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Henri Berger, standing in front, is the Father of the Royal Hawaiian Band, the oldest municipal band in the United States.

Henri Berger (August 4, 1844, Berlin – October 14, 1929, Honolulu) was a composer and royal bandmaster of the Kingdom of Hawaiʻi from 1872 to his death.

Berger was born Heinrich August Wilhelm Berger in Prussia and became a member of Germany's imperial army band. He worked under the composer and royal bandmaster of Germany, Johann Strauss, Jr. Originally, the Kaiser of Germany loaned Berger to King David Kalākaua to conduct the king's band. In 1877, Kalākaua appointed Berger to full leadership of the Royal Hawaiian Band. In 1879, he became a naturalized citizen of Hawaiʻi.

Berger befriended the future Queen Liliʻuokalani, a composer in her own right. Berger arranged the songs she wrote, performed by the brass band. From 1893 to 1903, the Prussian bandmaster worked with the Kamehameha Schools to develop its music program. He also built what is today the Honolulu Symphony.

Later in his tenure as royal bandmaster, Berger took it upon himself to record traditional Hawaiian hymns, chants and other Hawaiian music in print to ensure their survival, a task never done before. Berger at the same time composed the classics: "The Hula March", "Hilo March", "Kohala March" and "Sweet Lei Lehua." His arrangement of "Hawaiʻi Ponoʻī", composed by Kalākaua became the national anthem. Today, the song serves as the state anthem.

His last resting-place is located at the Kawaiahaʻo Church Cemetery[1] in Honolulu.

Robert Louis Stevenson mentioned Berger in his novel The Bottle Imp.[2]

Berger's legacy continues today, celebrated worldwide especially in Hawaii and Germany, as the father of the Royal Hawaiian Band. It is the oldest municipal band of the United States of America.

References

  1. ^ Mission Houses Cemetery, Honolulu, Hawaiʻi, Grave memorial of Henri Berger
  2. ^ cf. The Bottle Imp: "Thither he went, because he feared to be alone; and there, among happy faces, walked to and fro, and heard the tunes go up and down, and saw Berger beat the measure, and all the while he heard the flames crackle, and saw the red fire burning in the bottomless pit."
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