Haleakalā: How Maui Snared the Sun

for Narrator and Orchestra

Dan Welcher

Performing Ensemble: Orchestra
Text: Text by Ann McCutchan
Publisher: Elkan-Vogel, Inc.
Print Status: Rental

Quick Overview

"HALEAKALA: How Maui Snared the Sun" is a twenty-minute tone poem with narration. Scored for a large orchestra, the music follows the moods of an original narrative written by Ann McCutchan.

The text is a highly evocative and poetic retelling of one of the most famous myths about the Polynesian demigod Maui. In the narration, we meet the trickster by reputation first (two earlier legends are briefly recounted), then in the story of Haleakala. Maui finds his mother weeping because the sun moves so quickly that "the kapa won't dry, and the kalo and sweet potatoes are withering." Maui is determined to fix this, and devises a plan to entrap the sun s it enters the chasm at Haleakala, the sacred volcano-mountain on the island that now bears Maui's name. Once all sixteen legs (rays) of the sun have been snared, one by one in a vigorous battle, Maui extracts a promise from the sun to go ore slowly for six months of the year, creating the winter and summer seasons.

Since it is crafted as both a children's story and a piece of mature contemporary music, this work is designed to appeal on many levels. The narrative is so strong (and carries within it the possibility of interpretive dance as well) that even small children will find it very captivating. But the music, using three ancient Hawaiian chant-tunes, many authentic percussion instruments, and six Polynesian scales, is capable of standing alone, and in fact the work can be performed without narration. The score is almost cinematic - it assigns motives to the various characters, and follows the dramatic moods of the narration without ever resorting to the "stop-and-go" method commonly found in works with a narrator. In fact, the story proved so fruitful as musical inspiration that I was able to make use of formal devices to illustrate the action: for instance, Maui's actual snaring of the sixteen-legged sun is set as a quicksilver fugue. The music is continuous, and is crafted around the narration without being totally subservient to it.

The piece is set as a ritual ceremony: it opens with a conch shell being blown, and quickly proceeds to a chant-tune played by horns and drums. Following this "frame," the music follows forms suggested by the narration. There are episodic sections describing Maui's earlier escapades, the sun's furious flight over the islands (with evocative cluster-chords in the upper strings suggesting heat and blazing light), and the fantastic trip beneath the ocean in search of the magic elements needed to weave the nooses. Three related interludes called "Dreamscales" introduce the three main sections: Maui's confrontation of his mother, the trip to Haleakala, and the morning after the battle with the sun. The snaring of the sun, as mentioned earlier, is a fugue based on the sun's "fast" motive (there is also a "slow" sun motive, found usually in the tuba). At the end of the story, the opening ritual chant returns, completing the ritual frames in a musical circle.

Available on Rental

Scores & Parts

Haleakalā: How Maui Snared the Sun - Full Score - Study

Additional Information

Commission Commissioned by the Honolulu Symphony Orchestra through the Meet the Composer Orchestra Residency program.
Composition Date 1991
Duration 21:00
Orchestration Narrator; 3(Picc.) 3(E.H.) 3(B.Cl.) 3(Cbsn.) - 4 3 3(B.Tbn.) 1; Timp. 4Perc. Pno. Hp. Str.
Premiere 15 September 1991. Honolulu Symphony Orchestra, Donald Johanos, conductor, Richard Chamberlain, narrator