Irmgard Farden Aluli
The most prolific female Hawaiian composer since Queen Lili`uokalani, Irmgard Aluli has written over 200 songs. She is still counting, as she never bothered to keep a record of her output. She wrote her first composition, "Down on Maunakea Street", in 1935.
Irmgard's first hit song, "Puamana", was composed in 1937. Homesick for her Farden family home, Puamana, in Lahaina, Maui, she composed her song while serving in Moloka`i as a field agent for the University of Hawai`i Agricultural Extension Service. In time, it became the name of her well-known family quartet, formed in the 1970s. Irmgard, her daughters Mihana and Aima and her neice Luana have performed from California to New York, and remain "on call" for major celebrations and public concerts in Hawai`i.
One of ten children, Irmgard was raised in an environment of music. Her parents, sisters, brothers and numerous relatives were all gifted with musical talent. Long before she began composing tunes and writing lyrics, Irmgard was singing in family music sessions, at school, and in church choirs. It was through these activities she developed her strong alto voice, and learned to play `ukulele, bass, guitar and piano. She credits her ability to "feel harmony" as a result of many hours improvising harmonies with her brothers and sisters to sheet music brought home from school.
Many have ranked Irmgard's "E maliu Mai" as her best song. She wrote it in the 1950's as an alternative to Charles E. King's "Ke Kali Nei Au" which she felt was worn from use. The romantic feeling of King's classic is retained in Irmgard's simple short version by use of the echo effect of a love call. Other memorable standards are "Lapahoehoe Hula" (Boy from Lapahoehoe), for which Irmgard composed the music, and Kawena Pukui wrote the lyrics. "Baby Kalai" was written in 1943 for the Baby Lu`au of the first Aluli grandchild born into her husband's family. Both songs are still being performed and recorded.
"Auntie Irmgard" as she is called today, also composed many songs touching on a spiritual theme. Her children's songs have distinguished her in the small group of Island composers, mostly women, who have written Hawaiian songs for children. Noted Hawaiian music teacher and arranger, Dorothy Gillette, has said of Irmgard "(she) has created melodies that are singable and memorable." A recipient of many honors and awards for her "simple, distinctively Hawaiian" compositions, and her contributions to the music education of Hawai`i's children, Irmgard Aluli is a Living Treasure of Hawaiian music.