The Duke connection

Doris Duke Theater, Honolulu Museum of Art

Doris Duke Theater, Honolulu Museum of Art

If you live in Hawaii, maybe you’ve attended concerts at the  Doris Duke Theater at the Honolulu Museum of Art. Or perhaps you’ve visited Shangri-La, Doris Duke’s home in Hawaii which is now a museum of Islamic art. Check out Wikipedia to read:

“Doris Duke (November 22, 1912 – October 28, 1993) was an American heiress, socialite, horticulturalist, art collector, and philanthropist. The daughter of a wealthy tobacco tycoon, Duke was able to fund a life of global travel and wide-ranging interests. These extended across journalism, competition surfing, jazz piano, wildlife conservation, Oriental art and Hare Krishna.

“Duke was born in New York City, the only child of tobacco and hydroelectric power tycoon James Buchanan Duke and his second wife, Nanaline Holt Inman.”

Duke University Chapel

Duke University Chapel. Photo by Joey Fala.

4,766 miles away from Honolulu is Durham, NC, where there is a private university which in 1924, tobacco and electric power industrialist James Buchanan Duke established The Duke Endowment, at which time the institution changed its name to honor his deceased father, Washington Duke… yes, that’s Duke University.

Now there will be another Duke-Hawaii connection. Guess who has been appointed Organ Scholar at Duke University—(drum roll, please): Joey Fala, my former organ student who already has a national reputation!

The Organ Scholar program at Duke was begun in 2015: “Duke Chapel has begun a new Organ Scholars program that will train organ students in sacred music. The two-year program includes instruction for two students on playing during church services and choral accompaniment. The chapel is launching the program along with a new weekly worship service, Choral Evensong, which will take place at 4 p.m. Sundays in the Divinity School’s Goodson Chapel. The two organ scholars will play at the Evensong service and be joined by the Evensong Singers, a new auditioned choir at Duke Chapel. Chapel organist Christopher Jacobson will oversee the instruction of the scholars and conduct the choir during the Evensong services.

“In adopting this proven model of training organists, the chapel is not only contributing to the future of sacred music in America,” Jacobson said, “but it is also joining in the great tradition of cathedrals and chapels around the world offering daily prayer and praise to God.”

Check out the website for information about Duke University Chapel’s organs:

Duke University Chapel is unique in having three outstanding pipe organs, each in a different style, which are used for worship services, recitals, and the study of organ performance. They are the Flentrop (Benjamin N. Duke Memorial Organ) located in the nave, the Aeolian (Kathleen McClendon Organ) located in the chancel, and the Brombaugh organ found in the Memorial Chapel. In addition, the Chapel owns a portative organ, used for accompanying small groups.

You’re right, I’m already planning a visit to North Carolina next year to visit Joey!

Flentrop organ at Duke University Chapel

Flentrop organ at Duke University Chapel

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What a coincidence!

At Hawaii Public Radio with Ian Capps, host of The Early Muse

At Hawaii Public Radio with Ian Capps, host of The Early Muse

This afternoon was my turn at Hawaii Public Radio’s semi-annual fund drive, and I deliberately chose a time at which I would normally be listening: Fred Child’s Performance TodaySeems that in my busy schedule, I always seem to be driving around at that hour, and am able to enjoy the live performances which are featured.

According to the Performance Today website:

American Public Media’s Performance Today is America’s most popular classical music radio program and a winner of the 2014 Gabriel Award for artistic achievement. The show is broadcast on nearly 300 public radio stations across the country, and reaches approximately 1.4 million listeners each week.

Performance Today features live concert recordings that can’t be heard anywhere else, as well as in-studio performances and interviews. Also, each week composer Bruce Adolphe joins host Fred Child for a classical music game, the Piano Puzzler. Performance Today is based at the APM studios in Saint Paul, Minn., but is frequently on the road, with special programs broadcast from festivals and public radio stations around the country.

When I told my friends that it was Tuesday, April 25th, that I would be “pitching,” and trying to encourage people to donate to Hawaii Public Radio, I’m afraid I made a face. That is because I would much rather be playing rather than talking on the radio! You see, it’s something which takes me out of my comfort zone—playing and writing for me are easy, but talking—well, that’s another ball of wax.

I did sign up for a time I knew Ian Capps of The Early Muse and Early Music Hawaii would be hosting, so at least there would be a friendly face to talk to.

The church of Saint-Merri, Paris, where Saint-Saens was organist, 1853-57

The church of Saint-Merri, Paris, where Saint-Saëns was organist, 1853-57

And you’ll never guess what Fred Child of Performance Today played during my time slot? Saint-Saëns “Symphony No. 3,” the ‘Organ Symphony,’ performed by the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, with Thierry Escaich on the organ! Is that a coincidence or what?

[You can hear the broadcast by going to the Performance Today website]

I was telling the other people at the table that organists are truly a rare breed of musician. In the State of Hawaii, with 1.4 million people, there are only about 12 people who live here who have a degree in organ performance. Let that sink in for a moment. If you do the math, we 12 organists represent only .00000857142857 of the whole population!

Lonesome George was the last of his species!

Lonesome George was the last of his species!

That’s almost as rare as Lonesome George (1910-2012), the last surviving Pinta Island tortoise—last of his species!

No, the local folks did not arrange in advance for Fred Child to play organ music, so the fact that he played the Saint-Saëns Organ Symphony during my volunteer slot is pretty remarkable, wouldn’t you say?

When I arrived, I was somewhat taken aback at a large confirmation card which was presented to me, listing my name in large letters: Katherine Crosier, Organist and Artistic Director of Early Music Hawaii. The “Organist” part I knew about—but the rest of it is news to me! (I knew I was the Vice-President, but now the Artistic Director, too?)

Hawaii Public Radio is a real community asset in this town, and 30% of its programming is locally-produced, which is a larger percentage than most other public radio stations. Please call in locally at 808-941-3689, or from the mainland or neighbor islands at 1-877-941-3689 or donate online at hawaiipublicradio.org.

If you look at the iPad version of the Hawaii Public Radio app, look who appears at the bottom!

See a familiar face at the organ on the bottom of the screen?

See a familiar face at the organ on the bottom of the screen? Yes, it’s Joey Fala!

The good news is that in the time I was at the station, we made TWO fundraising goals!

Thank you, Hawaii Public Radio, for what you do for all of us, but especially for us organists in the community!

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A weekend of incredible singing

The first concert by the Oahu Choral Society Chamber Choir.

The first concert by the Oahu Choral Society Chamber Choir.

I’ve just come home after the “Motets and Cantatas” concert by the Oahu Choral Society Chamber Choir, and I must say that I heard some fantastic singing tonight. Tonight was the Chamber Choir’s debut, consisting of only 22 singers out of the larger OCS ensemble. The tone of the choir was light and agile, the perfect group for singing Bach.

The program began with Johannes Brahms’ “Schaffe in mir, Gott, ein rein Herz, Op. 29, No. 2” and right off the bat, the choir set the bar high on this a cappella work, their tone focused and clear, successfully navigating the tricky chromaticisms.

Conductor Esther Yoo

Conductor Esther Yoo

Next was Bach Motet 3, “Jesu, meine Freude, BWV 227.” I have performed this piece twice before tonight—the first time was March 23, 1983 and the second time was March 21, 1993. (Aren’t we glad that Carl Crosier kept meticulous records about our performances?) Tonight’s performance was excellent in every way, and conductor Esther Yoo kept the tempos brisk where appropriate.

I used the organ copy of “Jesu meine Freude” kept in the LCH choir library, and right on the top of the fugal section of “Ihr aber seid nicht fleischlich,” I had written in large letters, “JEROME!” I assumed this referred to Jerome Vasconcellos, but I cannot for the life of me figure out why I wrote his name at the top. It’s possible that he was the closest person in the choir who could turn the page for me at that point in the performance! Just think, the last time I opened this music was TWENTY-FOUR (24!) years ago!

I had no page turner tonight, but since I played my own baby pipe organ, I was able to turn the pages myself by playing the left hand part in the pedals for only as long as necessary to get the page turned.

Jeremy Wong turned in a fantastic performance of the baritone solo Cantata 56, “Ich will den Kreuzstab gerne tragen,” which opened the second half of the concert. I’m afraid, though, that I was too worried about my own part to pay too much attention to what he was doing. That was because I was reading from the vocal edition and “ad-libbing” an organ continuo part, basically looking at the bass line, and “making up the right hand part” as we went along. Yikes!

The Chamber Choir then performed two works by Felix Mendelssohn, chorale cantatas on “Jesu, meine Freude” and “Wer nur den lieben Gott lässt walten.” Naomi Castro‘s soprano solo in the last work was spun out like cotton candy, pure sweetness and sugar!

Last night, I attended the Hawaii Opera Theater’s production of “Tales of Hoffman,” and we heard some absolutely incredible singing. I was blown away by the Doll Song sung by soprano Rachele Gilmore, who went up into the stratosphere when she sang a high A-flat! Luckily I found a YouTube performance of her debut at the Met with this piece so you can hear it too! Amazingly, she sang the Met debut performance on only four hours notice when Kathleen Kim fell ill, and proceeded to bring the house down. You’ve got to hear this—I’m certain you’ll be blown away, too!

As my friend Vreni Griffith said tonight, we can hear such fantastic singing and performances right here in Honolulu—we don’t have to go to Europe!

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Operation Babylift

Archival photo of babies strapped into airline seats, 1975

Archival photo of babies leaving South Vietnam, strapped into airline seats, 1975

Operation Babylift. If you are as old as I am (ahem!), you probably have heard the term “Operation Babylift.” But if you’re still a spring chicken, and aren’t old enough to know what it was,  I can tell you that it was the name of a mass evacuation of children at the end of the Vietnam War in 1975. Supposedly 3,000 orphans were airlifted to the United States, Australia, France and Canada (there was some question as to whether some were really orphans). The first flight loaded with babies tragically crashed, claiming the lives of 78 children, although there were survivors. [If you are interested, you can read the story in the Atlas Obscura written only last September 2016 about children who were flown to the United States. Some have returned to Vietnam. Click here to read a story about Operation Babylift survivors who returned to the scene 40 years later.]

Well, my Operation Babylift was not nearly so dramatic or traumatic, but imagine what I felt when the guys from S & S Delivery showed up and told me, “This organ is NOT going to fit through the front door!” You see, I had promised Esther Yoo of the Oahu Choral Society that they could borrow my baby pipe organ for their “Motets and Cantatas” concert this Saturday, which I’m playing, by the way.

I even took out the tape measure and measured the width of my doorway: 35-1/2 inches. Then I went over the organ and measured its width: 35-3/4″. Even if we took the door off the hinges, it was NOT going to fit. Close, but no cigars. I knew already that the pedalboard could easily come off, but it looked like the keyboard was installed in there firmly and was not designed to disconnect. Oh dear, what were we going to do?

The guys asked me, “How did you get it in here?”

“It came in a big box. Some assembly required!” (Check out my post “Baby’s coming out party” for pictures!)

What to do? I called Hans-Ulrich Erbsloeh in Hamburg, Germany. “Help, Hans! Is there any way to disconnect the keyboard so we can move the organ? It won’t fit through the door!”

“I’ll call you back.”

Hans told me that he would put in a call to Klaus Grüble, the organbuilder. Within five minutes, he had told us where the releases were, and voilà! The keyboard was detached. Whew!

The baby pipe organ at St. Andrew's Cathedral

The baby pipe organ at St. Andrew’s Cathedral

Then two guys started to lift the organ, no small task, since it weighs about 500 pounds. But as they lifted it up, the bottom seemed to come apart from the base and everyone panicked. Another call to Germany with yet another call back assured us that nothing was holding the chest to the blower, and that the organ fit together like a giant wooden puzzle. We found out the adjustable bench also came apart unless you held it from the bottom.

About fifteen minutes later, the organ in 5 pieces arrived at St. Andrew’s Cathedral, but since I had neglected to pick up the power cord in all the confusion, I couldn’t test it out to make sure everything was put back together again.

At last night’s dress rehearsal, I breathed a huge sigh of relief when I connected the power cord to an extension cord, then I turned the organ on. It worked!

Here’s the whole story in pictures.

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I must say, as I was listening to Jeremy Wong‘s beautiful solos as we rehearsed Bach Cantata 56, “Ich will den Kreuzstab gerne tragen,” it made me realize how much I’ve missed playing Bach cantatas. (I played over 70 of them while I was organist at the Lutheran Church of Honolulu.) The Oahu Choral Society Chamber Choir also performs Motet No. 3, “Jesu meine Freude,” and they sound amazing.

Don’t miss this Saturday’s concert at 7:30 pm! Tickets are available at the door or at the Oahu Choral Society website. 

 

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Easter Tuesday

The Easter altar at St. Andrew's Cathedral

The Easter altar at St. Andrew’s Cathedral

For me, it wasn’t Easter until I was able to play the Easter hymn, “Jesus Christ is risen today,” which didn’t happen until Easter Tuesday when I played the Easter Eucharist for the St. Andrew’s Schools. I sang the hymn when I attended Easter Day mass at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church to hear my organ student, Steven Severin, play, but it really wasn’t Easter for me. I even hosted an Easter Day brunch for my friends on Sunday after church, it still wasn’t Easter.

You see, it has now been four years since I retired from church music, and to be quite honest, I don’t miss all the rehearsals, the four straight days of major services from Maundy Thursday, to Good Friday, to Easter Vigil, to Easter, the lack of sleep, and being “on the edge” about performing all the music I had to play during the week.

So it was finally on Easter Tuesday at the St. Andrew’s Schools chapel service that I performed my favorite Easter pieces: “Christ lag in Todesbanden (Christ lay in bonds of death)” by Georg Böhm (which I always used to play during Communion at the Easter Vigil), “Schmücke dich, o liebe Seele (Deck thyself, my soul with gladness) by J. S. Bach, and “Komm heiliger Geist (Come, holy Spirit) by Bach for the postlude. This last piece was the one which I always played after the intonation of the Gloria at the Easter Vigil. It was the first organ piece the parishioners heard after the organ being silenced at the beginning of the Maundy Thursday service through the first part of the Vigil. With the choristers ringing handbells vigorously and creating a wild cacophony, it was for me “one of those moments” which for me was the essence of and captured the rapturous joy of Easter.

It was Easter Tuesday that I also used Dale Wood’s setting of “Easter Hymn” for the final verse of the hymn, and immediately I was brought back to all those 30+ years I played it at the Lutheran Church of Honolulu with Carl conducting the choir on the descant.

Here, for your edification, is Kings College’s performance of “Easter Hymn,” arranged by David Willcocks. It’s not the arrangement I used, but is grand, nevertheless.

On Tuesday I didn’t have handbells ringing on the postlude (“Komm, heiliger Geist”), but I sure played “the pants off” the piece on full organ at St. Andrew’s. Oh, joy!

By the way, a church music professor in college told me that it is a misnomer to call it “Easter Sunday.” Easter is ALWAYS on a Sunday, and when you refer to April 16th this year, you should call it “Easter Day,” not “Easter Sunday.” Just thought you should know!

And here are the pictures from my Easter brunch. Thank goodness, I have wonderful friends who not only help bring the food, but help clean up the kitchen, too!

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Quick study Bach

Quick study Bach

Quick study Bach

Quick study Bach. There’s an oxymoron for you. Why, just recently I heard myself saying to a student, “You cannot cram Bach! It just doesn’t work!” That is, when I’ve heard people try to learn a work of Bach on short notice, more often than not, they panic and the performance falls apart. Believe me, unfortunately I know firsthand the realities of having a performance become a train wreck when it comes to playing a work of Bach and not having adequate practice. [EPIC FAIL!] The notes in Bach have “to sink in” and “become part of you.” You cannot sightread Bach with any degree of musicianship and authority.

As my teacher used to tell me, “Bach separates the men from the boys!”

Well, this week, I have no choice. I was just given the music yesterday for a concert I am performing next week with the Oahu Choral Society Chamber Choir. The program is called “Motets & Cantatas”—works by Bach, Brahms and Mendelssohn and will be conducted by Esther Yoo. Thank goodness, I am only playing organ for the two works of Bach: Motet No. 3, “Jesu meine Freude, BWV 227” and Cantata 56, “Ich will den Kreuzstab gerne tragen.” The concert will take place at St. Andrew’s Cathedral on Saturday, April 22nd at 7:30 pm.

Oahu Choral Society concert, April 22, 2017

Oahu Choral Society concert, April 22, 2017

It used to always make me laugh when the Honolulu Symphony contracted me for orchestra gigs. The questions were, in this order:

  1. Are you available?
  2. Can we borrow your organ?
  3. Can you bring your own music?

I’m afraid for this gig it’s no different! Yes, it means that I have agreed to loan my baby organ for the concert, and the April 22nd concert will be its coming out party. S & S Delivery will be picking up the baby pipe organ from my condo on Wednesday for the dress rehearsal that night! [Out in the real world for the first time! Stay safe, baby organ!]

As for music, I already had the organ part for “Jesu meine Freude.” However, since there was “no organ part available” for Cantata 56, I was given the vocal score and told to do the best I can. Yes— I am having “to make up my own part” by reading the bass line from the vocal score and filling in the appropriate chords! Fortunately (or unfortunately!), it’s something I’ve had to do on many occasions! I dare say that I will be the only instrumentalist that night “ad-libbing” as I go along!

Here is a performance of Cantata 56 conducted by Philipp Herreweghe with baritone Peter Kooy (whom I have had the great fortune of hearing in person.) Jeremy Wong will be the baritone soloist in next week’s concert.

 

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One of those years

Easter is April 16, 2017

Easter is April 16, 2017

2017 would have been one of those years—when Tax Day collides with Easter.

This year Easter is April 16th, and the deadline for filing 2016 tax returns is April 18. Which brings up the question “Why is Tax Day April 18?” instead of the traditional deadline of April 15th?

The regular tax return filing deadline is April 15. However, due to April 15 being on a Saturday and the Washington D.C. Emancipation Day holiday being observed on April 17 instead of April 16, 2017, Tax Day is on the following Tuesday. (E-file website)

You see, for church musicians, Holy Week is the busiest and craziest time of the year. And when it coincides or is very near to Tax Day, my late husband Carl Crosier was absolutely beside himself! Look at these years and the dates of Easter:

1974 – April 14
1979 – April 15
1990 – April 15
1995 – April 16
2001 – April 15
2006 – April 16

I think those were the years that Carl went cuckoo! He used to call it “Holy H***” Week!

Many people did not know that in addition to being the Cantor of the Lutheran Church of Honolulu, Carl also held down a full-time job as the Chief Financial Officer of St. Andrew’s Priory School. But he also had a dozen personal tax clients, so in addition to filing our own, very complicated tax return, he did it for others. Can you imagine what his life was like during Holy Week and Tax Week?

The church schedule was:

Monday, there was a dress rehearsal with the brass or orchestra
Tuesday, there was a meeting of some kind.
Wednesday was generally the only free night. One year, however, we did a combined Tenebrae service with the choir of St. Andrew’s Cathedral.
Thursday was the Maundy Thursday service
Friday was the Good Friday service
Saturday was the Easter Vigil with a rehearsal at 5:45 pm and a dinner before the 7:30 service. There was a tradition that Carl always cooked that night for 40-45 people, which included the choir, acolytes, clergy and other participants. [HE WAS CRAZY!]
Sunday, there were three services: 8:00, 10:30 and 9:00 pm Compline.

You see, it was not only his task to choose all the repertoire for the week—he had to teach it to the choir and assign solos as necessary. He also was responsible for typing the Triduum bulletin, a booklet containing the service orders and music for the Three Days (Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday), which sometimes ran to 72 pages!

The only possible repeat of choral repertoire was between the Easter Vigil and the 10:30 am Festival Eucharist. Every service had its own music. I would guess that during Holy Week, the choir sang in excess of 40 different pieces of music.

When did he have time to do his “real” job? When did he have time to do people’s taxes? He also NEVER put people on “extension,” to file their taxes much later in the year.

I’ll never forget that after Carl’s funeral, I returned the tax papers to his clients. Several of them told me that Carl had done their taxes for over thirty years and they never knew him to be anything but their tax guy, an accountant! Never heard that he was a musician! On the other hand, how many people in the music community knew that Carl had this whole other life as a money man?

As for me, I’m almost ready for my Easter brunch!

I still have to add fresh flowers which I will do on Sunday.

I still have to add fresh flowers which I will do on Sunday.

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Verdi Requiem

Verdi Requiem, April 6, 2017

Verdi Requiem, April 6, 2017 by the Oahu Choral Society

In spite of the fact that the Oahu Choral Society scheduled its performance of the Verdi Requiem on a Thursday night, (and the Thursday before Palm Sunday at that!), there was certainly a decent audience. (Don’t they know that God made Thursdays for choir practice!) 

I invited my organist colleague, Elizabeth Wong, to share a seat next to me and she put up with my crazy preference to sit smack dab in the front row of the concert hall. We saw two other organist colleagues there, Samuel Lam and Gregory Bietz —so I guess they didn’t have Thursday night rehearsals either!

Leon Williams, St. John Passion, March 2004

Leon Williams, St. John Passion

Conducted by Esther Yoo, the Verdi Requiem‘s reputation for fire and dramatic flair did not disappoint, and I found my hair standing up on end several times during the performance. Three of the soloists had local connections, mezzo soprano, Charlene Chi, tenor Keith Ikaia-Purdy, and bass Leon Williams. (Do you remember that Leon sang the part of Pilate in our Bach St. John Passion performance?)

[While I was looking for Leon’s picture in my vast collection of 30,000+ photos, I also came across this picture of the four people in the St. John Passion performances who are graduates of Westminster Choir College: myself, Leon Williams, Susan McCreary (Duprey) and David Newman.]

Four Westminster Choir College alumni: myself, Leon Williams, Susan McCreary Duprey and David Newman.

Four Westminster Choir College alumni in the St. John Passion performances: myself, Leon Williams, Susan McCreary Duprey and David Newman (Photo taken in March 2004).

Okay! Back to Verdi. Something jumped out at me while I was reading the program notes:

“Verdi first learned music from the village organist, Petro Baistrocchi, whose job he inherited as a teenager when Biastrocchi died.”

Verdi the Organist CD by Liuwe Tamminga

Verdi the Organist CD by Liuwe Tamminga

Hey, I didn’t know that Verdi was an organist! In fact, just now I discovered that organist Liuwe Tamminga has a CD called “Verdi the Organist.” The recording notes that “Verdi came to music through the organ; that experience stayed with him throughout his life. All the works on this CD have been intended and adapted by Liuwe Tamminga for specific timbres of the instruments played by Guiseppe Verdi, and to evoke a particular aspects of his sound world. Mr. Tamminga plays on the organs of Roncole Verdi (Bu, Parma), Sallceto di Cadeo and Trevozzo de Nibbiano (Piacenza). Liuwe Tamminga performs all over Europe, the U.S.A., and Japan.”

Oahu Choral Society's next concert

Oahu Choral Society’s next concert. Click to enlarge.

Imagine my surprise when I saw a postcard of the next Oahu Choral Society concert inserted in the program. See a familiar name to the left?

Oh, it’s not a surprise that I’m playing—it’s just that my name appeared at all, since I am unaware that I’m playing any solos and deserving of “star billing!”

 

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Orgelkids coming to Hawaii!

The Rudolf von Beckerath organ (1975)

No! This is not a piano!

A few years ago, Karl Bachman of the Hawaii Chapter American Guild of Organists took visiting organist Nathan Laube to dinner in a local Honolulu restaurant. When the waiter asked why he was here, Nathan answered that he was here to play a concert on the pipe organ. You got it, the waiter had no clue what a pipe organ is.

And I don’t how many people have walked into the nave of the Lutheran Church of Honolulu and said to me, “That’s a big piano!” (No, that’s a pipe organ!)

All of which means that our work is cut out for us to educate people on what our instrument is, not to mention to getting more people to study the organ. So, drum roll, please!

I am so excited to announce that Orgelkids is coming to Hawaii!

What is Orgelkids, you may ask? I know that “Orgel” is the German word for “organ.” Shouldn’t that be, “What are Orgelkids?” Actually not.

Orgelkids is an educational pipe organ curriculum and kit dreamed up by Dutch organist Lydia Vroegindeweij. Lydia enlisted the help of organ builder Wim Janssen to build the first Orgelkids kit. With Orgelkids, young children are empowered to assemble a working two rank, 2-octave pipe organ in under an hour. Orgelkids can be deployed to schools, music festivals, Maker Faires, museums, bringing the King of Instruments to children.

A couple of years ago, I watched the following video (in Dutch with English titles)

And my first thought was, we need an Orgelkids kit here in Hawaii! With the support of the Hawaii Chapter American Guild of Organists, the Executive Board signed a contract to purchase a kit. The cost is $6,000 plus shipping and the cost of a shipping storage crate. Just today, we received an email from Erin Scheessele, the Executive Director of Orgelkids USA, who sent us the first picture of the Hawaii instrument! It is being built by Terry Lambert and Christo Fralick, located in Eugene, OR. They both worked many years with John Brombaugh as members of his organbuilding firm. Chris was John’s workshop foreman for over 12 years.

Orgelkids kit bound for Hawaii!

Orgelkids kit bound for Hawaii!

We hope to get donations and grants to help us take this kit all over the major Hawaiian islands, to introduce more children to the wonderful world of the pipe organ—just like the kids in this video.

As stated on the Orgelkids USA website:

Orgelkids…

  • is designed to capture interest at a younger age than AGO’s existing programs. Orgelkids can be used with kindergarten groups on up.
  • lowers the threshold for participation: Orgelkids has no requirements for its audience beyond curiosity.
  • is mobile. It comes to the audience rather than vice versa. Orgelkids can be shared at Maker Faires, music festivals, science and engineering festivals, and museums.
  • can integrate with the existing programs
  • is hands-on and appeals to both musicians and builders. Orgelkids captures the zeitgeist of the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math), DIY (Do It Yourself) and Maker movements.

Stay tuned—we’ll let you know when our Orgelkids arrives!

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St. Matthew Passion: Part Two

[Yesterday I started to share Carl Crosier’s 2008 article from Cross Accent, the journal of the Association of Lutheran Church Musicians, “A Personal Journey to the Bach Passions.” Here’s the second part.]

“Although the St. Matthew Passion had been presented several times before in Honolulu, it had only been sung in English, in an adapted form, and always severely cut. So it was my goal to present this masterwork complete and in a historically informed way, sung in a church and not a concert hall.

“In the summer of 1999, I had the great opportunity to attend a ten-day in depth study of the Bach St. Matthew Passion, led by Dennis Keene, which culminated in two performances (complete and in German), one at Kent School Chapel (Connecticut) and the other at Alice Tully Hall, Lincoln Center. I sang alto (countertenor) in Choir II. [Editor’s note: Please check out my post about the adventure Carl had when I mistakenly booked a hotel for him many miles away from the venue and it took an awfully expensive cab ride to get to the hotel!] 

Joseph Z. Pettit

Joseph Z. Pettit

“It was also our very good fortune to have tenor Joseph Z. Pettit living in Honolulu at the time all of this was being formulated. Not only had he spent several years in Amsterdam studying with renowned early music baritone Max van Egmond, but while there had also toured and recorded the St. Matthew Passion with Gustav Leonhardt and La Petite Bande (a highly recommended recording using forces similar to those of Bach’s time). Not only was he a superb Evangelist, but also served as our accompanist and language coach as we prepared this daunting work.

“The choirs began preparations immediately after Christmas. I made the decision to use a professional choir of fourteen singers for Choir II as they would be eighty feet away from me during the performances, and I needed to rely on their ability to follow what they “saw” from the conductor and not what they “heard” in the room. Choir I was made up of thirty singers which included all of the soloists of Choir I and those singing the minor characters (except for the two false witnesses in Choir II).

Jennifer Lane

Jennifer Lane

“For the soloists, I tried to use the very best of our local artists. And only after exhausting that list did I engage professional early music singers: Philip Cutlip (Jesus), Jennifer Lane (alto I), Mary Phillips (alto II), Vernon Nicodemus (Bass II), and John Dornenburg (viola da gamba).

“The orchestral musicians were the professional players of the Honolulu Symphony. I would be asking them to play very differently than they do normally in the concert hall. However, after working with concertmasters of both Orchestras I and II, we meticulously marked the parts with the desired bowings, articulations and discussed at length the performance style.

“Considerable fundraising went on and “awareness” was built up not only by newspaper and media publicity, but also by a five week “in depth” study course that I conducted during which we reviewed every note of the Bach St. Matthew Passion in detail.

“The whole parish got behind this celebration. Nearly every parishioner was involved in some way. The church interior was completely painted, the “Swallow’s Nest Gallery” was prepared, a new lighting system was installed, the modular choir risers expanded, the central air conditioning system replaced, and a 3-stop Beckerath continuo organ was shipped for free from New York, courtesy of United Airlines.

Honolulu Star-Bulletin, March 31, 2000

Honolulu Star-Bulletin, March 31, 2000

“For these performances, we decided to configure the church to resemble St. Thomas, Leipzig—that is, with collegiate style seating (facing each other) in the central nave and a traditional orientation toward the crucifixion window for the rest of the church. We were able to seat 300 people in the nave (plus) the choirs and orchestras on either end with the children’s choir seated in the gallery above the assembly corresponding to the historical “Swallow’s Nest Gallery.” Both evenings were completely sold out.

“I won’t relate in this article the many challenges that unfolded during the course of the dress rehearsals and even up to the opening performances. [Editor’s note: You can read about some of the mishaps in my post here. In addition, on the night of the performance, one of the violinists came in jeans, thinking it was a rehearsal, and had to go home to change, not returning until the second half. The concertmaster of Orchestra II thought the performance started at 7:30, not 7:00, and was not present for tuning or the opening chorus!) However, when I raised the baton to begin “Kommt, ihr Töchter, helft mit klagen” at the opening night performance, a great calm swept over me, completely removing any anxiety and frustration I had been experiencing up until minutes before. There was a hushed intensity in the church, as the drama of the passion story unfolded as told through Bach’s glorious music. You could have heard a pin drop. It was incredible to hear everyone turning the pages of the libretto (in unison). People were totally captivated.

“To this day I continue to encounter people who were present for those performances expressing their deep gratitude for the Lutheran Church of Honolulu in providing one of the most memorable and profound experiences of their lives. Yes, the inspired music of Bach still touches listeners today, nearly three centuries after it was written.”

Photo in the Honolulu Advertiser, March 26, 2000.

Photo in the Honolulu Advertiser, March 26, 2000. (Click to enlarge)

Greg Shepherd's review in the Honolulu Advertiser, April 2, 2000

Greg Shepherd’s review in the Honolulu Advertiser, April 2, 2000

Posted in Carl Crosier, Honolulu Symphony musicians, J. S. Bach, Katherine Crosier | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment