The song has not ended …

Last Saturday I attended the funeral for Neva Rego, where Star of the Sea Church was filled with Neva’s students, friends and family.  David Free graciously agreed to share his eulogy with readers of my blog. 

The song has not ended—the music plays on! The legacy of Neva Rego is alive. It lives on within each of you—it lives each time you utter a musical note. There, there in that melodic tone will be Neva’s magical, masterful, magnificent talent as a technician of the human voice.

We all knew her as “Neva’” but that moniker was an abbreviation for “Aggreneva,” a name her mother selected while carrying her only daughter in her womb. The family story is told that mother Rego heard a visiting opera singer to the islands perform and at that moment decided that would be her offspring’s given name. How appropriate—a name from a vocal musician—it had to have been Divine inspiration!

With Jimmy Borges

Neva began her professional musical career as a teen, performing at Waikikiʻs landmark hotel, the Hilton Hawaiian Village with  renowned recording artist, Alfred Apaka.  It was there she met movie actor Rossano Brazzi, lead man in the movie “South Pacific” who, sensing her enthusiasm for studying opera in Italy, paved the way for her to meet Mario Basiola, a famous principal baritone at La Scala, in Milano.

Neva had an insatiable appetite for opera starting as a child.  She delighted in listening to opera music via live concerts, radio, LP recordings etc., always imagining herself as one day becoming and performing like those she heard.

With Robert Cazimero

With Shari Lynn and Les Ceballos

Following her schooling at Sacred Hearts Academy and UH, Neva wanted more musical training, more instruction in the Bel Canto technic of singing. She felt that the only true way of receiving such training was to go to the very source of the method—that would mean traveling to Italy.

While a teen, Neva informed her father that she wanted to leave the islands to study in Italy because she loved the beautiful color of the Bel Canto technique.  Perhaps not wanting to lose his daughter halfway around the world, her parent informed her that she already sounded like those beautiful Italian singers she so adored.  But finally, after convincing her papa of her desire and importance of studying in Italy, she boarded an Italian freighter with a crew that barely spoke English, and arrived on the shores of Italy three months later

In the evenings aboard the freighter, Neva would gather with crew members on the fantail of the ship for instruction in the Italian language and when arriving at her destination, she was equipped with a usable version of the countries vocabulary, undoubtedly colored a bit with the sailor’s dialect.

Neva’s final destination was the city of Milano and there she began her studies of the bel canto method of singing, the method which would years later make her a vital entity in Honolulu.

Neva and Betty

After 25 years of learning the bel canto method of singing, after 25 years of learning the art of Italian cooking and after 25 years of amassing wonderful friendships, Neva was homeward bound… but before departing the country shaped like a boot, there was one last thing to accomplish and that was to convince one of those wonderful friendships, by the name of Betty Grierson, to join her in Hawaii to become a partner in a School of Bel Canto Singing… and the rest is history!

Neva was well prepared to become a teacher, she knew the technique well, she knew how to instruct others.

But that’s not what made her a great teacher, that’s what made her a competent teacher.

With Willy Falk

Betty and Neva

What made her great was that she truly cared about her students. She gave them her time and lots of it. She listened to them and let them know she cared about them. She took them seriously. She let them know how they were doing with regular feedback. And when they did something good, she praised them—and she meant it; nothing made Neva happier than seeing her students do well.

Neva taught her students to sing great music. Each lesson she challenged them to appreciate good music, good singing, no matter what the genre. She taught them that working towards excellence could be an act of worship. There was no “good enough for church” with Neva.

Neva was not just a music teacher. She also spoke identity, gave  direction, and called out exceptional talent. She helped discover who we wanted to be, and what we could be. Neva did not try to make students into “little Neva’s.” She wanted her students to discover and then become, what God created them to be. She wanted them to be their best selves.

I’m painting a picture here of a saint—well she was a saint in many ways! It was just that her halo needed adjusting a little now and then. Sometimes Neva displayed a flagrant disregard for inconvenient traffic laws. Riding in the back of her car, many of you will remember the experience brought us all a little closer to Jesus. Also, now and then she could slip into the vocabulary of those sailors on the fantail of the ship, never apologizing for her colorful expletives.

Today there should be no sadness, there should be joy in our hearts that Aggreneva Rego touched our lives, whether it be as a student, as an opera board member or supporter, or as a friend.

The song has not ended, the music plays on and we are the testament to Neva’s legacy. If she did so much good on earth, just imagine what the music of heaven sounds like today.

Praise be to God! We pray that You hold her in Your loving grace.

Neva is survived by Jay Lowell Rego, brother; Betty Spann, sister-in-law; Betty Grierson, long-time friend and partner; Christopher (Candy), nephew; Arleen Cannon (James), niece. Neva was the recipient of many awards over her decades of teaching. In recent years she received two major laurels: The National Society of Arts and Letters Excellence in Education lifetime achievement award and a Na Hoku Hanohano Lifetime Achievement Award.

Here is a video of Neva with local personality Leslie Wilcox, in her program called “Long Story Short.”





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Our beloved poet laureate

If ever the Lutheran Church of Honolulu were to name a poet laureate, hands down it would be Pastor Fritz Fritschel. He was for many years the Assisting Pastor and was known for his use of frog puppets—all with names starting with F—during the children’s sermon. I won’t ever hear the names Felix, Fergus, Franklin, Flossie, or Felicia without thinking of Fritz and his scores of frog dolls and puppets. (Strange, I don’t think he ever named any of the frogs Fritz!)

The association of children and frogs led to the name of the Sunday School ensemble, F.R.OG.S., which stands for Families Revering Our God in Song. From the beginning, the annual children’s concert (formerly a benefit for Heifer International) opened with a poem newly-written by Fritz on the subject of animals, always full of clever puns and wry humor.

For many years Fritz was the playwright of humorous skits for Lutherfest, the church’s annual Oktoberfest stewardship dinner, and we howled with laughter over the antics of Martin Luther and his hapless wife, Kate, as they had one misadventure after another, coming to Hawaii, appearing on a game show and other crazy travels. Another time there was even a skit he wrote about Ionian Arts, the music publishing company founded by the Crosiers and Peter Hallock!

Fritz was a master at contrafacta, the practice of setting new words to existing melodies. One of the best ones he ever wrote (in my opinion) was called Hymn Hallman (2009), dedicated to local organist and harpist, Nyle Hallman of Central Union Church on the occasion of her 80th birthday. Set to the tune Lasst uns erfreuen (All creatures of our God and King), he wrote:

For nearly thirty years they played
Ecclesiastic music made,
Roy and Nyle
On this isle.
Their skills brought endless harmony
To Union’s faithful company.
With their choirs
All afire.
Roy and Nyle,
On this isle,
Brings a smile.

Nyle Hallman and Fritz Fritschel (2009)

She sat at organs as a child
Pulling the stops while going wild
On the keyboard,
Like a surfboard.
Her feet and fingers fairly flew,
In major keys and minor, too.
On the keyboard
Like a surfboard,
Fairly sailing
Never failing.
E’er prevailing.
Once taught by Porter and by Sykes,
Coci, McCurdy and the likes
Worthy mentors
Known presenters
They taught her how to play her best,
Pipes, pistons, pedals and celeste.
Worthy mentor
Known presenter
Always giving
For the living
In thanksgiving.
Gave orchestra ephemeral flair,
With sounds of angels’ favorite air,
Fingers strumming,
Harp strings humming,
Her backseat prowess blessed the crowd,
With plucking sounds as on a cloud,
Here crescendo,
There glissando,
Now ritardo,
Soon allegro,
Ne’er pellegro.
Now for the notes as yet unplayed,
We raise our songs in accolade,
Let ‘er ring,
Let’s all sing.
Let music warm the hearts of all
New melodies the crowds enthrall,
Fancy fugues
Prim preludes
All the while,
Shades of Nyle,
All in style.

For my 40th birthday he composed this poem:

Considering Forty
You know, dear Kathy, of keyboard fame,
To happens to many regardless of how they feel,

That stumbling along into this frame
Of life called forty, they wince or squeal
And perhaps deny the entire game.
Or, if not the game, at least the score!
“Are those figures right? Thank God, it’s not more.”
But when you consider
That to be born a score of years later
Could leave us all with still greater
Confusion, there’s no time to be bitter.
After all, we’ve often heard it debated
Forty is the beginning of life—
If twenty were your age we celebrated
We dare say we’d know you not as Carl’s wife.
But we’re happy that you are
The way you are,
With precisely your number of years,
Your number of fingers and number of feet
Which account for so many our cheers
When you fugue and postlude at the organ seat.
May your blessings be full and timely
As you, with Carl and Stephen, a family trio,
Continue to treat us so sublimely
With exotic foods and heavenly notes con brio.

Also, remember the wonderful words he wrote on Carl Crosier’s retirement, “Mix and match,” and on the contrafacta he composed on the tune, “When in our music God is glorified,” for my retirement from church music. Here are verses 3-7:

Fritz in my living room.

3. The organ trumpets sound of joy replete
while children watch in awe at Kathy’s feet
before the hymn concludes, a four-fold beat, Alleluia!
4. Her students know of Bach and fugal art,
how hands and feet each play a crucial part,
when joined as one, in play, they touch one’s heart, Alleluia!
5. Her fingers flit ‘cross keys that end in trills:
toccata’s runs produce their own bright thrills.
By practice she can play as e’er she wills. Alleluia!
6. When asked to play in rites with smells and bells,
she keeps the rhythm’s pace with strength, it tells,
as when the chorus ends with its own yells, Alleluia!
7. Our gratitude for years of sparkling play,
of music’s beauty in such wide array,
for Kathy’s artistry we gladly say, Alleluia!

Yesterday, we received this sad news:

Aloha, Fritz. We love you.

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Mysticism and the sense of the sacred

The nave of St. Mark’s Cathedral Seattle.

On the right, Michael Kleinschmidt, St. Mark’s present canon musician with Marc Aubertin.

When one steps inside St. Mark’s Cathedral Seattle and attends a worship service, one is immediately struck by the fact that … “this is a sacred and holy space; something mystical and magical happens here.” It is the huge space, the magnificent Flentrop Organ, it is the rolling acoustics that make music so extraordinary in this space.

Mel Butler, Peter Hallock’s immediate successor, and his wife, Mary.

But it is also the people of St. Mark’s that were so welcoming to me, and greeted me like a long-lost daughter come home. My late husband Carl and I came to St. Mark’s dozens and dozens of times and attended countless worship services. It was the tradition and the sense of mystery that he tried to recreate at the Lutheran Church of Honolulu during our long tenure there, and why we immediately began a relationship with canon musician Peter Hallock from the early 70s.

The Hallock Window

Scott Kovacs, president of the Compline Choir

Tonight was the night that the Hallock Window was dedicated to the glory of God and to the memory of Peter R. Hallock. The cost of the window was $150,000 and it was raised by more than 80 donors from as far away as Israel (and Hawaii!) There was a reception for the donors which took place in the nave prior to the Compline Service, plus a display of Peter Hallock’s actual vestments over the years. These garments will now be cared for by a local museum.

Carl used to describe Peter to my then-young son as “Peter in the Purple Dress”

Paige Smith and Naomi Kato, cellist and harpist, respectively

I was especially glad to meet Paige Smith and Naomi Kato, long-time members of the St. Mark’s Cathedral Choir. It was these two ladies who were such a deep influence on Peter Hallock’s music, because as you will understand, Paige is a cellist and Naomi is a harpist. So many of Peter’s works had the combination of these two instruments—and now you know why! They recounted the many times they had rehearsed one of Peter’s works on a Saturday, and then Sunday morning, were handed newly-revised sections to “tape in” to their scores! We all laughed about Peter constantly changing his mind and rewriting his works!

Some of Peter’s remains and memorabilia are embedded in the pillar.

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The Compline service followed at 9:30 pm, and I could remember all the chants and order of service like greeting an old friend. The service has been sung here since it was founded in 1956 by Peter Hallock—the Choir has really grown under Jason Anderson’s leadership, and now has 24 men. In the cavernous acoustics of the Cathedral, you are really transported to another time and place, an ancient and medieval time. As usual, the Cathedral was absolutely full, many of them young people. I do believe this is the best attended service of St. Mark’s Cathedral.

I was happy to renew my acquaintances with Vernon Nicodemus, Richard Greene, Ken Peterson and Joel Matter, all long-time Seattle Compline Choir members, some of whom have been in the choir more than 50 years!  Many of these guys had come to Hawaii in 1979 as part of the Compline Choir’s appearance at the AGO convention, and Vernon has come multiple times to sing with the Lutheran Church of Honolulu choir. Unfortunately I didn’t take their pictures.

Wyatt Smith

I stayed for the post-Compline organ recital because it was played by Wyatt Smith, whom has followed my blog from the beginning, and visited us in Hawaii in 2013. Check out my post, “A visitor from the Internet.” Since then I have seen Wyatt at Association of Lutheran Church Musicians conferences—he was also named one of the Diapason magazine’s “20 under 30.” He also is a friend of my former student Joey Fala, to whom he passed on the building keys and scheduling responsibility at Yale University!

Wyatt’s excellent performance of Mendelssohn’s “Sonata No. 4 in B-flat” and especially Bach’s “O Lamm Gottes unschuldig” from the Great Eighteen Chorales reminded me that I used to play this piece every single Maundy Thursday… the memory of it is bittersweet … I can’t believe that it has been five years since I’ve retired from church music!


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“Sanctuary” by Josh Fraught is 80′ tall!

So the whole reason that I’m here in Seattle was to attend the dedication of the Compline Window to the Glory of God and to the memory of Peter R. Hallock. It was just then coincidental that the Compline Choir presented a program called Laetare of readings and musical reflections in response to “Sanctuary,” a textile installation by Josh Faught on the same day.

The readings and musical responses were chosen by members of the Compline Choir corresponding to the themes in “Sanctuary:” popular and sacred music, a supernatural soap opera, and records of gay politics, sexuality, and culture in the region. Copies of Peter Hallock’s music manuscripts are incorporated into the tapestry.

Texts were based on Khalil Gibran, “A Visit from Wisdom,” Psalm 139, “Finding Sanctuary” by Christopher Jamison, poetry by Gaia Willis-Owen, Deuteronomy, Psalm 62, “No reserved seats” (an article from the Saint Mark’s newsletter), “A Biblical Call to Inclusiveness” by John Shelby Spong, “Come, said my soul” by Walt Whitman, an excertp from “Hidden Passions: Secrets from the Diaries of Tabitha Lenox,” by Alice Alfonsi, Song of Songs, Psalm 48, Matthew 25, Lamentations, “The Monastery of the Heart” by Joan Chittister, and “A Hymn of Belinda Carlisle” based on “Heaven is a place on earth” by Rick Nowels and Ellen Shipley. All the readings were chosen and spoken by members of the Compline Choir, positioned at different points in the Cathedral, somewhat like Stations of the Cross.

The music of present and former members of the Compline Choir was represented by the choir’s founder Peter Hallock, Jason Anderson, Scott Kovacs, and Gregory Bloch, in addition to Erin Aas (Compline Choir composer-in-residence), plus Giovanni da Palestrina and Monte Mason.

What can I say about the music of this service?

Achingly beautiful…  it immediately transported me and I was struck with the realization that the music and mysticism of Peter Hallock has permeated the walls of this building. I was brought back to the memory of sitting in this very Cathedral at Peter Hallock’s burial service, while the Compline Choir sang the ancient Kontakion at the commendation, from the “Compline Corner” of the Cathedral. I then experienced a wave of profound sadness… knowing that Peter and my husband, Carl, are now both gone.. yet the music lives on in this space.

The unusual Stations of the Cross exhibit in the Cathedral were sculpted by artist Virginia Maksymowicz and are on display through the season of Lent. Maksymowicz used real models rather than abstracted representations, with the hope that “the mixture of models and the anonymity implied by the fragmented figures push the imagery toward representation of the human community in its universal aspect—…”the mystical body of Christ.”

The artist writes, “I hope that this tension will enable interpretations to change over time and resonate with each new instance of human cruelty. Mary’s anguish at encountering her tortured son in Station IV could be the anguish of a mother of a U.S. soldier, of a Syrian child, of a street cop in Brooklyn, of an infant in Darfur, of an urban teenager in Baltimore, of a daughter killed in a London bombing, of a child murdered at his grammar school, and more.”

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Outside the bounds of time

St. Mark’s Lenten altar

It was again another gorgeous day in Seattle—the sky is blue and clear, no rain and it’s cool, in the lower 60s F. When I walked into St. Mark’s, the choir was rehearsing the Kyrie in a mass setting by Uģis Prauliņš  (b. 1957), a Latvian composer who “is noted for his powerful and idiosyncratic voice in a variety of genres… (including) popular music, Renaissance polyphony, Orthodox chant, folk music, the 20th-century avant-garde and more—without sounding like ironic pastiche.”

The choir just sounded gorgeous! I had been told by Jason Anderson that the remodel of the building actually increased the reverb time by about half a second. It was already a fantastic acoustical environment in which to make music.

St. Mark’s Choir now sings a mass setting every six to eight weeks (Kyrie, Sanctus and Agnus Dei) “inviting the congregation into a more contemplative approach to the prayers and praises” in the liturgy.”

For the prelude, Michael Kleinschmidt, canon musician, played a selection from Marcel Dupré’s Stations of the cross. “Jesus comforts the women of Jerusalem” was a piece that I actually played maybe about ten years ago, but I still remembered the piece well. The only irritating thing was that people behind me were talking throughout and I didn’t have enough courage to turn around and give them a “stink eye!”

Michael played the hymns in a very straightforward manner but still had opportunities to connect the service parts with quiet improvised interludes. His postlude was “Christus, der uns selig macht,” BWV 620 from Bach’s Orgelbüchlein. It all seemed just right for the Fourth Sunday in Lent.

Dean Steve Thomason’s sermon started out by saying today was Daylight Savings—yes, something I had not experienced in 45 years since I moved to Hawaii. I was so afraid of oversleeping that I actually woke up at 4:30 am!

The Dean then went on to say that on Palm Sunday, in two weeks’ time, St. Mark’s will present Olivier Messiaen’s Quartet for the end of time, written while the composer was at a Nazi prisoner camp. At Stalag VIII-A the barracks were built to house 15,000 people but when Messiaen was there, the barracks overflowed with 31,000 people. A German guard, Karl Albert Brüll, recognized Messiaen’s musicianship and regarded him as a fellow human rather than the enemy. He supplied Messiaen with music paper and helped secure four badly-damaged instruments: a clarinet, violin, cello and piano, for which the quartet is scored.

The premiere of the work took place in the prison yard on January 15, 1941. “Several hundred men, including the German guards, gathered in the freezing temperatures to be moved by the piece, and by its quest to stand outside the bounds of time, incarcerated as they all were by the haunts of war. That one hour spent together, listening to the music, remains one of the great stories of human history.”

“Messiaen’s brilliance as a musician included rhythms and patterns that offer the listener non-retrograding harmonies that if carried out will repeat infinitely. He drew on birdsong for rhythms and serial loops of time, and he passes through the abyss of sadness bound in mortal time and unfolds into a timeless chorus of praise designed to resonate across the cosmos in endless fashion.

Brüll helped secure Messiaen an early release in 1941, allowing him to return to France where he served as organist of La Trinité for more than 50 years… “but this piece, forged in the crucible of such pain, held a special place in his heart.”

It really makes you want to attend the performance, right? So sorry I won’t be here as I’m returning home tomorrow.

The anthem was John Stainer’s “God so loved the world,” one of those choir “chestnuts” which I first learned as a teenager playing the organ at Westminster Presbyterian Church. Carl Crosier also programmed it at the Lutheran Church of Honolulu several times. Of course, the St. Mark’s Choir sang it so beautifully and sensitively! I hadn’t heard this piece in years.

After church, I walked right up the hill to the Volunteer Park Water Tower and easily climbed the 107 steps to the top. People on Yelp complained that the grate in front of the windows made it hard to see much of anything, but here are the pictures I took anyway.

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Beautiful Seattle

The Bacon Mansion

It was an absolutely gorgeous day in Seattle—clear blue skies and no rain. I’m staying at the Bacon Mansion, an elegant bed-and-breakfast in a historic Edwardian-style Tudor home with 11 individually-appointed guest rooms. The 1909 home built by Cecil Bacon features a chandelier with 3,000 crystals, marble fireplaces and a treasured library. The continental breakfast featured fresh fruit and  homemade peach pecan muffins fresh from the oven … yum!

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A Japanese maple.

After breakfast, I went out walking around  the neighborhood and took photos of flowers and trees we don’t have in Hawaii! I was also struck by these footprints on the sidewalk — are they possible dance moves? Actually I guessed right, the bronze dance steps were created by artist Jack Mackie: read the story behind it here. There are eight dance “sculptures” in the Broadway district, representing tango, waltz, lindy, foxtrot weave, rumba and mambo.

You see these all over this neighborhood.

Later I met up with my late husband Carl’s cousins, Marie Granberg and Marg Meece, to nearby Volunteer Park where we marveled in the beautiful flowers of the Conservatory. I recognized a lot of the tropical flowers such as anthuriums, bromeliads and torch ginger, but also enjoyed seeing the colorful azalea, hydrangea and a special section for cactus varieties.

Marie, Marg and myself at the Volunteer Park Conservatory.

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We then drove back to the Broadway area and had a wonderful lunch, visiting and reminiscing about old times. Both Marie and Marg came to Hawaii for Carl’s funeral—you might remember that Carl and I visited them in February 2014 and we traveled to Victoria BC together (“A day in Victoria“).

Tomorrow will be a busy day: breakfast at 8:30 am., morning service at 11:00 am, Laetare with the Compline Choir at 6:00 pm, reception at 8:30 pm, and Compline at 9:30 pm. I have been so lucky with this beautiful Seattle weather—tomorrow I hope to climb the Volunteer Park water tower for the highest point in Seattle.

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Alone at St. Mark’s

St. Mark’s now has a gigantic cross on the façade

I took the red eye flight out of Honolulu last night and arrived in Seattle early this morning. Because I couldn’t check into the B&B until later in the afternoon, I walked over to St. Mark’s Cathedral a few blocks away. I have been here many times, but this was the first time I have seen it since being remodeled. As it turned out, I was alone in the nave.

The building is huge (with fantastic acoustics!) and in fact was once used as an anti-aircraft training facility during World War II. Here is how the construction project was described: Construction on Saint Mark’s Cathedral began in 1928, but was halted after the stock market crash of 1929, and never fully completed. The enormous concrete walls were never meant to be exposed to the elements, and the cheap depression-era glass windows were not meant to be permanent. In 2012, chunks of concrete began to break away from the exterior walls, posing a safety risk, and it became urgent for Saint Mark’s Cathedral to address the deteriorating state of the walls and windows.

In mid-April 2017, Saint Mark’s began a major construction project to clad the exterior walls of the cathedral in limestone and replace all of the windows with new energy-efficient models, designed to match the old windows in style and color.

I am here this weekend because the window near the corner where Compline is sung is being dedicated to the memory of long-time canon musician and our business partner, Peter R. Hallock.

On Sunday night, the Compline Choir will present Laetare, a service of music and readings celebrating themes in a large textile called “Sanctuary” which is on display in the Cathedral. The work by Josh Faught has been installed on the massive southeast pillar and “integrates popular and sacred music, a supernatural soap opera, and records of gay politics, sexuality, and culture in Seattle. Bringing together craft, sociopolitical, and personal histories, Sanctuary also links expressions of romantic and erotic love with songs of praise and prayers.

“Sanctuary” by Josh Fraught

The work was hand-woven by the artist over the summer and fall of 2016, using hand-dyed cotton, hemp, and gold lamé. This abstract, painterly surface serves as a matrix and support for other found objects: novelty pin-badges, sheet music, magazines, and advertisements. Sourced from the artist’s personal collection and Seattle archives, these objects refer to cultural touchstones, political histories, pop culture, and jokes.”

Following the service (which will be more like a concert), there will be a reception for donors of the Compline Window, with an exhibition of Compline memorabilia, including the vestments worn over the years of its 50+ year history, followed by a special Compline service.

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Some of Peter Hallock’s remains are interred in the pillar nearest the Compline corner. The mighty Flentrop organ is Peter’s legacy.

I had lunch (and dinner!) with Jason Anderson, second director of the Compline Choir. We are continuing the work of Ionian Arts, the company founded by Peter Hallock, Carl Crosier and myself in 1986.


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Unusual instruments in Honolulu

I just heard Ian Capps’ interview on Hawaii Public Radio about this weekend’s upcoming Early Music Hawaii concerts with Ciaramella, and thought perhaps you had questions about some of the unusual instruments that will be played. The concerts will be Saturday, March 10th at 7:30 pm at the Lutheran Church of Honolulu, and repeated on Sunday, March 11th at 2:00 pm at the Lutheran Church of the Holy Trinity, in Kailua-Kona on the Big Island.

Members of the group include: Adam Gilbert (shawm, recorder, bagpipe, dulcian), Rotem Gilbert (shawm, recorder, bagpipe), Malachai Komanoff Bandy (shawm, viol, hurdy-gurdy, bagpipe), Aki Nishiguchi (shawm, recorder, cornamuse) and Jason Yoshida (vihuela, guitar, percussion).

I found a great website called Musica Antiqua of Iowa State University which not only shows pictures of people playing these instruments but also includes audio samples. Here is the picture of the shawm—and you can see that it is being played outdoors, so it must be pretty loud!

Medieval shawm

At great feasts they are to play upon shagbut, cornetts,shawms and other instruments going with wind. Richard Brathwaite, 1621. Click here for an audio sample of an alto shawm.

Hurdy gurdy

Another unusual instrument will be the hurdy gurdy, considered an ideal instrument for dance music. It is a stringed instrument, played by turning the crank on a wheel and pushing on keys attached to the strings.

You can hear a sample of this instrument here.




I bet you didn’t know what a dulcian is either—in fact we have a stop on the organ called “dulzian,” which we consider a reed stop. The dulcian (also known as curtal) was used as an outdoor band instrument and came in several sizes, based on a double bore principle: “Two parallel holes drilled in the same piece of wood and connected at one end by a U-curve allowed an instrument to sound twice as low for its apparent length as one with a single bore.” It could also be muted to sound softer and sweeter by inserting a cap onto the bottom.

Here is a picture from the Iowa State University website of a man playing a dulcian, and you can hear a sample of this instrument by clicking here.

Lastly, the cornamuse which will be played by Aki Nishiguchi, and is similar to a crumhorn “but quieter, lovelier and very soft,” as described by Praetorius. “The cornamuse was clearly described by Praetorius, and is yet a mystery in these modern times, because none have survived to the present and because of the confusion of instrument names at the time. Different names which were used for similar instruments and similar names used for different instruments. The name cornamuse from the Latin cornamusa commonly meant bagpipe as in the French cornemuse. The use of the name dolzaina, from the Latin dulcis(sweet), is thought to be the same or a similar instrument to the cornamuse, and yet the name is often intermingled with the dulzan or dulzian of the curtal families. These two names were sometimes used in the same sentence, as in an ensemble consisting of dolzaina, cornamuse, shawm and mute cornett.”

The cornamuse

You can hear the cornamuse here.

Ciaramella brings to life Medieval and early Renaissance music from historical events and manuscripts. Praised for performing intricate fifteenth-century counterpoint “with the ease of jazz musicians improvising on a theme,” its members are united by the conviction that every composition conceals a rich story waiting to be unlocked through historical research and speculative performance. 

Ciaramella ensemble for 15th century music

It’s a concert not to be missed! (and I’m soooo sorry I will be away this weekend in Seattle).

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Ciaramella return visit


Two people playing shawms.

After all the hoopla of the past weekend, it was back to laying out programs, and I just finished the one for Ciaramella, the early music group which is coming to Hawaii with a boatload of interesting and unusual instruments. Just look at this list: shawm, recorder, bagpipe, dulcian, viol, hurdy-gurdy, cornamuse, vihuela, guitar and percussion. The concert will be this Saturday, March 10 at 7:30 pm at the Lutheran Church of Honolulu and repeated on the Big Island in Kona on Sunday, March 11 at 2:00 pm.

Members of the group include: Adam Gilbert (shawm, recorder, bagpipe, dulcian), Rotem Gilbert (shawm, recorder, bagpipe), Malachai Komanoff Bandy (shawm, viol, hurdy-gurdy, bagpipe), Aki Nishiguchi (shawm, recorder, cornamuse) and Jason Yoshida (vihuela, guitar, percussion).

This group was here six years ago and back then I wrote: 

LCH will be host to Ciaramella, one of America’s leading early music ensembles, sponsored by Early Music Hawaii…  Ciaramella has been “praised for performing intricate fifteenth-century counterpoint ‘with the ease of jazz musicians improvising on a theme,’ its members are united by the conviction that every composition conceals a rich story waiting to be unlocked through historical research and speculative performance.”

Ciaramella takes its name from the Italian shawm and from a fifteenth-century song about a beautiful girl whose clothes are full of holes. When she opens her mouth, she knocks men flat.

On this visit, the group will be presenting “Liederbuch: Dancing through the Songbooks of Renaissance Germany.” Directed by Adam and Rotem Gilbert, from the Early Music School at USC Thornton School of Music in Los Angeles, the ensemble performs at major festivals throughout the United States, Italy and Germany. Performances have included the Cleveland Museum of Art, Bloomington Early Music Festival, Oberlin’s Baroque Performance Institute, the Lute Society of America, the American Musicological Society in Seattle, and on early music series in Cleveland, San Francisco, San Diego, Houston, Arizona, Early Music in Columbus, Salt Lake City, Seattle’s Early Music Guild, the Connecticut Early Music Festival, Renaissance and Baroque of Pittsburgh and the Early Music Society of the Islands in Victoria, BC. In 2007, they gave their New York debut at Music Before 1800 and performed at the Tage Alter Musik Festival in Regensburg. Recently the group has performed for Early Music Hawaii, and has created a program for Mission San Antonio and Mission Santa Barbara, CA. Ciaramella has designed programs for the Da Camera Society music series “Chamber Music in Historic Sites” in Los Angeles, and for the Getty Museum in Los Angeles in coordination with specific exhibits.

Their recent CD Dances on a Movable Ground earned five stars in 2014 on the British magazine Early Music Today, and was picked as Editor’s Choice. In the review, British early music performer and scholar Jeremy Barlow lauded its “expressive fluidity and rhythmic vitality.” Toccata listed Ciaramella’s recent CD Album of the Month “…when these extremely talented musicians begin to play, their liveliness and freshness is almost palpable. This is not just dance music; at its best, this is living music, current, non-academic, and certainly not old. Dance music was there from the beginning. And when it is played like this, the sounds of 300 years ago sound as if they were made only yesterday.” -Robert Strobl, Toccata-Alte Musik.aktuel.

(So very sorry that I will be missing this concert! I’ll be traveling to Seattle this weekend for a special reception and Compline service to honor donors and dedicate the Compline Window given to the Glory of God in memory of Dr. Peter R. Hallock.)

A full house for “Voices of the Baroque”

By the way, last weekend’s “Voices of the Baroque” concert was a smashing success! I had spent the entire day studying my scores and listening to the recordings since I had nothing but figured bass to read from, and yet, when the concert began, I got worried! Have I ever seen this music before? What chord do I play here?” Miraculously, when the music started, I got into “the Zone” and it all came together.

Jeremy Wong posted on Facebook: Grateful. Fulfilled. Happy. Thankful for a full house and leaving with a full heart. Mahalo nui loa to the Chamber Singers, UH Faculty Quartet, Honolulu Brass Quintet, Chamber Music Hawaii, the DePaul Vocal Quartet, Katherine Crosier and Eric Peché Esparza! Everyone brought their A game and sounded absolutely fabulous.

Guest conductor Eric Esparza wrote: Back from a WONDERFUL trip to Hawaii where I gave a concert of Baroque music in collaboration with the amazing musicians from Chamber Music Hawaii (Rachel Saul SchifinoJoe StepecAnna Womack, & I-Bei Lin are a beautiful string quartet, and Ken Hafner, JoAnn Lamolino, Jason Byerlotzer, Rudi Hoehn, & Julia Filson of the Honolulu Brass are fantastic, as was organist Katherine Crosier), the AWESOME students of the University of Hawaii at Manoa Chamber Singers, a quartet of DePaul all-star alumni including Mary ArendtMegan MagsariliTomás Dominguez, and Connor Zuber, and my co-conductor/singer Jeremy Wong who truly made it all possible and is a great singer, conductor, tour guide, and colleague! Thanks to friend and colleague Miguel Felipe for the invitation! UH Chamber Singers is filled with beautiful musicians who welcomed us, made us laugh, opened their homes, and gave us an amazing experience. Mahalo and lots of love!

Hans-Ulrich Erbsloeh, the German organbuilder who is here in Hawaii for a few weeks to install the pipe organ for my student and to service organs, told me several times how much he enjoyed the concert. “I was not expecting such high quality music here!” I called him at the last moment, to come and fix a bad note on the continuo organ —we are SO VERY FORTUNATE that he was here in Hawaii to be able to do it!

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Aw, shucks!

The following is a speech I gave at the Oahu Choral Society’s Vivace! fundraising dinner as the 2018 Dale Noble Award Honoree.

Esther Yoo presents the 2018 Dale Noble Award

Thank you. When I was first called about this award, my first reaction was “ you have got to be kidding! I mean, is this a mistake?”

I’m not a person who is out in front, waving my arms at people trying to make them sing. I’m the person in the background—mostly I have my back to the audience, sitting at the organ, giving out pitches for OTHER people to sing.

And can you believe it was FOUR decades ago, when I was the choir accompanist at the Priory, it was a couple of weeks before the spring musical— and Wanda Gereben had me sit at the sewing machine and sew costumes instead of playing for the rehearsals!

Besides, as you know, it was only six years ago that my dear husband, Carl, received this prestigious award. Isn’t there a law against two people in one family getting the award?

In 1996 when there was a national convention of the American Guild of Organists in New York City, Carl and I were there with our son, Stephen (who was 13 at the time) along with 3000 other organists. He asked us: Are you guys giving a concert or anything? And I said ‘no, we’re not.’ He thought about it for a moment, and then made this comment which I will NEVER forget, “Mom and Dad, I just realized you guys are nobodys!” Thank you, Stephen for giving me a reality check!

And to tell you the truth, sitting here and listening to everyone speak about me is a little like listening to the eulogy at your own funeral!

Probably one of the most rewarding things I’ve done is teach the organ to young people. I’m happy to announce that my very first student in Hawaii is here tonight—Geri Ching whom I taught 44 years ago and is my successor at Iolani School. Years ago, I was teaching a young teenage boy and as usual, I had the door open to the church, since we don’t turn on the air conditioning during the week. A homeless woman entered and came right up to the console. Then to my horror, she put her hands on this poor boy’s crotch. I just froze and then to my shock and horror—I couldn’t believe what popped out of my mouth: Excuse me, can’t you see that we’re having an organ lesson?

There are so many people here to thank—namely Esther, Dana, and Malina—my colleagues from the Lutheran Church of Honolulu, Iolani School, American Guild of Organists, students, friends and the people of the Oahu Choral Society.

But unfortunately the person who made me the musician I am and should get the lion’s share of the credit —isn’t here tonight. Carl Crosier who received this award six years ago, set impossibly high goals for not only for himself, but everyone around him. We were a team for 37 years—he was the one who came up with insane projects, like putting on 70 Bach Cantatas with orchestra, the St. Matthew Passion, the St. John Passion and the B-Minor Mass. He chose the music, recruited the singers and rehearsed the choirs; while I was the one who designed the posters, typed the programs and news releases—oh, and I learned my organ part. He was the one who planned and did all the grocery shopping, and spent up to two hours every night cooking elaborate gourmet meals—me, I just set the table and washed the dishes. Carl was the one with the vision—I just followed behind him.

By honoring me tonight, we shouldn’t forget what a big influence Carl had on this community and on all of us. Thank you, Carl.

And thank you to everyone here who has held me up and carried me through this journey since he died 3-1/2 years ago. I would now like to introduce you to my family: my son Stephen and his wife, Jessica; her mom, Sara, and my grandson, Andrés.

Thank you all for coming.

My shoes

P.S. I know that so many people were concerned about the shoes I chose to wear for this night’s grand event. I have to admit I did get pretty tired standing for an hour while we were in the Atrium, and I had to lean on the arm of my neighbor, Kelly, to help me get across to the dining area. You’re right, I’m not used to wearing high heels or wedgies, but I’m so proud of the fact that I didn’t make a fool of myself by falling on the stage or in front of people. I waited until the very end of the evening and as I was walking on the soft grass near the car, I slipped and— um, you guessed it!—and I landed flat on my back! I got up quickly, though, no harm, no foul, no broken bones, just my wounded pride!

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