Yesterday was New Year’s Day, and Carl Crosier and I attended the German Vespers service at the Lutheran Church of Honolulu. People were genuinely surprised to see us — for we had just said goodbye on Christmas Day. I must admit it was pretty strange seeing and hearing the service from a completely different vantage point — from the congregation instead of the organ bench!
The German Vespers service features hymns, prayers, lessons and even the sermon in German, to honor the church’s German heritage. (The parish was founded in 1900 and all services were in German in its early years.) Music for the service included:
Herr Jesu Christ, dich zu uns wend (Johann Gottfried Walther)
Hymn: Herr Jesu Christ, dich zu uns wend
Psalm 8: Herr, unser Herrscher, wie herrlich ist dein Nam (Heinrich Schütz)
Psalm 40: Expectans expectavi (Orlando di Lassus)
Hymn: O Gott, du frommer Gott
Magnificat: Mein Seele erhebt den Herrn (Georg Philipp Telemann)
Cantata: Herr Gott, dich loben wir, BWV 16 (J. S. Bach)
Hymn: Helft mir Gotts Güte preisen
Organ Sonata Nr 4 in A minor (Josef Rheinberger)
The soloists were Georgine Stark (soprano); Laurie Rubin (alto); Renson Madarang (tenor) and Jeremy Wong (bass). In case you’re wondering who played the organ, it was John Renke, from St. Andrew’s Cathedral. I told John it was probably the first time Rheinberger had been performed on the Beckerath organ, since I am sorry to admit that I don’t play a single work of his. And I don’t believe my predecessor, Carl Crosier, did either. (He says the LCH choir sang Rheinberger anthems with organ accompaniment, but neither of us played any Rheinberger solo organ works.)
For years and years, Pastor Fritz Fritschel has preached the German sermon, but this year, it was written and delivered by Assistant Pastor Angela Freeman. “Never in my wildest dreams would I think that I would be preaching in German when I moved to Honolulu!” she said. Angela had the rare fortune of doing internship and part of her seminary education in Bach’s town of Leipzig, most particularly at St. Thomas Church, where Bach worked for 27 years. She had the responsibilities of teaching the confirmation class and meeting with visiting groups. As you can imagine, her German sounded pretty authentic to me!
The lessons were read by chorister, Ulrike Scherer, a native German speaker, and Pastor Fritz led the prayers.
Did I ever tell you that my entire German vocabulary consists of German chorale prelude titles?