Composer’s Spotlight Series: Pumehana Wadsworth plays ‘Siana’s Dream: The Music Box’ as her Harplympic Games winning entry

In this new interview, Pumehana Wadsworth shares her passion for the harp and Hawaiian slack-key guitar music.

Pumehana’s dedication to bridging these two worlds is commendable and her efforts have resulted in a fresh and enjoyable musical experience. Learning Deborah’s piece offers the opportunity to explore mixed rhythms and develop coordination through visualizing the story within the music.

She said that working with the composer directly provides invaluable insights into the composition, allowing for personalized interpretations and the ability to improvise. Readers will be inspired by Pumehana’s journey, motivated to listen to the music, and explore her unique musical repertoire.

Pumehana Davis Wadsworth

Pumehana Davis Wadsworth loves playing for weddings and background music at restaurants. She really enjoys playing for the audience. From Moonlight Sonata to Dream On to It Had To Be You to the latest love Pop song. Performing for nearly 40 years, she has played for 1000’s of wedding couples, numerous restaurants, retail stores, and private events mostly in Honolulu, Hawaii.

In the summer of 2021, she transcribed Hawaiian slack key guitar music for the lever harp and then recorded singles and sold them online. She loves that the harp is a very versatile instrument as it can be percussive, sound like a guitar, and bend notes with lever or pedal slides. Her goal is to bridge harp repertoire with Hawaiian slack-key guitar repertoire. Creating a new soundscape for Hawaiian slack-key compositions and introducing a new repertoire for harpists.

Continue reading below for the full interview with Pumehana Wadsworth

In this video, Pumehana Wadsworth performs ‘Siana’s Dream: The Music Box’ a submission for World Harp Day’s 2021 Harplympic Games Instagram challenge. 

A Mini-Interview with Pumehana

How would you describe your experience of playing the piece?

Fast, fun, and innovative.

What do people say when you play this piece? Do you have favorite memories of people’s reactions to it?

It’s something new and fresh. They like the strumming and percussive action.

What drew you to this piece – why did you choose to learn it?

During the pandemic, I really got to deep dive into the Strings of Passion online course. During one of the guided meditations, I visualized paddling my one-person outrigger canoe on the ocean. As I came ashore, I recognized to be in Hana, Maui walking up Lyons Hill. This place holds a deep sense of place and identity for our family.

I realized that the pairing of the harp with Hawaiian slack key guitar music could be quite harmonious. I searched online for Hawaiian sheet music and came across Jeff Peterson, Hawaiian slack key guitarist’s website. I got a practice fever. I was on my way to transcribing slack key guitar music to lever harp to eventually record.

A brief history of Hawaiian slack-key music. King Kamehameha III invited vaqueros from Spanish California to come to Hawai`i to teach cattle handling skills. The first vaqueros were brought to the Parker Ranch in 1823. They were called Espanoles (Spaniards) which the native Hawaiians pronounced as paniolos ( pah-nee-oh-lows ). They introduced Hawaiians to European guitars and basic playing techniques, allowing Hawaiians to develop the style independently.

What drew me to this song … I wanted to include this song because I wanted to honor my harp mentor for assisting in my discovery that will create a new sonic landscape. Hawaiian slack key harp. Siana’s Dream: The Music Box has Spanish undertones, strumming, and percussion. Elements that can be found in Hawaiian slack key guitar music.

What does this piece add to your repertoire (and/or your life) that you didn’t have before?

The visual action of the strumming and percussion takes coordination. Also visualizes and imagines what’s going on in the story/ song.

I am bridging the harp repertoire with the slack-key guitar repertoire. Creating a new soundscape for Hawaiian slack-key compositions and introducing a new repertoire for harpists.

What would you tell someone else who’s thinking of learning this piece that you wish you’d known before you learned it?

There are mixed rhythms throughout the piece. Get your body into it. Visualize the parts of the story in your imagination flow.

What do you think you can get from working directly with the composer of the piece that you can’t get from the sheet music?

Working with the composer directly is priceless. The patterns get identified. Possible places where it’s okay to improvise or omit. The inspirational back story. The different versions are available other than the sheet music arrangement.

Please follow this artist on social media and let them know what has opened up for your own self-expression in seeing and hearing their performance, and please share in the comments below.

Youtube: @harphawaii
Instagram: @harphawaii
Facebook Profile: Pumehana Wadsworth
Facebook Page: Harp Hawaii
Stream Pumehana’s cover of ‘Siana’s Dream: The Music Box’

Stay tuned for more artists soon and check out my Composer’s Spotlight blog series, featuring even more talented musicians who played my song!

I am so moved by the beauty, freedom, and self-expression of the artists who play my music. We, together, have a creative voice we could never have alone.

Do you have a story to tell about your experience playing my music and a video to share with it?

I want to hear it!

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