Steven Sametz Publications
distributed by NoteNova


Kumulipo was commissioned by Robert Dupire-Nelson for the Punahao High School Chorale honoring President Barack Obama, an alumnus of Punahao High School. The complete dedication of the piece reads: “dedicated to President Barack Obama, President James K. Scott and the generations of Punahou School students and faculty on whose broad shoulders they stand.”

The text is an Hawaiian chant (oli). The Kumulipo chant dates from the 1700s and runs to some 2000 lines.  Transmitted orally by native bards, it was first written down in the 19th century.  The entire chant is divided in two large sections, the first part a story of the evolution of the world, and the second a genealogy of the chiefs of Hawai’i.  Each of the sixteen stanzas is called a Wā and this piece is based on the first twelve lines of the first wã, which speaks of the creation of night.

The harmonic language of Kumulipo is based on ukulele tuning.   The work may be performed in any one of four versions from the same score: SATB choir a cappella,(referred to as “chamber choir” in the score); SATB (“chamber choir”) with organ; SATB (“chamber choir”) and a second two-part choir (referred to as “chancel choir” in the score) with organ; or two part (“chancel choir”) alone with organ.

Premiered by:
Punahou High School Chorale, SATB version (May 2013), Michael Lippert, conductor
Lehigh University Choral Arts, Punahou High School Chorale and the Lutheran Church of Honolulu Choir, John Renke, organ (expanded version for two choirs and organ) May 9, St. Andrew’s Cathedral, Honolulu, Steven Sametz, conductor

O ke au i kāhuli wela ka honua
O ke au i kāhuli lole ka lani
O ke au i kūka’iaka ka lā
E ho’omālamalama i ka malama
‘O ke au i Makali’i ka pō
‘O ka Walewale ho’okumu honua ia
O ke kumu o ka lipo

O ke kumu o ka Pō i pō ai
O ka Lipolipo, ‘o ka lipolipo
O ka lipo o ka Lā, o ka lipo o ka Pō
Pō wale hoi

āmama ua noa


At the time that turned the heat of the earth
At the time when the heavens turned and changed
At the time when the light of the sun was subdued
From the first faint light of the moon,
At the time of Makali’i [first season/ winter darkness]
A slime was brought forth on earth

From the depth of darkness
Of the depth of darkness
Of the darkness of the sun, in the depth of night
In the darkness, it is night
So night was born.

The burden (taboo) is lifted; We are free.

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