Etiquette on tour

Christophe Mantoux, our tour director

Christophe Mantoux, our tour director

A lot of people think that etiquette is passé, but here on the Organ Historical Society tour, it is alive and well. We are requested to wear our name badges at all times when we are with the group, in an effort to get to know one another and to easily enter the organ gallery if there are non-tour visitors to the church. We begin each visit with a short performance by our tour leader, Christophe Mantoux, who by the way, is absolutely amazing in being able to sit down at any instrument and pull off a brilliant performance on sometimes strange or unusual instruments.

After Christophe’s performance, each of those who wish to try out the organ have been given a number, in alphabetical order, and given a maximum of five minutes to play a piece. We have been advised to “Leave things as we find them; when we leave a church, only the dust should have been disturbed.”

I particularly appreciated other words of advice from tour director, Bruce Stevens: Find individual stops to play, don’t play everything on full organ! From the tour program book, “There are many players waiting to play each other, so please be considerate of the others and limit your total time on the bench. Often a small portion of a long piece is quite useful for experimentation/demonstration. NEVER stand on the pedals—doing so really could break the trackers! Remember that if the tracker action is of the suspended type, it is usually very sensitive; it responds well to a gentle touch, but it tends to rebel at a forceful touch. Be gentle, and love will bloom.”

Excuse me for ranting on this subject, because everywhere else I’ve traveled, I have seen a definite lack of etiquette in public places. On the airplane I saw people take their shoes off and put their bare feet on the seat back of the person in front of them. Even while I spent all those hours in the United Club at the San Francisco airport, I saw people watching videos on their phones with the sound turned way up and without using earphones; talking loudly on their cellphones or even taking their shoes off and curling up on the (public) furniture with bare feet!


The organ façade of Église Saint Maximin

We saw three different types of organs today, a Classic and a Spanish organ in Trionville and a Romantic organ in Hayange. I absolutely loved the organ at Église Saint Maximim, Trionville, where it seemed appropriate for me to play the first Kyrie from Clavierübung.

The Spanish organ by Alain Faye (2009)

The Spanish organ by Alain Faye (2009)

Certainly today’s most unusual instrument was the Spanish style organ by Alain Faye at Église Saint Urbain. It was only built in 2009 but was built in 18th c. Spanish style. Look at the unusual pedal pedalboard, as shown below, and particularly look at the reed caps with the smiley faces. If you look closely, there are two caps with sad faces. Apparently when those notes are played, they create the “wolf tone” of mean-tone temperament. According to Wikipedia, this is where the “diminished sixth is severely dissonant and seems to howl like a wolf, because of a phenomenon called beating. Since the diminished sixth is meant to be enharmonically equivalent to a perfect fifth, this anomalous interval has come to be called the wolf fifth.”

Look at this pedalboard!

Look at this pedalboard!

See the two caps with the sad faces?

See the two caps with the sad faces?

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I played Franck's "Cantabile"

I played Franck’s “Cantabile”

Lastly, we spent time at the Romantic French organ at Église Saint Martin in Hayange. What was remarkable that we had organ stop help from the church’s organist, Olivier Schmitt, on one side and Christophe Mantoux, on the other side. It was so much fun to play Franck’s Cantabile with these two capable gentlemen helping! Several people came up to compliment me on my Franck performance which is all the amazing, because it has been years since I’ve played this piece in public and have not touched it ever since!

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P.S. Thank you to all the people who remembered that yesterday marked the two year anniversary of Carl Crosier’s last day on earth. I do miss him terribly, and just hope to “carry on.”

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30 hours to Metz

I arrived at Charles de Gaulle airport on Sunday morning.

I arrived at Charles de Gaulle airport on Sunday morning.

Let me see … I left home at 7:30 pm Friday night for a five-hour flight to San Francisco. Then I had a 9 (NINE!) hour layover before taking an 11 hour flight to Paris. Then I waited two hours at Charles de Gaulle airport for the train to Lorraine, and then a bus to Metz, which took another two hours; then luckily I found four other people on my tour so we could share a couple of taxis to the hotel. In all, it took 30 (THIRTY!) hours from door to door. And of course, I didn’t sleep a wink the whole way, not to mention the fact that I got up at 2:30 am the day before! To say that I feel like “The Walking Dead” is a vast understatement!

Tomorrow starts my 10-day tour with the Organ Historical Society and the first question you’re going to ask me is, how did you recognize the other people on the tour so you could share a taxi? Simple — I can spot an organist a mile away! and in fact I saw a group of them at the airport waiting for the train. As it turns out, one of the gentlemen was Dr. James Litton, whom I had for French Classical Organ Literature class at Westminster Choir College! However I don’t think he remembered me—after all it’s been 43 years ago! And the one woman in the group, Charlotte Woods, said she used to teach music at Punahou School in the 60s (before my time, though).

Metz Cathedral

Metz Cathedral

After getting settled in at the hotel, I went looking around the neighborhood to find something to eat, and was delighted to see a sign pointing to the Cathedral just a few blocks away. I was blown away at the massive size of the building, the many stained glass windows, and of course, found the pipe organ.


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Tomorrow we meet the rest of the tour, led by Christophe Mantoux, the titular organist of the Church of Saint-Severin in Paris and professor of organ at several schools. The directors of the tour are Bruce Stevens and William Van Pelt, leaders of OHS tours for many years; one of which Carl Crosier and I took in 1996 to Denmark, Sweden and Germany.

Here’s a description of the tour: Our home bases will be along the famous Moselle River in the great cathedral cities of Metz (Gothic cathedral with fine stained glass) and Nancy (Place Stanislas, one of the finest city squares in France and a UNESCO World Heritage site,) and the charming garden-city of Epinal. From these we will explore many beautiful towns and villages throughout the region. Despite centuries of contentious wars in the area, the people of Lorraine managed to protect their historic architectural heritage and preserve their natural environment, while developing a warm sense of hospitality that is cherished by visitors.

My first food here, salmon quiche

My first food here, salmon quiche

The culinary delights of the region extend well beyond the namesake Quiche known the world over, while the region’s wines— Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir, Meunier, Chardonnay, Pinot Blanc, Aligoté, Auxerrois and Gamy— are universally treasured for their quality.

We will discover some 18th century organ gems in French Classic style and several extraordinary new instruments by leading French builders, but many of our visits will be to well-restored Romantic organs with their rich tonal palettes. We will encounter organs by famed builders such as Cavaillé-Coll, Mutin, Merklin, and Callinet, as well as beautiful instruments of regional master builders such as Dupont, Wegmann, Verschneider, Jeanpierre Jaquot and Dalstein-Haerpfer. Our organ visits will provide a cornucopia of musical experiences.

Now you know what I’m doing the next ten days!

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Every voice deserves to be heard

Florence Foster Jenkins 1868-1944

Florence Foster Jenkins 1868-1944

On my “must do” list before I leave town was seeing the movie, “Florence Foster Jenkins,” the film about the amateur soprano whose singing of opera classics was preserved forever through recordings. I first became acquainted with her voice in the 70s and I remember laughing hysterically with friends at parties when her recordings were played.

According to Wikipedia, “Florence Foster Jenkins, born Nascina Florence Foster (July 19, 1868 – November 26, 1944), was an American socialite and amateur soprano who was known and mocked for her flamboyant performance costumes and notably poor singing ability.” Or as the synopsis from the Internet Movie Database reads, “The story of Florence Foster Jenkins, a New York heiress who dreamed of becoming an opera singer, despite having a terrible singing voice.”

It was on CBS Morning a couple of weeks ago that I saw Meryl Streep and Hugh Grant interviewed, but what I took away was “See this movie on the big screen. See it with musical friends.” So on Wednesday night, I went with Todd and Jennifer Beckham to a mostly empty theatre (there were only a total of 7 people in the theatre for that showing!) and I can’t give you enough superlatives about this movie: Must see! Hilarious! Heart-warming!  The acting of Meryl Streep, Hugh Grant (who plays Florence’s common-law husband) and Simon Helberg (who plays Cosme McMoon, the accompanist) was absolutely fantastic! Most of all, I was so surprised to hear Meryl Streep’s amazing real life-singing voice, especially at the end of the movie, when Florence is on her deathbed and dreams of what she really sounds like. Also I was surprised to learn that Simon Helberg did all the piano playing himself, according to a television interview on Build. He said it only took him three or four months of practice to perform these difficult opera accompaniments, according to the interview.

Here are some real critics’ reviews of this marvelous film:

‘Florence Foster Jenkins,’ Singing So Wretched It’s Legendary, New York Times
Streep is note perfect as a deluded diva, The Guardian
Meryl Streep Achieves Greatness as an Awful Singer, The Wrap
Florence Foster Jenkins is the perfect antidote for sobering times, The Telegraph

Florence Foster Jenkins in one of her many recital costumes, "Angel of Inspiration".

Florence Foster Jenkins in one of her many recital costumes, “Angel of Inspiration”.

As far as I can tell from reading various online biographies, the film was fairly faithful to real life events. Here are the facts: Florence was born into a wealthy family. She played the piano at the White House when she was 7 years old. When her father refused to let her study music, she eloped with Dr. Frank Thornton Jenkins, from whom she got syphilis but never officially divorced. She met a Shakespearean actor, St. Clair Bayfield in 1909, who acted as her manager for 36 years, and whom she called her husband although they never officially married. She hired Cosme McMoon, a pianist and composer, as her accompanist. Florence joined many social clubs and founded the Verdi Club, at which she produced lavish musical tableaux and appeared in elaborate costumes. She started giving private vocal recitals in 1912, where Bayfield tried to restrict the guest list to loyal friends because the truth was that her pitch, rhythm, and diction were truly “exquisitely bad,” according to opera impresario Ira Siff. After giving a recital in Carnegie Hall at age 76, she died a month later when she realized that people had been laughing at her. Bayfield married his mistress Kathleen Weatherly after Florence died.

Stefanie Smart, 1965-2011

Stefanie Smart, 1965-2011

The movie took me back to 2009 when our local Diamond Head Theatre put on a production of Souvenir, based on Florence Foster Jenkins’ life and the relationship with her accompanist, Cosme McMoon, played by Stefanie Smart and Laurence Paxton. In the play, McMoon was also Florence’s vocal coach, and always tried to protect her from the truth about her singing. Stefanie was a singer whom I met in the Japanese wedding business and she and I did many weddings together. We were so fortunate to see these two wonderful musicians in this production and to hear Stefanie’s amazing singing, because she was hospitalized soon after starting the run and was replaced by Mary Chesnut Hicks. Not too long after, I happened to run into Stefanie at the mammography clinic when she told me about her breast cancer. Stefanie died on August 17, 2011 and you can read her obituary here.

It’s very possible that Florence Foster Jenkins’ problem was that her poor singing was due to her contracting syphilis from her first husband and that it affected her hearing. Also, she was taking mercury and arsenic before antibiotics were available, and she was slowly poisoning herself.

I was reminded of Carl Crosier’s reunion recitals with Yuko Honda after she was diagnosed with brain, liver, lung and bone cancer. Go back and re-read my post “Reunion Recitals” about their remarkable discovery about finding one another after 20 years and playing a series of piano and violin concerts. It was the brain cancer which affected Yuko’s hearing to the extent that she could not tell when certain high pitches were in or out of tune, and she had to mark the fingerboard of her violin with the notes. Still some of her intonation was not perfect, as you can hear in the slideshow I put together here:

Back to the movie—we tend to laugh at Florence Foster Jenkins’ singing less and less, and begin to feel sorry for her. (At least I did). I was particularly struck at how Meryl Streep played her not as a buffoon, and more of a sympathetic character.

Go see the movie . . . you’ll love it!


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August transitions

Just before going into surgery (Aug. 12, 2008)

Just before going into surgery (Aug. 12, 2008)

For many, August is a month of transitions—the last days of summer, going back to school, starting up a new choir season, and so forth. For me, I always remember August 12th as the day “I got my new brain,” as my husband, Carl, used to tell me. In 2008, I was diagnosed with a meningioma brain tumor, after a year and a half of daily, constant headaches. I am so grateful that I suffered no ill effects in any way from the craniotomy (Yes, my head was cut open!) and I was able to resume my normal activities within a month.

Facebook has been reminding me of other August transitions, through its “On this Day” memories application. I was reminded that it was just five years ago last Sunday the 21st that Carl Crosier conducted his last service at the Lutheran Church of Honolulu after 38 years as the director of music. This seems like a lifetime ago, yet it was only five years to the day, August 21, 2011. You can go back and re-read some of my posts, as I did, about Carl’s retirement.

The T-Shirts are in!
A day of rejoicing
A message from the Cantor
The REAL retirement celebration

The LCH congregation in Carl Crosier T-shirts.

The LCH congregation in Carl Crosier T-shirts.

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After the last Bach Great 18 concert

After the last Bach Great 18 concert, Aug. 25, 2013

Three years ago I played Bach’s complete Great 18 Chorales in two concerts, joined by the Bach Chamber Choir. The concerts took place on two successive Sundays, August 18 and 25, 2013 — that also seems like a lifetime ago! You can go back and re-read my post “SRO: A full house for Bach.”

Carl Crosier, 1945-2014

Carl Crosier, 1945-2014

And of course, it was just two short years ago that I announced Carl’s death, August 28, 2014, in a post that showed only his picture, and him singing “Music for awhile.” Knowing that the end was inevitable, this post was months in the making, yes, even while Carl was reclining on the sofa only steps away, I was looking through my thousands of digital photos for a suitable photograph.

My life surely changed that August, and last week as I was practicing for my upcoming October 30th concert, I was struck with the realization, “I’m truly on my own now!” It will be my first big concert without him, and I can’t help but wonder what he would say to me. You see, we always bounced things off one another, and he surely would have had some ideas on making the music even better.

So now I am escaping — and find myself packing for another European trip. This time I’ll be spending ten days with the Organ Historical Society on an organ study tour to Lorraine, France—yet again a reminder of when Carl and I went on an OHS organ tour in 1996, that year to Denmark, Sweden and Germany.

Aloha, Hawaii . . . Bonjour, France!


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“I am still learning”

When I was in Philadelphia for the Organ Historical Society convention in June, I bought yet another edition of Bach’s Clavierübung III, the music which I’m playing in a concert on October 30. This marks my sixth edition of this music, and you’re probably asking, “Why do you need so many copies of the music?” The truth is that they are all different!

No, I don’t mean just the cover design, there are small differences in the music — the layouts are different with the number of measures per line, different page breaks, some have marked ornaments and others do not, and would you believe, there are even note discrepancies! You would think that with Bach dead and gone nearly three hundred years ago, there would be some consensus on what the notes are!

[In the order I have purchased them, the six editions I now have are published/edited by Marcel Dupré, C. F. Peters, Albert Riemenschneider, Anthony Newman,  Bärenreiter, and Wayne Leupold.]

The Bärenreiter edition

The Bärenreiter edition

In general I like to use urtext editions, which means the originals, devoid of fingering and other editorial markings. For the Bach organ works, that usually refers to the Bärenreiter edition, the one with the blue cover, considered the definitive edition. The good thing about this edition is that it has by far the biggest notes. That would be the equivalent of the largest font size — which means it’s easy to read, especially for these old eyes. The big problem is that it has many more page turns, because it takes so much space.

The Albert Riemenschneider edition

The Albert Riemenschneider edition

Over thirty years ago, Carl Crosier and I used the Albert Riemenschneider edition, which at the time was considered urtext even though it had fingering and pedaling marks. What I discovered is that I had gotten so used to reading the notes in this layout that I couldn’t play from other editions so easily. Yikes! If you can believe this, where the page turns occurred and how the measures were laid out made a huge difference in my ability to play the music, especially in a piece like “Allein Gott in der Höh sei Ehr,” a piece which is in a trio texture.

Look at the differences below.


Allein Gott in the Riemenschneider edition

Allein Gott in the Riemenschneider edition

The same piece in the Bärenreiter edition.

The same piece in the Bärenreiter edition. The notes are actually larger than shown above because the page is landscape.

This week, I have made the difficult decision to re-learn a section of this piece because the latest editions agreed on the placement of an ornament, which is different from the way I played it years ago!

Here is how I played this until this week.

Here is how I played this passage until this week (Riemenschneider ed.)

This is what I had to relearn this week!

This is what I had to relearn this week! (Bärenreiter ed.)

I was reminded of the old adage, “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks!”

I really, really struggled with this, but after many, many repetitions at a slow tempo, I think I’ve finally got it!

(Yes, that is a trill starting with a turn and ending with a mordent in the pedal!!!)

So the question for me is, which edition do I believe, and which one will I use to perform? Truthfully, I will be using a combination of the two. Further, I have reduced each of the pieces to just one page, so there will be no page turns. You remember seeing my chart for the Prelude?

The opening Prelude in E-flat.

The opening Prelude in E-flat.

(If you are asking the question, the answer is “Yes,  I can still read the music,” which of course is larger in real life! but not by very much!)

Michelangelo was still learning at age 87.

Michelangelo was still learning at age 87.

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Ding, dong bell!

You remember that huge box of mail that I returned home to, after being on the road for nearly six weeks? The bills always get my attention first, but what I look forward to is reading all the magazines that have piled up in my absence.

It was not until yesterday that I finally opened up my AAA magazine, and almost jumped up to the ceiling when I saw this article:

Tasha Kobashigawa, airline pilot

Tasha Kobashigawa, airline pilot

It was Tasha Kobashigawa, my former student! No, she didn’t take organ from me, but she was one of my handbell students at St. Andrew’s Priory. In my former life (1983-1989), I taught 17 handbell classes a week for six years at the Priory! (You’ll understand that I really don’t care to hear another handbell ever again in my life! ) I especially remembered Tasha’s name because she was Japanese with a Russian first name.

I was so proud of my girls, though, for the level of musical skill they achieved. They learned not only handbell technique and music reading, but also teamwork, cooperation, and musical expression. In those days, all students in fourth and fifth grade took handbell classes two days a week (Yes, it was mandatory!) In the sixth grade, they could choose between orchestra, band or choir, or continue with handbells three days a week. The seventh and eighth grade choir also met three days a week, and the select handbell class met an incredible five days a week! The select girls were so accomplished that we got an invitation from and performed for the governor of Hawaii (who was John Waihee, at the time).

I took three girls to a convention of the American Guild of English Handbell Ringers in San Diego (1986) with a stop at Disneyland. One of those girls was Tasha, along with classmates Julie Nakamura and Iris Mori. In the pictures below, you can see I also brought my son, Stephen, who was three years old at the time.


(L-R) Tasha, Julie, and Iris at Disneyland


At Disneyland


Egad, these pictures are thirty years old! I’m guessing it was about ten or twelve years ago that I saw Tasha last. She was a waitress at Don Ho’s Island Grill and recognized me. From there she became the weekend TV anchor at KITV, and after that, she went to flight school and got her pilot’s license. She was in fact the first officer on the last flight of Aloha Airlines, and now is a pilot for Hawaiian Air. She was recognized by the FAA with inclusion in the prestigious FAA Airmen Certification Database.

I’m always so pleased when I meet up with former students, and am super happy for Tasha that she has found her career path.

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Musical Olympian

I definitely live in a bubble!

I definitely live in a bubble!

Some time ago, I took a PBS Newshour quiz called, “Do you live in a bubble?” Charles Murray, a political scientist theorizes in his book, Coming Apart, that certain Americans have little exposure to American culture at large. They therefore live in a social and culture bubble. If you’d like to take the test, you can click here.

Some of the questions that were asked were,  “In high school, did you letter in anything? and “During the last five years, have you or your spouse gone fishing?” Most of my answers were ‘no.’ I would have to say that in our household, sports were a big zero — we did not watch football, basketball or baseball on television, even big events like the Super Bowl or the World Series. If you ask me, from year to year, as to what teams are playing in the Super Bowl, I couldn’t tell you.

Likewise when the pop artist, Prince, died recently, I could not say that I recognized a single one of his songs. I’m hopeless, right?

Rio Olympics 2016

Rio Olympics 2016

The one exception to this bubble-living, though, are the Olympics. Every four years, we would be glued to the TV set, and no matter what the sport— swimming, volleyball, track and field, ice skating, whatever — we were keen on watching it. Gymnastics, ice skating and diving were Carl Crosier’s favorites. I am especially thinking he would absolutely love watching the American women’s gymnastics team this year.

Look at these women. Look at these incredible, strong, confident, extraordinary human beings. Look at their muscles. Look at their determination. Look at their dreams. Look at who is actually "making America great again": African-American women, Jewish-American women, Puerto Rican-American women, European-American women, coached by Romanian-American immigrants. Together. All of us. Together. Now that's greatness.   (Photograph by Jason Lavengood, used with permission)

Look at these women. Look at these incredible, strong, confident, extraordinary human beings. Look at their muscles. Look at their determination. Look at their dreams. Look at who is actually “making America great again”: African-American women, Jewish-American women, Puerto Rican-American women, European-American women, coached by Romanian-American immigrants. Together. All of us. Together. Now that’s greatness.
(Facebook post by Kevin Brent Dragseth. Photograph by Jason Lavengood, used with permission)

I remember the 2008 Beijing Olympics with some wistfulness and irony: that was the year that I underwent a craniotomy (my head was cut open!) to remove a benign brain tumor, and I spent three weeks recovering at home. Of course I spent most of those weeks watching the Olympics and Michael Phelps.

This year is no different, and although Carl is no longer here, I’m still watching the Olympics eagerly and wishing he were here to share it with me. But you know, in many ways, as I am practicing for my upcoming concert I think of myself as a musical Olympian — so much hard work that goes by in a flash during the performance. I think of my trills as tricky as iceskating jumps or gymnastic vaults, and the endurance needed to play an all-Bach concert as grueling as the marathon.

Guess what my bubble score was? Out of a possible 99, my score was 6, meaning that I am nearly completely disconnected from the average American culture at large.




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Back to the salt mines

ae6722fa00318e319a534952c84d12d4A couple of posts ago, I used the expression, “Back to the salt mines.”

Ever wonder where that expression came from? According to the American Heritage Dictionary of Idioms by Christine Ammer, this means to:

Resume work, usually with some reluctance, as in With my slavedriver of a boss, even on Saturdays it’s back to the salt mines. This term alludes to the Russian practice of punishing prisoners by sending them to work in the salt mines of Siberia. Today the term is only used ironically.”


I have the older version of this metronome.

I have the older version of this metronome. Even though mine is about 15 years old, it still works fine.

What this means for me is that I am starting the process of refining and polishing my performance. In terms of practicing, these days I am using the metronome on almost all the pieces, and am using only a soft 4′ flute stop so that I can clearly hear all of the voices. Somehow when you play on full organ all the time things tend to get lost!

Why use the metronome? Of course, this is for the purpose of keeping the rhythm steady and the tempo consistent. I am deliberately setting the metronome slower than how fast I eventually want to perform the music. This forces me to listen to every note, something I have to keep telling myself. As one website put it, SLOW practice is the key to FAST playing!

Luckily I have a metronome which can subdivide beats in half, in triplets or in sixteenth notes so that I can hear every beat clearly.

Back to the salt mines also means is that I’m starting to do all the “work behind the scenes,” and yesterday I sent off the print order for 1000 postcards to publicize the concert. Here’s a sneak preview of what it will look like.

The front of the Clavierübung postcard.

The front of the Clavierübung postcard.

If you think this looks awfully familiar, it is because the graphic is almost identical to the one I used three years ago with Bach’s picture superimposed upon the Lutheran Church of Honolulu’s Beckerath organ. Only the text, of course, is different.

Before my big trip, I already spent weeks preparing a choral edition for the concert, which meant punching in all the music and (German) lyrics to the four-part chorales for the choir, in addition to scanning the last line of each organ piece for cues. That took a lot of work, of course, but now I have the big job of preparing the actual program book for the audience. Like the one I did three years ago for the Great Eighteen Chorales concert, the program book will contain program notes on the entire Clavierübung, plus information about each of the chorale preludes. I will also include the melody line for each chorale so that you can follow the tune to understand Bach’s genius in setting these chorales, and get this — the audience will be invited to join in singing the Gloria in excelsis (“Allein Gott in der Höh sei Ehr”) and the Credo (“Wir glauben all an einem Gott”) — in German, of course!

What fun that will be!



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Memories of Sparky

The organ at Bourges Cathedral

The organ at Bourges Cathedral

What is awe-inspiring and amazing about concert organists is that they can jump from organ to organ, and with seemingly little effort, can register their pieces and play with ease, no matter how different each instrument is, no matter the acoustic, the touch, and the stops. And believe me, all organs are different and not created equal!

When Nathan Laube showed me the organ at Bourges Cathedral, which had no combination action, and he had to have a three-hour rehearsal just with the two registrants on each side of the console (these are human stop-pullers!), I was truly amazed that he could pull together his concert so quickly, with an entirely different repertoire than the concert I heard him play only a couple of weeks before at the Organ Historical Society.)

My selfie at Christchurch Cathedral Dublin.

My selfie at Christchurch Cathedral Dublin.

But I also have to pat myself on the back when I think about the Hawaii Vocal Arts Ensemble’s recent trip to Ireland. Sometimes I only had as little as 5 minutes to find the right stops on a strange organ, somehow everything came together. And I somehow registered the complete Fauré Requiem on the organ at Christchurch Cathedral Dubin in only about half an hour. It was truly a miracle!

I’m home now, but have mostly been cooped up in my apartment for the last six days — you got it, ever since I’ve been back, I’ve been sick! I’m afraid that nearly all those six weeks of staying up past midnight every night and getting up at 5:00 am is catching up with me. It started with a sore throat, then developed into a dry cough, then congestion, then body aches and pains because of coughing all night. And because I’m still waking up around midnight every night because of my jet lag, I haven’t been able to sleep very well.

Even though I taught six lessons this week, today is really the first day I’ve ventured out to practice. You remember that I tried playing some of my concert pieces at the American Cathedral of Paris, (see my post “The American Cathedral“) and how my fingers just didn’t “work” the way they should! At the time I called it “rusty” fingers, but what I was expecting today after six weeks was “rubber” fingers, with absolutely no control. I’m happy to report that with a few minor exceptions, all my pieces are in quite good shape! What a relief!

I was reminded of the story of Sparky’s Magic Piano, a record I played over and over on a 78 rpm player when I was growing up. The line that has stuck with me to this day is, “I won’t go . . . I won’t go unless my very own piano goes with me!” 

I do hope I’m not like Sparky, and can only play my program on only one organ! But every time I sit down at a strange organ, I keep hearing Sparky’s voice: “I won’t go . . . I won’t go unless my very own (organ) goes with me!” 

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Six degrees of separation

The post office delivered all my mail yesterday!

The post office delivered all my mail yesterday!

“I read somewhere that everybody on this planet is separated by only six other people. Six degrees of separation between us and everyone else on this planet. The President of the United States, a gondolier in Venice, just fill in the names. I find it A) extremely comforting that we’re so close, and B) like Chinese water torture that we’re so close because you have to find the right six people to make the right connection… I am bound to everyone on this planet by a trail of six people.”

The above is a quote from the play, Six Degrees of Separation, by John Guare. While I was on my latest trip, I was frequently asked about life in Hawaii — and one thing I learned is that if you run into someone who lives in Honolulu, chances are that you know someone in common.

It is now late Tuesday night and I have just now emerged from my long trek home to get back to writing this blog. In case you’re wondering, here’s how I got from Gloucester, U.K. to Honolulu:

  1. Taxi from the New Inn Gloucester to the bus station.
  2. National Express bus to Heathrow airport (2 hours).
  3. Shuttle bus from the airport to the hotel. Overnight in a London airport hotel.
  4. Shuttle bus back to the Heathrow airport at 4:19 am (!)
  5. Flight from London to Toronto, Canada (7-3/4 hours) — three hour layover.
  6. Flight from Toronto to Philadelphia(1-1/2 hours)
  7. Shuttle bus from the airport to the hotel. Overnight in a Philadelphia airport hotel.
  8. Shuttle bus back to Philadelphia airport at 4:30 am (!)
  9. Flight from Philadelphia to Chicago (2-1/4 hours) — two hour layover.
  10. Flight from Chicago to San Francisco (4-1/2 hours) — two hour layover.
  11. Flight from San Francisco to Honolulu (5-1/4 hours) — I’m completely wiped out! I don’t even know what time zone I’m in!

It was on the last leg to Honolulu that I sat next to a man and when I told him I had recently retired as the organist of Iolani School, he said that both his son and daughter-in-law graduated from Iolani.

“What class?” I asked.
“2001,” he answered.
“That’s the same class as my son! I wonder if they knew each other.”

Yes, when I confirmed it by telephone with son Stephen, they were in fact good friends, and the gentleman’s daughter-in-law and Stephen both took Russian and went to Russia on a school-sponsored trip. Small world, isn’t it? [UPDATE: I just checked my guest book from December 2011 and both his son and daughter-in-law signed the book, which meant they came to the Russian Reunion we hosted at our apartment!]

But it’s already back to work for me, and four loads of laundry later, yesterday at 3:53 am I finished designing the 2016-2017 season brochure for Early Music Hawaii. If you click the caption of the picture at the left, you can have a sneak preview of their upcoming season (and my first gig in September!)

Back to the salt mines!

(Well, yes, until my next trip in just three-and-a-half weeks!)

I am a glutton for punishment!

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