Joseph Kekuku Hawaiian steel guitar festival returns to Dover

| 28 Sep 2011 | 02:55

    SPARTA-Steel guitar performers and groups from around the country will stage the second annual Joseph Kekuku Hawaiian Steel Guitar Festival Oct. 8 at Dover's historic Baker Theater located at 41 W. Blackwell St. Highlighting this year's festival will be the Moonlighters, a Hawaiian style band featuring music from the 1920s and 30s, harmonizing to the sounds of the steel guitar, ukulele, guitar and bass. The festival is named for the man who invented the Hawaiian steel guitar in 1885. Joseph Kekuku resided in Dover in his later years and is buried in the Orchard St. Cemetery. Other featured artists include the Cokers, a husband and wife duo from Texas; Uke Jackson, who has performed on television in New York City and has his own radio show on WNTI in Hackettstown; and the Ewa Hawaiian Trio, a New York City group that performs "hot" style Hawaiian music on vintage National Steel instruments. Other performers include Mike Scott, a Hawaiian guitar player from the Hawaiian Steel Guitar Association, and Gene Wilson, from Mt. View, Ark., who plays acoustic steel guitar learned from the Oahu School of Music. Lorene Ruymar and her husband will travel from Vancouver, B. C., Canada. Ms. Ruymar is the author of The Hawaiian Steel Guitar and Its Great Hawaiian Musicians, considered the "bible" of Hawaiian steel guitar music. Larry Catrone, popular comic and playwright, will perform a routine with his ukulele. Dave Giegrich of Ellicott, Md., will play steel guitar with the Hula Monsters. Dr. Robert Garth of Sparta, a chiropractor and self-taught Hawaiian steel guitar player, will also perform. A member of the Hawaiian Steel Guitar Association, Dr. Garth performs regularly at the group's annual convention in Joliet, Ill., as well as locally in Sussex County. He is assisting the Dover Renaissance Organization and the Dover Area Historical Society in organizing the festival. Mike Esposito of Chester, co-founder of the festival, has been performing on the National steel guitar since the early 1970s. He has worked with such artists as Asleep at the Wheel, the Ventures, Bill Monroe and John Hartford. It was Esposito who suggested that the Dover Area Historical Society organize an event to honor Mr. Kekuku's memory and raise enough money to erect a new monument at his gravesite. The society, together with the Dover Renaissance organization and the Hawaiian Steel Guitar Association, plan the one-day festival each year. This year's festival activities will begin at 4 p.m. Oct. 8 with a memorial service at Kekuku's gravesite. In addition to an English-style service, a Hawaiian-style ceremony will be conducted, featuring the islands' customs, costumes, dance and chants. A social hour and a light buffet dinner will take place at the Baker at 6 p.m., with the stage presentation of steel guitar music and entertainment starting at 8 p.m. On Sunday, after a morning visit to the downtown flea market, there will be a farewell ceremony at the gravesite of Joseph Kekuku starting at noon. Kekuku settled in Dover in the late 1920s, supporting himself by giving music lessons. He died in 1932 while residing at 88 Prospect St. and was buried in the nearby Orchard Street Cemetery. Tickets are $26 for the dinner and show; $10 for the show only, with balcony seating. Tickets are available on-line at For more information call 973-366-0996.