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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Friday, May 18, 2001

Music Scene
Friends, family play chamber music

By Derek Paiva
Advertiser Staff Writer

University of Hawai''i Manoa music professor Donald Womack composed "Na Iwi o Pele (The Bones of Pele)," which will be premiered at the Red-Hot Lava Chamber Music Festival.

Red-Hot Lava Chamber Music Festival
• "Trios and Tribulations" – romantic trios and a world premiere
• 7:30 p.m. Tuesday Hawai'i Public Radio's Atherton Performing Arts Studio
• $15, $12.50 HPR members, $10 students
• 955-8821
• Also: "An Evening of Contrasts" – from Mozart to Bartok and Beyond; 7:30 p.m. May 28, Honolulu Academy of Arts theater

Once upon a time, there were two musical families in Champaign-Urbana, Ill.

The Fosters and the Karps.

Brothers Norman and Daniel Foster — a clarinetist and a violinist, respectively — became friends with cellist Parry Karp in high school and the trio began playing chamber music together. Parry had two pianists in his family — his father Howard, a music professor at the University of Illinois; and brother Frances.

Though the three friends continued to pursue music studies at the University of Illinois — Daniel and Parry even performing with a string quartet — graduation took them their separate ways. Daniel and Parry moved on to teaching college music courses while Norman moved to Hawai'i and a position as a clarinetist with the Honolulu Symphony Orchestra.

Planning a Honolulu visit to his brother several years ago, Daniel raised the idea to Parry of getting the two families together — with Howard and Frances Karp, now a full-time surgeon — for a meeting of their musical minds in front of an audience.

"We had been wanting to play chamber music together for a long time ... talking about it for a number of years," says Norman. "We didn't decide or talk about where we would do this, but Hawai'i seemed like the right place to do it." No surprise, everyone was quite taken with Norman's suggestion.

The first Red-Hot Lava Chamber Music Festival took place at Hawai'i Public Radio's Atherton Performing Arts Studio in May 1998. The name for the festival, and the ensemble, resulted from a group brainstorming session that included the newest member, violinist Katrin Talbot, who's married to Parry.

"We didn't even have a full house that first year at Atherton," remembers Norman. "But we did the second year, once word got around."

After taking a break in 2000, Norman said, the festival will hone close to its founding edict of offering chamber music fans a chance to hear their favorite pieces performed live, affording a longtime group of friends an opportunity to play together, and providing music students from kindergarten through high school a chance to sit in on master classes with each of the otherwise full-time teaching musicians.

"We wanted to make the festival a unique one that could benefit the community, especially students and young talent," says Norman, who, through working with Honolulu

Symphony educational programs, knew he could generate substantial interest from children and teenagers in master classes. "One of our specialties besides playing chamber music is teaching chamber music, so I thought it would be good to have classes and coaching done by these visiting artists." The educational component of the Red-Hot Lava Festival isn't an afterthought to the ensemble.

"We try to treat the concerts and educational events we do with equal importance," says Norman.

That translates this year to master classes taught by Parry and Howard, string quartet coaching with Daniel and Parry, string workshops, and even a chance to watch the ensemble rehearse local composer and University of Hawai'i-Manoa music professor Donald Womack's "Na Iwi o Pele,"composed for the ensemble.

Womack's composition, written for clarinet, violin, viola, clarinet and "piano four hands," was inspired by fire goddess Pele's eons-long battle with her sea goddess sister Namakaokahai, which created the Hawaiian Islands. Womack also tried to convey the conflicting elements of Pele's character that continue to make her a compelling figure in Hawaiian folklore: "desolation and beauty, destruction and rebirth, violence and serenity, strength and fragility."