For 11 years, classical guitarist Ben Verdery has headed to Maui in the summer to teach a master guitar class attracting students from around the world.
Past alumni of his annual classes include Grammy-winning Hawaiian slack key guitarist Jeff Peterson, and Bryce Dessner of the rock band The National, who received rave reviews for its latest CD, "Boxer."
Acclaimed as one of America's leading classical guitarists, Verdery has recorded and performed with such diverse artists as Leo Kottke, classical great John Williams, flamenco master Paco Pea, and legendary Police guitarist Andy Summers.
Ben Verdery on his guitar
Photo provided by the artist
His annual concerts at St. John's Church are always highlights for anyone who enjoys virtuoso guitar artistry. As likely to play Jimi Hendrix as Rodrigo, as The New York Times has noted, Verdery tonight will concentrate on the classical realm.
"For the first time on Maui I'm going to premiere a new piece that nobody has ever heard yet," he reports. "It's by Martin Bresnick, a world-class composer, who wrote these three beautiful pieces dedicated to me and his grandson Joaquin. I wanted to premiere them on Maui because the church is so special. They're very short, gentle, beautiful pieces.
"There's a piece I adore, a masterpiece by Bach, 'The Chaconne,' which some feel is the greatest piece ever written for any solo instrument. It's the kind of piece you play your whole life and you still feel humbled by it.
Ben Verdery plays at St. John's Church in Keokea at 7 tonight. Donations requested at the door will benefit the Nature Conservancy of Hawaii.
Student concerts will be held on July 31 at 7 p.m. at the Lahaina Jodo Mission, and on Aug. 1 at 7 p.m. at the Keawala'i Congregational Church in Makena. Donations are requested at the door to benefit both venues. These concerts will feature solo guitar and ensemble works performed by local and visiting guitarists.
"My music will include 'Tears for Peace,' musical prayers for peace, and I'm going to play a piece, 'Satyagraha,' that was inspired by Nusrat Ali Fateh Khan, which I recorded ages ago.
"Then there's Czech composer Janacek, who's become very popular, who wrote these really gorgeous, little pieces and I will play a couple of those. And I'll finish with the mighty 'Blue Danube.' "
Typically jetting around the globe playing concerts in diverse locals, late last year Verdery performed at a Jimi Hendrix tribute in Australia alongside fellow guitarists Jorma Kaukonen of Jefferson Airplane fame, blues musician John Hammond and Vernon Reid from Living Colour.
"That was a thrill, a big outdoor festival," he says. "I opened the whole show, playing 'Purple Haze,' 'Little Wing' and 'Freedom.' "
This year, in March, he organized a concert honoring legendary British classical guitarist Julian Bream.
"Julian Bream for me was the guy, it was not Segovia," he says. "I felt it was important to honor him."
Verdery himself was honored at the Guitar Foundation of America's annual conference in Los Angeles, where his orchestral work "Ellis Island" was performed by two university guitar departments.
"We had about 30 guitarists, and it went so well we did a reprise," he says. "I was conducting the orchestra and I was so excited I just did a roll on stage. The audience went crazy, and it was posted on YouTube the next day."
Fresh from opening for Willie Nelson on tour, Maui's 40 Points, featuring Lukas and Micah Nelson on guitar and drums, Andrew Kloppel on bass, and Tato Melgar on percussion, play Casanova on Friday night. This talented band, which backed everyone at the seventh annual Maui Music Festival last year, has also been drawing crowds at their own gigs in California. Currently working on a new album, they will play the annual Farm Aid festival in September.
The Casanova show also includes the Argentinean band La Migra and a guest spot by Marty Dread. Admission is $10.
The popular New Zealand reggae band Katchafire returns to Maui on Aug. 2 playing the Lahaina Civic Center.
Adopting its name from the Bob Marley and The Wailers album "Catch a Fire," this seven-piece band of Maori musicians hit pay dirt with its first single release, "Giddy Up," the biggest selling song of 2002 in New Zealand. Featuring only one cover, the band's debut album demonstrated its gift for composing catchy, melodic reggae reminiscent of the work of Third World.
Since its recording debut in 2003, Katchafire has released the popular albums, "Revival" and "Slow Burning," as well as the remix collection, "Homegrown Dub."
The band members love playing the islands.
"Hawaii is unbelievable," enthuses Katchafire's lead vocalist Logan Bell Bell. "It tops everywhere else in the world for huge interest and everybody getting behind the sound."
MauiFEST Hawai'i will present its third annual Lahaina Film Festival on Aug. 9 at Campbell Park on Front Street. Combining music and film, this free event will present performances by multi Hoku winner Brother Noland, Bradda Francis, Benny Uyetake, the Ryukyukoku Matsuri Taiko Drummers, Polynesian song and dance by Na Kamali'i O Ke Akua, members of " 'Ulalena," Uncle Boy Kana'e, Hawaiian chant by Kaliko Beamer Trapp and a special tribute to a Hawaiian treasure Aunty Nona Beamer by Keola and Moanalani Beamer.
Film screenings include the world premieres of "Palm Trees & Protoges" on Hana surfers and "Halau Nalu - Native Surfing." Plus, "The Turtle and & the Shark" the shark film "Requiem," "Children of the Long Canoe," and "Aloha Music Camp - Aunty Nona Beamer."
The Lahaina Film Festival runs from 4 to 11 p.m. All for free. Limited VIP dining from the Front Street Grill & Bar overlooking the festival is available. Call 662-3003.
A hit at the Maui Film Festival's Celestial Cinema in Wailea, "Young at Heart" returns for screenings at the Castle Theater at 5 p.m. July 31 and 5 and 7:30 p.m. Aug. 6. The Young at Heart chorus comprises an eclectic bunch of elderly folks from New England with a passion for singing. Documenting rehearsals and concert performances, the cast members have been drawing rave reviews for their unique renditions of rock and soul favorites from James Brown's "I Got You (I Feel Good)" and The Clash's "Should I Stay or Should I Go" to the Ramones' "I Wanna be Sedated."
The Boston Globe lauded it as, "the most rapturously received documentary" at Sundance, and USA Today praised its "heartening and poignant affirmation of the transformative power of music."
It will be followed by a 7:30 p.m. screening of "Bustin' Down the Door." The new surfing doc spotlights how a group of young surfers from Australia, including Ian Cairns, Mark Richards and Wayne "Rabbit Bartholomew" and South Africans including Shaun Thomson landed in Hawaii and transformed the sport.
"Narrated by actor Edward Norton, 'Bustin' Down the Door' is an irresistible combination of fairly obscure '70s surf culture neo-history manned by heroes from the earliest days and some of the most breathtaking film footage of these extraordinary men," praised Box Office magazine. "It includes of some of the most extraordinary surf footage seen since Bruce Brown's early 'Endless Summer' films."
Its period soundtrack includes tunes by David Bowie, Queen, Leonard Cohen and Santa Barbara's Them Terribles.
Ukulele virtuoso Jake Shimabukuro headlines a benefit concert at 6 p.m. Sunday at Baldwin High School Auditorium. The show for Taren Patao and the Ronald McDonald House also features George Kahumoku, Jr., Gail Swanson, Marty Dread and Jamie Lawrence with Kathy "Tita" Collins as master of ceremonies.
Touring with Jimmy Buffett last month, Jake got to perform "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" for thousands at New York's Madison Square Garden.
Tickets are $20 for students and $40 for adults. Call 242-1918 for more info.
Coming up, 311 plays the Lahaina Civic Center on Aug. 15; Lisa Loeb, Aug. 16 at the MACC; and Steel Pulse, Aug. 23 at the MACC.
Contact Jon Woodhouse at email@example.com. After a two-week vacation, his column will return Aug. 14.