Some of life’s best moments are unscripted — if you tried to plan these things in real life, they wouldn’t have worked out so well or with such great timing. Such a moment happened during the Christmas Day service, my last as Organist at the Lutheran Church of Honolulu. Pastor Jeff, who normally has his iPad on a podium during the sermon, instead left it sitting on the front pew. It was at the point in his homily that he said “God is calling,” and everyone heard a familiar sound. I even found a YouTube video with Adam Mormolstein playing it, which you can see here:
It was Pastor Jeff’s iPad with a pastor friend calling on FaceTime! “I’m done!” his friend said. “You called right in the middle of church!” Jeff waved the iPad around to show his friend a view of the congregation. At this point, people burst out in uncontrolled and infectious laughter. It was a moment for me which I’m going to remember — and not the sadness I had felt earlier, thinking about what I was going to miss most about not playing for church anymore.
You know, I believe that what I will miss most is what I feel when I accompany the congregation lifting their voices in song — on the Beckerath organ. Yes, I certainly feel a sense of power, but it’s more than that. I find it really hard to describe; maybe other organists can explain it in more eloquent words. It’s a feeling of partnership, of holding the people up with the sounds of that beautiful instrument. On this day, Allen Bauchle joined in on the trumpet and I can’t tell you how much I appreciate all the years in being able to play with him.
Some of the other special moments which I will remember, though not unscripted, include the sound of the trebles singing the communion anthem, Salvator Mundi, 6. “Christe, redemptor omnium” by William Mathias, a simple chant-like piece accompanied by only two handbells.
When I picked the hymns for this last month, it happened to be “The Crosier Year.” By this I mean that over the years we have alternated settings of “O come, all ye faithful” and “Hark the herald angels sing” by David Willcocks, Phillip Ledger and Carl & Katherine Crosier. And it so happened that this was the Crosier year! You see, Carl and I came up with our own harmonizations which were published by GIA in 1980, and it was the settings of these familiar Christmas carols that we used this year.
On Christmas Day we sang my setting of “Of the father’s love begotten,” also published by GIA, and I was amazed that our women could handle all the umpteen bells I called for. This may have been the only time we did the whole piece with treble voices only (it’s written for mixed choir), but I really liked it!
Carl Crosier joined Miguel Felipe at the piano for the offertory anthem, Salvator Mundi, Op. 89 by William Mathias, “Be we merry in this feast,” written for four-hand piano. This settings has driving, complex rhythms and is full of joy, not your sweet, typical Christmas song; but people seemed to really like it.
All in all, it was definitely a Christmas to remember.