This music is inspired by my memories of the unique sights and sounds of the Pacific islands of Samoa where I lived and worked for three years – from 1989 to 1992.
‘Okaoka!’ (pronounced ‘awkaAWka’) is a Samoan exclamation of surprise – something like ‘Wow!’ in English.
Most Samoan dance is accompanied by song and this one is built on the light-hearted song ‘Okaoka La’u Honey’ where the singer compares his lover to some of the most sought-after and exotic foods available in Samoa at the turn of the 20th century. I have enclosed a recording of a performance of the original folksong below.
The music starts in a reflective mood, as if the singer is trying to recall the words of the song. Then flowing lines suggest a single dancer performing the graceful, dignified movements of the ‘siva sa’o’, or formal dance. Gradually more and more dancers join in, excitement builds, and the music becomes an expression of unrestrained exuberance.
Then, as in a dream, the sounds and images of the dancers dissolve in the fragrant calm of the night.
Okaoka was commissioned by Jim Cochran of Shattinger Music and Cort McClaren of C. Alan Publications.
It was premiered on July 14, 2005 in Singapore at the 12th Annual Conference of WASBE, by the Senjoku Gakuen Wind Ensemble. The highly successful Japan premiere was given by the Freshman Wind Ensemble of Senjoku Gakuen College under the baton of Ito Yasuhide, in Tokyo on December 11, 2005.
An expressive and warmly American premiere was given by the Amherst Regional High School Wind Ensemble directed by Brian Messier in Amherst Massachusetts in December 2008.
Orlando, Florida, 2009
Instrumentation: Wind Ensemble
1 Picc. 3 Fl. 1 Ob. 3 BbCl. 1 BassCl. 2 Alt.Sax. 1 Ten.Sax. 1 Bar.Sax. 1 Bsn. // 2 FHn. 3 BbTpt. 3 Tbn. 1 Euph. 1 Tba. // 1 Str.Bass // Timp. 4 Perc.
US Premiere: Amherst Regional High School W.E., Brian Messier
A recording of the original folksong that inspired this piece
C. Alan Publications