won’t be disappointed.”

The orchestra’s January 28 winter concert, “Rustic Inspirations,” was also a crowd pleaser. As usual, winners of the Kamuela Philharmonic’s annual Madeline Schatz-Harris Youth Concerto Competition wowed the audience. Accompanied by the orchestra, 11-year-old cellist Celina Lim excelled in her rendition of George Golterman’s fast-paced, happy Cello Concerto No. 4 Movement #3; 16-year-old violinist Allyson Kwong gave a passionate, heartfelt performance of Eduoard Lalo’s “Symphonie Espagnole,” Movement #1; and 18-year-old cellist Joshua Chang demonstrated his love for Edward Elgar’s beautiful Cello Concerto in E minor, Movement #1 with his soulful performance of the piece. Like his predecessor Schatz-Harris, who started the competition, Maestro Brian Dollinger has a passion for teaching, conducting and mentoring young students, and with his fun-loving, upbeat style, made these young performers feel comfortable and confident playing with the orchestra while drawing out their best performances. Under Dollinger’s direction, the orchestra also had fun getting into the “rustic” theme of the concert with the lyrical Suite in A major “American” by Antonin Dvorak, featuring melodies taken from African-American spirituals, and the rollicking Four Dance Episodes From “Rodeo” by Aaron Copland, especially famous for the fourth episode “Hoe-Down.”

Kamuela Philharmonic Orchestra (KPO) is the only full symphonic orchestra on Hawai‘i Island. Not only are orchestra members proficient performers, they are also enthusiastic and gifted music educators. As a part of its Music in Schools program, a small group of KPO musicians, accompanied by the group’s Artistic Director, visited 11 different Hawai‘i Island schools from January to November 2017. The group played and spoke about music to children at Kahakai Elementary, Honaunau Elementary, SPARK! School Music Camp, Holualoa Elementary, Malamalama Waldorf School, Kohala Elementary, Kealakehe Elementary, Hilo Intermediate, Hawaii Academy of Arts and Sciences, Mtn. View Elementary, and Ka’u High. During the performances, the musicians demonstrated their respective instruments and shared musical concepts (dynamics, meter, tempo, timbre, form and patterns, music history, composers) in classical and contemporary selections. Some sessions included an instrument “petting zoo,” where students could hold and play the instruments, and audience participation such as clapping, singing along and moving to music was encouraged. The sessions usually ended with a Q & A, and information about opportunities for further music education was provided. 

During the school concerts, many students expressed an interest in playing a musical instrument. These students’ enthusiasm and interest was a welcome sight for visiting musicians. Teachers at these schools appreciated the curriculum the group provided in advance; parents (who were also invited to some of these events) liked how their children responded to the presentations, and the musicians involved enjoyed themselves. Although the grant money has been expended, the group is always busy raising more money to continue their educational efforts and the promotion of symphonic music performances. These efforts included a fundraiser on November 26, featuring Broadway star, singer Kevin Vortmann, which was also a sellout.

In December, a small group of KPO musicians also collaborated with West Hawaii Dance Theater for their annual production of Tchaikovsky’s “Nutcracker.”  The performances were so successful that both groups hope to work together again next holiday season.

Concert dates for Kamuela Philharmonic Orchestra’s 2018-2019 season have already been planned: October 7, 2018 “A Hawai‘i Homecoming”; January 2, 2019 “En Pointe Brilliance” featuring the Madeline Schatz-Harris Youth Concerto Competition winners; and March 24, 2019 “Of History and Nature.” Those who heard the orchestra’s last season’s programs won’t want to miss these upcoming events.

If you wish to contribute to the future growth and improvement of the Kamuela Philharmonic and assist in its mission, donations can be made online at the kamuelaphil.org website, mailed to P.O. Box 2597, Kamuela, HI 96743. The Kamuela Philharmonic Orchestra Society is a 501(c)(3), so any donations made to the Orchestra may be tax deductible.

For more information…

Kamuela Philharmonic Website: http://www.kamuelaphil.org/

Kamuela Philharmonic Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/KamuelaPhilharmonicOrchestra/

Kamuela Philharmonic Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/kamuela.philharmonic/

Photo credits: Sarah Anderson (feature image), Steve Roby (Iggy Jang).

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