Mon, 3 November 2014
In a recent interview with the top national travel magazine, the question was asked me, “Where in Hawaii can we find the class act – the best entertainment?” Without hesitation, I said, “Emma Veary at the Monarch Room of the Royal Hawaiian Hotel.” We were there opening night and have been back several times since. Why? When you listen to the glorious voice of Emma in this album and the lovely musical arrangements, you’ll know why.”
Through the 1970s Emma Veary created a series of four albums with arranger/producer Jack de Mello for his Music of Polynesia record label. The large symphonic arrangements that de Mello created for Veary in the recording studio should have been difficult to pull-off live. But they did it every night at the Royal Hawaiian Hotel – right down to the harp.
Charles Bud Dant was an arranger/conductor known for the same types of large orchestral work as de Mello. He created such symphonic backings for Veary’s live show when she moved from the Coral Lanai of the Halekulani Hotel to the prestigious Monarch Room of the Royal Hawaiian Hotel. Perhaps to attract visitors to the venue (or perhaps to have a souvenir to sell to audiences who had attended the live shows), in 1976 Lehua Records (a new label for Veary but the then label home of Bud Dant) sent a remote recording crew to capture the grandeur of an evening with Emma and orchestra. The result was Emma at the Royal. Today this album would likely be called an “EP” since only one side – a mere six songs – of the LP took place live. The flip side was done completely at Sounds of Hawaii studio. But it is a pleasure nonetheless to have this rare glimpse at Emma live. From this recording we can hear that the versatile Veary was not limited to Hawaiian standards, waltzes, and the songs of Na Lani `Eha (the four members of Hawai`i’s last reigning royal family who also just happened to be among the most prolific and artful composers in Hawai`i’s history). We hear Emma tackle with aplomb everything from a movie theme to a then recent pop tune that landed on the Billboard Year-End Hot 100 Singles of 1975. She even makes an attempt at comedy (without wavering from her usual high standards for class and dignity).
I usually caution my readers who spend countless hours surfing the internet for factoids from these halcyon days not to believe everything they read. But, this time, from the “Don’t Believe Everything You Hear” department, while Bud Dant did employ an orchestra complete with trumpets, saxophones, and strings every evening at the Royal, the backing vocals you hear on such selections as “I Am Hawaii” weren’t actually there. They were overdubbed on to the live recording back at Sounds of Hawaii studios. This is why I don’t offer any of the “exactly as it happened” hyperbole that accompanies live recordings. This one, you might say, was “Photoshopped” a little bit.
Interestingly, despite a career that lasted much, much longer, Emma at the Royal was to be the grande dame’s last foray into a recording studio. But surely there must have been video of Emma in that era, right? Actually, not that era, but, perhaps, the era before.
Next time: Emma in motion (and why we have that video in the first place)... And where are the other ladies of the Waikiki nightclub scene in the 1970s?...