The Lili'u Project
The Liliʻu Project Stage Production
The Lili‘u Project is an ongoing series of performances devoted
to the music of Queen Lili‘uokalani. Our musical ensemble seeks to explore and imagine Lili‘u’s mele in novel ways, guided by her own free-spirited innovation and interest in contemporary musical trends.
Since our premiere at Leeward Theatre in 2014, we've
presented theatre installations on O‘ahu, and abroad as guests of the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian in Washington DC, Festival À Corps International Dance Festival, Poitiers, France, and Soul Force Sacred Music Festival, Pasadena, CA.
Our educational and community outreach projects involve
workshops, lectures, and performances including the Lullaby Project, Lili‘uokalani Trust Performing Arts Camp, Hālawa Correctional Facility, Walk Out of Darkness Suicide Prevention Walk, Peaceful Action Through Mele with Mālama Honua Charter School, and assisted living, public library, and school presentations.
The Liliʻu Project maintains a clear conviction that Liliʻuokalani
is among Hawaiʻi’s most significant and influential song composers and that her song texts continue to inspire contemplation on themes that are universally articulated and understood.
April 11 & 12, 2014 - The Liliʻu Project premiere
January 13, 2015 - Jeffrey Kamakahi presented his paper "The Liliʻu Project: Investigating Song Selections and Kaona (Hidden Meanings)", at the Hawaii International Conference on Arts and Humanities, Honolulu, HI
March 3, 2015 - Global Studies Lecture Series: "Songs of Queen Liliʻuokalani: A Catalyst for Understanding and Reconciliation",
January 11, 2016 - John Signor presented the paper The Liliʻu Project: Commentaries Regarding a Contemporary Performance of Selected Compositions of Queen Liliʻuokalani (co-authored by Dr. Kamakahi) at the Hawaii International Conference on Arts and Humanities, Honolulu, HI
March 12, 2016 - Concert in honor of Women's History Month: The Potomac Atrium of the National Museum of the American Indian, Washington D.C.
April 9, 2017 - The Liliʻu Project and UH Mānoa Dance program, Festival À Corps: International Dance Festival, l’Université de Poitiers, Poitiers, France
April 27 & 28, 2018 - "Haʻina ka puana", Ka ʻImi ʻIke Conference Room, Leeward Community College
December 6, 2018 - Hālawa Christmas Makahiki sharing with inmates at Hālawa Correctional Facility
November 7, 2018 - Guest Lecturer in Dr. Haʻaheo Guanson’s PACE412 class “Gandhi, Dr. King, Liliʻuokalani and Non-Violence.”
December 2018 – January 2019 - "Peaceful Action Through Mele", an educational outreach collaboration with Mālama Honua Charter School, culminating in a performance at ʻIolani Palace on January 17, 2019
April 27, 2019 - Soul Force Sacred Music Festival, First United Methodist Church, Pasadena, CA
October 24, 2020 - Video for Mānoa Valley Theatre Virtual Fund Raiser
October 30, 2020 - The Peace Studio, Guest video, and podcast on "100 Offerings of Peace" (Day 99)
September 24 & 25, 2022 - The Liliʻu Project: Makalapua "The Opening Flower", Leeward Community College
Meet Some of The Ensemble
Starr Kealaheleokalani Kalāhiki is a Hawaiian singer, born and raised in Moanalua Valley on the island of O‘ahu. A recipient of the Native Arts and Cultures Foundation Fellowship, her professional experiences include being a featured vocalist on multiple award-winning theatrical productions including ‘Ulalena, Naupaka, Waikīkī Nei, and Don Tiki. Her debut album Salt was honored with two Nā Hōkū Hanohano Awards and she received a third as a contributor to Henry Kapono’s compilation album. Since the publication of The Queen’s Songbook in 1999, Starr and her Lili‘u Project ensemble have performed the compositions of Queen Lili‘uokalani globally from Europe to Washington DC to the summit of Mauna Kea. By examining the parallels between the Queen’s time and our own, Starr Kalāhiki embraces Lili‘uokalani’s legacy of using music to further the cause of contemporary Native Hawaiian activism.
John Signor is a multi-instrumentalist, composer, sound designer, and educator born and raised in Ewa Beach, O‘ahu who enjoys collaboration with various performing arts disciplines. He is a graduate of Willamette University, The Juilliard School, the University of Miami, and CalArts. A past recipient of the Hawaii State Foundation on Culture and the Arts Individual Artist Fellowship, he has collaborated with Hālau O Kekuhi, Iona Contemporary Dance Theatre, Leeward Theatre, Nā Kinimakalehua, Tangentz, Tau Dance Theater, and various independent artists and filmmakers. Director of The Lili‘u Project, Dr. Signor has served as musical director and co-composer of productions including Naupaka, ‘Ulalena, and Waikīkī Nei, and is the recipient of Po‘okela Awards for musical direction in Secret in the Wings, and for sound design in Clockwork and Secret in the Wings. He has contributed sound to the stage productions Duke, Hānau ka Moku, Kahekili, Kūlanihāko‘i, and Poli‘ahu. His film scores include Horsepower, Poi Dogs, Stones, Technical Difficulties of Intimacy, and Hawaiian Soul. His work in children’s theatre and music outreach includes collaborations with The Arts Alliance in Education, Honolulu Theatre for Youth, Lili‘uokalani Trust, Plaza de la Raza, Samadhi Hawaii, Theatre Theatre Maui, and he has served as facilitator/director of Lullaby Project Hawai‘i.
Jeffrey J. Kamakahi, Ph.D.
Producer, Research Specialist
Jeff was born on O‘ahu into a musical family – his father, Kenneth, was a trombonist with the Royal Hawaiian Band. His brother, Dennis, was a member of the Sons of Hawai‘i and an award-winning Haku Mele of such compositions as Wahine ‘Ilikea, E Hīhīwai, and Pua Hone. Jeff attended Kamehameha High School and received his doctoral degree in Sociology, studying the development of Native Hawaiian health care beginning during the Kingdom Period. He was also a recipient of the Mary Kawena Pūku‘i Award while in graduate school at UHM. Jeff was a participant in the NEH Summer Institute on “Re-Imagining the Pacific” at the East-West Center. He has published papers and presented at international conferences on various topics including Native Hawaiian Folksong. In addition, Jeff co-wrote the feature screenplay The Sorcerers of Manā with Joel Moffett, about the first emergence of surfing in ancient Hawai‘i. Jeff was a Fulbright Scholar in Japan and an invited lecturer at several venues in Asia and the Pacific. He is currently the Chair of the Sociology Department at the College of St. Benedict and St. John’s University in Minnesota, where he teaches courses in Race and Ethnicity, Wealth and Poverty, and World Populations. His hobbies include playing slack-key guitar (kī hō‘alu).
Guitarist/composer Honybal Sosa is a guitar performance major at the University of Hawai‘i Mānoa. As a composer and sound designer, he has collaborated on original scores for multiple Leeward Theatre dramatic productions including Clockwork, Kīkaha ka Manu, A Dark and Stormy Knight, Tartuffe, and Secret in the Wings, and the Honolulu Theatre for Youth production of Duke. Honybal is the recipient of Po‘okela Awards in the area of Sound Design for Clockwork (2015), and the Adjudicator’s award for Secret in the Wings. He has performed alongside vocalist Starr Kalāhiki at The Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian in Washington D.C., at the l’Université de Poitiers, France as part of Festival À Corps, the Leeward Community College installation Ha‘ina Ka Puana, Soul Force Sacred Music Festival in Pasadena, CA, and Hawai‘i Island’s Lili‘uokalani Trust Performing Arts camp. He is a songwriter and performer for Lullaby Project Hawai‘i, a national endeavor facilitated by Carnegie Hall’s Weill Music Institute, and has been a member of Leeward CC Guitar Ensemble. Honybal currently works as a guitar and ukulele instructor at Chuck James Music School.
Robert Cornwall is a singer/songwriter who fell in love with the ukulele at the age of five and hasn’t put it down since. Formerly a vocalist with Na Kamali‘i O Iliahi, the Honolulu Boys Choir, and Leilehua Chorus, Rob joined The Lili‘u Project in 2017 and has performed with the ensemble in Poitiers, France as part of Festival À Corps, the Leeward Community College installation Ha‘ina Ka Puana, Soul Force Sacred Music Festival in Pasadena, CA, and most recently as an instructor at the Lili‘uokalani Trust Performing Arts camp in Kailua Kona. In 2016, 2017, and 2022, Rob participated in Lullaby Project Hawai‘i, a national endeavor facilitated by Carnegie Hall’s Weill Music Institute, and he is a Po‘okela Award recipient for his contribution to Secret in the Wings.
Singer/songwriter Analiese Esopenko is a veteran of Leeward Theatre’s Fall Main Stage productions, having collaborated as both composer and performer in Alice in Wonderland and Argonautika. She was a featured vocalist and songwriter on the Leeward Jazz Ensemble album u + i = 1. Annaliese has the unique distinction of participating in Lullaby Project Hawaiʻi as both mother and facilitator, performing her own lullaby at the Carnegie Hall Lullaby Project NYC sharing. She recently traveled to Austin Texas to perform at SXSW, and currently performs and records with her band The Mauve.
Aaron Garcia is a multi-instrumentalist, songwriter, composer, producer, and instructor. He is an original member of The Lili‘u Project ensemble and a performer/collaborator on the 2014 Leeward Theatre premiere. In 2019 he traveled with the ensemble to Pasadena, CA to perform at the inaugural Soul Force Sacred Music Festival. For the past decade, Aaron has been involved in writing, recording, and producing for his live bands as well as numerous solo projects. His credits include various genres including rock, pop, electronica, folk, country, and reggae. These include projects from his current primary bands; Spooky Couch, Faux de Tail, and Kahepana.
Kaiona Oana-Momoa is a Hawaiian singer, born and raised in Wai‘anae on the island of O‘ahu. Alumni of Ke Kula Kaiapuni ‘o Ānuenue, she was raised in an environment of hula, mele Hawai‘i and oli. Kaiona’s involvement in The Lili‘u Project began with their 2018 installation Ha‘ina Ka Puana, and in 2019 she traveled with the ensemble to Pasadena, CA to perform at the inaugural Soul Force Sacred Music Festival. Kaiona has been a participant in Lullaby Project Hawai‘i, and she is currently a musician for the Queens Waikiki Luau.
Sam Willis is a multi-instrumentalist, sound designer, composer, producer, and songwriter born and based in Wai‘anae, Hawai‘i. He is an original member of The Lili‘u Project ensemble and a performer/collaborator on the 2014 Leeward Theatre premiere. As a sound designer, Sam has collaborated on numerous Leeward Theatre productions including Secret in the Wings, Clockwork, A Dark and Stormy Knight, Alice in Wonderland, and Argonautika. He is the recipient of Po‘okela Awards in the area of Sound Design for Leeward Theatre’s Clockwork and Secret in the Wings. Sam co-composed Mylar Village for the UH Mānoa Dance department, and presented at the l’Université de Poitiers, France at Festival À Corps. As a studio musician, Sam has worked on electronic ambient genres and released the critically acclaimed album Medicine in the group alias 'Sandstars'. Sam maintains his interest in psychoacoustics and is pursuing his graduate studies at Hawaii Pacific University.
Ehulani Kāne is a Native Hawaiian mother, grandmother, actor, artist, activist, and teacher. She has performed throughout Hawai‘i and the continent. As a stage actress, she had principal roles in the Honolulu production of Waikīkī Nei, and the long-running Lahaina production of ‘Ulalena. On film, she is a long-time collaborator of Moloka‘i-based Matt Yamashita's Quazifilm Media, having worked on many of their films in the past. Additionally, she performed in many Hawai‘i-based narrative films, including Hawaiian Soul directed by Āina Paikai and Justyn Ah, Mauka to Makai directed by Alika Maikau and Jonah Okano, and Serenity directed by Grace Lim.
Donald Ranney Jr.
Scenic & Light Design
Donald J. Ranney Jr. still remembers learning to write “890 Lunalilo Home Road, Honolulu, Territory of Hawaii” as his home address back in the 50s. A graduate of both Chaminade College (now University) and the University of Hawaii, he has an M.F.A. degree in Theatre Design. In addition to being the technical director for LCC Theatre since 1977, he has done set and lighting designs for many leading dance and theatre companies in Hawaii, including Ballet Hawaii, Hawaii Ballet Theatre, Honolulu Dance Theatre, Tangentz Dance Theatre, Honolulu Theatre for Youth, Manoa Valley Theatre and others. His work has been seen in many productions by Tau Dance Theater and Iona Contemporary Dance Theatre, and most recently in Monkey Waterfall’s “Imaginary Homelands.”
Born and raised on Oʻahu, Claire has been involved in technical theatre, directly or indirectly, since she was two weeks old. More recently, she was at the Leeward Theatre for over 15 years, variously filling the roles of tech crew in set, lighting, and sound, as well as some design work. Her experience has given Claire the opportunity to work alongside talented professionals in a multitude of disciplines, including Monkey Waterfall’s “Imaginary Homelands” in 2022, Tau Dance Theatre’s “Ho‘ina” and On Ensemble’s performance at Leeward in 2019, and has afforded her the chance to collaborate with amazing artists like those involved in The Lili‘u Project.
Robert Massicotte hails from Montréal, and has worked for over 3 decades in television, theatre, cinema and entertainment. His award-winning work in live theatre includes video and projection design, storyboarding, set design, and video content design. Robert is a regular collaborator on numerous global productions including Cirque du Soleil, Les 7 doigts de la main, Cirque Éloize and Tu Butaca. In Hawaii, he was the stage designer for the Maui production of ʻUlalena, and he designed both stage and video for the Honolulu production Waikīkī Nei. Robert served as co-video designer and projectionist for the original Liliʻu Project premiere in 2014.