Punahou Sessions: koʻu inoa (Based on ‘Hawaiʻi Aloha’)

A Punahou composer writes a piece for cello, based on “Hawaiʻi Aloha,” and it’s performed by her classmate who also recorded with Kanye West. How’s that for a lede?

Dr. Anne Leilehua Lanzilotti ’02 was recently appointed as the curator of music at The Curtis R. Priem Experimental Media and Performing Arts Center (EMPAC) at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in upstate New York. Her storied music career includes studies at Oberlin Conservatory of Music, Yale School of Music and Manhattan School of Music, and is well-known for her contemporary compositions, which employ “traditional instruments using nontraditional playing methods.”

If you don’t know Anne, you might know her mother, Louise Kealiʻiloma King ’66 Lanzilotti, who hosts Classical Pacific on Hawaiʻi Public Radio every weekday from 3-6 p.m. HST. Anne and Louise co-founded Kalikolehua – El Sistema Hawaiʻi, a free orchestra program for children in underserved neighborhoods based on the wildly successful program in Venezuela, which gave us Maestro Gustavo Dudamel of the Los Angeles Philharmonic.

Anne’s maternal grandfather, the Honorable Samuel Pailthorpe King ’33, served as a U.S. District Judge, and her great-grandfather, Samuel Wilder King, served as Territorial Governor of Hawaiʻi from 1953-1957.

I came across Anne’s website last year, and found her performing a hauntingly beautiful composition entitled “koʻu inoa,” which she describes as a “homesick bariolage based on the anthem ‘Hawaiʻi Aloha.'” At the time, discussion around TMT and Ku Kiaʻi Mauna dominated the local news cycle, and the piece struck me as both contemplative and meditative.

I had hoped to have Anne perform her own piece, but her busy schedule couldn’t accommodate a recording, but I had a cellist in mind – little did I realize they were best friends.

Chris Chorney ’02 is a local musician, producer and engineer who runs the Analog Rock Machine Studio. Like many musically inclined students, he was a regular face at Montague Hall and performed with the Hawaiʻi Youth Symphony. And although he ventured off to Columbia University for a degree in philosophy, he kept returning to music.

Chris was learning the ropes as an assistant at a local recording studio while Kanye West was in town to record “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy” (2010). After being asked by John Legend whether he played keyboard (he said, “no”), word got around that he played the cello, and Chris ended up working with one of West’s producers to lay down a cello track for a number of songs on the highly regarded album.

Chris told me that Anne “was my friend at Punahou. We met just behind Castle Hall going to Hawaiian Studies class back in seventh grade.” And nearly 25 years later, the pair are reunited through the gift of music.

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