Nainoa Thompson, Michael-Thomas Foumai and David Lassner

“Bravo!” shouted the crowd in the Neal S. Blaisdell Centerʻs Concert Hall, as they applauded and rose to their feet.

They were the fortunate witnesses of the March 28, 2019 world premiere of Raise Hawaiki, a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to experience a collaborative artistic interpretation of the Polynesian Voyaging Society’s Mālama Honua worldwide voyage, composed by the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa’s award-winning Michael-Thomas Foumai.

The Hawaiʻi Symphony Orchestra performed with the Oʻahu Choral society, joined by choirs from UH Mānoa and with choral participation from Kapiʻolani Community College and UH West Oʻahu. Performers also joined from the Hawaiʻi Youth Opera Chorus and community choirs. They sang the words of Polynesian voyaging greats Eddie Aikau, Nainoa Thompson, Mau Piailug, Sam Kaʻai and Sam Low.

Raise Hawaiki was composed by Foumai, a UH Mānoa music lecturer and winner of the 2017 American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers Foundation (ASCAP) young composer award.

Inspired by story of the voyaging canoe Hōkūleʻa, the large-scale symphonic work brought together Hawaiʻi’s major institutions of performance, learning and voyaging, mirroring Hōkūleʻa’s voyages that bring communities together across the planet to embrace and care for their culture and natural environments.

The event featured 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 ʻŌiwiTV, 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.

See what composer Michael-Thomas Foumai had to say about Raise Hawaiki.

Symphony, choir and hula performers