All Saints Church
Hank Curtis performing at All Saints Church on Kauai May 21 2022
Master Composer Henry Adam Curtis, (Hank) shares his deep passion and virtuoso skills by performing improv scene-setting compositions. Video produced by Be Seen Media, Duvall Wa 98019
“Bali Hai” is the mystical island with the “two volcanoes” in the Broadway Musical “South Pacific” by Rodgers and Hammerstein. Set during WII, Bali Hai was the island all the enlisted men yearned to visit for its native rituals and “other activities.” After 13 years directing the Kauai production and performing the tune 1000’s of times, I felt it was time for me to create and record my own original solo piano version. Extreme dynamics and highly chromatic harmonies, similar to Liszt or Debussy, paint a picture of Bali Hai. “Thunder,” “gentle and torrential rains,” “volcanic peaks in the mist,” “crashing waves…” all meant to take you there! From my album “Hanalei Moon.”
A jazz re-invention of the tune ‘Happy Talk’ from the Broadway musical ‘South Pacific’.”
The Crystal Ship
“The days are bright and filled with pain, enclose me in your gentle rain, the time you ran was too insane, we’ll meet again, we’ll meet again.” Jim Morrison composed this tune in 1967. It’s beautiful, haunting melody and chords, like Jimi Hendrix’ music, take us to another world.
Consistent with my pursuit of arranging non-piano tunes for piano, here is ‘Classical Gas,’ composed and recorded by guitarist Mason Williams in 1968. I really love the transformation that occurs when a guitar tune is performed on solo piano. This song really lends itself to the piano, rocking harder than the guitar’s six strings can normally do. The guitar and the piano are both stringed instruments, just that I’ve got a lot more strings!
Alex North composed ‘Unchained Melody” in 1955 for the prison film ‘Unchained.’ The Righteous Brothers released their version in 1965. ’Unchained Melody’ is one of the most recorded songs of all time.
Riders on the Storm
In 1971 The Doors released “L.A. Woman.” At that time I was a young boy growing up in Laguna Beach, California. As a classical pianist already performing concerts of Bach, Beethoven, Mozart, etc., I was somewhat cloistered by my German Mom who did not think highly of rock music and rock musicians. But then one day I heard “Riders on the Storm” on the radio. Ray’s piano intro blew my mind. After university I began to form my own style of psychedelic piano, creating my solo acoustic piano arrangement of “Riders on the Storm.” After a recent performance of my arrangement, a gentleman came up to me and said, “Jim Morrison would have been proud of you.” Enough said!
May 21, 2022 – All Saints Episcopal Church, Kapa‘a, Kaua‘i
The following are all original solo piano compositions by Henry Adam Curtis,
composed between 1994 and 2022.
Bird of Paradise Playground
Love Theme ’79 First Dance
Giant Raindrop Dream Red Earth
Original Arrangements for solo piano by Henry Adam Curtis
Caravan by Duke Ellington
I’ll remember You by Kui Lee
Two arrangements from “Are You Experienced?” (1967) by Jimi Hendrix
May This be Love and Purple Haze
Two arrangements from “South Pacific” music by Richard Rogers
Bali Hai and Happy Talk
The Crystal Ship by the Doors
Classical Gas by Mason Williams
Unchained Melody by Alex North
Riders on the Storm by the Doors
In 2003 I was blessed with my first of three beautiful sons. I named my first-born David, “Kawika” in Hawaiian. When he was about 3 years young, I so enjoyed his playfulness and unbounded energy I decided to compose a song for him in the Hawaiian style. He seemed to really like it! I wish that you the listener hear in this composition the rumble, tumble, rolling, rumpus, gleeful, fun-loving innocence of childhood.
The musical word-painting of my original composition ‘Wailua’ aims to evoke the waterfalls, rushing water, and all that is so special about Kauai’s Coconut Coast, which has been my place of residence since 1990. This song is part of my album ‘Bird of Paradise.’
Bird of Paradise
“The bird of paradise alights only on the hand that doesn’t grasp.” – John Berry
Love Theme ‘79
I composed this piano tune to be like a romantic Hollywood movie theme, grandiose, concerto-like, full of thick syrupy harmonies. ‘Love theme ‘79’ is part of my Classical-Crossover album ‘The Curtis Variations’ from 1998.
Giant Raindrop Dream
A few years ago my youngest son told me about a dream he had with ‘giant raindrops.’ I immediately latched on to the concept and began a composition. I imagined big fun slow-motion raindrops with people swimming around in them, joyfully landing on the grass while the giant raindrops broke, everyone having so much fun. I later found out that my interpretation of his dream was all wrong. He had actually dreamt of giant raindrops pelting the town, killing people and destroying property. We’ll go with my take on it, just huge, beautiful raindrops giving pleasure and sustenance.
“Dancing Lessons” is a jazz/classical crossover style “song without words” much like the musical genre of the same name from the Romantic period of the 19th century. There are words, but the words are not sung. I will however share the first few lines of text which are never sung:
“If you give me one more chance, I will take dancing lessons. If you give me one more try, I will take dancing lessons. Learn the samba, learn the tango…learn the waltz…”
Another ‘song without words’ but this time a ‘prayer without words.’ Composed in a ‘rubato’ style, in which rhythms and tempi change according to the performer’s interpretation. It is like the singing of a Psalm, or the ‘recitativo’ from an oratorio. This piece attempts to transport us to a meditative, prayerful state, where we can begin to heal from all the torment of our physical world. From my original piano music album ‘Bird of Paradise’.
One of my recent piano compositions and no, it’s not a song about long lost love. The title actually came from the nametag of a waitress (presumably named Vanessa) at the Garden Court of the Palace Hotel in San Francisco, where I was entertaining in 1996. I never actually met her, we just exchanged flirtatious glances, but I wrote a song for her that she never knew about. The thematic elements of the composition came instantly, but the manuscript sat around for years until just recently when I actually finished the tune. Vanessa, if you’re out there listening, this song’s for you!
Dawn Atkinson, producer for Windham Hill records ‘discovered’ me at Casa di Amici restaurant in Kīlauea in 1994 while I was blissfully hammering away on the beat-up old baby grand. She asked ‘what am I doing here?’ To me that was a no-brainer, surf all day, play music by night. She requested that I submit songs to consider for her upcoming album ‘Piano Sampler II.’ I did, and Playground became an iconic tune for its time, included in numerous collections, most recently on Windham Hill’s ‘Sundown.’ The composition aims to capture a child-like innocence with melodies, harmonies and rhythms which seem to go everywhere with curiosity, surprise and gleeful fun.
I composed this song for my wedding. ‘May I please have this first dance’…
In the late 90’s Kaua‘i music producer Art Umezu had the idea to create an album of piano music with a vocalist, called ‘Red Earth,’ referring to the red soil of Kaua‘i. He chose me and Maila Gibson, then 20 years old. Maila is now a big Hawaiian music star, and me, well that’s another story. I composed the tune ‘Red Earth’ to be a rousing jazz-rock-infused anthem, like a ‘college fight song,’ a tune to really move you!
Composed by Juan Tizol and Duke Ellington in 1936, this evocative, haunting song just overflows with images and oozes exotic scents and sounds.
I’ll Remember You
Composed by Kui Lee in 1964 and made popular by Don Ho, Elvis Presley, and later the Makaha Sons of Ni‘ihau, this song is an absolute gem of the ‘hapa-haole’ genre. In my solo piano arrangement of ‘I’ll Remember You,’ I have done what I often do, and that is to take the basic harmonic structure of the tune and completely revamp it, complete with an array of densely chromatic “Hank” harmonies.”
May This be Love & Purple Haze
When Jimi Hendrix’ album ‘Are you experienced?’ came out in 1967 the rock music world was blown to shreds. Nobody had ever heard guitar playing like that, so innovative and creative. I was in grade school when Hendrix brought the world this brilliant album, and after hearing ‘Purple Haze,’ well that was it, his music was taking us way, way out of this world. I picked two of my favorite songs from the album and aim to convey the same other-worldly musical effect Hendrix achieved, but on an acoustic piano. Indeed, no bending pitches, no feedback, but I do have strings that vibrate, pulsate and overtones that beat!
Bird of Paradise
Yume Studio - Maebashi Japan
The 6th SplendId-Zyoshu- Music Festival April 17,2011. Yume-Studio, Maenashi, Japan. Playground, by Henry Adam Curtis. Piano : Bechstein Type E 1923. Shinichiro Kawauchi @Yokohama