The Hula Preservation Society conducts a series of presentations and performances during the Merrie Monarch Festival, at the Society at the University of Hawaii-Hilo’s Imiloa Astronomy Center. Typically, tickets to the events sell out in advance, but I was lucky to attend a special presentation of video, remembrance, song and hula in honor of Aunty Winona “Nona” Kapuailohiamanonokalani Desha Beamer (1923-2008).
Beamer helped to found the Hula Preservation Society, established in 2000 along with Maile Loo-Ching. Loo-Ching, Aunty Nona Beamer’s hanai daughter, hanai son Kaliko Trapp and former student Calvin Hoe were on hand in Hilo to remember Beamer in story, song and dance.
One especially memorable mele and hula was set to a song written by Beamer’s grandmother, Helen Kapuailohia Desha Beamer, describing the views of a drive to Kona via the Hamakua Coast and Waimea — looking out at Mauna Kea, Mauna Loa, Hualalai, the Kohala range and Haleakala. Loo-Ching gave it a light-hearted interpretation, as Nona Beamer was known to do. See VIDEO from the dance at merriemonarch.staradvertiser.com.
Beamer had a gentle style. Loo-Ching told how, as a young student herself in the 1930s, Beamer volunteered with children at school in Kakaako. To sooth them, she transformed more forceful chants to mele — and soon they were flocking to the “singing teacher.”
Beamer remained a lifelong teacher of Hawaiian culture, helping to nurture the love of hula and mele in Hawaiian culture, and she touched many lives.
Calvin Hoe of Oahu, who makes ohe hano `ihu, Hawaiian nose flutes, and teaches their playing, is a former student of Beamer’s from the 1960s at Kamehameha Schools. He described being buoyed by Beamer in those years, when Hawaiians struggled with issues of identity.
At Imiloa, he danced with a finger puppet, as Nona Beamer also did, and told stories of his time studying Hawaiian music with her.
“I try to keep this aloha going too,” Hoe said.
“Sometimes people think aloha is a weak way of doing things, but it is not. This lady of gumption, she was a lady of aloha, and great strength.”