O'ahu's biggest falsetto contest heads into a second decade without its namesake.
For 10 years, the Frank B. Shaner Falsetto Contest has been one of Hawai’i’s premier showcases for the traditional Hawaiian musical form. This month, though, the 11th annual contest has a new name: The Aloha Festivals Hawaiian Fal- setto Contest on O’ahu. Founder Frank B. Shaner has taken his name off the event.
It’s an amiable parting, at least publicly. “I have nothing but good
things to say about the contest,” Shaner says. “I’m still a huge supporter
of falsetto in Hawai’i, and it’s important that the contest continues
on. It was just time to do something new.”
This isn’t the first big change for Shaner in recent years: In January 2004, he was suddenly dismissed from Hawaiian 105 KINE FM, where he had been a popular morning-show personality.
But new event co-host Harry B. Soria says rebranding has been in the works for a while. “I think they’re just moving the focus more on the art form itself, and less on the personality. From what I’ve been told, the agreement has been that they would finish off the decade as the Frank B. Shaner Contest, and the next decade would be more in line with the larger Aloha Festivals vision,” he says.
In any case, the falsetto will live on. Charlian Wright, executive director of Aloha Festivals, says, “Frank has been the mouthpiece for 10 years. But falsetto has been a part of Hawai’i’s traditional culture for a long time, and it’s something that we’re going to continue to maintain as a part of Aloha Festivals.”
It’ll be hard to fill Shaner’s shoes; his force of personality helped make the O’ahu falsetto contest an Island tradition.
Shaner actually has a decent falsetto; he was inspired to create the O’ahu contest as a contestant in the Clyde “Kindy” Sproat Falsetto and Storytelling Contest on the Big Island.
“What Frank did can never be duplicated or surpassed,” Soria says. “He really built a tradition, and many young people now aspire to compete in this event. You can’t thank him enough for what he did.”
Soria, longtime host of the Territorial Airwaves radio show, will be sharing hosting duties with performer Karen Keawehawai’i. He’s planning a program that pays tribute to three legendary pioneers of falsetto: Mahi Beamer, Bill Lincoln and Joe Keawe.
And what’s Shaner up to next? “I’m looking at doing something maybe next
year, but my life has taken a whole different turn,” he says. “These days,
I’m just cooling it.”