KAPA‘A — The Cello Songs Project, a unique collaboration between singer-songwriter Jonatha Brooke and cellist Rebecca Arons, is coming to Kapa‘a this weekend.
The Bandwagon Music Center is hosting an all-ages songwriting workshop and a concert from the acclaimed musicians, featuring string arrangements of Brooke’s extensive folk/rock catalog.
After the workshop, the musicians will hold an informal conversation about working in the music industry.
Brooke, who initially planned on becoming a dancer, discovered her passion for songwriting through a class at Amherst College.
“It was like being struck by lightning and being completely turned in another direction,” she said.
Brooke’s career took off with her band The Story, and since then she has released more than a dozen albums, multiple songs for films and TV and an off-Broadway show.
Her music is characterized by dissonant harmonies and lyrical storytelling.
“I was drawn to dissonance,” said Brooke. “I threw everything in and the kitchen sink. Multiple vocal parts, lots of weird chords, every single possible tension note I could fit into my guitar part — I would put it in there.”
Lyrics tend to come first for the songwriter, who generally has a “snippet of a lyric that will unlock the music and the harmony.”
One might have heard Brooke in the 2002 Disney film “Return To Neverland.”
She quickly took to soundtrack writing, reporting that she had written one song from the film — “I’ll Try” — in about 20 minutes.
The Friday workshop will be interactive — Brooke plans to give those in attendance songwriting assignments to work on.
She hopes to teach the audience “listen to the thing that excites them the most and trust it.”
Arons, who has family in Kapa‘a, has visited Kaua‘i many times — but this will be the first time she has brought her cello with her.
“Finally being able to make music here is so special,” said Arons.
An accomplished musician in her own right, Arons has performed in the Minnesota Opera Orchestra and worked with artists from the Eagles to Stevie Wonder to Prince, who she described as “a total enigma,” but a “huge champion of all musicians.”
Though both Arons and Brooke are Massachusetts natives, the pair didn’t meet until 2013 working on Jonatha’s one woman, Off-Broadway musical, “My Mother Has Four Noses.”
The Cello Songs Project proved to be a fun challenge for Arons, who had to figure out how to bring her classical training to Brooke’s folk/rock catalog.
“The cello is sometimes acting as a second singer at times, and at other times I’ll be taking on a more instrumental role so it’s really fun for me,” she said. “Jonatha’s compositions are so well suited to the cello, so from a musical standpoint it’s so satisfying.”
She is excited to work the attendees at Friday’s workshop and to meet the Kaua‘i musical community.
“The thing that keeps me going in music is the relationship with other musicians,” she said. “When you find a person you can make music with and it’s a joyful experience, then you know you’re doing the right thing with your life. That’s what music is about, it’s about collaborating with others.”
The shows will be some of Bandwagon’s first indoor events since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The nonprofit, which features locations in Lihu‘e and Kapa‘a, provides music education and access to equipment and rehearsal space to local musicians of all ages.
“We’re really excited to be bringing in really high caliber professional folks like Jonatha and Rebecca,” said Jeremy Hartshorn. “It’s such a great outlet for our kids. We’re glad there have been more opportunities for kids to play music recently because we think it’s vital to their mental and emotional health.”
The concert will take place at 7:30 p.m. Saturday at the All Saints’ Church in Kapa‘a, while the workshop will take place at 4 p.m. Friday at Bandwagon’s Kapa‘a location.
Tickets cost $5 for Bandwagon members and $50 for the general public.
Source: The Garden Island