The Royal Hawaiian Band at Iolani Palace

King Kamehameha III is best remembered for three acts performed during his 30-year reign over the Hawaiian Kingdom; establishing a constitution for the Hawaiian people, reforming the land laws, and creating the Royal Hawaiian Band. Formed in 1836, the Royal Hawaiian Band was initially known as the King’s Band. The band originally performed at funerals, state occasions and during parades. Its first bandmaster was an African-American man known only as “Oliver.” Oliver performed in this position from 1836 until 1845, when George Washington Hyatt took over. Washington was also African-American, and a former slave who had escaped the United States, ending up in Hawaii and working as a musician for the band at its inception. In 1871, Kaiser Wilhelm I of Germany loaned Heinrich “Henri” Berger to King Kamehameha V to lead the King’s Band. During the reign of King Kalakaua, which began in 1877, Berger was officially appointed with the title of royal bandmaster. It was during Berger’s 44-year tenure as bandmaster that the Royal Hawaiian Band became a world renowned musical group. Berger exerted great influence by composing, arranging and publishing secular Hawaiian songs that were then played by the Royal Hawaiian Band. As bandmaster he conducted over 32,000 Royal Hawaiian Band concerts, including two tours of the United States mainland in 1905 and 1906. Returning back to Hawaii, the band continued to play important events around the city of Honolulu and the islands of Hawaii. At the 1909 inauguration for the first Mayor of the City of Honolulu (Joseph Fern) the band marched to the delight of everyone attending. During the grand opening of the Royal Hawaiian Hotel in 1927, the Royal Hawaiian Band was one of three bands to play at Honolulu’s grandest social event of the roaring 20s. The band eventually returned to the mainland United States in 1988 for a tour of Chicago, Milwaukee and New York City. On July 16, 1988 the Royal Hawaiian Band played at the prestigious Carnegie Hall with bandmaster Aaron David Mahi at the helm. The second oldest band in the United States, the Royal Hawaiian Band employs 40 full-time musicians. Each Friday, underneath the immense kapok tree fronting Iolani Palace, the Royal Hawaiian Band plays from noon to 1pm for the enjoyment of locals and visitors alike. For 175 years, the Royal Hawaiian Band has been a living link to the Hawaiian monarchy, and a perpetuation of aloha, through the gorgeous music they continue to perform.

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