The History of the Annual Kamehameha Schools Kapālama Song Contest

Melodious voices, increasing class pride, and friendly competition are all factors to Kamehameha’s favorite season, Song Contest season. The school is filled with anticipation for the one night to show off their musical talents but the Song Contest we celebrate today had not always been the way it is; it had gone through many different changes to finally evolve into what it is today. The historic contest had begun to honor a man named Mr. George Allison Andrus. He had lived in Ashtabula, Ohio and received his bachelor’s degree from Oberlin College in 1912. Mr. Andrus came to Kamehameha in 1912 and taught music classes, conducted the school choir, and was incharge of the other musical organizations on campus. Mr. Andrus was well known for his successful work in conducting group-singing. Unfortunately in 1920, Mr. Andrus had contracted influenza and passed on March 20th. In order to continue to encourage group-singing, faculty member Ralph Borden suggested that a contest be held annually and the winning class would be awarded an award in the form of a cup that would be known as the George Allison Andrus Memorial Cup, in honor of Mr. Andrus. Thus, the Kamehameha Schools Song Contest was born.
The Kamehameha Schools Song Contest was first known as the Annual Inter-Class Song Contest. A song leader must be chosen no later than April and the picked song leader must meet with the director of music to decide what songs will be sung by that class. The very first Song Contests’ did not have a men’s, women’s, or co-ed competition; instead, each class would perform twice. In the first appearance, the class could choose any song of their time period; the song picked did not have to be hawaiian. After the first song was picked, the class would perform that song in an original composition created by themselves. In the second appearance, the class would perform one of the school’s songs; each performance was limited to five minutes. At this time, the classes were judged on their tone, quality, memorization, enunciation, harmony, and originality. Once all classes had performed the judges would come together to decide the winner. While this occurred, all of the classes would be lead by one song leader and perform many different hawaiian songs; this portion is similar to the mass numbers sung by all high school classes at the modern Song Contest. Since the first Song Contest, many things have changed.
Coming a long way since the birth of this friendly competition, this year marks the 97th annual Kamehameha Schools Kapālama Song Contest.