Aloha ‘Oe (satb)
Aloha ‘Oe ranks as Queen Lili‘uokalani’s most well known song. The work’s genesis lies in an 1877 tour of O‘ahu by then-Princess Lili‘uokalani on the ocassion of her designation as heir apparent to the throne. On the tour, she and her entourage visited a ranch in Maunawili, a small area aside the Ko‘olau Mountains and on the windward side of O‘ahu. As the story goes, when the party left to return to Honolulu, one member of the group, Colonel Boyd, stayed behind a moment to receive both a lei and ‘fond embrace’ from one of the young woman at the ranch. Inspired by this loving farewell, Lili‘uoklani began to hum the tune and craft the lyrics during the trip over the mountains back to Honolulu. Lili‘uokalani’s tune closely resembles The Lone Rock by the Sea, an American song popular in the 1850s.
Since its composition, Aloha ‘Oe has inspired musicians and listeners far beyond Hawai‘i’s shores. Elvis Presley recorded it in 1961 and Johnny Cash’s posthumous album from 2010 concludes with Cash’s own rendition. This setting presents an arrangement true to the Queen’s original melody and lyrics set for mixed voices, soloist, and piano.
Recording: 2017 Nā Leo Hou Festival Choir—Dr. Karen Kennedy, conductor
Central Union Church, Honolulu, Hawai‘i—February, 2017