Cheers and Tears at the “Symphony of the Hawaiian Birds”!

KCC Performing Arts Center filled to capacity during Symphony of the Hawaiian Birds

A performance of the Symphony of the Hawaiian Birds at the Kaua‘i Community College (KCC) brought many audience members to tears on Sunday. The standing-room-only concert showcased original music written to celebrate the native forest birds of the Hawaiian Islands. In one piece, a flautist imitated the haunting call of the now extinct Kaua‘i ‘ō‘ō, provoking a powerful emotional response. The concert was also a call to action, with Dr. Lisa “Cali” Crampton of the Kaua‘i Forest Bird Recovery Project letting audience members know how they can make a difference for native wildlife.

The one-of-a-kind work was performed by the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa Wind Ensemble led by Dr. Jeffrey Boeckman. This innovative project brings together music, art, animation, and science created by Hawai‘i-based composers, artists, scientists, and educators. This performance marked the first time the Symphony of the Hawaiian Birds has been performed on Kaua‘i, where many of the endangered bird species highlighted in the program reside. The first half of the program included a performance by the KCC Wind Symphony led by Sarah Tochiki, who later conducted a joint finale of the two ensembles. A hula performed by the UH Mānoa students also featured.

Dr. Lisa “Cali” Crampton said, “All of the organizers and performers put in a huge amount of effort to bring the show to Kaua‘i and I was so moved by the audience’s response. Our birds are facing some very serious threats, but this event highlighted how supportive local people are of our conservation efforts. It gives me a lot of hope that we can avoid any more bird extinctions on Kaua‘i.” In her speech, Crampton noted that Kaua‘i residents can make a difference to forest bird conservation through donations for the purchase of specialized rat traps; keeping cats indoors and not feeding feral cat colonies on the landscape; and ensuring they have no standing water around their properties where mosquitos can breed (these invasive pests spread lethal avian malaria to birds).

Informational booths by the Kaua‘i Forest Bird Recovery Project, Kaua‘i Invasive Species Committee, Kaua‘i Endangered Seabird Recovery Project, Friends of Kaua‘i Wildlife Refuges and Pacific Birds Habitat Joint Venture were well attended and gave people insights about ongoing conservation measures and challenges for native forest birds, waterbirds, seabirds and plants on Kaua‘i.

Also on display were tissue paper replicas of King Kaumuali‘i’s ‘ahu‘ula (feather capes), meticulously created over three years by Sheri Majewski’s 5th grade classes at ‘Ele‘ele Elementary School (now on show at the Kaua’i Community College library). Fundraising efforts included a large art silent auction supported by local businesses and the opportunity to sponsor a Goodnature rat trap to further control the rodent population in the core breeding habitat of Kaua’is native forest birds; the efforts raised over $8000 for conservation.

Two additional performances of the concert by the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa Wind Ensemble were held on February 24th with over 1,000 Kaua‘i students grades 4-12 attending from Kekaha to Kilauea. Students prepared for the concert with a Kaua‘i-specific curriculum at Kaua’i student artwork entered in the “Mālama Hawaiian Forest Birds” art contest was displayed on the screen during the concerts

The Symphony of the Hawaiian Birds premiered in 2018 with the Hawai‘i Symphony Orchestra in Honolulu, and recently was showcased by the Utah Symphony in Salt Lake City. The work will also be performed by the UH Wind Ensemble in the Pacific Northwest later this spring, at which point it will have been heard by over 30,000 audience members since its first performance.

This event was made possible through a collaboration between the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa Wind Ensemble, the KCC Wind Symphony at the KCC Performing Arts Center, the Kaua‘i Forest Bird Recovery Project, and Garden Island Resource Conservation and Development Inc. The event is co-sponsored by the Kaua’i Community College, Kaua‘i Office of Economic Development and Corteva Agrisciences.