Story of Hawaii princess made music flow easily


POSTED: Monday, October 12, 2009

This weekend's world premiere of the “;Princess Ka'iulani Suite”; by the Honolulu Symphony Orchestra represents both a musical and cinematic journey.

I first read the script for the film “;Barbarian Princess”; in 2007. When I finally met the director, Marc Forby, it was in a London hotel foyer in the depths of a gray English day. The story of Princess Kaiulani had fascinated me; it was a history I knew little of, this powerful emotional description of a woman caught in the center of epochal change.

I walked into the dull foyer, and within a few minutes of watching the film, I was transported to another world.

The first thing that struck me about the film was the vibrancy of the colors in the sequences I was watching. Although this was just a laptop with a collection of shots, I felt more deeply drawn into the story by images of shells, the sea and Princess Kaiulani herself.

I was eager to start writing music, but a film composer waits for the whole story. A few days later I went to Norfolk in England to watch some of the scenes shot there — scenes of gray and stifling formality — and I saw more pieces of the jigsaw come together.

When the first cut arrived, I started work. And, as I find with truly emotional stories, the ideas started to arrive quite soon. If there is a human story with an emotional heart, I think it feels as though the music writes itself, and this story seemed to contain a nation's heartbreak.


A FEW WEEKS later I was flying halfway around the world to Oahu to record the music with Andreas Delfs and the musicians of the Honolulu Symphony. I arrived on an island where the blues were just as blue as in the film and every bit as beautiful.

I found the orchestra skilled and willing to show the flexibility that recording film music requires, and I was delighted by Andreas' attention to detail and sensitivity. At the end of the orchestral recording, I was privileged to be there for the recording of some of the Hawaiian music in “;Barbarian Princess.”;

Not often does a film take you on such a journey.


English composer Stephen Warbeck wrote the original score for the soon-to-be-released film “;Barbarian Princess,”; which was recorded by the Honolulu Symphony Orchestra under the baton of Maestro Andreas Delfs. The “;Princess Ka'iulani Suite”; is drawn from Warbeck's score for the film. Warbeck's other credits include composing the music for such films as “;Mrs. Brown,”; “;Shakespeare in Love,”; “;Billy Elliot,”; “;Captain Corelli's Mandolin”; and “;Charlotte Gray.”; He received an Academy Award for his score for “;Shakespeare in Love.”; “;Crescendo”; appears before each concert of the season to illuminate works to be performed.





'Princess Ka'iulani Suite'


Presented by Honolulu Symphony


» Place: Blaisdell Concert Hall
        » Time: 8 p.m. Friday and 4 p.m. Saturday
        » Tickets: $19, $26, $40, $52, $70 (including service fees); 20 percent discount for military and seniors; $10 for students and children; available at Ticketmaster (800-745-3000), Macy's, www.ticketmaster.com and www.honolulusymphony.com. Call 792-2000 (weekdays) or 524-0815, ext. 245 (evenings).