Music tribute for Samoa’s 56th Independence Day

The National University of Samoa (N.U.S.) staged an exclusive all-strings concert called Patchwork last week at the school campus to celebrate Samoa's 56 years of independence. 

The Music and Performing Arts Community Programme of the Faculty of Education staged a 16-member strings ensemble.

Performers were Serge Zenisek (concertmeister), Titi Lamese, Tj Naioti, Finafinau Paul, Violani Afoa, Barbie Muaitau (violins), Philton Solomona (viola), Anderson Taaloga, Foaina Asovale, Rosaivitilesaualofaoleola Solomona (cellos), London Leauma (double bass), Palepua Afoa, Faith Ualesi (guitars) and Eteuati Motusaga (Samoan mat). 

The repertoire of the night reflected the title of the concert.

 In the programme were arrangements of Pacific music by the late Ueta Solomona; founder and teacher of the N.U.S. community music programme and two contemporary music pieces (pop and rock) arranged by his son, Philton Solomona. 

Other pieces included Longfield's arrangement of Ave Maria, highlights of South Pacific and a special tribute to Karene Solomona, who composed music to the famed requiem poem by Robert Louis Stevenson, who was known for supporting Samoa's independence. 

The concert began with the sound of the conch shell that led to the national hymn, followed by Le Atua Mamana and then ended with Ueta Solomona's arrangement of Pule Ono i Salafai E.

The unique element lay in the music selection, guest performer and guest conductor. 

American violinist from Brooklyn (New York), Mr. Zenisek is in Samoa until July and spends his time between Apia Rotary Club and the N.U.S. Strings Program.

He was invited as concertmeister and performed a solo piece that he himself composed. He willingly shared his expertise and time to enrich the performance experience of our local players. 

He also recently played violin with the N.U.S. Combo Band whose last performance was at this year's United Nation International Jazz Day celebrations.

Guest conductor, Dr. Courtney Savali Andrews, who is studying a PhD fieldwork on the history of musical families of Apia village, led the performance.

“I love collaborating with all different kinds of musicians but especially it’s wonderful to be able to come back and work with Samoans.

“One of the musical families of Apia village is the Solomona family.

“In reference to research, there's something specific about Apia village and those Samoans being known as entertainers and the teachers carrying on that particular legacy. It extends out to New Zealand, Australia and America whether you're a dancer, wrestler, boxer or singer, it all comes down to, it’s what we do,” she said.

She is doing multiple projects in Samoa, volunteering her time and expertise with the music programme giving master piano and vocal lessons, choral training and conducting in the three concerts the programme has had so far this year. 

She hails from Amanave, Nua Ma Seetaga (American Samoa), Safotu, Savaii and Seattle in America.

The Atoa Foundation and the Utah Valley University, led by Sam Atoa, have been long time supporters of N.U.S. by seeking instruments and instructional material to strengthen the development of music.

They presented keyboards and guitars to the music programme.

"The donations were from friends of Samoa but specifically from the Mortensen family who purchased these instruments. 

“It’s a little difficult sometimes but we're looking at trying to expand this relationship. Maybe get a sponsor from the Utah University which is my goal, to have that kind of connection with the orchestra at Utah Valley University and N.U.S. 

“We would not only provide musical instruments but who knows there might be certain individuals from here who could go and have some type of an internship in Utah and learn as an exchange student. That's what we hope for anything to help Samoa," Mr. Atoa said.

Guitar player, Mr. Lamese expressed his gratitude towards the donation. 

"As Samoans we love music, it brings us together as a comunity as well as the celebration of independence. If anything is your passion, like music, you love doing it, it’s not like a job instead it becomes a part of you," he said.

Apia Rotary donated music stands and uniforms. The uniforms were officially worn by the String ensemble and Young Musicians Choir at the programme's Easter concert in March this year. 

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