story by Rose Kahele
photo by Ann Cecil
The Eva Parker Woods Cottage is hardly an ideal concert venue. Situated on an isthmus no more than twenty yards at its widest, with the Kalahuipua‘a fishponds on one side and the Pacific Ocean on the other, the tiny cultural center’s “stage”—that is, its front porch—only has room for a handful of performers, who often have to compete with crashing surf for the audience’s attention.
Then again, on a moonlit night, it is hard to imagine a better place to listen to an ancient Hawaiian legend, a rousing paniolo tale or a hapa haole tune. Welcome to Twilight at Kalahuipua‘a, a monthly gathering at the Big Island’s Mauna Lani Resort. Held on the Saturday closest to the full moon, Twilight is a three-hour, unscripted evening of storytelling, music and dance. At a typical performance, a spontaneous hula breaks out in the crowd, or an audience member is called up to share a story or a song.
“It’s a nice mix of people—hotel guests, residents of the nearby developments and local people, many of them friends and family of the performers,” says Danny Kaniela Akaka, the Mauna Lani’s director of cultural affairs. “It’s a neutral place where all these people can meet, talk, listen and share.”
Twilight isn’t promoted or advertised outside of the Mauna Lani Resort, and Akaka keeps the list of performers a tightly held secret. But inevitably, when a big name is coming, word gets out: On any given month, between 300 and 600 people arrive, filling the cozy yard and surrounding area with lawn chairs and picnic dinners.
However, for Akaka, the smaller events often have the biggest hearts.
“When we have the kupuna (elders) speak, they are usually pretty shy at first,” says Akaka. “But as the night progresses, they warm up to the crowd and by evening’s end all these stories are coming out. It’s like they have made the audience part of their family. It’s a beautiful thing.”
Twilight at Kalahuipua‘a
(808) 885-6622, ext. 7065