In Hawaiian, hapa means half. HapaSymphony is a new subscription series at the Hawaiʻi Symphony Orchestra that melds icons of Hawaiian music with orchestral repertory. And it has brought about that rare thing, a growing subscription base, as well as corporate sponsorship. Hawaiian Airlines now uses HSO recordings for inflight music.

HapaSymphony foregrounds popular Hawaiian artists, including drag performers. “There is a culture of gender fluidity in Hawaiʻi,” says HSO’s former President and CEO David Moss. Mahu is a term for a third gender with spiritual and social roles. When Lady Laritza Labouche, a Juilliard-trained drag pianist, performed a Mozart concerto on a Hapa concert, Moss recounts being relieved when “even my board chair liked it, remarking that ‘there is no sacrifice of excellence.’” This October’s HapaSymphony concert features “Hawaiʻi-born divas performing everything from operatic favorites to mele to Rachmaninoff’s Second Piano Concerto,” with the return of Labouche and the Gay Men’s Chorus of Honolulu.

HapaSymphony is only the most visible aspect of the Hawaiʻi Symphony Orchestra becoming more Pacific-oriented as an institution. Coming soon: new orchestra attire from Hawaiian designers Nakeʻu Awai and Amos Kotomori. 

Photo: Hawaiʻi Symphony Orchestra performs the Sheraton Starlight Series at the Waikiki Shell. Photo courtesy of the Hawaiʻi Symphony Orchestra.


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