Concert at the Palace Theater. Ho’okia’i Lili’uokalani: Ahe Lau Makani

Concert at the Palace Theater. Ho'okia'i Lili'uokalani: Ahe Lau Makani

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An afternoon of the Queen’s music and her final journey.

Cymber Lily Quinn first moved to the Hilo area in 2004, and met the Queen’s music through Keola Beamer’s lovely interpretation of “Sanoe.” Cymber quickly fell in love with slack key music and a deeper affair with modern Hawaiian music in general.

At a visit to Queen Emma’s Summer Palace on O’ahu, Cymber found “The Queen’s Songbook,” the music of Queen Lilu’okalani, and began studying the stories and structures behind her songs. From the beginning, Cymber felt a deep but mysterious familiarity in the Queen’s music. “How could a culture so different produce music that felt so homey?” she wondered.

By tracing the lineage of the Queen’s influences, Cymber realized that the music had come from American missionaries and other church influences from the East Coast. That church music had in turn traveled hundreds of years before from England and Europe, where Cymber’s ancestors had immigrated from in 1638. The folk music of Cymber’s ancient Welsh ancestors had started traveling to America in the guise of church music 400 years ago. The music traveled again to meet Queen Lili’uokalani, who took to it like a fish to water…

When Cymber first arrived in Hawai’i in 2004, she heard modern Hawaiian music and immediately thought it would sound great on her own instrument, the harp. But sensitive to cultural appropriation, she played the Queen’s music in private for years, looking for a way to bring the music out that honored the Queen and Hawaiian culture. She found her link when she discovered that the autoharp was one of Her Majesty’s favorite instruments for composing.

Around the same time, she was introduced to Kathy Dorn, flutist, who also has a deep affection and respect for the Queen’s music and its place in Hawai’i’s story. Kathy and Cymber have performed the Queen’s music for Hospice of Hilo Benefit Concert, Music in Lili’uoklani Gardens, for the 100th Memorial Service for Her Majesty, and now today’s performance.


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