This Sunday it will be Carl Crosier’s turn to address the Adult Forum, and the topic he has been asked to speak on is the history of the liturgical worship at LCH. In an earlier post, I wrote about the beginnings of the church and the influence of Germans Henri Berger and Erich Kahl. Upon reading For Beer and the Bible: One Hundred Years at The Lutheran Church of Honolulu, more closely, I learned that music director and organist Erich Kahl was hired in 1906 but returned to Germany three years later and came back to Hawaii in 1924. He remained in the position until 1945 when he retired due to poor health.
After Erich Kahl retired, there was a succession of music directors and organists, including Lurline Ziesel, Joan Akers, Mrs. Landers, Helen Noh Lee, Norman Rian, Lou Paff, Russell Berkstresser and Gloria Moore (Gloria still lives in Hawaii.) There is an amusing anecdote about Lurline Ziesel’s husband writing a letter of complaint to the church council about the length of the church services. “I do not believe that the congregation cares for a service to last longer than one hour.” Further, “it is a severe strain on the organist to have to play for services of such length and if such lengthy services are permitted to continue, I am of the opinion that you had better look for a new organist.” I wonder what he would think of services like our Easter Vigil which are over 2 hours long! On festival Sundays, the services are closer to an hour-and-a-half and no one blinks.
But it was in 1971 that the church decided to commit itself to a music program that would make LCH a center for sacred music and a venue for classical music concerts. It was then that the decision to purchase the Beckerath organ was made, amid some controversy over whether such an extravagant instrument (at a cost of $100,000) was how Christians should spend their money. Joseph Hansen, formerly director of music of St. Ignatius of Antioch in New York City, was hired as choirmaster and introduced the singing of Gregorian propers, Latin and German motets, sung in their original languages. (By the way, Joe will be returning for our performance of the B-Minor Mass).
A one-manual positiv organ was purchased as a interim instrument to the church’s aging Aeolian organ, which was by now, ciphering almost every Sunday. The positiv had 8-ranks and cost $10,000 from the Rudolf von Beckerath firm, which was contracted to build the present, larger instrument for the church (installed in 1975).
Carl Crosier was hired as organist in December 1972 and has been at LCH ever since except for a period of one year when he only conducted Compline and relinquished the Sunday morning duties to Dr. Malcolm Tait who replaced Joe Hansen when he left for a position in California in 1976; and Jane Johansen became organist for a short time. I became organist in May 1978 after Jane was terminated and worked a couple of months with Dr. Tait before he left for a new position in Cleveland. Carl was re-hired as Music Director that summer.
All this means is that Carl takes the prize for the longest tenure as Director of Music at LCH. If my math serves me correctly, I think I also win a prize for the longest-serving organist.