Celebrate Hawaiian Stars Under the Full Moon
The last time I attended the Twilight at Kalāhuipua‘a concert series, a beautiful Hawaiian woman jumped up from the audience to dance hula. Barefoot, with a bright red hibiscus tucked behind her ear, she knew every step by heart. The crowd showered her with applause as she swayed in perfect time to the lilting melodies of old Hawaii.
For the past two decades, Twilight has served as a Who’s Who of Hawaiian music. Each month, on the Saturday of the full moon, Mauna Lani hosts a free concert at the Eva Parker Woods Cottage. Locals and hotel guests alike bring blankets and folding chairs to the oceanfront lawn. ‘Ukulele and guitar players gather on the cottage’s lanai (porch) to play their favorite tunes and share stories about growing up in Hawaii. The stage may be humble but the talent is world-class.
Exactly who will play that evening is a closely guarded secret. Danny Akaka, the gracious emcee, likes to surprise his audience. He always succeeds. Some of the award-winning musicians who’ve played at Twilight in the past include ‘ukulele superstar Jake Shimabukuru, falsetto songbird Aunty Genoa Keawa, and master slack key guitarist Cyril Pahinui. One night the legendary Don Ho happened to be in the neighborhood and volunteered to sing a few songs.
Everyone pauses to take photos of the sun setting in a fiery bloom of colors. As it sinks into the Pacific, it turns the waves pink and gold. Meanwhile the full moon rises above Mauna Kea. One by one the stars appear, and silver moonlight spreads across the fishponds. People share their picnics with neighbors and sing along with cherished Hawaiian songs. It’s easy to imagine you are in the Hawai‘i of fifty or even one hundred years ago—a timeless paradise that sinks into your bones.
Catching a celebrity performance is a thrill, but often it’s the unknown talents who offer the most poignant performances at Twilight. A trio of Parker Ranch cowboys croons about the joys and heartbreaks on the range. A school choir sings an anthem of courage, echoing those who protested of the overthrow of the Hawaiian Queen. A local lei maker dances a spontaneous hula.
The music, the moonlight, and the wind moving through palm fronds above cast a spell. Steeped in genuine aloha, this intimate jam session is one of Hawai‘i’s best-kept secrets.