Some of you know that in addition to being the organist at LCH, I am also the chapel organist at ‘Iolani School. My duties include playing for chapel on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays — each day has different grade levels. The 2010-2011 school year will mark my 17th season at ‘Iolani.
I like to get to school early so that I can practice the organ before chapel begins at 7:45 a.m. For the service I play a prelude, a postlude, two hymns and a Gloria (or Kyrie during Lent and Advent). In the school year 2002-2003, I noticed a couple of young boys that were always hanging around the organ console when I began my organ practice on Fridays when we have grades K-6 Chapel. Every so often they would ask me some very interesting questions about the organ, how it works, names on the stop knobs, and so forth. Eventually I found out one of the boys was Joey Fala, a fifth-grader.
It was after Easter chapel that school year that LCH parishioner, Cindy Scheinert, who was Joey’s homeroom teacher, came up to me and said, “You have got to do something for Joey! He’s driving his parents crazy asking for organ lessons! Every creative writing assignment has a reference to the organ in it!”
So I came up with a plan to host a PipeWorks session at LCH for elementary students and their parents. A former LCH Compline singer, Joe Pettit, dressed up as J. S. Bach, and he and I play-acted an introduction to the organ, in addition to playing a number of organ pieces, both solos and duets.
Over 40 children and their parents came to this session, and all the children had the opportunity to walk through the organ case as well as to try out the organ. Then we fed them all pizza, salad and cake.
Later that week I met with Joey to see what he could do. He had been taking piano lessons since he was five. When I asked him what he was going to play for me, he said, “I’m going to play the Toccata and Fugue in D minor!” And so he did, using both feet! With my jaw on the floor, I asked him where he had gotten the score. “From the Internet!” I found out later that Joey had been intrigued with the organ ever since he was a preschooler at Holy Nativity School in Aina Haina.
And the rest is history. I was able to persuade the Hawaii Chapter American Guild of Organists and the Morning Music Club to pay for Joey’s lessons for the first two years. Joey has been studying organ with me now for seven years. On many occasions he has played the organ at LCH services and every time, people are struck by his technical prowess and sensitive musicality. Even when he was a sixth-grader, he displayed an absolute command of the instrument.
At ‘Iolani graduation in June, Headmaster Val Iwashita presented Joey Fala with the prestigious Bishop’s Award, for unselfish service to school, church and community. He said that Joey “was a gifted organist; the best in the State.”
We have all enjoyed seeing this young boy with a passion for the organ develop into a consummate musician. Joey will be leaving Hawaii to study architecture at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, NY. He will continue his organ studies with Dr. Barbara Adler, now living in nearby Schenectady, who was my predecessor at the University of Hawaii where I used to teach organ.
This Saturday, August 7th at 5:00 pm, Joey will be giving a farewell “Senior Recital” which will take place at Central Union Church, where he has been the Organ Scholar since January 2008. The public is cordially invited to attend. Please join us for a spectacular afternoon of glorious organ music!