View from the Pew
Kaumakapili Church celebrates its members and shares its heritage with a Hawaiian CD
The rafters of Kaumakapili Church have vibrated with the sound of music since 1838, when it was the second Oahu church to be established by the first Christian missionaries.
The Palama church will spread its joyful noise beyond its doors next weekend with the release of a CD of sacred music in the Hawaiian language by the church choir and musicians.
Every anthem, hymn and praise song in the album "Keonemele O Kaumakapili" is the creation of a past or present member of the church.
"It combines the history and the sense of carrying on," said the Rev. David Kaupu, pastor emeritus. "The music was composed, translated and arranged by people connected to Kaumakapili. We wanted to share that with future generations." He said by showcasing the talents of its members, the church also aims to inspire new generations to write new music.
Members of the church started with the idea of producing an album as a tribute to the late Martha Poepoe Hohu, choir director for 67 years. The composer and lyricist of hundreds of songs, Hohu was the recipient of several music awards during her 97 years. She had attended the church since the current building was dedicated in 1911, Kaupu said.
The CD "Keonemele O Kaumakapili" is a collection of sacred music in the Hawaiian language by the Kaumakapili Church choir and musicians.
Behind all the practical production stuff of hours of rehearsals, committee meetings, cover design, recording by sound studio professionals and marketing plans, there was a sense of mission and a biblical theme.
Kaupu said the project was grounded in Paul's first letter to the early Corinthian Christians: "According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder, I laid a foundation, and another man is building upon it. Let each man take care how he builds upon it."
He said, "Aunty Martha Hohu laid the foundation; we build on it so it will continue. We thought this was a good way to preserve the heritage, to maintain that spirit for years to come."
Kaupu and the Rev. Richard Kamanu, Kaumakapili pastor, will lead the Nov. 19 service dedicating the CD. About 200 guests, including the families of deceased creative artists represented on the album, were invited to join the 200-member congregation at the 4 p.m. celebration. A Hawaiian chant -- based on 1st Corinthians, chapter 3, verse 10 -- will open the service, which will rock the rafters with songs from the CD.
Kaumakapili choir director Sybil Kahaunani Shoenstein said, "I tried to find different flavors of music" for the album. There are a cappella anthems and hymns sung by the 20-voice choir core joined by a few extras. There are arrangements sung by a quartet and an eight-voice ensemble.
The young-adult "Singspiration Team" went to a sound studio to record contemporary praise and worship songs accompanied by guitars and percussion.
But the choir was recorded in the sanctuary on one long June day because "we didn't want a studio sound," Shoenstein said. "We wanted to sound as we are when we are heard here."
CRAIG T. KOJIMA / CKOJIMA@STARBULLETIN.COM
The Rev. David Kaupu and Sybil Kahaunani Shoenstein helped bring the CD to life with the church choir and musicians.
She said people expecting to sing along won't find familiar tunes from the United Church of Christ old favorite "Ka Himeni" hymnal. But they will find the Hawaiian language used in creative expressions of worship.
"Many are commemorative anthems written for special occasions like anniversaries, Christmas and Easter. These are very typical of what you hear when you come to this place." There are three Hohu compositions on the album and two by Shoenstein for which Kaupu did the Hawaiian text.
"The only one people will recognize is the Lord's Prayer," said Shoenstein, a retired public school music teacher who was invited to take the choir director job in 1996, two years after Hohu's death.
Kaupu had a hand in naming the CD "Keonemele," which translates as giving birth to the songs. He said the title also alludes to the ancient name of the particular place where the church stands, Keoneula, which translated to red or brown sand but had the hidden meaning of sacred birth.
"I wanted this to be a fun and faithful experience," Kaupu said. "As a choir member, I can tell you it was long, tedious, hard work."
The CD will be sold at the church office at 766 N. King St. Call 845-0908 for information.