When Arlene Kon heard the full Royal Hawaiian Band was going to be on Kauai for the first time in 87 years, she couldn’t wait for the concert at Prince Kuhio Park. She and friends, she said, were not going to miss it.
They didn’t. And they were rewarded with a performance on Saturday that touched their hearts.
Kon said she cried often as she listened to the music that highlighted Hawaiian culture, history and language.
“I wish we had a tape of the whole thing,” Kon said. “You could feel the spirits. They were here.”
The crowd of about 1,000 applauded, smiled and laughed — and some wiped away tears — throughout the emotional concert that started in the morning with Darryl Gonzales, continued with Palani Vaughan and the Kings Own, and wrapped up with the Royal Hawaiian Band.
A few morning rain showers gave way to afternoon sunshine as bandmaster Clarke Bright guided the energetic performance of the 41-member group.
Whether the band played a waltz, a medley or “Hanalei Moon,” the crowd roared in response throughout the RHB’s 90 minutes of musical magic. Master of ceremonies Kimo Kahoano interjected song and dance, colorful comments and jokes between songs that kept the crowd grinning.
The band performs almost exclusively on Oahu, so Bright said they never know quite what to expect when leaving their home territory. The greeting on Kauai, he said, was amazing and they were honored to be here.
“The kind of support and genuine appreciation for the Royal Hawaiian Band here was phenomenal, absolutely phenomenal,” he said. “We don’t want to wait another 87 years to come back. There’s an obvious appreciation and love for the culture, for the music and for the band.”
Dickie Chang, one of the organizers of the event along with Chucky Boy Chock and Paul Horner, said things couldn’t have gone better. If anything, the event exceeded expectations and united the South Shore to pull it off, Chang said.
The three worked together on the proposal to bring the full band to Kauai for the first time since 1928, mostly as a treat for the island’s kupuna.
The concert was held where Prince Kuhio was born in 1871. The performance was also a tribute to the prince, who was raised in Koloa.
It was more than a concert, Chang said. It was a community celebration.
“It was beautiful,” he said. “It was fabulously fantastic. Look at the success. This place was packed.”
He noted that the crowd included locals and visitors. He was thrilled that the event — tickets were just $10 — received such support and love from the community.
“It’s like, crazy,” he said. “How often do you get an event that so many people cried? There was lots of emotion.”
Ihiihinui Kanealii said the last time she saw the Royal Hawaiian Band, which was founded in 1836 by King Kamehameha III and is the only band in the United States with a royal legacy, was more than 40 years ago. She said Saturday’s show brought back wonderful memories.
“This was far out. I love it. I want them to come back again,” she said. “Once a year would be beautiful.”
It was the first time for Kuulei Vidinha to see the RHB. She said the concert was “wonderful, awesome, you name it.”
“I’m so glad they came here,” she said.
Lorraine Wichman described the band’s performance as very moving, giving her “chicken skin,” she said.
“It’s what my grandparents experienced and great-grandparents experienced,” she said. “I hope my kids will be able to see this on Kauai.”
Proceeds of the event will benefit the Kauai Museum and the Royal Order of Kamehameha Kaumualii Chapter.