In case you had questions…

My upcoming concert.

My upcoming concert.

As I get on the plane to Los Angeles tonight, I would like to answer any questions you may have about my upcoming Bach Clavierübung concert, which will be Sunday, October 30th at 7:00 pm at the Lutheran Church of Honolulu.

First of all, the time of the concert. Yes, I know that there is a Hawaii Symphony Orchestra that same day—Gustav Holst’s The Planets, but the Symphony concert starts at 4:00 pm and should be over by about 6:00 pm or so. Enough time to grab a bite to eat and come over to the Lutheran Church of Honolulu by 7:00. [Not 7:30—it’s a school night!]

And get this: Would you believe that last week the Symphony called me to play the organ part in this concert? I respectfully declined, thinking I ought to be focusing on the music of Bach! Instead my friend John Renke will be playing the organ for the symphony concert. Years ago I did play this part when the Symphony programmed this beloved work. I never knew before then that there is an organ part! I will be so sorry to miss this concert, because The Planets is one of my favorite works.

Secondly, no tickets or reservations are required. When you approach the nave door, you will be able to walk right in and be handed a program. You’re asking, how can I help? Midway during the concert, the ushers will pass the offering plates, and the entire collection (yes, 100%, the whole kit and caboodle!) will go to the Carl Crosier Memorial Fund, which funds musical outreach projects at the Lutheran Church of Honolulu. While we have suggested a donation of $25, I encourage you to be generous if you are able.

Always a concern, parking. Please, let’s leave the lot directly behind the church for handicapped parking. There is a large parking lot about one-half block mauka from the church on Poki Street which can accommodate many cars. Judging from the responses, we are optimistically expecting a good crowd.

This is just not another boring organ recital. There will be a chamber choir which will sing the chorales immediately after I play each chorale prelude. You will see the melody of each in the printed program. And in two of the chorales, people in the audience will be encouraged to join in the singing! In German, no less!

Bach's manuscript of the Praeludium in E-flat

Bach’s manuscript of the Praeludium in E-flat, the opening piece of the Clavierübung

Now, to some more interesting things. I know I’ve advertised this concert as “The German Organ Mass,” because that was how it was formerly known. Yes, there are settings of the Kyrie, and the Gloria, and there’s even a Credo. But mostly, there is music for Luther’s Catechism, a term most people don’t know. This is music for the Ten Commandments, The Lord’s Prayer, Baptism, Penitence and Communion—instructional lessons for new Christians.

Did you know that Bach’s Clavierübung collection contained his first keyboard works in print? Part I contained Six Partitas, BWV 825-830 for the harpsichord, published in 1726 when Bach was 41 years old. Part II was published four years later, and consisted of the French Overture BWV 831, and the Italian Concerto BWV 971. The Clavierübung III was published in 1739, and 200 copies were printed.

We find a letter from Bach’s cousin, Johann Elias Bach about these works: Thus it happens also that my good Cousin will bring out some clavier pieces that are mostly for organists and exceedingly well composed. They will probably be ready for the upcoming Easter Fair, and they make altogether some 80 folios. If my Brother can obtain some subscribers for them he will get them at a discount. Others, later, will have to pay more. [“Buy them in bulk” was practiced in the 18th century!]

The price was stated at “3 reichstaler” which in today’s money is very high—the same price equal to the cost of a viola da gamba or a small spinet harpsichord. We know the approximate value because in Bach’s estate, a viola da gamba and a spinet harpsichord were listed at 3 reichstaler each. This put the price of the collection out of reach for most organists, although the print version sold well during Bach’s lifetime. According to Carl Philipp Emanuel, Bach’s son, the print version was sold out and “nothing was left but his father’s personal copy of the edition and his composition manuscript,” according to a letter he wrote to J. N. Forkel in 1774.

I am not the only person who thinks these works are technically challenging. You may remember I once wrote that these are the most difficult works of Bach that I have ever played! Already in Bach’s lifetime people complained about the difficulty of this music. Georg Andreas Sorge, one of Bach’s colleagues, wrote: “Nothing is more necessary to the organist than he be adroit in preluding on the various chorales, according to their particular content, so that the congregation will be stimulated to sing the subsequent chorale with appropriate devotion. The preludes on the Catechism Chorales by Herr Capellmeister Bach in Leipzig are example of this kind of keyboard piece that deserve the great renown they enjoy. But works such as these are so difficult as to be all but unusable by young beginners and others who may lack the considerable proficiency they require.”

According to one early owner of the printed edition, he altered the title page to read from “for the refreshment of the spirit” to read: “for the refreshment of the eyes and the destruction of the ears (!)” [Exclamation point mine]

Hope to see you on the 30th!



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An audience of one

Unknown to me, Clay Logue took my picture.

Unknown to me, Clay Logue took my picture.

During this election season, we’ve heard a lot about stamina and the endurance needed in a presidential candidate. Stamina and endurance are definitely what I need to get through my Bach concert next week! Especially when you consider all those thousands of sixteenth notes that I’ll be playing, I keep thinking of that famous quip in the movie, “Amadeus” —Too many notes! 

Today my colleague from Maui, Clayton Logue, came to Oahu for the day and after having breakfast together, we drove to the church where I played my Bach Clavierübung recital for him. Although it was not a totally error-free performance, I was glad that the three most treacherous pieces (Allein Gott in der Höh’ sei Ehr, Christ unser Herr zum Jordan kam, and Jesus Christus, unser Heiland) and even the terribly complicated Vater unser im Himmelreich, were for the most part “on the money.”

This was a good test for me, because I had no “warm-up” before sitting down to play the recital—I just hit it “cold.” I have learned over all these years that I do myself a disservice if I try to play through completely any of my pieces on the day of a concert. What happens is that if I happen to make a mistake during the warmup, I get a complex about it and try to “fix” it quickly before the concert. Then during the actual concert, I come to that section and worry about what is going to happen.

I am glad to report that I didn’t fall apart today, and judging by Clay’s reaction, he was indeed moved by the music. That’s what Bach will do to you!

Here I am in Leipzig (2015)

Bach for us! (Leipzig 2015)

Here’s what conductor Emmanuelle Heim said about the music of Bach:

I love Bach’s music because it is so comforting. To me, it feels as if I’m coming back home whenever I play Bach. It feels so naturally written and genuine. There are hidden elements in Bach; for musicians it is very knowledgeable music, but what comes out of it is more of a spontaneity of expression. You can listen to Bach from many points of view: you can admire the science of it, the incredible intelligence of it, but even if you don’t have any musical training or knowledge, you can still enjoy it for the incredible spontaneous life of the melody. It is very well worked out, but it seems almost as if it was written as it went along. Bach is definitely someone with whom I love spending time, and try to do so as much as I can.

I am looking forward to sharing this music with you!


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Dating an organist

I found the following post from CBC Music of Canada to be highly amusing as well as educational and would like to share it with you, along with some commentary and pictures of my own. The words printed in italic are from the CBC Music post. My commentary is in bold.

Just so you don’t get any ideas, sorry, I’m NOT dating!

Have you had your eye on that organist at your church? Is a certain swell box making your heart race? Are you having inappropriate thoughts during the pedal point of the postlude? It sounds like you may have fallen for an organist. Organists can be elusive and shy, and it’s rare to see them outside their natural habitat. Sure, they have a certain mystique, but are they relationship material? Read the list below for eight things you should know before dating an organist. 

Ironing my music to make it stay flat.

Ironing my music to make it stay flat.

1. They can be control freaks (Oh, really!)

The pipe organ, also known as the king of instruments, offers more orchestration possibilities and range — and can play louder — than any other instrument in the classical world. Organists like to be in control, and many of them were drawn to the instrument because of this trait. If you’re planning a dinner-and-a-movie evening with your organist, it’s best to let them decide where to eat and what to watch.
More likely than not, I’ll be attending a concert or an organ recital.

2. Don’t mess with their shoes

I wouldn't mind getting a pair of silver organ shoes!

Silver organ shoes available from

Organists don’t just play with their hands, they also play with their feet, and they’re very picky about footwear. Organ shoes have leather soles that allow organists to feel their way across the pedals and push the pedals silently without slipping off.

Some organists like to pimp their shoes: Diane Bish’s organ shoes are embellished with rhinestones, and 21st-century organ bad boy Cameron Carpenter has a pair of organ shoes studded with Swarovski crystals. I wouldn’t mind getting a pair of silver organ shoes! Available from!

If you’re looking for a more conservative gift for your organist, we recommend cool socks. 

3. They need their space

Always have my back to the audience!

Luckily I always have my back to the audience!

Playing organ can be a solitary, thankless job. Organists often aren’t visible to their audience, and if they are, they usually have to play on a balcony with their backs turned to the public.

Most organists become used to their seclusion, which can extend to their private lives, so be prepared to give them their space when they need it.

On the other hand, working the pedals all the time and climbing up to the balcony every day means organists have great legs. And many organists can play well with others, too, and even with their fellow organists. My doctor says my leg muscles are in such great shape that she would gladly recommend that ALL her patients take organ lessons! 

4. They would ‘walk 500 miles’

It was in Berlin that my sister Margo and I walked 21,183 steps in one day.

It was in Berlin that my sister Margo and I walked 21,183 steps in one day.

Organists are dedicated musicians who will do just about anything to support their peers. J.S. Bach is said to have walked more than 400 kilometres to attend a concert by organist and composer Dietrich Buxtehude. 

If your organist is even half as devoted to you as to their music, you’ll be fine. But you should get used to their weekends being taken up with church services and weddings. 

On the bright side, if you decide to get married, picking the music for your ceremony will be a breeze. Plus, word has it organists can use their instruments to great effect: for example, Bach himself had 20 children.

I walked 396 steps UP and then DOWN at the bell tower in St. Stephen’s Cathedral in Bourges, France!

5. They’ll get you VIP access

How many do you know that have been this close to the Pope?

Pope Francis, Vatican City, November 2015

They might not be superstars, but organists are always respected and sometimes their jobs come with perks. For example, Richard Pinel, a competitor in this year’s CIOC, is the organist at St. George’s Chapel in Windsor Palace, the official residence of Queen Elizabeth. Pierre Grandmaison, organist at Montreal’s Notre-Dame Basilica, got to take part in Celine Dion’s wedding while hundreds of her fans had to wait outside. The connections your organist has might surprise you. How many people do you know that have been THIS CLOSE to the Pope?

6. They’re great multitaskers

At Woolsey Hall, Yale University

At Woolsey Hall, Yale University

If you find yourself in a car with an organist, odds are they’ll be able to drive stick shift, find their favourite fugue on their iPod, and adjust the air conditioning all at the same time. Organists are used to playing different manuals (that’s organist speak for keyboards) while they work the pedals with their feet. And while most musicians read one or two staves on their sheet music, organists have to read three or sometimes four staves at once!

The sheer number of tasks can become too much even for professional organists. They sometimes use assistants called registrants to turn pages and change stops. Your special organist might ask you to help out some time — good news if you enjoy pushing their buttons. If I ask you to turn pages for me, just turn ONE PAGE at a time! Pretty please?!

7. They’re adaptable

St. Patrick's Cathedral, Dublin

St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Dublin

Every organ is unique, and organists have to adjust to the touch, sound and layout of every instrument they play. Would you believe that I played 30 different organs this past summer?!

They also have to adjust the duration of their pieces on the fly and improvise in the styles of various musical periods. All this makes organists great people to have in tricky situations — though they still may not be able to find the right thing to say to your parents. How about improvising with one hand while picking up your music which has fallen onto the pedals with another hand? Been there, done that!

8. You should enroll in a frequent flyer program
I recently achieved Premier Gold status with United Airlines!

I love playing European organs!

I love playing European organs!

Organists are especially attracted to Europe because it’s the birthplace of the organ, and the origin of most of its repertoire. If you’re looking to travel with your organist, Europe will be the destination of choice. Can you believe it, I have traveled to Europe four times in the last 14 months!

However, don’t be surprised when your trip ends up revolving around the most famous organs in every country. If you’re going to date an organist, you’d better get comfortable with spending more time in churches than in restaurants or museums. My late husband Carl and I spent 90% of our vacations visiting churches and organs.

A word of advice: try to avoid the really old organs — you might be asked to work the bellows.

Here I am playing the swallow’s nest organ in Metz Cathedral, France.


As an organist, I have had a G-R-E-A-T life!

I never tire of playing the Beckerath organ!

I never tire of playing the Beckerath organ!

P.S. Don’t forget to call in when I’m on public radio tomorrow morning, Oct. 17 from 9:00-10:00 am!

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A little diversion

When I help students prepare for a concert or even for playing a church service, we somehow always have another piece “on the side” —perhaps a new piece, just for a change of pace. For myself, having a piece outside of the concert repertoire gives me a little break.

Well, in addition to the Bach Clavierübung III repertoire for my upcoming concert, I’m trying to learn a piano piece! You see, next weekend I’ll be in California for a reunion of relatives on my mother’s side of the family. It was after my sister viewed the following video that she got the brilliant idea that we could attempt a similar performance as one of the reunion activities. The piece is the Galop-Marche by Albert Lavignac (1846-1916) for eight hands (four players) on one piano. Here is a performance by some piano students at the University of Southern California of this piece.

So my two sisters Margo and Doris, my cousin Mary and I will have our one and only practice session next week Saturday. I was assigned the top part, which technically may be a little easier, but I complained, “I am not a pianist and I don’t read leger lines!” (These are the additional lines drawn to represent notes above the staff).

Our sole purpose in doing this, though, will be to have fun!

The other thing that will cause a diversion is that I am scheduled to be on Hawaii Public Radio (KHPR 88.1 FM) on Monday, October 17th from 9:00-10:00 am, encouraging people to make pledges to keep the station on the air for the next six months. I have already asked host Gene Schiller in advance about saying a few words about my concert and will be bringing a recording of some of the pieces on the program. (Shhh . . . I played the examples myself on the Beckerath organ!)

Help support public radio in our community! Better yet, call in while I’m on the air!

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Just a coincidence?

My upcoming concert.

My upcoming concert.

Those of you on “the mailing list” got your postcards in today’s mail. In addition, I sent out a round of press releases to the media about my upcoming concert, “Bach Clavierübung III: The German Organ Mass” on Sunday, October 30 at 7:00 pm at the Lutheran Church of Honolulu.

In the press release, I wrote the following statement: The work also contains much numerological symbolism with special significance of the number three representing the Holy Trinity: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. There are a total of 27 pieces in all, which is 3 to the power of three. Both the “Praeludium and fuga” are in the key of E-flat (3 flats) and each contain three major themes including a triple fugue.

Wow! My question is, did Bach do all these “3” things deliberately or is it just coincidence? If you check Wikipedia, you will find an entire article on the Clavierübung called “Numerological significance” in which Christoph Wolf writes that there are three groups of pieces framed by the “Praeludium and fuga:” 3 chorales on the Kyrie in “stile antico,” then 3 short versets on the Kyrie with time signatures of 6/8, 9/8 and 12/8 (all divisible by 3), then 3 settings of the Gloria. These nine mass settings (3×3) refer to the Trinity (Father, Son and Holy Ghost). Then of course, as I said earlier, the Praeludium and the Fugue both have three sections, and the fugue in fact ends with a triple fugue—that means it has three subjects! The fugue can be divided into 36, 45 and 36 measures each, and not only are those numbers evenly divisible by 3, you can also add the digits together to all equal 9. (Add 3+6, or 4+5 and you get 9, which is 3×3, the magic Trinity number.) And Bach chose the key signature of three flats besides! All these number 3s make my head spin!

0a52a5aThe number 12 also has meaning in this work. There are 12 catechism chorales—instructional hymns to teach Christianity—on the Ten Commandments, The Creed, The Lord’s Prayer, Baptism, Penitence and Communion. As you know, the number twelve also refers to the number of Jesus’ disciples. Oh, that clever Bach!

I went back to a previous post I wrote called “Bach the numerologist” where you can find other examples of this type of symbolism in Bach’s works.

Whether all these numerological references were deliberate on Bach’s part, or whether it is just coincidence, all mean that Bach was a Genius, for sure!

By the way, last night’s Wednesday Evensong was John Renke’s last service at St. Andrew’s Cathedral, a much smaller and intimate congregational service which I was fortunate to attend. It began with Ryan Klein, oboe, playing a Bach Siciliana accompanied by John on the organ, and ended with Padraic Costello playing an original composition on soprano saxophone while John improvised—both of which were absolutely transcendent and gorgeous. And then “former members of the Cathedral Choir”, yes, this is the way it was listed in the bulletin (Naomi Castro, Padraic Costello, Karol Nowicki and John Renke) sang an absolutely sublime rendition of Palestrina’s Sicut cervus for the anthem, which was videotaped by Yoko Kokuni. (Try clicking the picture below to view the Facebook video)


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A beautiful farewell

Poster by Karen Sender

Poster by Karen Sender (Click to enlarge)

I saw the end of a beautiful and long tradition tonight—thank you, St. Andrew’s Choir and thank you, John Renke for your last Choral Evensong. You have been a blessing to this community. St. Andrew’s was one of the first places I knew here in Hawaii, and I have come back so many times for comfort and for joy. I have seen so many of my students become greater musicians here and truly come to understand what it means to be a professional musician. Thank you for always being there for me and for us all. I hope that whoever made the decision to end this music program as we have known it truly understands the impact this will have on us all. Thank you John and choir for a beautiful farewell. (M.H.)

Tonight’s Choral Evensong was simply gorgeous and heartfelt. . . The choristers sang through tears, and the huge, packed Cathedral joined in on the hymns like pros. I know there is a YouTube of the service. Too bad the Bishop could not be there to witness. Honestly, I grew more in my faith with singing with Arlan and John than maybe anything I have ever done in my long life of being an Episcopalian. (S.S.)

The cathedral was absolutely packed last night at John Renke‘s final evensong, a most sublime musical and spiritual experience. The choir’s singing was beautiful, especially of the Howells Magnificat and Nunc dimittis, as expected, but what I was most impressed with was the congregational singing! As expected, there were so many musicians in the assembly— they were there to give thanks for John Renke’s nine years in this community and to give him support in this time of transition.

The music included:

Introit: Blessed are the pure in heart (H. Walford Davies)
Preces: O Lord, open thou our lips (Richard Lloyd)
Hymn: The day thou gavest, Lord, is ended (St. Clement)
Psalms 111, 112, 113 (three anglican chant tunes)
Magnificat and Nunc dimittis – Collegium Regal (Herbert Howells)
Lord’s Prayer and Responses (Richard Lloyd)
Anthem: To thee before the close of day (H. Balfour Gardiner)
Hymn: Lord, make us servants of your peace (Dickinson College)
Orison: Ho’omaika’i ika Makua (Binamu)

Just when the introit started, I heard my phone beep—I had forgotten to turn off the ringer! Who would call me now? It was a text message from former student Joey FalaWish I could be there for John Renke’s last evensong. I’m there in spirit. Give him my best. (I did, after the service!)

Stanley Yon, junior warden

Stanley Yon, junior warden

There was no sermon. The bishop had already announced in a letter to the congregation that he would not be in attendance, owing to a previous commitment to a Kaua’i parish visit. Instead, Stanley Yon, the junior warden of the Cathedral, read a special citation from Bishop Fitzpatrick, declaring John Renke to be an Honorary Canon in the Diocese of Hawaii.

As the poster above stated:

In Thanksgiving for our many years of singing the finest sacred music in Queen Emma’s Cathedral, on this, our final Choral Evensong with John Robert Renke.

The Cathedral Choir
Aggy Kusunoki, Allen Bauchle, Cliff Hunter, Frances Burke, Guy Merola, Karen Sender, Karol Nowicki, Matt Jewell, Mihoko Nakano, Miles Provencher, Mitchell Moriwaki, Naomi Castro, Padraic Costello, Paul Beck, Thomas Goedecke, Todd Beckham.

We love you, John!


Simon Crookall greets John Renke after the service.

Here is a complete recording of the service (recorded by Samuel Lam).


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Three little words

American Guild of Organists

American Guild of Organists

Please read this letter from Karl Bachman, dean of the Hawaii Chapter American Guild of Organists:

Ordinarily the leaving of a church organist or the ending of a choir program in a congregation is a non-event for all except the members of that particular church, but we in Hawaii are now experiencing a change that is anything but ordinary.  On Sunday, October 9th, at 5:30 Evensong will be sung for the last time at Saint Andrew’s Cathedral under the direction of Canon Musician John Renke.  In addition the choir will be disbanded at the same time.

This will make a profound change in our lives far beyond the stained-glass windows of the cathedral, because  this Evensong has been a source of musical enjoyment and spiritual refreshment for the people of Hawaii for decades and decades.  Not only the members of the cathedral, but people from many other churches outside of the Episcopal tradition have attended this service on a regular basis.  Many of these people come from churches with good music programs, but there is something unique in Hawaii about the room, the atmosphere, the professionalism of the choir, the beauty of the cathedral organ and the outstanding musicianship of Canon Renke that have made this service truly a service for the people of Hawaii.

Evensong is not the only service received as a gift to the greater community.  The Blue Mass in Advent serves as special comfort for those who are separated from family and friends during the holiday season.  The blessing of the city at the New Year’s Eve service brings a centuries old tradition of “cathedral as center of the community” to our state.  In addition the cathedral has served as a performance venue for mid-week organ recitals, national and international choral ensembles, Symphony, Symphony Chorus, Chamber Music, and so many more.

But there is an even greater loss than all of this.  Saint Andrew’s Cathedral was the special legacy of Queen Emma and King Kamehameha IV following their historic trip all the way to England where they experienced first hand the choral tradition and rich worship heritage of the Church of England.  Upon their return to Hawaii they established the cathedral with its own bishop of Hawaii so that this tradition would always be a part of the spiritual life of Hawaii.  That the current bishop announces the end of this tradition is the announcement of a rejection of their legacy to the people of Hawaii.  Not to protest this action lends tacit support to the end of this royal legacy.

Karl D. Bachman, Dean
On behalf of the Executive Committee
Hawaii Chapter—American Guild of Organists

The letter was sent to a local television station, the local newspaper Honolulu Star Advertiser, the American Guild of Organists national headquarters, the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, Presiding Bishop Michael B. Curry, Episcopal Church USA, Archbishop Justin Welby, Church of England, Lambeth Palace, Canterbury, concert artists who have been our guests here in Hawaii and other family and friends with the following explanation: The attached document is to make you aware of an action that will take place in Honolulu, Hawaii at Saint Andrew’s Cathedral on Sunday, October 9, 2016.  This action  will bring to an end the choral music program of the cathedral.  The cathedral was  founded by Queen Emma and King Kamehameha IV of the Kingdom of Hawaii  following their historic visit to England where they were received by Queen Victoria and  were shown the musical excellence and spiritually enriching liturgy of the Church of  England.  Upon their return to the Kingdom of Hawaii they founded the cathedral and  secured a bishop so that this rich musical and spiritual heritage would be available to  their people.  This Sunday marks the end of that royal legacy.

Star-Advertiser, Oct. 8, 2016

Star-Advertiser, Oct. 8, 2016

It was just three little words in the title of Pat Gee’s weekly religious column in today’s Star-Advertiser, that summed up what is happening here:
A new direction

(Click the picture  to enlarge)

I hope now that Pat’s column will answer many questions which have arisen in the last week.

Thank you, Pat, for your courage in writing this article!



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Cathedral music is “hot”!

Gloucester Cathedral, where I attended the Three Choirs Festival this summer.

Gloucester Cathedral, where I attended the Three Choirs Festival this summer.

Did you see the article written by Simon Jenkins in The Spectator? It could not have come at a more opportune time in this period of grieving and loss of a music program in Honolulu. The title is intriguing: Why cathedrals are soaring: The Church of England’s unexpected success story. Click here to read the entire article.

He begins, “Something strange is happening in the long decline of Christian Britain. We know that church attendance has plummeted two thirds since the 1960s. Barely half of Britons call themselves Christian and only a tiny group of these go near a church. Just 1.4 per cent regularly worship as Anglicans, and many of those do so for a privileged place in a church school.

Fan vaulting in Gloucester Cathedral

Fan vaulting in Gloucester Cathedral

Yet one corner of the garden is blooming: the 42 cathedrals. At the end of the last century, cathedrals were faring no better than churches, with attendances falling sometimes by 5 per cent a year. With the new century, everything changed. Worship in almost all 42 Anglican cathedrals began to rise, and it is now up by a third in a decade. This was in addition to visits by tourists, who number more than eight million. There are more visits to cathedrals than to English Heritage properties.”

Basically, the article says that cathedrals have become community centers, and venues for not only classical, but rock concerts, lectures, conference, workshops, art galleries and the like. But also it makes no demands on you, as in a parish church. No pressure to tithe or sign up for a committee.

What is surprising is that Jenkins says that attendance at the midweek evensong is booming, and has doubled in the last decade. One sentence really stood out for me: They come for the music.

Interior of Wells Cathedral where I visited in July.

Interior of Wells Cathedral where I visited in July.

This is another paragraph that stood out for me: A cathedral is a true museum, however much modernist bishops and deans hate the term. It embraces architecture, sculpture, painting, stained glass, wood-carving, calligraphy, embroidery and, above all, music. Its contents are displayed not in cases but beneath walls and roofs of unsurpassed beauty, intended by their builders as composite works of all the arts and crafts.

I hope the same appreciation for cathedrals and their music can resurge in America! As once was said at the Lutheran Church of Honolulu, “music is an outreach project of evangelism.”

Look at what Erin Severin wrote: (wife of my student Steven Severin, new organist of St. Mark’s Episcopal Church)

I am a lifelong musician; I have been singing in choirs since I was 10 years old. I am not, however, a lifelong Christian; I was raised in a secular household and was (and remain, to an extent) a skeptic in the realm of spirituality. I joined the choir at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church several years ago, a young music student looking to gain some extra choral experience. I had no intention of becoming religious, but soon, the magic of Anglo-Catholic liturgy overwhelmed me and I found myself drawn to the mystery of faith. None of this could have happened without music in worship. I would have never stepped inside of the church if I had not done so through music.

My story is not unique. Countless people throughout history have been drawn to the church through the gift of music and song. Choirs have long been the welcoming arms of church programs throughout the world. Music ministry has the power to transport people from their everyday lives into the Holy Spirit. Without music, countless wandering souls like mine would never find their way inside a church.

Amen to that!

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Obituary for a music program

Today I received this news release from Karen Sender of St. Andrew’s Cathedral, announcing the last Choral Evensong this coming Sunday, October 9 at 5:30 pm. As you read it, you will realize that you are reading the obituary for a music program.

The late afternoon at St. Andrew's Cathedral brings a myriad of colored light.

The late afternoon at St. Andrew’s Cathedral brings a kaleidoscope of colored light.

Choral Evensong will be sung at the Cathedral of St. Andrew on Sunday, October 9 at 5.30pm.  Music will include the setting of the Evening Canticles composed by Herbert Howells for King’s College,Cambridge, England, and the stunningly beautiful “Evening Hymn” by Balfour Gardiner. This will be the final Choral Evensong with the Cathedral Choir under the direction of John Renke.   At 5 pm, listen to the great Cathedral bells as the Saint Andrew’s Ringing Society rings changes from the Mackintosh Tower. Evensong has been sung in cathedral churches for centuries and, through prayer and song, offers to God our thanks for the day that is past and seeks the light of God’s presence through the coming night. All are welcome. Parking is free. Calabash offering gratefully accepted. 

 After his appointment as Organist and Director of Music of The Cathedral of St. Andrew in 2007, John Renke fostered a deep connection with the wider cultural life of Honolulu.  By establishing a weekly concert series and hosting many other concerts each year, the Symphony, Symphony Chorus, Chamber Music Hawaii, the Morning Music Club of Honolulu, Hawaii Youth Opera Chorus, local schools and universities, and touring ensembles from around the world have experienced the unique acoustics and beauty of St. Andrew’s Cathedral.  He was the 2015 recipient of the Dale R. Noble Award, presented by the Oahu Choral Society “in recognition and appreciation of outstanding contribution to choral music in Hawaii.” 
As the Director of Music at St. Andrew’s Cathedral, John has done much to fulfill the cathedral’s desire to be a dynamic presence in the cultural life of Honolulu.  The St. Andrew’s Cathedral Choir, composed of Choral Scholars and volunteer singers, has been considered one of the premier choral ensembles in Honolulu.  John has particularly enjoyed working with the Cathedral’s Hawaiian community and directing the Hawaiian Choir for the Sunday services.  He has been passionate in his various roles as an organist, conductor, composer, liturgist and teacher and has strived to embrace the richness of Hawaiian and Western culture that blesses these beautiful islands.

Imagine a massive letter writing campaign!

Imagine a massive letter writing campaign!

As the word has spread about John’s resignation from St. Andrew’s and the loss of the choir program, so many people have texted me, sent me emails, or have even called me on the phone to ask what they can do. Never one to give up, I thought that a massive letter-writing campaign might at least let those in the Episcopal Diocese know that there are many, many people not only in Hawaii, but around the world, who wish to express their sorrow at this turn of events. While writing a letter may not reverse any decisions that have been made, at least it may provide comfort to John and to those in the choir to know that their music has been cherished, appreciated and loved.

You may address letters to Bishop Robert L. Fitzpatrick, The Episcopal Church in Hawaii, 229 Queen Emma Square, Honolulu, HI  96813, or send an email message here.

Here is a sample, recently posted to Facebook: I direct three different choirs, I work with countless others as a ringer, soloist, and/or guest conductor, I started my own chamber choir group, and I teach singing privately and in group settings. I owe my entire professional career to John Renke and the St. Andrew’s Cathedral Choir. . . . It is shameful how easy it is for some churches and schools around the country to cut the music budget and dismantle functioning, sometimes even thriving music programs. It is even more shameful to see the people making those decisions not owning up to their actions. . . .St. Andrew’s Cathedral has had a tradition of musical excellence in sacred repertoire for decades. In more recent years, it has also become a favorite venue for local, mainland and international performers. The Cathedral music program provided a great service to the music community in Honolulu by hosting music presentations that ranged in everything from student recitals to major concerts featuring internationally renowned ensembles. . . . (K.N.)

If you’ve ever been touched by the music at St. Andrew’s, whether it was a religious service or a concert by local or visiting artists, please come support the music program at the final Choral Evensong (Sunday, October 9th, at 5:30 pm).

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Familiar, yet different

Last night's Compline

Last night’s Compline at the Lutheran Church of Honolulu

Last night, I attended Compline at the Lutheran Church of Honolulu which was the first time I’ve been to the service since Carl Crosier sang his last Compline service on August 14, 2011. The weekly service was discontinued in 2012, after Carl’s retirement. I went back and reread my post “Bittersweet Compline” about that 2011 service and I couldn’t help recalling Mary Reese’s words: there were a lot of ghosts in the service. Oh, John Bickel was there presiding, as he had for those many years, and there were some familiar voices in the choir: Paul Schwind, Randy Castello, David Del Rocco, Larry Nitz, Roy Helms and Keane Ishii. 

Group photo of 30th Anniversary celebration

Group photo of 30th Anniversary celebration: singers, clergy and spouses.

(L-R) Back row: Steve Jensen, Allen Bauchle, Paul Beck, David Del Rocco, Larry Nitz, John Bickel, Alex Golub, Roy Helms, Dale Noble, Josh Graber, Eric Doescher, Kate Lingley. Second row: Bud Klein, Randy Castello, Jerome Vasconcellos, Jerry Altweis, Frances Altweis, Mary Reese, Linden Doescher, Molly Chang. Seated back row: Betsy McCreary, John McCreary, Bill Potter, Paul Schwind, Fritz Fritschel. Seated front row: Carl Crosier, Kathy Crosier, Carol Langner, Keane Ishii.

But look at the photo above of the dinner at which we celebrated the 30th Anniversary of Compline, and three of the people have joined the heavenly chorus: Carl Crosier, John McCreary, and Eric Doescher. In addition, I can think of so many other Compline Choir members who have gone on their heavenly rest: David Reese, George MacDonald, Steve Fitzgerald, David Hall, Walter Williams, and Kavin Higa. And of course, we can’t leave out Peter Hallock, who started the whole Compline phenomenon in Seattle in the 1950s. Even the restaurant, On On Chinese Restaurant on McCully Street, is gone, too!

[UPDATE] Of course, I only listed the singers whom I know have gone on their heavenly reward. I completely forgot to list Helmuth Hormann, who was the voice of LCH Compline for many years! And there have been many, many singers who have moved away from Hawaii and are still alive and kicking!

At last night’s service, we were handed a bulletin with the order of service, something that was only done the very first year of Compline (1976). Because of this, the building was not only lit by candlelight as in the “old days,” but the house lights were on and set to dim, since people had to speak and sing some of the responses. Formerly all the responses were sung by the choir, but at last night’s service, several of the service parts were spoken by the whole assembly. Most notably the responsory, In manus tuas, Domine, (Into your hands, O Lord, I commend my spirit), was sung by the congregation. There were some familiar parts: the chants, the Nunc Dimittis by Roger Sherman (with handbells), and the Final Preces by Peter Hallock.

The sound of the choir was lovely, but of course, I was missing Carl Crosier’s countertenor voice on the top. Kudos to Scott Fikse, director, for scheduling this service. He tells me the church may schedule an all-women’s Compline service in the spring.

Still—the meditative service has the power to make us stop and reflect, ending our day with praise and prayer.

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