Thursday, July 29, 2010

Treasure Chest Thursday- A Song by Lili'uokalani

"Aloha Oe" seen in a historical display in the lobby of the Waikiki Marriott

We heard the song "Aloha Oe" all over Hawaii.  In English it is called "Farewell to Thee".  If you heard it you would also recognize it, too. I remember learning it in primary school, as part of a world music study.   It is the most popular song written by Queen Lili'uokalani, and perhaps the most popular song to come from Hawaii other than "Tiny Bubbles" (which has nothing to do with the Hawaii, it was just popularized by entertainer Don Ho at his nightclub shows in Honolulu). 

This song was written in 1877 after a trip to the windward side of Oahu.  The Queen, who wrote over 100 musical compositions in her lifetime, witnessed two lovers embracing as a farewell.  This inspired her to write the song after she returned to Honolulu.  There is a common myth that states the Queen wrote it during her imprisonment in Iolani Palace after the overthrow of the Kingdom, but that is just a story perpetuated by tour guides.  The song she actually wrote during her imprisonment is another tune called "The Queen's Prayer".

On our trip, bands and  musicians would often sing "Aloha Oe" as a sign off song.  It was used in films and orientation videos.  We took a movie tour on the island of Kauai, where many feature films were produced, and that is when I saw Elvis sing it as part of the movie "Blue Hawaii'.   I never really listened to any Elvis song (he was well before my time!), and never saw any of his movies, but this three minute clip of his movie grabbed my attention!  I might even rent the DVD sometime next week! 

This song has been recorded by many artists other than Elvis Presley.  There are "Aloha Oe" recordings by Johnny Cash, Don Ho, the Galliard String Quartet, Bing Crosby, and the Royal Hawaiian Band.  It's too bad that the Queen's charity, the Lili'uokalani Children's Centers seen all over Hawaii, doesn't receive a royalty on these CDs, performances and records.

Please check out the website  for the lyrics to "Aloha Oe" in both Hawaiian and English, with more about the story of its origins.   The Palace Shop at the Iolani Palace carries a reproduction of the original sheet music by Queen Lili'uokalani.  I bought several copies for the musical folks in my family, as well as the sheet music for "The Queen's Prayer".   The website for Iolani Palace is and they take phone and mailed orders (you can print out an order form), but they do not offer ordering online.

Copyright 2010, Heather Wilkinson Rojo

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