Writing in his instruction manual "How to Play the Hawaiian Steel Guitar," legendary Hawaiian musician Henry Kaleialoha Allen notes, "The future of the Hawaiian steel guitar in the land of its birth is looking brighter today. With the help of steel guitar festivals and concerts throughout the islands, interest in the instrument has begun to grow, and young entertainers are increasingly using the Hawaiian steel guitar in their recordings and concerts."
Armed with the vision of helping preserve and perpetuate the mesmerizing sound of the steel guitar in island music, he will present the third annual Henry Kaleialoha Allen Hawaiian Steel Guitar Festival at the Ka'anapali Beach Hotel, Friday through Sunday.
Sponsored by 2011 Maui Invitational Music Festival and the Ka'anapali Beach Hotel, the Steel Guitar Festival features free concerts, presentations and hands-on workshops throughout the weekend.
Steel guitar pioneer and Living Treasure of Hawaiian Music brings his annual festival back to the Ka‘anapali Beach Hotel
Honored by the state in 2009 as a "Living Treasure of Hawaiian Music," Allen will perform throughout the three-day festival that culminates with a free concert under the stars Saturday, featuring the guitar virtuoso and his band, Tropical Swing, plus guest steel players, singers and hula dancers.
Allen and friends will celebrate "the sound that made Hawaii famous worldwide," he says.
Invented in the late 1800s by Joseph Kekuku when he was an 11-year-old student at Kamehameha Schools, the steel guitar for Allen is Hawaii's signature sound.
* The Third Annual Henry Kaleialoha Allen Hawaiian Steel Guitar Festival will be presented at the Ka'anapali Beach Hotel, Friday through Sunday. For more information and a complete schedule, visit www.aecg.org.
"Our guests expect to hear this played when they come to Hawaii," he continues.
Born in Hilo on King Kamehameha Day in 1933 and living on Maui since the early '70s, Allen has devoted more than half a century to pursuing a passion for Hawaiian music and jazz.
His astonishing resume includes performing on the world famous "Hawaii Calls" radio show; and playing with local greats such as Alfred Apaka and Ren Paulo, during the early Hawaiian Territorial days at renowned clubs like Trader Vic's, the Banyan Court and The Orchid Room.
Allen learned how to play the steel guitar at the age of 10 from his uncle Albert Mersberg, whose grandfather was William Mersberg, the conductor of King Kamehameha III's royal band (later known as the Royal Hawaiian Band).
"The sweet steel guitar playing in the '30s, '40s and '50s were the nahe nahe times," he says. "This was most important to my education in Hawaiian steel playing."
As a student at McKinley High School, he was also drawn to jazz, and he began playing jazz and Hawaiian swing in a quartet at Trader Vic's in Waikiki.
"I worked with all the good players in Waikiki when I was young," he recalls. "I was used to playing steel, and no matter what the song, I could play it."
Relocating to Los Angeles, he was hired as a singer by legendary band leader Martin Denny, known as the father of the exotica lounge craze. As a Hollywood studio musician he was called to play on TV shows like "Hawaiian Eye" "Adventures in Paradise" and "Barnaby Jones." In West Coast clubs he jammed with the likes of Louis Armstrong, Wes Montgomery and Gabe Baltazar.
Back in the islands, Allen served as an Aloha Airlines Cultural Ambassador for five years, traveling the world, promoting Hawaii's culture and music. And his varied accomplishments and contributions to Hawaii led Governor Linda Lingle to proclaim April 4, 2004, Henry Kaleialoha Allen Day.
"You have served as an ambassador of the aloha spirit," Lingle noted. "Your many accomplishments are a reflection of your talent, integrity and dedication to Hawaii's signature sound."
While performing on Maui, Allen's melodic electric artistry impressed jazz guitar legend George Benson. After the Hawaiian guitarist helped Benson find a home in Kaanapali, the two musicians would often jam in Lahaina's clubs.
"We became friends," he notes. "We would jam in Lahaina and we ended up recording together. He sat in on three songs."
Allen recently released (on iTunes) a snapshot of that time with the hot CD "Step Into My Life," featuring both guitarists, the Crusaders' Wayne Henderson on trombone and Lonnie Smith on keyboards.
These days Allen is happy to be promoting the Hawaiian steel guitar through his annual festival, his instruction book and CDs.
"I've helped a lot of people," he says. "I talk to guitar players in Australia, Germany, England - they all have questions about how to play this and that."
Besides Allen, the 2011 festival includes steel guitarists Duke Kaleolani Ching, Greg Sardinha and Japan's Kiyoshi "Lion" Kobayashi, plus Alan Akaka & the Islanders, Masami Sato, and the Kani Ka Pila steel guitar trio.
The schedule of free workshops includes a daily hands-on Hawaiian steel-guitar-making class with Dr. Neil Scott, director of the Archimedes Project at the University of Hawaii (with building kits provided). Dr. Scott has developed a more affordable way to build the instrument making it more accessible to aspiring players.
Hawaiian cultural enrichment specialists Danny Akaka Jr. and Aloha Keko'olani, will present a tribute to Hawaiian steel guitar inventor Joseph Kekuku.
And for all three days, island arts and crafts, educational displays and exhibits and Hawaiian cultural activities will be presented throughout the hotel.
The fest opens at 6 tonight with a special Meet the Artist "VIP" Reception Party, hosted by Maui Mayor Alan Arakawa and Ann Arakawa. The $150 ticket price includes food, wine, champagne, individual photo sessions and gift bags. Call 669-6189 for reservations.
Friday's festivities include a performance by the Kani Ka Pila Steel Guitar Trio from Yokohama, Japan, at 6 p.m.; and a jam session with Allen from 8:45 to 11:30 p.m.
The Concert Under the Stars from 7 to 8:30 p.m. features Allen and Tropical Swing with A Touch Of Cool Jazz with Japanese singer Masami Sato, plus emcee Senator Brickwood Galuteria.
Many of the festival artists will perform at the hotel's Sunday Champagne Brunch from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., beginning with the Kani Ka Pila trio and closing with Alan Akaka & The Islanders, plus renowned Japanese Hawaiian steel guitarist Lion Kobayashi, and hula.
Celebrating 30 years of presenting chamber concerts on our island, the 2011 Maui Classical Music Festival opens at 7 p.m. Friday with a Mozart program at the Makawao Union Church.
TV and radio personality Howard Dicus will narrate the opening "Amadeus: The Magical Life and Music of Mozart" concert, which includes piano pieces he composed as a 5-year-old, an early flute sonata and piano trio, a soprano aria from "The Marriage of Figaro" and a selection from "Eine Kleine Nachtmusic."
Headed by festival founders violist Yizhak Schotten and pianist Katherine Collier, the 2011 series includes performances by flutist Lorna McGhee, soprano Mary Bonhag, cellist David Requiro, violinist Arnaud Sussmann, violinist Emanuel Borok (concertmaster of the Dallas Symphony Orchestra), violist David Harding, and double bass player Evan Premo.
The musicians will perform their favorite encore pieces at a "Showcase Concert" at 4 p.m. Sunday at Sacred Hearts Church in Kapalua, closing with Enescu's "Rumanian Rhapsody for Strings and Piano."
Monday's Sunset Soiree spotlights the "Four B's: Bach, Beethoven, Brahms and Bernstein," at 7 p.m. at Keawala'i Congregational Church in Makena. This concert will feature arias from Bach's "Coffee Cantata" and his "Easter Oratorio," Bernstein's "Glitter and Be Gay" (from "Candide," for Soprano and Piano), a Beethoven sonata, and a Brahms' string sextet.
Following a community concert on Wednesday at Hana's Wananalua Congregational Church, the festival musicians return to Makena on May 6 for a "Dvorak and Delights" program that features works by Bach (the Allegro from the Brandenburg Concerto), Roussel, Dvorak and Rossini - an unusual cello and double bass duet by Requiro and Premo.
* Individual concert tickets are $25 for adults and $10 for students. For more info and reservations, call 878-2312.
Continuing fundraising events for Japan include an "Aloha for Japan Celebrity Carwash" from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday at Ho'olea Terrace at Kehalani in Wailuku. Sponsored by Stanford Carr Development, local celebrities buffing cars include legendary drummer Mick Fleetwood, who also might tap out a beat on your windshield. Other artists sudsing up include Henry Kapono, Marty Dread, Kathy Collins and the Hula Honeys.
"I just got back from the big fundraiser in Waikiki where some 29 artists performed to help raise 1.6 million for the Japan relief," says Mick. "I believe that if every community came together and did fundraisers like this car wash, the total effect could be so beneficial."
Marty will perform during the event, playing his hit "Mouse in The House" at 11:30 a.m. The car wash will be by donation only. The first 25 people to donate $25 or more will receive a free official "Aloha for Japan" t-shirt. All proceeds will go to American Red Cross Aloha for Japan campaign.
This article includes a correction from the original published on Thursday, April 28, 2011. The wrong time appeared on Page 5 of the Maui Scene. The Maui News apologizes for the error.