Sunday, January 19, 2003

New releases by Hawaii authors

"The Honolulu Symphony -- A Century of Music"
by Dale E. Hall (Goodale Publishing, $39.95)

Reviewed by Burl Burlingame

"The Honolulu Symphony -- A Century of Music"

As Honolulu was being swept away in the excitement of being annexed at the turn of 1900s, a group of Germans, dissatisfied both with the state of classical music and of beer-drinking in the islands, formed a mens-only social club called the Honolulu Symphony Society. This was the taproot of today's splendid Honolulu Symphony, an organization that has certainly had its' battles in the last decade. What we discover going through Dale Hall's scholarly work is that the Symphony never had it easy. Emotions run high when it comes to music. Hall, retired from teaching music history at the University of Hawai'i, spent the last decade picking through newspaper articles and public records, bringing to life musical footnotes such as opera chanteuse Princess Ululani Robertson; Korean conductor Won Sik Lim, the first Asian conductor of the symphony; and steely Hungarian conductor George Barati, who ruled the roost for nearly two decades. This is a well-footnoted, keepsake history.

Kamehameha and His Warrior Kekuhaupi'o by Stephen L. Desha (Kamehameha Schools Press, $29.95)

One problem with documenting a pre-historic culture is that of provenance: by the time things get written down, the stories have passed through many mouths. The lively Hawaiian-language newspapers of a century ago recognized this and there was an effort to codify pre-contact history as thoroughly as possible. One of the champions of this was Stephen Desha, minister, publisher and orator, who wrote weekly parables about early warrior heroes Kamehameha and Kekuhaupi'o. Desha drew upon the best references available, but also intended to revv up Hawaiian morale, which means he slips over from history into propaganda. This handsome volume features modern translations of Desha's seminal work by Frances N. Frazier, and the rich storytelling seems equal part Hawaiian melody and part gospel pulpit-pounding.

Mo'o's Colors by Tammy Yee (Island Heritage, $4.99)

This little board book follows the adventures of a lizard as he discovers the rainbow of colors in Hawaii. The book works well at introducing Hawaiian words for various colors to kids -- and adults. And no one draws cuter than Yee.

Hawai'i Becalmed -- Economic Lessons of the 1990s by Christopher Grandy (University of Hawai'i Press, $13)

Just as Hawaii's burst economic bubble began reforming, 9-11 hit and we're flatlining again. Grandy takes a hard look at our denial and panic over the last decade. Not for everyone, but required reading for business types and legislators.

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