From its royal beginnings in 1836, the Royal Hawaiian Band has entertained audiences in Hawai‘i and around the world for over 175 years. The “King’s Band,” as it was once known, was founded by King Kamehameha III and became a staple of daily life by performing for state occasions, funerals, and marching in parades. The band accompanied reigning monarchs of the time on frequent trips to the outer islands and brought their music to remote destinations of the kingdom such as the leper colony of Kalaupapa on the island of Molokai.
Leading the band at that time was Heinrich (Henry) Berger, who remains the most influential bandmaster to shape the band as we know it. His musical setting of the “Hymn of Kamehameha I” would eventually become the Hawaiian national, and now state anthem “Hawai‘i Pono‘ī.” Thus for his contributions to the band and Hawaiian music in general, Berger became known as the “Father of Hawaiian Music.”
As the band grew in prominence, it made its first voyage outside of the kingdom to participate in a band competition held in San Francisco. There the band took first prize amidst stiff competition from bands all across the country. This would mark the first of many major trips undertaken by the band which would draw attention to the beautiful music of the Hawaiian Islands. Since then, the band has traveled to Japan, Canada, Europe, and various points across the US, including a performance at Carnegie Hall in New York City. In September 2005, the band took a goodwill tour to Japan where it performed with ten Japanese hula hālau, enthralling audiences out of their seats!
Today, the Royal Hawaiian Band is an agency of the City and County of Honolulu and is the only full-time municipal band in the United States. The band performs and marches in over 300 concerts and parades each year including: city, state, and military functions; schools, community centers, shopping malls, retirement communities, graduations, and private events. Weekly public performances are held on Fridays at ‘Iolani Palace and Sundays at the Kapi‘olani Park Bandstand.