On being Hawaiian

9 01 2018

Hawaiians are gearing up for a ceremonial observance on January 17 of the overthrow of Queen Liliʻuokalani 125 year’s ago. I am Hawaiian.

I won’t be marching from Mauna Ala down Nuuanu Avenue and King street to Iolani Palace as I did in 1993 for the 100th observance, but I will be near the Iolani Palace bandstand in an information booth set up by the Ka Lāhui Hawaiʻi Political Action Committee. I am a citizen of Ka Lāhui Hawaiʻi.

Last night I attended the first of several Mele Workshops taught by Kumu Hinaleimoana Wong to learn more about the songs of our nation. She entitled it “I Welo Mau Loa Kuʻu Hae Hawaiʻi / May my Hawaiian flag fly evermore…”

Kumu Hina

Kumu Hina wrote, “No matter the politics that divide us, let us unite through the bonds of our language, culture and our history.”

Mahalo e Kumu Hina.

I am compelled to encourage citizens to attend one of the remaining free workshops scheduled on Oahu. They are open to all. You will learn the songs, what the Hawaiian lyrics mean, and the tertiary kaona of the words. Kumu Hina’s manaʻo is inspiring and uplifting.

Schedule of Mele Workshops. Go!

125 years ago was not that long ago, Kumu Hina pointed out. When it was revealed at the workshop that I was the eldest person in the room, she said, “your grandparents’ generation.”

Yes, my maternal Chinese grandfather spoke Hawaiian, but his 15 children were forbidden to speak it in school. Unfortunately, I do not ʻōlelo either, but I love to sing Hawaiian songs.

ʻOnipaʻa kākou.

If you go ~ As I write this, the schedule of events for January 17, 2018, is flexible, except for the 10:45 a.m. raising of Hae Hawaiʻi at ʻIolani Palace, the exact time it was lowered and replaced by the American flag in 1893.

He Mele Lāhui Hawaiʻi

29 03 2017

“He Mele Lāhui Hawaiʻi (The Hawaiian National Anthem),” composed by Hawaiʻi’s Queen Liliʻuokalani in 1866, is her first published song. Our choirs performed it in March 2017 on Prince Kuhio’s birthday at the Ke Ahe Lau Makani Festival of Hawaiian Choral Music, directed by Nola A. Nahulu, at Kawaiahaʻo Church. “He Mele Lāhui Hawaiʻi was the official anthem until “Hawaiʻi Ponoʻi” (composed in 1876) replaced it. It was my honor to sing in the choir. The video was first posted on my Facebook page. Mahalo to festival coordinator Phil Hidalgo. Pete Krape (DH to studio fans) was the videographer. Please click on this link:

Moving forward in the new year

16 01 2016

Good morning, studio fans! This is my belated new-year message for 2016. It usually takes a while to get my ʻōkole in gear after the holidays and the lovely celebrations for my birthday in early January. Yesterday I was most inspired by the Royal Hawaiian Band concert at the palace grounds, where I walked after lunching with a friend in downtown Honolulu.

ʻIolani Palace grounds during the Friday noontime performance by the Royal Hawaiian Band draws an appreciative public

ʻIolani Palace grounds during the Friday noontime performance by the Royal Hawaiian Band draws an appreciative audience.

The program featured the music of Liliʻuokalani in remembrance of the overthrow of the Hawaiian Kingdom in 1893. My friend Malia is the Band’s soloist, and I was glad to hear her sing. She is a phenomenal vocalist. What a gift she has. The entire program was very uplifting. I awoke this morning with the tunes in my head and a vow to keep music in my life; learn or practice something new every day. Reminder number one!

Reminder number two: Take time to socialize with others and make friends, especially as I grow older, to keep my attitude and perspective in check. Besides, it’s fun! Becky, the friend I lunched with (she is like a sister to me)  listened as I inventoried my current health issues (I go in for an annual physical around my birthday). I thought she was being sympathetic, but being younger, she said her interest was in learning what problems she might expect for herself in the future. Humph. We had a good laugh over that one!

Reminder number three plus: Be aware of teachable moments and be kind. In Hawaiʻi, Sovereignty Sunday (remembering the overthrow) coincides with Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Miss Marvelous, 6, is in first grade and reads now, lending to interesting conversations between grandparent and grandchild. For example, she reported that she is learning “mindfulness” in school. The other day she asked me, “Am I white?” to which I countered, “What do you mean?”

Big sigh. “You know, a long time ago, maybe the Russians and the Germans couldn’t marry. I’m talking about ancient history,” the child said. “And that King!” Clearly she wanted an answer, and I almost forgot the original question.

I’m drawn to her (my) confusion. King Kamehameha? King Kalākaua?

“Papa, help us out here.”

DH offers, “Martin Luther King?”
Ohhh… (lightbulb)…

“Well, Ayla, if you are asking about the color of your skin or descending from Caucasoids, then yes, you are White,” I said.

Judging the expression on her face, I detected it was a complicated issue in her mind, as she lost interest and ran off to play, as I hoped she would hear me say, “Peoples’ skins on the outside are different colors, but on the inside our hearts are the same.”

As I mused, if she is white, what am I: brown? yellow? beige?

(Copyright 2016 Rebekah Luke)

Singing the Queen’s music

31 08 2014

Today it was my honor and joy to take part in the interfaith prayer service with Nā Pua O Liliʻuokalani — the combined choirs from Kawaiahaʻo Church, University of Hawai‘i, Kawaiolaonāpūkanileo and Friends — on the beautiful grounds of ‘Iolani Palace, in celebration of Queen Lili’uokalani’s 176th birthday. Nola Nahulu was the musical director. (Peter Krape photo)

Music, music, music

24 08 2014

A musical summer. That’s what I’m having. A time to renew friendships, too. I’m back in the studio and excited to tell what’s been happening!

Since making the 12-foot-long lei for the Pacific Cup yachts—I went for the third time to sing and conduct with Prof. Rod Eichenberger in Cannon Beach, Oregon, a pilgrimage made by at least a hundred choir directors and music educators from all over the globe every summer. For me, and apparently many others, it is addicting to learn from the master, who has taught his tried-and-true method for 60 years. Each year he also shares what he learned the earlier 12 months. He teaches how to get a good sound out of a choir, how to save rehearsal time, and how to manage a choir.

Five days, almost 200 pieces of new music from publishers to sight-read, 20 “student” conductors—some already are extremely accomplished, wow! so very humbling—and a public concert on the fifth night. I am sort of misfit, neither an active choir director nor music educator, although I have done some of it. Love working on my skills. Of course, by way of introduction, folks ask, “What do you do?”  I’m a choral singer!


Me and Rod after the concert

It was fun to see familiar faces and to talk about the music culture. Everyone is so busy during the academic year. Summer is a great time to catch up. It’s like a retreat or music camp in a resort venue. Next year’s Choral Conductors Workshop is already scheduled for the last week of July 2015. Interested?

While in Oregon I visited with Jon and my hanai sister Margaret in Tualatin who graciously loaned me their van to drive to the beach, and who took care of me when I returned after the workshop with no speaking voice. I think it was a “bug” I picked up on the plane.

I love Facebook. A new friend, Kasey who lives nearby, posted a call for singers to join the noted 12-member Hawaiian choir Kawaiolaonāpūkanileo this season. The director calls it “project-based singing.” I asked to join and was accepted!

The first event is “Onipa‘a,” at 11 a.m., on Sunday, Aug. 31, at ‘Iolani Palace, Honolulu, celebrating Queen Lili‘uokalani’s birthday. We are singing her compositions as well as some songs written about/for her. These are in the Hawaiian language, and we are singing all the verses! So thankful I practiced with Rod last month.

‘Iolani Palace

‘Iolani Palace

The second project is “‘Emalani II,” a Hawaiian opera: two performances—3 p.m. and 6 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 15, at St. Andrew’s Cathedral, Honolulu. Other choirs have roles, too.

Understandably, one has to commit to all the rehearsals. Luckily, there are none in September, so I can go with DH to Pennsylvania for his high school reunion, to visit his family there,  and to call on our friends in Massachusetts. Road trip!

My high school alumni glee club resumes rehearsing after the summer break, too. It will be great to sing and perform with the gang. I love music!

Copyright 2014 Rebekah Luke

Alii Sunday at Kawaiahao

31 08 2009

Liliu's portrait

Yesterday was Alii Sunday at Kawaiahao Church in Honolulu, honoring Queen Liliuokalani (b. 1838-d. 1917), sister of King David Kalakaua. She reigned as the last monarch of Hawaii from 1891 to 1893 when she was overthrown. Her birthday is September 2.

Each Alii Sunday, the Hawaiian Royal Societies and other ahahui (Hawaiian clubs) walk in the  processional, and the front pews are reserved for them.

Yesterday I attended as a member of the Koolauloa Hawaiian Civic Club with Kamakea, our vice president. We rode in to Honolulu with her son Kaimana, who is a member of the Royal Order of Kamehameha I.

This post shares the highlights for me. You may wish to go sometime. Visitors are welcome to Sunday worship service. Portions are in the Hawaiian language. Kawaiahao is part of the United Church of Christ.

Kawaiahao Church is on the corner of King and Punchbowl streets. A plaque describes its construction

Kawaiahao Church is on the corner of King and Punchbowl streets. A plaque describes its construction.

Kawaiahao plaque

The Hawaiian Royal Societies, or Aha Hipuu, are a special sight. They include:

Royal Order of Kamehameha I who wear red and yellow capes over black suits. The different patterns and lengths of the capes indicate rank.

• Hale O Na Alii O Hawaii, whose members wear white with red and yellow capes. Hale O Na Alii O Hawaii at Kawaiahao

Ahahui Kaahumanu, whose formal attire consists of black muumuus, black hats and deep-yellow lei resembling feathers.

Ahahui Mamakakaua—Daughters and Sons of the Hawaiian Warriors wear black with red, black, and yellow capes (some capes have green).

Other groups who were represented on Alii Sunday were the Daughters of Hawaii in their pure white hats and muumuus (they operate the Queen Emma Summer Palace), the children of Queen Liliuokalani Children’s Center (QLCC is supported by Liliu’s estate, and its beneficiaries are the orphan and destitute children in Hawaii with preference to those of Hawaiian ancestry), and the Association of Hawaiian Civic Clubs that strung crown flowers into 52 strands of lei to drape on the statue of Queen Liliuokalani at the Hawaii State Capitol following the service.

Crown flower was Queen’s favorite. The lavender blossom drapes the left side of her portrait, at the top of this post, and the altar in the next photo.

Kawaiahao interior

At left are the Ahahui Kaahumanu ladies in their formal black in the foreground. Aunty Ilima and Aunty Millie in purple muumuu sing Liliuokalani’s compositions, “Tutu” and “Paoakalani.” [See comment below.]

The church service itself was more lively and less formal than the congregational ones I attended in high school, about the last time I went. Admittedly, that was a few decades ago!

Kalowena gave a tribute to Queen Liliuokalani, and in her remarks she wondered, if Liliu’s time and our time coincided, would Google have given her an edge in maintaining Hawaii’s place in the world? Would her compositions be on iTunes, and would she be blogging and twittering?

This Sunday there was frequent applause, lots of “Amens” by the whole congregation, a testimony by a recent member for the sermon, and a hip-hop dance performance of the Black Eyed Peas’s “Where is the Love” by the youth ensemble. Apart from the pipe organist and choir in the back balcony, there was an ohana (family) choir of anyone else who wanted to sing from the front of the church.

Until she became Queen, Liliuokalani led the Kawaiahao Church choir. She composed more than 150 songs. Some were lyrics only, some were melodies without lyrics, and the rest were full arrangements. At Sunday’s service we sang “The Queen’s Prayer.” A fitting recessional was her “Aloha Oe” now famous around the world. I felt so sad.  ~ Rebekah

[See comment at the bottom.]

If you go …

Do view the 20 original portraits in oil painted by Susan S. Hoffstot entitled “Alii of Hawaii — The Hoffstot Collection” that are displayed on the walls of the right and left balconies. These were a gift from the artist and her husband William H. Hoffstot, Jr., “… to the glory of God, the honor of the Hawaiian people and the enrichment of the State of Hawaii” and dedicated on September 2, 1973.

[UPDATE: The portraits were painted by Patric Bauernschmidt, not Susan S. Hoffstot. Please read the comment by Patric’s granddaughter André below.]

In addition to the church building are other historical structures. One is the tomb of King Lunalilo. Read the plaque explaining why Lunalilo is not buried at the Royal Mausoleum with the other monarchs.

Lunalilo's tomb

Another is a fountain on the King street side of the church. That’s the Library of Hawaii and Honolulu Hale city hall in the background.

Kawaiahao fountain

Kawaiahao fountain sign

The motto translates, "The life of the land is perpetuated in righteousness."

And a third is the seal on the gate to Lunalilo's tomb. "Ua mau ke ea o ka aina i ka pono." This motto became the Hawaii state motto, and it means, "The life of the land is perpetuated in righteousness."

Copyright 2009 Rebekah Luke

Rev. Rebekah Luke has a healing ministry and is ordained by the Universal Life Church. The only two tenets of the ULC are “Freedom of religion” and “Do the right thing.” For more information, click on REIKI HEALING BY OELEN on the menu bar.

Suggested reading:

Liliuokalani. Hawaii’s Story by Hawaii’s Queen. Mutual Publishing, 1991. ISBN 978-0935180855 Paperbound.

Liliuokalani, Her Majesty Queen. The Queen’s Songbook. Honolulu: Hui Hanai, 1999. Edited by Dorothy Kahananui Gillett and Barbara Barnard Smith. ISBN 0-9616738-7-7 Clothbound Edition and ISBN 0-9616738-8-5 Paperbound Edition.

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