Virus outbreak prompts cancellation of concerts on the Big Island

  • JUSTIN JOHN MONIZ

Concern over the spread of the novel coronavirus named COVID-19 has caused the first cancellation of a public entertainment event on the Big Island.

In a Saturday “Dear Friends” letter, Justin John Moniz, executive director of the Hawaii Performing Arts Festival, announced what he called “the difficult decision to cancel our Spring Fling Festival, previously scheduled for March 19-22.”

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Moniz said travel restrictions imposed by Stanford University will prevent its Fleet Street male a cappella vocal group from traveling to the Big Island to perform previously scheduled shows March 21 at Davies Chapel at Hawaii Preparatory Academy in Waimea and East Hawaii Cultural Center in Hilo, and March 22 at Aloha Theatre in Kainaliu, South Kona.

Also cancelled is a fundraising event called “The Minds Behind the Music” featuring Moniz, an acclaimed tenor, soprano Rachel E. Copeland and pianist Val Underwood.

The gala was to be held at a private residence at Kohala Ranch.

“If you have purchased tickets for one of our upcoming March events, you will receive a refund within the next two weeks,” Moniz wrote, and added there are currently “no plans to cancel or alter the schedule of our 2020 Summer Festival.”

Moniz wrote “COVID-19 is the topic of daily analysis and consultation at HPAF” and added “the safety and well being of our faculty, staff volunteers, performers, and patrons is of our primary concern.”

HPAF draws talented students and teaching faculty from around the globe, and its summer program is set for June and July.

A call by the Tribune-Herald for Moniz wasn’t returned by press time Monday.

The Hawaii Concert Society is presenting the Calder String Quartet in concert Wednesday night at the University of Hawaii at Hilo Performing Arts Center.

After Wednesday’s concert, UHHPAC has only in-house productions without visiting performers remaining in the near future, according to Lee Barnette-Dombroski, the facility’s director.

“The university has not banned group gatherings at this point, so we are just hanging on to what we’ve got going,” Barnette-Dombroski said Monday. “And we will continue with what we’re doing until we are told that we should not be doing those large gatherings anymore.”

The live-performance calendar of the Palace Theater in downtown Hilo also lists only local productions in the near term.

“We’re in talks with a few outside acts coming in early summertime,” said Phillips Payson, the Palace’s executive director. “We don’t have any outside acts coming in the foreseeable future.”

Singer Joan Osborne, who catapulted to fame in 1995 with the hit “One of Us,” has a concert scheduled March 21 at the Kahilu Theatre in Waimea. Classical guitarist David Russell is scheduled for March 28. Duo Diorama, featuring Chinese violinist Ming-Huan Xu and Canadian pianist Winston Choi, will be in concert March 29. And iconic indigenous Canadian-American singer-songwriter Buffy Sainte-Marie has an April 4 show scheduled there, as well.

The Kahilu’s website shows tickets still on sale for all performances.

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Calls by the Tribune-Herald for Deb Goodwin and Carol Walker, executive directors for the Kahilu and EHCC, respectively, weren’t returned by press time.

Email John Burnett at jburnett@hawaiitribune-herald.com.

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