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The world premiere of Raise Hawaiki, composed by the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa’s award-winning Michael-Thomas Foumai, will be performed by the Hawaiʻi Symphony Orchestra at the Neal S. Blaisdell Concert Hall on March 28 at 7:30 p.m.

music composition over a photo of the Hokulea

This performance is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to experience the artistic interpretation of the Polynesian Voyaging Society’s Mālama Honua worldwide voyage.

A unique collaboration of Hawaiʻi’s arts organizations and artists will perform this world premiere with the Hawaiʻi Symphony Orchestra. Collaborators who created this amazing experience include the UH Mānoa Music Department; UH Foundation; the Hawaiʻi Symphony Orchestra and the Polynesian Voyaging Society. Performers are from the Oʻahu Choral Society, UH Mānoa, Kapiʻolani Community College, UH West Oʻahu, the Hawaiʻi Youth Opera Chorus, community choirs and IONA Contemporary Dance Theatre.

The dream

It was philanthropist Elizabeth Wong who dreamed of a symphony in honor of the Hōkūleʻa and its Mālama Honua Voyage around the world. Through her friend SaraLyn Smith at the UH Foundation, she sought out Foumai to compose it. Together the three of them built a collaborative team to bring the music and artistic communities together with the Polynesian Voyaging Society in a historic retelling of Hōkūleʻa’s story through symphony orchestra and chorus.

The chorus will be singing the words of Polynesian voyaging greats Eddie Aikau, Nainoa Thompson, Mau Piailug, Sam Kaai and Sam Low.

Composer Michael-Thomas Foumai

Michael-Thomas Foumai
Michael-Thomas Foumai

Foumai, the winner of the 2017 American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers Foundation young composer award, is a UH Mānoa lecturer.

“I would describe Raise Hawaiki as an epic of Hawaiʻi,” says Foumai, who says the origins of both music and voyaging are connected through the ancient Greeks. Master Navigator Thompson told Foumai that, early on, when Polynesian voyaging traditions were deemed lost, he and his team studied ancient Greek navigation.

“That for me is what Hōkūleʻa is,” says Foumai. “It is the resurrection. It is the celebration of Hawaiian culture, which was almost lost, but now it is alive, and well and thriving.”

Cast of a thousand

The event features a cast of a thousand, including 200 musicians and singers, hula choreographed by Lauren Kanoelani Chang Williams, with projection visuals from the Polynesian Voyaging Society and ʻŌiwi TV, historical photos by Sam Low and Ben Young, artwork by Herbert Kāne and voyager Hana Yoshihata, and a pre-show performance from IONA Contemporary Dance Theatre.

The evening, including a performance of Brahm’s Requiem, is sponsored in part by the Wallace, Elizabeth and Isabella Wong Family Foundation.

Foumai says,”I hope the audience will take away from the experience of listening to this symphony, as if they were aboard Hōkūleʻa, as if they journeyed around the world.”

Tickets may be purchased at the Hawaiʻi Symphony Orchestra website.

—By Kelli Trifonovitch

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