Kamehameha Schools freshmen pull off surprise win at annual song contest

(Image: Hawaii News Now)
(Image: Hawaii News Now)
(Image: Hawaii News Now)
(Image: Hawaii News Now)

KAPALAMA (HawaiiNewsNow) - The 97th annual Kamehameha Schools Song Contest ended with a surprise win for a class that was quite 'fresh' to the competition.

The freshmen class of 2020 took home two of the six awards Friday night, winning best overall musical performance and best coed performance.

It was only the 5th time in school history the freshmen won the coed competition.

As the class was handed the Helen Desha Beamer award and the coveted Charles E. King Cup, audience members and upper class men roared in shock and excitement.

Freshmen song director Josias Pili Fonda led his class to win with their rendition of the song, "Laelae."

The juniors and seniors also had much to celebrate.

The senior men won best in the men' s competition as well as the award for best use of Hawaiian language.

'Elia Akaka, junior class coed director, took home the McGregor award which recognizes the most outstanding student song director. The juniors also won the women's competition.

The contest brought to life the music of Bina Mossman. Prior to the show, months in advance, students began learning the mele for the unique chorale competition now in its 97th year.

History Of The Event

Dating back to 1921, the first song contest took place on the steps of Bishop Museum. It was a small event for the men of Kamehameha to sing and compete for perpetual school awards. A year later, the women joined the competition.

It has since evolved to the iconic school tradition it is today. Some 97 years strong, student voices unite as one to honor the music and culture of Hawaii while incorporating some friendly class competition.

All the songs are in olelo Hawaii and led by student song directors.

Classes compete for six awards -- and ultimate bragging rights on campus. The awards recognize classes for best use of Hawaiian language, outstanding student director and the best class performance.

The Theme

Na'u E Lei honors the life and music of Bina Mossman.

As a young musician in the early 1910s, Mossman and her glee club often performed at Queen Lili'uokalani's mansion. Her highness helped the group with their pronunciation. For decades, Mossman performed for Hawaiian royalty, governors and even President Roosevelt.

In the 1930s Mossman went into politics. She was the first woman to represent her district and rose in the territorial government of Hawaii to become the Republican National Committeewoman.

In 2014, Kamehameha Schools was gifted a chest filled with Mossman's music. Inside was sheet music, lyrical notes and choral arrangements by Mossman herself.

Some of Mossman's most notable songs include "Niu Haohao," "He Ono," and "Stevedore Hula".

The senior women, led by Phillismarie Dano, chose to sing "Beautiful Mahealani," which speaks about the beauty of the Mahealani moon.

The Ho'ike took the crowd back to the 1940's as the performance depicted Mossman's life and influence on Hawaii entertainment.

Mossman's granddaughter and great-granddaughter also performed a special hula for the Ho'ike segment.

The Broadcast

KGMB will re-air the broadcast on Friday, March 24 at 6:30 p.m.

For the first time, an alternative Hawaiian language audio track is available.

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