Like its members’ crisp, pristine costumes, the lilting, sometimes haunting songs of the Ainahau o Kaleponi Hawaiian Civic Club chorale hark back to another era.
The chorale’s 31 men and women wear white and blue--peacock blue, after Hawaiian princess Kaiulani, who raised the proud birds on her home on land where Waikiki stands today.
Their songs, to be performed Saturday and Sunday at the Los Angeles Festival, are the language and music of old Hawaii--the Hawaii that existed under the royalty that was permanently displaced around the turn of the century.
“This is one of the many facets of traditional Hawaiian culture the civic-club membership strives to maintain,” said Janie Ka’ala Pang, education coordinator for the Huntington Beach-based club. Its 200 members, native Hawaiians and non-Hawaiians alike, preserve and perpetuate Hawaiian culture as well as promote health, education and welfare for Native Hawaiians living outside of the islands.
“Akaka Falls,” “Kuhio Bay” and the state’s national anthem, “Hawaii Ponoi,” are among the songs the group will sing, all a cappella, says chorale director Jay Mannion.
Hawaiian language is taught on the islands in grammar school through college, says Mannion, a non-Hawaiian of Portuguese descent who was born on Oahu and moved to California at 17. But that’s only a recent development. Mannion, 58, says he has learned much more about the language living here.
Six years ago, the Tustin resident went back to Oahu for a school reunion where one of his classmates sang in Hawaiian. To other classmates’ surprise, he was able to keep up with her, singing along under his breath.
“They said, ‘Where did you learn all those songs?’ and I said, ‘You come to California, we’ll teach you.’ Even they living there for 50 years don’t know the songs that I do.”