For the last couple of days, we have hosted Hans-Ulrich Erbsloeh and his wife, Christiane from Hamburg, Germany. We were trying to remember how many times Hans has visited Hawaii, and figured it was well over ten times. You see, Hans’ first visit was as the “apprentice” for organbuilder Rudolf von Beckerath when the LCH organ was installed in 1975. He recounted that he opened the large doors to the pedal division, Hans cautioned “The Boss” that they were hanging down and to be careful. Just a few minutes later, there was a big BANG, and everyone came running out to see Herr von Beckerath (“The Boss”) sitting on the platform with his glasses broken. “I know, I know you told me to watch out for the doors!” he said to his co-workers.
These and other stories are happy memories of the installation of LCH’s organ that are being retold by Hans-Ulrich Erbsloeh, now working independently as an organbuilder in Germany. He also said that Beckerath’s hearing had been impaired during the war when he was sitting too close to a cannon which went off, and he had difficulty hearing high frequencies. He wanted to make the mixture stop on our organ much louder, but Hans insisted it was too loud and made him tone it down. Among the workers, Hans was designated to “fight with The Boss” and to give him a true evaluation of the organ sounds.
At the organ dedication, Herr von Beckerath complained privately that he thought the organ was too soft. I was there in 1975 at that dedication service, and there were over 600 people in the building, sitting all over the floor, a whole bunch sitting on top of the Board Room. Way too many bodies in there! No wonder the organ sounded so small!
Today, of course, we think of this organ as a true gem, and voiced to perfection. When world-renowned organist Marie-Claire Alain visited Honolulu and came to LCH, she proclaimed it one of the best organs in North America! (See my post about Marie-Claire’s visit by clicking here.) We totally agree (! ) and if you have not heard this beautiful instrument in person, we invite you to come anytime.
The organ at the Lutheran Church of Honolulu was the last instrument Herr von Beckerath personally voiced and supervised in the United States before his death in 1976.