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date: 11 November 2019


  • Jay W. Junker


Hawaiian family of musicians. The Beamer family has produced significant performers, composers, and teachers across the spectrum of Hawaiian music genres, from chant and hula to art song, falsetto singing, and slack key. They trace their musical lineage back to the 15th century when mele oli (a capella chant) and mele hula kahiko (chant with percussion and choreography tied to the text) constituted Hawaiian musical expression. In the early 19th century chant and hula were suppressed and the Beamers were among those who helped reintroduce them into the mainstream. Members of the family have also been innovators, open to new musical ideas that reinforce core Hawaiian concepts or functions.

Helen Desha “Sweetheart Grandma” Beamer (1882–1952) composed songs that combine Hawaiian poetic sensibility with Western ideas of melody and harmony. Many have become standards such as “Kimo Hula” composed to honor a friend, “Na Kuahiwi ‘Elima,” about five mountains she observed on a trip near her home, and “Kawohikukapulani,” created for her youngest daughter’s wedding. She also taught hula and chant. Not only were her husband Carl and five children musical but she also musically trained her 18 grandchildren, all of whom became accomplished performers. Two established themselves as leading figures of their generation....

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