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Stories of Prominent People *L*

 

Hau‘oli Lā Hānau, e Lili‘uokalani

By Roy Alameida


Born on September 2, 1838 to High Chief Kapa‘akea and High Chiefess Keohokalole, Lili‘uokalani is one of several ali‘i not forgotten in the minds of many Hawaiians today. As queen of the Hawaiian kingdom, Lili‘uokalani was forced to give up her throne in 1893. But her love for the Hawaiian people is evident in her attempt to restore the monarchy. Her love is also shown in her accomplishment as a prolific song writer, composer and pianist.

Lili‘uokalani, at the age of 4, was educated, along with other ali‘i, at the Chiefs’ Children’s School in Honolulu. The school, operated by the American missionaries Amos and Juliette Cooke, was unique in that it provided ali‘i children with an education that instilled in them common principles, attitudes, and values as well as a shared vision. Also part of their education was training in music.

It was very likely that Lili‘uokalani began to compose music while a student at the school. Musically, she was perhaps the most gifted of her class and time. In her autobiography, Hawai‘i’s Story by Hawai‘i’s Queen, she admits that she could sight-read music at an early age. She writes: “In my school days my facility in reading music at sight was always recognized by my instructors.” After leaving school at the age of 10, she writes, “my musical education was continued from time to time as opportunity offered…To compose was as natural to me as to breathe.” She took her music training seriously and throughout her adult life never stopped educating herself musically. In addition to being an accomplished pianist, Lili‘uokalani also played the guitar, ukulele, and zither. The zither, popular at the time in Hawai‘i, the United States and Europe, was her favorite instrument. She also played the organ.

As a composer, she probably began at an early age as well. She writes in her autobiography, “I scarcely remember the days when it would not have been possible for me to write either the words or the music for any occasion on which poetry or song was needed.” Although the exact number of compositions is not known, she states that “I have never yet numbered my own compositions, but am sure that they must run well up to the hundreds.” As a composer and writer, Lili‘uokalani tried to blend Hawaiian music elements with the Western. Many of her compositions are strongly melodic evident in songs such as Aloha ‘Oe, the Queen’s Jubilee,” Ku‘u Pua I Paoakalani are still sung.

As a musician and composer, Lili‘uokalani was the most accomplished among her siblings—Kalākaua, Likelike, and Leleiōhoku. Her life, both public and private, was filled with musical activity. As Queen, she was constantly entertaining or being entertained by others. Her home and later ‘Iolani Palace were places for many musical performances and the Queen herself playing the piano, singing, or directing a chorus.

As we celebrate the birth of Queen Lili‘uokalani let us not forget her love for her people and her struggle to keep the Hawaiian kingdom an independent nation. Let us remind ourselves that the stalwart queen did what she thought was right but was forced to give up the throne for what others thought was wrong.


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