Queen Liliʻuokalaniʻs Songs — Looking for Recordings?

In 2010 there are several posts about archival sources for Queen Lili‘uokalaniʻs songs. It was on my mind to complement those posts with a post or two (or maybe more) about recordings. Here, at long last, is a roundup of some LPs and CDs that are prominently (or entirely) feature the Queenʻs songs.

Jack De Mello. The Music of Queen Liliuokalani (Kamokila K-700). circa late 1950s / early 1960s. Jack DeMello, historian, musicologist, arranger extraordinaire, and conductor. Mr. DeMello conducts arrangements for full orchestra that are based on the melodies in Lili‘uokalaniʻs manuscripts. While the arrangements are model examples of mastery in the craft of orchestration (for which there is so little opportunity nowadays to challenge contemporary musicians), these arrangements respect the tunes by framing, rather than overshadowing, the original source material. There are no vocals on this disc. However, we hear the tunes as Lili‘uokalani herself notated them. (Many of the orchestral arrangements reappear as accompaniment to recordings by Emma Veary.)

Charles K. L. Davis with the Kawaiaha‘o Church Choir, conducted by Daniel Akaka. Songs of Hawaiian Royalty (Royal RY-111). circa 1960s or early 1970s.  Charles K. L. Davis is an operatically trained tenor with experience in musical theater as well. So this recording reflects the spirit of mele Hawai‘i art songs as they were being premiered in the monarchy era: in concerts and recitals in Kawaiaha‘o church, featuring singers and instrumentalists known in the community as music teachers as well as performers, or featuring choral arrangements rehearsed by church choirs. This album showcases Mr. Davisʻs impeccable diction, and his vocal skill is enveloped by a tasteful choral enhancement delivered by the Kawaiaha‘o Church Choir. To my knowledge, tracks from the LP album have not be reissued. The LP appears from time to time on ebay.


The Galliard String Quartet. Songs of Liliuokalani (Wa Nui WN-4501, 1995). Instrumental arrangements for string quartet, performed by classically trained musicians who were members of the Honolulu Symphony Orchestra. Very pleasant.


Ozzie Kotani. To Honor a Queen: The Music of Lili‘uokalani (Dancing Cat 38018, 2002). An all-instrumental album of slack-key guitar arrangements. Quite a different vibe from the world of musicians trained in classical music and the environment of the recital hall (not a criticism; simply an observation). Slack-key guitarists are highly accomplished instrumentalists, and many have extended the tradition from traditional hula ku‘i repertoire into original compositions. Furthermore, the extensive documentation of slack key initiated by Dancing Cat Records in the 1990s, and the concertizing and touring in support of the CD issues, has brought kī hō‘alu slack key playing from its rural and informal roots into the concert hall world. So Ozzie Kotaniʻs sustained treatment of an entire group of Lili‘uokalaniʻs songs in slack key arrangements brings this repertoire into another artistic realm.

Ku‘uipo Kumukahi & The Hawaiian Music Hall of Fame Serenaders. Nā Lani ‘Ehā, 2007. A project of the non-profit organization Hawaiian Music Hall of Fame and Museum. The group produces annual galas to induct accomplished artists into the Hawaiian Music Hall of Fame; they have mounted informative exhibits in Honolulu on Hawaiian music history; and they are involved in statewide discussions to establish a museum of Hawaiian music and hula. The four royal siblings–King David Kalākaua, Queen Lili‘uokalani, Princess Miriam Likelike and Prince William Leleiohōkū–known as “Nā Lani ‘Ehā” have been adopted as the organization’s patrons. This recording, then, is a tribute project, featuring vocalist Ku‘uipo Kumukahi accompanied by The Hawaiian Music Hall of Fame Serenaders, who are Isaac Akuna, Joseph Winchester, and organization president James Kimo Stone. The song selections include songs not recorded in recent years, such as “Kīlaue” and “Wahine Hele La o Kaiona.”  The presentation here is guitar and ‘ukulele strumming in the vein of Eddie Kamae and the Sons of Hawai‘i. The CD received the Nā Hōkū Hanohano Award for Album of the Year in 2008.

A Tribute to Nā Lani ‘Ehā: Music of the Hawaiian Monarchy (Poki SP-9075, 2010). This tribute album features songs selected and presented by a range of popular artists currently active in Hawai‘i’s recording industry and entertainment scenes–Del Beazley, Manu Boyd, Teresa Bright, Kawaikapuokalani Hewett, Louis Moon Kauakahi, and Cyril Pahinui. While four of the six artists have released albums on the Poki Records label and its affiliate, Pumehana Records, all of the tracks featured on this particular album are newly-recorded. The song selections are, for the most part, well-known favorites. Kumu Hula Kawaikapuokalani Hewett contributes two of the most well-known hula ‘ōlapa chants that honor Lili‘uokalani–“Lili‘u E” and “‘Anapau.”

Lili‘uokalani (Legacy Hula Vol. 3). (Daniel Ho Creations DHC-80081, 2010). Queen Lili‘uokalani’s reputation as a gifted and revered songwriter is renowned. So much so that the phrase “Queen Lili‘uokalani’s songs” usually does not bring to mind the dozens of her mele compositions for hula, as well as the dozens, if not hundreds, of mele composed in her honor. This project is a window onto that facet of artistic activity that delves into Hawaiian-language newspapers and unpublished manuscript sources from the 1890s. The settings are contemporary, by kumu hula who are members of Kūlia i ka Pūnāwai (Kumu Hula Association of Southern California). This CD includes a set of four mele composed by Lili‘uokalani in honor of her husband, Gov. John Dominis, as well as two other sets of mele composed by others in her honor.

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1 Response to Queen Liliʻuokalaniʻs Songs — Looking for Recordings?

  1. Auntie Maria says:

    One more for your list, Amy — George Kahumoku’s “E Lili`u”:

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