Maestro Matt’s Romantic Return

Rick Hamada
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Wednesday - October 11, 2006

The beauty of music is its ability to express sentiments and emotions in a language transcending the spoken word. Poetry, literature, art and dance are wonderful, but music stirs the soul and creates an indelible memory of love and passion. Think of your favorite romantic song and as soon as the first chords are struck, what do you feel? Do you recognize a warm rush, a tightening of the throat, a welling of the eyes or breath, which becomes more rapid? That, my friend, is the power of romantic music.

Maestro Matt Catingub, renowned leader of the Honolulu Symphony Pops, is singularly one of the most talented musicians, arrangers, composers and conductors, not only in Hawaii, but also around the world. His impact upon music in Hawaii is undeniable over the past seven years directing the Honolulu Symphony Pops. The roster of guest artists Matt has presented feature Kenny Loggins, Diana Krall, Kenny Rogers, Lou Rawls, Rosemary Clooney, Michael McDonald and more. Do you remember Toto rocking the Blaisdell Concert Hall? Do you recall Yes jamming all night with the Pops at the Blaisdell Arena? That would be Matt’s doing. A wonderful part of his tenure brings Hawaii’s greatest musical talents to the Pops stage including Keili’i Reichel, Amy Hanaiali’i Gilliom and Na Leo. I remember more than once marveling at the versatility of local musicians. Without Catingub’s dedication to advancing local music, we would not have experienced such memorable performances.

The latest endeavor for “Maestro Matt” is the formation of the Matt Catingub Orchestra of Hawaii (MCOoH). I know. The first thing that went though my mind was, “What happens to The Pops?” Matt says, “The development of this new orchestra will compliment the Pops perfectly…” He adds this new orchestra will provide new jobs, create revenue streams based on merchandising sales, and benefit tourism awareness and promotion. In an increasingly competitive tourism market, this project bodes well for the state.

A common theme has emerged regarding Catigub’s direction for Hawaii music. Return to Romance is the name of his recently released CD recorded live with the MCOoH at the Hawaii Theatre in August. The disc features talents as diverse as Jimmy Borges and Raiatea Helm plus a host of others. Rarely do we have the chance to enjoy some of the most romantic music ever created interpreted by home-grown musicians. Imagine classic romantic music presented in the inimitable style of Raiatea. Delightful.

This is a precursor for one of the most ambitious musical projects in Hawaii. The Return to Romance Music Festival is slated for March 2007. The plan is for an 11-day festival featuring a relentless presentation of the finest romantic music created. Not only will the artists anticipated to perform run the gamut from legendary to up and coming, but the music - that wonderful genre of romantic music - will be the star.

What does Catingub hope to accomplish with such a Herculean task? “Our goal is to broaden the musical spectrum in the islands, and to gain more national and international attention for the fantastic talents in the Hawaiian community.” There is almost a Field of Dreams touch to this project. I can almost hear Matt say, “If you play it, they will come.” This is a siren call to fans of love and music. It is imperative locals support this effort because if successful, The Return to Romance Music Festival can establish Hawaii as a musical destination, not only for tourists, but for talent, too.

All communities can use a positive, uplifting and enriching event to nourish and advance their environment. It is not often we contemplate and celebrate love and romance. What a wonderful counterweight to our rote menu of difficulties and challenges.

We should begin the applause now for Maestro Matt for his vision, talent and dedication in making Hawaii and better place to visit, and for us, a better place to live.

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