Since beginning this column four months ago, I've refrained - for the most part - from plugging my pet cause, not wanting to abuse the privilege of this far-reaching forum that The Maui News has granted me. But now, just days away from our annual fundraiser, even if I wanted to write about something else, I couldn't; my head's too full of Mana'o Radio and BarryFest.
Mana'o Radio (91.5 FM) is the noncommercial, nonprofit radio station founded by my late husband, Barry Shannon, and me. The mission of this little low-power FM station is to inform, educate and entertain through multicultural and community-related programming, and we do so by presenting a wildly eclectic offering of music and talk, and by supporting live music and the arts in our community. Mana'o Radio is funded entirely by donations; we rely on the kindness of our listeners. And our volunteers - the on-air hosts, support staff, and the musicians who donate their talents to our benefit concerts.
BarryFest is Mana'o Radio's major fundraiser of the year, evolved from our Birthday Bash. Over the years, the Birthday Bash benefit concerts have featured dozens of great musicians, from Willie K to Willie Nelson.
A few days after our fifth Birthday Bash at Charley's Restaurant, Barry and I left for a two-week working vacation in Phoenix. I was working a few storytelling gigs, and he was taking a long overdue vacation. Managing the radio station had become a 24/7 job, with Barry always on call. He had developed heart problems on top of diabetes and although he was a mostly compliant patient, he refused to slow down. We had to leave the island to get him to take a break.
The night before our scheduled return, Barry suddenly took ill. Four hours later, he was incoherent with pain and by the next evening, he was comatose in the Mesa General ICU. Turned out his left leg was riddled with blood clots and even its eventual amputation was not enough to save the rest of him. He died two weeks later, on April 7, 2007, the day before Easter Sunday.
During those two weeks and the long, lonely week that followed, I kept in touch with the Mana'o Radio extended 'ohana via mass emails from my BlackBerry. So many people responded with so much love; I read each message to Barry and I have no doubt he heard and felt the aloha in every word. Just hours before Barry's passing, Barry Flanagan wrote to tell us that HAPA was dedicating its Good Friday concert in Boston to Barry; his wife, Leslie, emailed me a beautiful description of the starlit scene as it unfolded onstage with Charles Ka'upu chanting and her Barry paying heartfelt tribute to my Barry.
We celebrated his life on a gorgeous Sunday afternoon at the Maui Arts & Cultural Center's Events Lawn. Steve Grimes performed "Over the Waves" for the first time, a beautiful musical remembrance written the day after Barry's death. A couple of weeks later, Casanova Restaurant hosted the first BarryFest concert. The following year, since Barry's birthday was a few days ahead of the station's, and his rebirthday (that's what I call the anniversary of his passing) less than a month later, we combined the celebrations and turned the Birthday Bash into BarryFest, an all-day outdoor music festival. The kind of event Barry used to dream of holding.
Now, after three years in the idyllic setting of the Keopuolani Park amphitheater, BarryFest is moving to an even more appropriate venue: the MACC's Events Lawn. This Sunday we will again celebrate the life and legacy of Barry Shannon, along with Mana'o Radio's ninth anniversary. Gates open at noon, the silent auction closes at 4 p.m. and the concert runs from 12:30 to 6 p.m. Tickets are on sale at the MACC box office, $20 in advance (plus applicable fees), $26 (plus fees) if you wait until Sunday.
SLAM featuring David Choy will open the show. Our dear friend and legendary talent Barry Flanagan will play from 2:15 to 3:15, and the Mana'o Radio Air Force Band (all air staff) will finish the afternoon with a marathon of music. More than half of our on-air hosts are working musicians, and the roster includes Vince Esquire, Bob Jones, Gail Swanson, Dr. Nat . . . a band as eclectic as Mana'o Radio itself. Steve Grimes will be there to reprise "Over the Waves" and Tita, along with other less musically inclined volunteers, will share mana'o and provide comic relief. We've also got prizes and surprises for you, so please come and join us this Sunday.
Sentimental fool that I am, I'm going to need that comic relief. If you see me at BarryFest, please stop and say hi. I'll probably be needing some hugs too.
* Kathy Collins is a performance artist, broadcaster and freelance writer whose "Sharing Mana'o" column appears every Wednesday. Her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.