Fri, 28 November 2014
If you are an avid follower of Ho`olohe Hou, then you may recall we already paid tribute to Emma Maynon Kaipuala Veary Lewis when we began our coverage of Waikiki night life in the 1970s when she starred in large stage productions in the strip’s most prestigious showrooms – first at the Halekulani Hotel, and then at the Royal Hawaiian Hotel. She started her music career somewhat inauspiciously – singing with the E.K. Fernandez circus at the tender age eight. But after winning any number of talent and singing contests, Emma was singing at every major Waikiki nightspot while still in high school. She went on to study opera and perform in the stock companies of such Broadway shows as Carousel, Showboat, Pal Joey, West Side Story, The King and I, and Flower Drum Song. But she is best remembered for a series of four LP records she made with arranger/producer Jack de Mello. (Click here to hear clips from these out-of-print treasures which can be heard only at Ho`olohe Hou.)
The opera training made the versatile Veary perfect for such material as traditional 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). But for the 1970s when Hawaiian music was turning toward its more folk directions, de Mello’s arrangements may have been considered too heavy or serious – orchestral affairs involving large string sections and even a harp. This is what makes seeing this clip of Ms. Veary on the Hawaii Calls TV show such a rare delight. The group is not an orchestra but, rather, the down home Hawaiians of the rhythm section of the Hawaii Calls radio show band, and the song is not more serious fare but, rather, a novelty tune – requiring Veary to turn down the operatic technique a notch or two and just sing the song. Compared with her 1970s work, here Veary’s voice is lighter, airier, and – frankly – more relaxed. Casual, I believe, is the word I am looking for, and it is really nice to see and hear the lovely Ms. Veary in a casual mode – a side which her Waikiki audiences rarely got to see and hear.
“Blue Mu`umu`u” was composed by the venerable Jack Pitman about whom you have been reading here often as he also composed “Lovely Hula Girl” and “Goodnight, Leilani E” (which were performed earlier by Alfred Apaka), “Beyond The Reef” (sung by Nina Keali`iwahamana and danced by her sister, Lani Custino), and “Lani” (sung by Sonny Nicholas and inspired by the hula of the same Lani Custino). And the list of Pitman hapa-haole favorites goes on and on and also includes “The Sands of Waikiki,” “Fish and Poi,” and (a staple of my repertoire) the oft-forgotten “Seven Days In Waikiki.”
Like Hilo Hattie and Poncie Ponce before her, Veary appeared on the TV version of Hawaii Calls but never on the radio version which spawned it. I hope you enjoyed seeing and hearing this early clip of Emma Veary which has likely not been in circulation for the nearly 50 years since it first aired.