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Pi‘ilani and Ko‘olau

an imagined ballet

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Scene 1. Pi‘ilani’s ‘Auamakua
Scene 2. Jack London and Louis Stolz Arrive in Hawaiʻi
Scene 3. Paniolo
Scene 4. Ko‘olau and Pi‘ilani’s Wedding
Scene 5. Affliction
Scene 6. Refugees
Scene 7. Death in the forest
Scene 8. Flight and Return

Pi‘ilani and Ko‘olau is the score to a ballet that never was. The work is conceived in the style of a classic 20th-century large scale Stravinskian/Ravelian ballet, with a fantastical scenario by playwright Gary Winter, based on the true Hawai‘ian tale of colonialism, tragedy, and murder.

More about Pi‘ilani and Ko‘olau

The time is 1890. Ko‘olau prides himself on being one of the most talented and hard-working paniolo (cowboys) on the Hawai‘ian island of Kaua‘i. Life is good for Ko‘olau, his wife Pi‘ilani, and their son Kaleimanu, until Ko‘olau contracts leprosy (Hansen’s disease)*. At the time if a native (kanaka), was diagnosed with leprosy, he or she was deported to the leper colony in the Kalaupapa valley on Moloka‘i, where living conditions were notoriously harsh. When Sheriff Stolz tells Ko‘olau he must go to the colony, but that his family is not allowed to go with him (as was the law at the time), Ko‘olau refuses to go. When the sheriff and his deputies come to take him by force, Ko‘olau, an expert marksman and situated strategically on the cliffs, kills the sheriff and two of his men in self-defense.

Fleeing from the law, Ko‘olau, Pi‘ilani and their son take refuge in the forest in Kaua‘i’s rugged Kalalau Valley, living off the land and with help from friends, for three years. During that time Kaleimanu dies of leprosy, and a year later Pi‘ilani must bury her husband after he succumbs to the disease. Pi‘ilani survives her ordeal, leaves the forest, and returns home (the mayor and new sheriff interviewed her but did not arrest her). In 1906 journalist Kahina Sheldon recorded her story. It was translated in 1987 by Francis N. Frazier.

*Leprosy, which most likely was transmitted from rats aboard a ship, was called mai pake (the Chinese disease), as it was erroneously believed the Chinese workers brought it over. Plantation workers came from China, Japan, Philippines, Portugal, America, and other parts of the world.

—Gary Winter

World Premiere Performance PBS Broadcast [work begins at 25:30]

Genres:   Winds

Subgenres:   Large Ensemble


3Fl(2dbPicc), 3Ob(3dbCA), 3Cl, BCl, 3Bsn(3dbCbsn), 4Sax(SATB), 4Tpt, 4Hn, 2Trb, BTrb, Euph, Tba, Cb, Hp, Pno, Uke, Timp/Typwr, Perc(6)

Commissioned by

The Florida State University College of Music in recognition of the College Band Directors National Association presidencies held by Manley Whitcomb, James Croft, Patrick Dunnigan, and Richard Clary, with generous financial support from alumna Florence Helen Ashby.


September 27, 2019, The Florida State University Wind Orchestra, Richard Clary, conductor

Recent Performances

  • March 4, 2023 - Shenandoah Conservatory Wind Ensemble at Armstrong Concert Hall, Winchester, VA. Conducted by Timothy J. Robblee.
  • September 27, 2019 - The Florida State University Wind Orchestra at Ruby Diamond Auditorium. Conducted by Rick Clary. World Premiere