NĀ HŌKŪ ʻŌPIO
Orchestral Brass & Percussion:
Susan Kosasa and the
Hawaiʻi Symphony Orchestra
Nā Hōkū ʻŌpio (The Young Stars) is dedicated to Susan Kosasa for her most gracious and generous sponsorship that supported an unprecedented festival of my music during the inaugural Sheraton Starlight Series in the summer of 2021 at the Waikīkī Shell. The festival encompassed seven works and two new arrangements for a total of 30 performances within a span of three months. This rare and substantial gift is a career- shaping monument. Words lack the proper vocabulary to adequately express my gratitude, and so in the best way that I know, I have written music where words do not suffice.
It is serendipitous that the title of the summer series, Starlight, should touch upon so many of the themes that my own music has explored, particularly with Hōkūleʻa, Polynesian voyaging and navigation. Guided by starlight, light millions of years old, a light of the ancestors, navigators depend upon this celestial compass of the natural world to guide their voyages into destinations in the future. Without this guiding light, they would be lost. With this unchanging ancient light, a lighthouse of the cosmos, they look towards the final frontiers, a realm so often associated with science fiction and the future. It is an apt metaphor for all arts and all humanity moving forward, learning from tradition and from our history and ancestors, to chart a path into the great uncertainty of tomorrow. It is an ethos that speaks to my own works, a continuing dialogue with three timelines, the past, present and future.
The series would also give three young star musicians the opportunity to perform with the symphony, bridging that celestial path and tradition of passing down knowledge, such as young navigators who are given their first voyage to chart and command. These artists were dubbed Nā Hōkū ʻŌpio, and it seems fitting to adopt that title for my own musical gift to Susan, which has delivered to me, the insurmountable waʻa of the Hawaiʻi Symphony Orchestra to sail 30 musical voyages with my music. Scored for orchestral brass and percussion, this invocation fanfare mirrors the orchestration of Aaron Copland’s Fanfare for the Common Man (1942), and of course, Joan Tower’s series of short works called Fanfare for the Uncommon Woman (1987- 2016), another example of the past guiding my own music.
The work unfolds in three parts, opening with a stark ancient-like chant with percussive thunderings and ancestral reverberations. A fanfare in the middle section will herald a motive from my Hōkūleʻa symphony, Raise Hawaiki, which will speak to the energy of the young stars of today. The final section will combine the ancient with the new, in a dialogue of the past and present, with harmonic swells between the brass families. There is might in this finale, and when the forces combine, it is testament for the possibility of overcoming, when the convergence of the three timelines coexists in tandem. © MTF