Carl and I leave for Chicago tonight, on our way to attend the Bach Collegium Japan’s Mass in B Minor concert, and one book that he’s taking along is “For Beer and the Bible: One Hundred Years at the Lutheran Church of Honolulu, 1900-2000” by Sandra Wagner-Wright. That’s because he will be giving a lecture to the Adult Forum next Sunday, March 27th, and needs to refresh his memory on the history of the LCH music program.
People may think the title of the book is unusual, but it’s part of a quote by The Rev. Arthur Hörmann who came as pastor in 1916 to the Deutsch-Evangelisch-Lutherische Gemeinde zu Honolulu at the instigation of his brother-in-law, who managed the old Primo Brewery. Pastor Hörmann later told people he came to Hawaii “for beer and the Bible.” Two prominent Island families, the Hackfelds and the Isenbergs, each donated the unheard-of sum of $25,000 each in 1900 to build the church and import an organ and organist from Germany. You can read an abbreviated history of the church here.
The first organist of the church was Henri Berger, a charter member and composer of the state anthem “Hawaii Pono‘i.” Berger was “on loan” from the Prussian king and was bandmaster of the Royal Hawaiian Band from 1872 to his death in 1929. Berger is now also considered the father of the Honolulu Symphony.
Another towering figure in the annals of LCH music history was organist-choirmaster Erich Kahl who was imported from Germany in 1906 at a salary of $60 per month as organist, choral director and accompanist for the Sunday School. Long-time parishioner Irmgard Hörmann remembers his gruff manner and that “he scared everyone to death.” Professor Kahl also became first violinist in the Honolulu Symphony and gave musical presentations with his wife, Emma, a talented soprano. He also taught at St. Louis High School and composed their alma mater. In cleaning out the library we found several published compositions by Erich Kahl, one titled “Cantatilla”. (What the heck is that?!) There’s no doubt, though, that Erich Kahl’s musical contributions established the LCH music program. He died in 1957.
In 1955, forty-nine years after Erich Kahl was hired as organist at $60 a month, Mrs. Lurline Ziesel became organist — also at a salary of $60 per month. (I’m speechless).