When Carl Crosier retired as Cantor from the Lutheran Church of Honolulu after 38 years, he decided that his first Christmas out of church music would be spent with our family on the mainland — which meant that I would need to find a substitute organist for the Christmas services. Thankfully, my former organ student Joey Fala will be coming home from college and will be subbing for me for the two Christmas Eve services (5:00 pm and 10:30 pm) and the Sunday morning Christmas Day service.
The 5:00 pm Christmas Eve service is traditionally presented by our Sunday School children — and my student Jordan McCreary will be playing the postlude, while other organ students will be playing during communion.
I reminded both Joey and Jordan, “Don’t forget to turn on the zimbelstern!” And for you non-organists, let me explain what a zimbelstern is. It means “cymbal-star” in German and is a circular piece of wood with bells mounted on it. On the Beckerath, we have slots for up to eight bells, but we found that eight bells are way too raucous, so we only have four bells mounted currently. When I push a special toe stud, the wood turns round and round and causes the bells to ring in a random fashion. The front side of the zimbelstern looks like a star and is mounted right in the center of the prospect pipes. The effect is very festive and celebratory and almost sounds like an additional high-pitched mixture stop.
All these years I have taken care to only ring the zimbelstern on very special occasions, like Christmas and Easter. I guess this has been my personal decision because I didn’t want you guys to get too spoiled by this magical sound! By the way, my sister (who is not an organist) forgot the name of this device and called it a Zinfandel by mistake. Something to be savored, just the same!