Dr. Jon Magnussen’s music featured on new CD based on traditional Hawaiian coming-of-age story

Photo of Jon Magnussen

Assistant Professor of Music Jon Magnussen

Chamber Music Hawaiʻi recently released a new CD featuring Dr. Jon Magnussen’s “Pākaʻa Lanakila!” for wind quintet and narrator in Hawaiian and English language versions. The musical work was commissioned by Chamber Music Hawaiʻi’s Spring Wind Quintet with generous support from the Honolulu Mayor’s Office of Culture and the Arts, and will be touring schools and communities statewide during the 2015-16 season, in Hawaiian-language performances.

“When the invitation came to create a new work for my Spring Wind Quartet friends, it was clear to me that the work should be inspired by our shared passion for bringing live concert music to younger generations; and that it should also be based on a Hawaiian theme, in honor of our host culture,” said UH West Oʻahu Assistant Professor of Music Jon Magnussen.

As part of his research, Magnussen read numerous versions of Pākaʻa’s story.

“The more I read, the more I was convinced that this story needed to be heard again. It was funny, entertaining, and its stubborn, hard-headed protagonist ‘just like his father’ was a hard worker, and ultimately victorious,” said Magnussen.

“Pākaʻa Lanakila!” is based on the traditional Hawaiian story of Pākaʻa, a boy living on Kauaʻi in the cliffs of Keahiahi near present day Kealia. Pākaʻa is a smart boy and a quick learner. But sometimes his mother and uncle underestimate what he can do. By the end of this fishing adventure, Pākaʻa wins the respect of the poʻe lawaiʻa (fishing people) and all those on shore that day.

Pākaʻa Lanakila! CD Cover

Pākaʻa Lanakila! CD, with music by Jon Magnussen, includes both Hawaiian and English language versions.

Hawaiian language and culture experts Sam ʻOhu Gon III and Braven Kalama Cabigon were instrumental in the creation of the Hawaiian language versions of the music with support from the Kosasa Foundation. Magnussen recorded their voices in UH West Oʻahu’s D249 Recording Studio for the Hawaiian language version. “Pākaʻa Lanakila!” is fashioned in the manner of Prokofiev’s “Peter and The Wolf” and will tour schools and communities statewide during the 2015-16 season, in Hawaiian-language performances featuring narrator, Braven Kalama Cabigon.

Kalama Cabigon (left) and Sam ʻOhu Gon III (right) in the UH West Oʻahu recording studio (room D249).

Braven Kalama Cabigon (left) and Sam ʻOhu Gon III (right) in the UH West Oʻahu recording studio (room D249).

“I hope this retelling of Pākaʻa’s story helps a new generation discover the wisdom, rich comedy and deep beauty of Hawaiian literature,” said Magnussen.

A free, bilingual “Pākaʻa Lanakila!” study guide for educators is in the works, featuring artwork by noted Hawaiʻi Island artist, Caren Loebel-Fried. “Pākaʻa Lanakila!” may be purchased on CDbaby and will soon be available at Native Books Nā Mea Hawaiʻi in Ward Center and on iTunes.

Described as “hauntingly beautiful” (Salt Lake Tribune), and “thoughtful… deeply imaginative” (L.A. Times), Jon Magnussen’s music for the concert hall, drama, dance and film has been commissioned and performed nationally and internationally by organizations including American Ballet Theatre, The Juilliard School, Orchestra of St. Lukes, New York New Music Ensemble, New Juilliard Ensemble, St. Luke’s Chamber Ensemble, New York Percussion Quartet, Limón Dance Company (NYC), Lula Washington Dance Theatre, Ebb and Flow Arts (Hawaiʻi), Hawaii Youth Symphony, Chamber Music Hawaiʻi, Oahu Choral Society, New York Virtuoso Singers, Westminster Conservatory Children’s Choir, Hawaiʻi Youth Opera Chorus, The Shakespeare Theatre (D.C.), Symphony San Jose Silicon Valley and James Goldworthy’s New Works for Young Pianists Commissioning Project. His music has been published by Oxford University Press, released on the Albany and Chamber Music Hawaii labels, and funded by organizations including the Argosy Foundation, the Library of Congress, Meet the Composer, National Endowment for the Arts, Chamber Music America, the Honolulu Mayor’s Office on Culture and the Arts, and the Gladys Krieble Delmas Foundation. Magnussen holds doctoral and masters degrees from The Juilliard School where he studied composition with Robert Beaser. He also holds degrees from Conservatoire Nationale Supérieure de Musique de Paris where he studied with Jean-Paul Holstein and Michel Merlet; and Cornell University, where he studied with Steven Stucky and Karel Husa. He was artist-in-residence at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton from 2000 to 2007, and is currently assistant professor of music at UH West O‘ahu.

Images courtesy of Mellissa Lochman, Caren Lobel-Fried and Jon Magnussen