Been to a funeral recently, or during the later phases of the pandemic?
Bentos now are very much part of the funeral experience. It’s trending as an alternate to post-services buffets in the reception hall.
Also, services at the mortuary are now welcoming larger crowds like the past decades, unlike the 10-maximum head count at the height of the pandemic. Face masks are recommended, like other events with huge attendance.
The local custom at funerals always has included post-service fellowship with the grieving family. Over the decades, a mini-buffet of local food – sushi, perhaps fried chicken, macaroni or potato salad, with mochi as the dessert offering – used to be the rule of thumb. Paper or foam plates would be available, along the usual utensils, like chopsticks, forks, napkins, where mourners used to self-servce.
Not anymore. Bentos in pre-packed take-out type containers are stacked in the reception hall, awaiting mourners of the family of the deceased. When you consider health safety, a pre-packed meal makes a lot of sense, however awkward it might seem. And there are no more intrusive, pesky flies.
If folks start to exit and skip the refreshment hall, announcements are made to pick up a mini-meal in a grab-and-go format. Even take-out plastic bags are available for those opting to nibble at home.
Apparently, catering organizations have been revving up the post-funeral bento meals. Websites reflect a range of bento options, from minimalist to the excessive (and expensive), depending on budget.
Joseph Pekelo Kekipi Bright Recca, a beloved entertainer with the voice of an angel and an impeccable Hawaiian historian, died Nov. 18 at Queen’s Medical Center.
He was 76 years old.
Recca had been wrestling with throat cancer for more than a decade and spent much of the last few months under hospice care. He was transferred to Queen’s a few days before his passing.
Throat cancer silenced this brilliant vocalist, who hadn’t had real food for more than a year, sustaining only on IV fluids. Yet his mind was quick, and his heart was strong enough for him to endure the irony of not fully utilizing his given talent: that voice.
He was a man of many talents with a swagger that was wholly his brand. He spoke and read Hawaiian, graced the stages of Waikiki and the Neighbor Islands and owned the spotlight as an emcee and singer.
Indeed, he was not your everyday Joe.
How well you knew him depended on how you addressed him: Joseph, Joe, or Pekelo.
I last saw him in all his glory, three years ago, at the 50th anniversary bash of Tihati Productions, his employer for much of the five decades, which also was the occasion for his final bow, though at that time, he was as fit as a fiddle.
Only Pekelo would have three different outfits for a gala – one for cocktail hour schmoozing, one for the hoopla, and one for pau hana going-home gear. Despite his personal health issues, he demonstrated that the-show-must-go-on demeanor.
A celebration of life will be produced by Cha Thompson, co-founder and former vice president of Tihati Productions, from noon to 3 p.m. Jan.29 at the Ainahau Ballroom of the Princess Kaiulani Hotel, where he set anchor in the Tihati revue as emcee and male vocalist, for 15 years, partnering with soprano Patricia Lei Anderson (now Murray), the prevailing musical duo in their heyday.
No one knew Pekelo better than Thompson, who had distant familial ties with Recca though they acted like they were bona fide blood relatives.
Thompson always called Recca “Pekelo,” Hawaiian for Peter, one of his formal given names commonly used by his intimate show biz buds.
“Our relationship of boss-employee, braddah-sistah creators of Hawaiiian culture, started from high school, when he would come down the hill from Kamehameha School to Farrington just to talk story with me and my gang,” said Thompson. The Kalihi rivalry was mostly symbolic, Farrington being a public school that produced a long list of entertainment marvels, and Kamehameha perceived as a formidable private school virtually looking down from Kapalama heights onto the Farrington campus. Hence, the obvious competish.
But the feuds were fun and fueled a bond of shared responsibility since the pair grew up together as teammates in Tihati, shaping and growing the post-statehood visitor industry business in Waikiki, on Maui, on Kauai, and on the Big Island.
Young, creative and energetic, they both had the stamina to “travel the world together, with 30 to 40 entertainers, to share the magic of Polynesia,” Thompson said. “He, the emcee, me, the hula soloist-coordinator of the promotions; he, leading the charges, making sure that and monitoring the ‘Hawaiian’ section of Tihati Productions.” (Tihati is noted for its array of the Polynesian culture beyond Hawaii’s shores, including Samoa, Tahiti, Fiji, New Zealand and Tonga).
At his young age, fresh out of high school, he was performing with Haunani Kahalewai as one of her Royal Lads, at the Royal Hawaiian’s Monarch Room, while she was a featured hula dancer with Elaine Frisbie’s “Puka Puka Otea” at the Queen’s Surf prior to founding Tihati Productions with her husband-to-be, Jack “Tihati” Thompson. Recca married hula dancer Shirley Recca, who had also performed in Tihati shows.
He learned show biz skills from Kahalewai, and adored her to the point of imitating her style, but she advised him be true to his own talents. He said in a 1977 interview that the Hawaiian superstar told him “Don’t be anybody but yourself. Be Joe Recca.”
He was on the brink of discovering his still budding fame, but he never forgot that tip.
He initially became a Waikiki fixture as part of the ensemble cast of “Paradise Found,” a spectacle at the Hilton Hawaiian Village.
But his signature show would be the one at Ainahau Ballroom of the Princess Kaiulani, where he emceed the production and sang duets with soprano Anderson-Murray, a former Miss Hawaii who made it to the finals of the Miss America pageant..
While at the PK, Recca and Anderson also partnered in becoming the first historians leading a Waikiki historic trail walking tour, for the Native Hawaiian Hospitality Assn. under the tutelage of George He‘eu Kanahele, the late and notable Hawaiian historian.
He also sang with Marlene Sai and co-starred with hula stylist Bevery Noa at the Halekulani Hotel and assisted Nina Keali‘iwahamana when she was a regular with Webley Edwards’ “Hawaii Calls” radio show originating from Waikiki.
A little known fact about Recca is that he was prominent in his family’s religious profile as the Rev. Joseph Pekelo Kekipi Bright Recca, the Hope Kahu (assistant pastor) of Ke Alaula Oka Malamalama, the mother church of Ho’omana Na’auao O Hawai’i, the first independent Hawaiian Christian organization in the islands, established in 1853.
He descended from a stream of familial ministers, starting with his great-grandfather, the Rev. John Kekipi Mai’a, who was also the founder of the church. Born and raised in the church, Rev. Joe had always been a part of ministers and the congregation, sharing his many talents, time, and of course, that beautiful voice of his. He was ultimately ordained as a minister by his mother, the late Rev. Regina Bright Recca in 2004. Since then, he served as the assistant pastor of Ke Alaula Oka Malamalama with his sister, the Rev. Bettina Moanawai Recca, who is the head pastor of the church and organization.
In the Hawaiian community, Recca was an established storyteller of stories and sermons, and his life reflected his faith in God and aloha for all. After he was unable to perform because of his cancer, he served as a Hawaiiana consultant for Tihati.
Another “insider” reflection that typified the Recca-Thompson friendship: “Did I say that he had allure about him that made him stand out? He was a real gentleman,” said Thompson because of supreme manner. “He insisted I learn to laugh like a girl, minus the ‘deep loud roar,’ as he called it. He kept saying ‘You can do it, Cha, you can do it,’ and I would say but why would I want to (change her laughter). I nicknamed him ‘The Baron,’ and we knew the good, the bad, and the ugly about each other.”
He never stopped challenging Thompson to improve her Hawaiiana knowledge, when they both took nighttime classes in Hawaiian language at Kamehameha.
Recca helped launch Tihati’s Polynesian show at the Hyatt Regency Maui 42 years ago, which remains the company’s longest-running vehicle in the same venue. “He inspired our other emcee-singers,” said Thompson, since he became the model of emceeing under the Tihati umbrella, including Francis Kamahele, who became that show’s eminent singer-host who also was a pastor in his other life. Other Tihati emcees who learned from Recca include Kale Chang, Sia Tonga, Ryan Souza, Sam Kapu III and Hoku Damaso.
The celebration of life event will feature performances by Karen Keawehawai‘i, Nina Keali‘iwahamana, Taimane, Kimo Alama, Melveen Leed, Makana and his sisters-, Ku‘uipo Kumukahi, Jerry Santos, Patricia Lei Anderson Murray and family, Raiatea Helm,Kealoha Kalama, Aaron Sala, the Waimanalo Sand Band, Nalani Keale, and Leimomi Ho.
Four emcees — Brickwood Galutaria and Kimo Kahoano, alternating with Mele Apana and Davey D – will share the mike.
The house band will feature Ha‘alilo, Chuck Tilton, Vicky Hollinger, Kawika McGuire, and Aisley Haleamanu.
Recca’s sister, the Rev. Bettina Recca, will present the sermon.
Besides his wife Shirley, immediate survivors include their two daughters, Elan and Delys Recca, and one grandson, Andrew.
To put it simply, attending a concert of a beloved entertainer is all about wanting and making memories to cherish forever.
This is a truism for Keali’l Reichel, the Maui singer-kumu hula, who took to the stage of Blue Note Hawaii at the Outrigger Waikiki resort last night (Nov. 17) for the first of six performances through Sunday. It was a sellout, with elbow-to-elbow fellowship among his fans, a form and celebration likely to be repeated, with wholly different nuances and joy, for the next gallery of fans.
The pandemic has made him edgy, but eager to please. His format is casual yet captivating, as if the stage is his living room in his isolated digs on Maui, in a gated community, as he joked. But the gates are cattle gates, since his lifestyle and turf now includes cows, pigs and goats.
He dutifully announces every title of songs in his 90 minute serenade, but frankly, I don’t know his repertoire by heart and can recognize the melodies if I scour my collection of Reichel CDs to try to match and recap the musical memories. I sought a crib sheet, with proper titles listed, but either he didn’t get the memo or didn’t deem it necessary, and if it’s OK with him, it’s OK with me to reflect on this stellar exercise in memory-making. You don’t need a steward to skipper the ship of titles, so consider this a recap of a night I’ll not easily forget.
One quick reason to adore this relatable show: it was full of surprises and antics.
His first song was “I’ll Be There,” in English, with a complementary Hawaiian mele, “E O Mai,” but apologies if I misstated the title. Stylistically, the separate melodies matched each other, a format he seemed to use a couple of times. But as stated, I’ve not been on top of his catalogue, so I’m writing this piece around the titles.
For one of two hana hous, Reichel did an a cappella rendering of “Wanting Memories,” from his debut “Kawaipanahele” CD, tapping one musical for the deep-voiced bass doom-doom tones, and two vocal associates to provide three-part harmonies with him.
You know this ditty, with these opening lyrics he composed:
“I am sitting here wanting memories to teach me, “To see the beauty in the world through my own eyes. “I am sitting here wanting memories to teach me, “To see the beauty in the world through my own eyes.”
Minus amplification, it’s a perfect song for recollection, for flashbacking, for embracing.
“Wow, Thursday,” he commented upon taking the stage. “A packed house!”
It had been more than a year when he did the Blue Note, so he did the obvious: update his age (60), that his newly completed Maui home has a flush toilet and water catchment, even it is 90 minutes of drive time to Wailuku.
He’s a frisky 60, and dapper in a black T-shirt worn with tan trousers, with strands of earth-toned shells around his neck; he had diamond earrings on each lobe, and bracelets around both wrists. A gold ring was on his third finger left hand. And famously, he’s still performing barefooted.
As usual, he has the support of Halau Ke‘alaokamaile to animate his Hawaiian mele with hula, in alternating numbers, from 7 to 3 to 2 to 1, depending on need. The women are all immaculately dressed in hula outfits of brilliant hues, and he made a declaration at one point that if anyone who has the notion to dance without an invite, need only to show up, and one wahine did just that. Again, apologies; no name, but she created new memories for herself, for Reichel, and for the spectators, with such animated expression.
There were novelties, like Pua Nogelmeier’s “Nematoda,” about those unwanted critters in the garden, and that game-based mele about holding your breath as long as you can, as the setting sun kisses the ocean goodnight.
Atmospheric beauts written for his grandma or for Disney Aulani (“Hei Lei No ‘Aulani”) were other tunes in the hopper.
The bottom line: Reichel’s voice exudes tenderness, is comforting and expressive, and clearly is dusted with heartwarming sincerity.
Like his last show, he neglected to program “Kawaipunahele,” the singular tune that put him on the map, but who’s to quibble? We all can revert to the CD and give it a spin for old time’s sake.
Reichel performs again at 6:30 and 9 p.m. Friday Nov. 18 and Saturday Nov. 19 and 6:30 p.m. Sunday Nov. 20 at Blue Note.
Tickets: $85 and $125, costlier than his previous performances, but be aware of highly inflated prices at certain websites. Reservations: www.bluenotehawaii.com or (808) 777-4890. …
Cellist Brian Webb, one of the original members of the indie-pop group, Streetlight Cadence, has exited the band, after 13 years of on-street singing, recordings, online videos and club gigs here and abroad.
Of his departure, he said, “I am leaving Starlight Cadence and I do so freely and without any issues, tensions or conflicts with current or past members. I adore this community, what it’s meant to people, what it’s given me and other members, and I am so grateful to all of you for your support over the years.
“I hope you’ll continue looking out for my brothers (and now sister!) in arms. Please, please, please continue to answer the call when the next Kickstarter arises or when they re-push for their Patreon.”
Webb had been a founding member of Streetlight, along with violinist Jonathon Franklin, and accordionist/foot percussionist Jesse Shiroma. Franklin remains the lone original musician, since Shiroma is on academic leave, seeking a graduate degree in library studies at the University of Hawaii. Ben Chai is current banjoist, though not a ground-floor original, and Clara Stegall is now the lone woman in the band, a guitarist.
No word on who will replace him. …
Wild about Harry
With little fanfare, Prince Harry marked Remembrance Day last Friday with an appearance at the USS Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor.
The Duke of Sussex toured the USS Arizona Memorial, the resting place of more than 1,100 crew members who were killed during the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941. Harry donned a navy suit accentuated with a red poppy pinned to his jacket lapel. The poppy has been a tradition to commemorate wartime military members who have died in war.
Island keyboarder Don Conover, who happened to be touring the Arizona, described Harry friendly and kind. “He kind of approached us,” Conover told People magazine. “I moved out of his way because he’s royalty; I figured I’d let him do his thing. He basically gave me a greeting.
“He was very respectful and courteous and nice. I moved out of his way, and he kind of patted me on the back and said, ‘You’re all good mate.’ It was a simple interaction, but he was very nice and courteous and respectful.”
Harry and his wife, Meghan Markle, also released an official statement on their Veterans Day/Remembrance Day appearance. She posted on the Archewell website,
“We honor service members across the world. These brave men and women, as well as their families, have made tremendous sacrifices and embody duty and service.”…
The Hawaii Academy of Recording Arts’ 2022 Lifetime Achievement Awards luncheon will be held from 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. Dec. 4 at the Royal Hawaiian Hotel’s Monarch Room.
Dr. Randie Kamuela Fong.
Cecilia Mona Joy Lum.
Other key awards to be presented:
Krash Kealoha Industry Award, to the Hawaii County Band and the Kamaka Ukulele ‘Ohana.
The Legacy Recognition Award, to Ka‘iulani Martin.
Tickets are available at www.harahawaii.com. …
Broadway grosses, week ending Nov. 13
The ranking of the top three shows on Broadway has been staple recently. Meaning, “The Music Man” grossed $2.926 million, a skosh short of $3 million.
“Hamilton” is at a steady No. 2, with $2.039.
And “MJ” has been a reliable player, with $1.815 million.