Music Post: The pledge drive shows

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Maybe it’s fitting that a show that little resembles any other show should behave differently during pledge drives.

The original thinking at HPR was that 6 a.m. was too early to expect anyone to call in a pledge, and perhaps too early to ask volunteers to come in to answer such hypothetical calls.

But approaching the question from the view of a long-time listener, I could say, as George Bernard Shaw did when asked why he reviewed concerts for London newspapers, “I desire certain reforms.”

So one year I asked the station to start the drive at 6 a.m. instead of 7:20 a.m., the management agreed, and members of the Society of Odd Fellows kindly agreed to come in early and field calls. I mentioned no freebies, interviewed no guests, just gave the phone number for anyone who felt like making a pledge, and we raised a couple grand, some from people who had never called before.

We’ve done it ever since, with the model quickly evolving to include one more key bit: lots of short pieces. I can honestly say I play more individual pieces of music during the pledge drive even than usually.

There isn’t any theme, but there is a lot of variety, including novelty records that never get onto “Howard’s Day Off” any other day.

Saturday you’ll hear the Turtle Island String Quartet playing a composed mash-up of the 5/4 “waltz” from Tchaikovsky’s Sixth Symphony and “The Girl from Ipanema,” which therefore becomes, “The Girl from Pathetique.”

And you’ll hear the Hampton String Quartet performing Grace Slick’s “White Rabbit.” Later they’ll do that other string quartet standard, “Stop in the Name of Love.”

The Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain will perform Steely Dan’s “Rikki Don’t Lose That Number” as if it were an Irish tune – no one will be more surprised than Walter Becker and Donald Fagen – while bassists Slam Stewart and Major Holley perform “Tomorrow” from “Annie.” You’ll also hear the Spice Girls hit “Wannabe” performed by the London Double Bass Sound, which some may consider an improvement on the original. Later, the Phat Bottom Tubas will do “Another One Bites the Dust.”

And in case Walter Becker, who lives on Maui, is appalled, we should reward him for tolerating it, so we’ll also play Rose Murphy imposing her patter and giggles on “A Shanty in Old Shanty Town.”

Jeff Peterson will play the jazz standard “Don’t Get Around Much Any More,” transforming it into a slack-key tune. Larry Coryell, whom we lost recently, performs a movement from “Scheherazade” on acoustic guitar, a revelation to anyone who thought the beauty Rimsky-Korsakov’s music relied on his skill at orchestral color. Jake Shimabukuro, who recently premiered the world’s first ukulele concerto, will do a rock version of the middle, now titled, “Tritone.”

Not only is this just a partial list of what’s cued up for the program, but instead of the usual Sunday evening rerun I’ll come into the station to do an altered live show which I haven’t finished at this writing.

Each hour of “Day Off” will also include a selection from the Top 100 Classics countdown, based on HPR listener requests.

“Howard’s Day Off” now airs live 5am-7am HST Saturdays, and 5pm-7pm HST Sundays, on KIPO Honolulu, KIPM Waikapu, KIPH Hana and KAHU Pahala and streams live on www.hawaiipublicradio.org .

You’re invited to join the Howard’s Day Off Listener Appreciation Society on Facebook.

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