Symphony conductor starting new festival
Since 1998, Matt Catingub has been entertaining local audiences as conductor of the Honolulu Symphony Pops. Now the maestro is teaming with his long-time manager and producer on an even more ambitious venture, making his first foray into the business of music.
In March, Catingub and Allen Sviridoff are planning to launch the inaugural Return to Romance music festival, an 11-day event featuring Catingub's orchestra, plus local and mainland artists.
Catingub and Sviridoff's plan is to grow the event over the next five years into a two-week festival that will be an international tourist attraction and a showcase for Hawaiian artists.
"We're going for an important event," Catingub said. "We're going to make this an important international event."
Sviridoff and Catingub, who also sings and plays saxophone, already have won major kudos for their collaborations. These include a Grammy in 2005 for their work on the soundtrack of George Clooney's Edward R. Murrow biopic "Good Night and Good Luck." Sviridoff produced the soundtrack, while Catingub arranged the collection or jazz standards that Clooney chose for the soundtrack. Catingub also plays saxophone on the soundtrack and appeared in the movie.
Sviridoff said he believes it is a good time to start growing the event.
"I think timing is everything," he said. "And now's the right time."
The production costs for this year's event are expected to be in the "high-six-figure" range, Sviridoff said. Revenue will come from sponsors and ticket sales, although the festival will include some free concerts.
Catingub and Sviridoff's announcement coincided with a preview of a new CD by the Matt Catingub Orchestra of Hawaii, which serves as a preview of the type of music to be performed during the festival. Titled "Return to Romance," the disc features the orchestra backing Hawaiian artists such as Keali'i Reichel, the Brothers Cazimero and Raiatea Helm performing jazz standards, as well as some original tunes by Catingub and Sviridoff. Catingub's talent for melding the musical traditions of Europe and the mainland with those of Polynesia is perhaps best illustrated by an original arrangement featuring Hawaiian drums backing a piece composed by Johann Sebastian Bach.
The CD will be released by its producer, the Mountain Apple Co., on Oct. 17.
The festival schedule calls for a series of concerts at venues at several locations on Oahu from March 1-11. In some instances, Catingub's whole 40-piece orchestra will perform; in other cases, smaller jazz combos will be dispatched to intimate venues all over town, where they will perform with guest vocalists.
Sviridoff said the festival is loosely modeled after the events produced by Festival Productions Inc., the New York-based company founded by the legendary impresario George Wein, founder of the Newport Jazz Festival and New York's JVC Jazz Festival. FPI also produced Hawaii's now-defunct four-day KOOL Pacific Music Festival, which featured four stages, food booths and crafts booths and musicians such as Muddy Waters, Al Jarreau and Herbie Hancock playing at the Waikiki Shell.
Sviridoff acknowledged the festival will take time to grow into a two-week extravaganza that will draw large numbers of visitors.
"We're going about this methodically," he said. "We want to have every seat filled this year. And we want to have the support of the community."
And that includes corporate sponsors. The producers have had talks with some sponsors and are putting together a sponsorship package offering four levels of sponsorship. But Sviridoff said the producers have not yet entered an agreement.
For now, Sviridoff said, the producers want to hold the festival during March to reach the large numbers of visitors who come here during the month. However, the producers have not dismissed the notion of moving the event to a less crowded "shoulder" tourist season if tourism executives wanted to use the festival as a way to attract visitors during a slow time.
"We are not objecting to moving it (in future years), if that's what everybody wants us to do," he said.