Maui Classic Music Festival

The annual Maui Classical Music Festival returns to our island on May 3 at Makawao Union Church with an opening concert that features the acclaimed Ying Quartet. More concerts will be presented at historic churches in Makena and Hana.

“Much of the music has never been played at the festival before, including three Hawaii premieres on May 10,” says Katherine Collier, festival co-director. “All of the premieres are appealing music, and the entertaining ‘Three Rags for String Quartet’ was commissioned by the Ying Quartet.”

The quartet is known for commissioning original works inspired by some dimension of the American experience. John Novacek’s “Three Rags” is a tribute to Scott Joplin and violin virtuosos Henryk Wieniawski and Pablo de Sarasate.

Praised by The New York Times for “deeply expressive, finely hued” playing, the Ying Quartet comprises violinists Ayano Ninomiya and Janet Ying, violist Phillip Ying, and cellist David Ying. They have performed at Carnegie Hall and the Sydney Opera House, the Tanglewood Music Festival and the White House.

Among their achievements, in 2005 they won a Grammy Award for Best Classical Crossover Album for “4+Four” with the Turtle Island String Quartet. In 2007, they earned a Grammy nomination for Best Chamber Music Performance for “Tchaikovsky: Three String Quartets and the Souvenir de Florence,” and in 2010 they got another Grammy nomination for Best Large Jazz Ensemble Album for “Autumn: In Moving Pictures Jazz-Chamber Music Vol. 2,” a collaboration with Billy Childs and the Chamber Jazz Ensemble.

Also playing the festival this year is bassoonist Benjamin Kamins, who has played with the Minnesota Orchestra, Houston Symphony, Los Angeles Philharmonic, Boston Symphony and New York Philharmonic. Other musicians include award-winning pianist Elinor Freer, and festival directors, violist Yizhak Schotten and pianist Katherine Collier. The two University of Michigan faculty members have been the festival’s music directors since its beginning.

Collier notes the program’s standard masterpieces include the Mozart “Viola Quintet” and Faure’s “C Minor Piano Quartet.” “The other new pieces to the festival are very beautiful and appealing. They range from baroque music of the Marais ‘Five French Dances,’ the Vivaldi ‘Bassoon Concerto’ and baroque-inspired Stravinsky ‘Suite Italienne,’ to the lush, romantic and dramatic Wolf ‘Italian Serenade,’ Verdi ‘String Quartet’ and Berlioz/Liszt ‘Harold in Italy for Viola and Piano.’ “

The “Italian Serenade” concert will be presented at 7 p.m. on May 3 in Makawao Union Church on Baldwin Avenue with works by composers including Vivaldi, Verdi, and Stravinsky.

The festival moves to Keawala’i Congregational Church in Makena at 7 p.m. on May 6 for a “French Connection” evening with works by Marais, Saint-Saens and Faure.

On May 8, the musicians journey to Hana’s Wananalua Congregational Church for a concert with compositions by Wolf, Verdi, Mozart and Novacek.

And finally, the festival returns to Makena on May 10 for “Rags to Riches with three Hawaii Premieres” concert. The evening will include works by Mendelssohn, Mozart, Verdi, Stravinsky and Novacek’s “Three Rags.”

* Maui Classical Music Festival tickets: For each concert May 3 to 10 in Makawao, Hana and Makena, the suggested donation is $25 for adults, and $10 for students.

Eagles co-founder Glenn Frey will play the MACC on May 4, a few days after the release of the new documentary, “History of the Eagles” on DVD. Originally premiering at Sundance and later screening on the Showtime channel, the documentary provides a fascinating glimpse into one of America’s most popular bands. In addition to creating countless hits, the Eagles’ “Greatest Hits” collection was the biggest selling album of the 20th century.

Much of the material has never been seen before. During the height of the Eagles’ fame, Frey and Don Henley had the foresight to allow some filming, including extensive backstage interviews and concert footage from 1977, and an ill-fated 1980 benefit (where some members verbally threatened each other on stage). And it includes film of Frey and Henley playing in Linda Ronstadt’s backup band in a Los Angeles club before the Eagles were born.

We discover that Frey learned how to compose hearing Jackson Browne struggling to write songs living in the basement below his apartment. And we find out that Randy Meisner left the band because he could no longer hit the high notes on his signature song, “Take it To the Limit.”

The documentary was produced by Alex Gibney, who won an Oscar for “Taxi to the Dark Side,” about Guantanamo, and directed the Academy Award nominated film “Smartest Guys in the Room,” about Enron corruption.

With four decades of performing, around 40 albums released, numerous Na Hoku Hanohano Awards, and a Grammy nomination for “Some Call It Aloha . . .Don’t Tell,” the Brothers Cazimero still reign supreme.

Playing together since helping to spearhead the Hawaiian music renaissance with Sunday Manoa in the 1970s, Robert and Roland Cazimero long ago established a reputation as pioneers of Hawaiian music. In 2008, they were honored with Na Hoku Lifetime Achievement Awards.

Robert just released his fifth solo album, “Hula 2,” a sequel to last year’s Na Hoku Award-winning, “Hula.” Featuring the legendary artist singing and accompanying himself on piano as well as a variety of standards, the album also includes an orchestral arrangement of “Beyond the Reef.”

* Cazimero tickets: The Brothers perform at 7:30 p.m. Saturday at the Maui Arts & Cultural Center’s Castle Theater. Tickets are $37, $28 and $12, plus applicable fees, available at the MACC box office or by calling 242-7469.

The Earth Day Festival on Sunday at Keopuolani Park Amphitheater, behind Maui Nui Botanical Gardens will include two stages offering a full day of live music and speakers, from 10 a.m. until 6 p.m. Entertainers include Makana, Dr. Nat and Rio Ritmo, Haiku Hillbillys, and Divino & Maui Ohana Band. Adult admission is $7; kids are free.

Joshua Nelson & the Kosher Gospel Singers will bring their unique style of music to the McCoy Studio Theater at Maui Arts & Cultural Center at 7:30 p.m. on Friday. They’ll be joined by Eddie Robinson, who, as pianist for legendary gospel singer Mahalia Jackson, performed at the White House for five presidents. He also accompanied Aretha Franklin and Sam Cooke before their transitions from gospel to soul music.

Raised in an observant African-American Jewish family in Brooklyn (his family traces their ancestry to Senegal, Africa), Nelson combines Hebrew texts with the soulful sound of American gospel music.

Critics have hailed Nelson’s vocal powers as reminiscent of Mahalia Jackson’s. The New York Times called him, “a full-throated, note-bending gospel singer,” who exuberantly brings people and cultures together, no matter what their faith. Oprah Winfrey declared Nelson the “Next Big Thing,” featuring him on her TV show in 2004, and declaring that she has never heard a voice like his. Nelson also performed for Maya Angelou in a tribute to Jackson for the Maya Angelou Research Center.

Fascinated with the music of gospel legend Jackson from an early age, Nelson has reported it isn’t much of stretch to transform a Jewish prayer into what he calls a “Kosher gospel” song. You add a little soul, a little syncopation and swing some words.

“Jewish music is boring,” Nelson told The New York Times. “But it doesn’t have to be.”

“What I do in Judaism is just marrying an African style of music with Hebrew,” Nelson told the Miami Herald. “And if you know history real well, it’s not even odd at all. It’s only odd if you’re looking at it from a European prospective.”

A ConcertBlogger review of a 2013 New York concert raved: “The energy and passion he put into his performance was incredible. The audience was treated to several traditional gospel numbers, a Mahalia Jackson hit, and a Jewish song that was performed both traditionally (as in temple) and as an almost unrecognizable hot jazz and gospel arrangement. Whatever you do, don’t miss Joshua Nelson’s show.”

* Joshua Nelson & Kosher Gospel Singers: Perform in the MACC’s McCoy Studio Center at 7:30 p.m. on Friday. Tickets are $17 and $12 for students and seniors with valid ID (plus fees). Call 242-7469 or visit