In the summer of 2005, I visited the Keanae (Kay-on-oo-ay) Peninsula on the Hawaiian island of Maui. On a tour of the Road to Hana which leads to Keanae, our guide described that in the past, long distance communication was achieved through the playing of large drums. These drums were fashioned from hollowed logs with sharkskin stretched over the circumference. This sound would reverberate off the sheer cliffs and could be heard for a considerable distance. For me this sound, combined with bamboo and conch shell (Horn in F) comprised a compelling aural template. Further down the road we came to the village of Keanae where, in 1946 a massive tsunami completely destroyed the village. Our guide explained that the only building to survive was the Ihiihi o lehowa o na Kaua Church (pictured on the cover).
This programmatic piece unfolds chronologically as an invented drama, with events leading up to and following the waves impact: a musical illustration of the community as it might have been, the approach of the tsunami, the devastating impact of the wave, the sorrow of realizing the devastation with feelings of loss in the aftermath, an eventual swell of healing and thanksgiving, and finally, abiding faith and inner strength.
As much as Keanae is inspired by the tsunami of 1946, the Asian tsunami of 2004 and the devastation of Hurricane Katrina brought into focus for me that this piece was about something larger. It is a celebration of that part of the human spirit which, in the face of tragedy and despair, compels us to go on.
Special thanks to: Danh Pham and the Leslie Middle School Symphonic Band for asking me to compose Keanae. To the consortium of Salem- Keizer Public School District, South Salem Rotary Club, Uptown Music, and the Leslie Middle School Parents, without whom this piece would not have been possible. To Southridge High School (Beaverton, Oregon) Director of Bands, Todd Zimbelman, whose influence inspired some of the earliest ideas for this piece. And finally, to the family of Con and Cindy Lynch for their service and commitment to promoting music in both the Salem, Oregon Public Schools and throughout the northwest region.