Sun, 23 November 2014
Continuing our look at Haunani Kahalewai and her numerous appearances on the short-lived Hawaii Calls TV program…
The setting is the Wailua River on the island of Kaua`i where seemingly forever tourists have shelled out for a boat cruise through fern grottos in order to see the Garden Isle both inside and out. Romantic (if you do not have your four kids in tow). More romantic still if you are alone on the boat with one of the most sultry songstresses in the history of the islands.
But the real sense of adventure here is that Haunani and the musicians of Hawaii Calls tackle a then brand new film theme. Often simply called “Follow Me, it is, of course the “Love Theme from Mutiny on the Bounty” which was the hot film release of only two years earlier. It is most ambitious since the small group of musicians – despite being Hawai`i’s finest – needed to arrange the song previously intended for a full symphony orchestra. That task was likely handled by Benny Kalama who had previously accomplished such feats for the recordings of Broadway show tunes by his former boss, Alfred Apaka. (You may recall hearing here previously Benny’s arrangement of “Bali Ha`i” from South Pacific which Apaka performed on a 1957 broadcast.) Here Kalama comes up with just the perfect minimalist setting that still fairly represents the original film version while supporting the weightiness of Haunani’s deep, rich contralto.
If I have marveled previously that guys from New York or Saskatchewan could capture the feel of Hawai`i in songs they composed far from the islands, enter Polish-born Bronislau Kaper who was clearly a student of the music of Polynesia or otherwise could not have arrived at this masterpiece which won the Academy Award for Best Music – Song for “Love Song from Mutiny on the Bounty (Follow Me).” (He also took home the prize for Best Music – Score for his work on the entire film from beginning to end.) The lyric is by Paul Francis Webster who shared the award with Kaper, and while this song would not become one that would be hummed by housewives across the nation, two of Webster’s other efforts would – “Secret Love” and “The Shadow Of Your Smile” – earning him still two more Best Music – Song statuettes from the Academy.
Finally, there is Haunani’s vocal performance – never clearer, never more technically precise, and never more haunting than it was here. Which is no doubt exactly as host Webley Edwards intended it since the TV version of his Hawaii Calls was aimed – like the radio program before it – at promoting tourism. I also have a recording of Haunani performing this song on the radio program during this period (in the same Benny Kalama arrangement), and it falls just shy of the perfection she achieved here. The visual setting helps, and we should be fortunate that this particular clip did not suffer the ravages of time as others have and can still be enjoyed in such vivid color. This is music in motion, Hawai`i in motion, and Haunani in motion. And I believe it is the high water mark for both the Hawaii Calls program and for Haunani as singer.
As Haunani never recorded this song in a studio for any of her LP releases, I, for one, feel fortunate that this performance was captured for posterity. I hope you have enjoyed seeing this clip – which has not materialized elsewhere for nearly 50 years – as much as I have enjoyed sharing it with you.
Next time: More Hawaii Calls radio and more forgotten Haunani Kahalewai magic…
Direct download: Haunani_Kahalewai_-_Love_Theme_From_Mutiny_On_The_Bounty.m4v
Category:50s and 60s -- posted at: 7:34am EST