History of the "Friends"

     Donald Billam-Walker founded The Friends of the Royal Hawaiian Band together with Pamela Free and Niklaus Schweizer in 1979. Billam-Walker was the husband of Lehua Berger and thus the son-in-law of Heinrich Berger, the famous bandmaster from Berlin and Potsdam. Pamela Free was the great-granddaughter of Admiral Brown, who in January of 1891 returned the body of King David Kalākaua from San Francisco to Honolulu. Schweizer had first heard the Band perform when he arrived in Honolulu as a tourist on board of the "President Cleveland" in 1965. These three persons signed the original charter on May 25, 1979. Ever since the Friends have been keepers of the Band's astonishing history as recorded in Scott C.S. Stone's "The Royal Hawaiian Band: Its Legacy." (2004)

     The Friends have supported the Band in every way possible, buying uniforms, caps; paying for passports; purchasing copies of Berger’s diary; acting as trustees for artifacts such as his cherished Order of Kapi'olani, his baton, musical scores; testifying before the City Council; giving historical advice; staging special concerts such as the one at the Academy of Arts on November 15, 1997, in honor of Lehua Billam-Walker featuring the "Sweet Lei Lehua March" Berger had composed for his daughter; creating CDs with the Band's performance at Carnegie Hall in 1988, and the Bands 175th Anniversary Concert in 2012, as well as others; and engaging in numerous additional activities.

     The Board of the Friends has been graced with special people such as the late Donald Billam-Walker, Henry Iwasa, Herta Fischer, and Ed Michelman, who essentially served as president from 1999 until his passing in 2007; Bill Souza; James Kaina; Toni Lee, the current president, and many others.

     How much of a treasure the Band really represents, is evidenced in the following commentary written in connection with its epic journey to the Old Continent in 1983:

     "The European tour of the Royal Hawaiian Band turned out to be a journey characterized by beauty, color, and sometimes the dramatic. Beauty and color were present everywhere. There could not have been a more fascinating way to travel through Europe than with the Royal Hawaiian Band, hearing the melodious music, admiring the grace of the dancers and singers, enjoying the colorfulness of the costumes, the gowns, the uniforms, the flags, and observing the smiles on the faces of the audience, and all of this in some of the most charming and attractive settings.

Ed and Kimi Michelman

To learn more about the history of the Friends of the Royal Hawaiian Band, visit the “Archived Documents of the Friends,” which is another area of our web site. For a direct link to the archived documents area, click here.


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