And with these words from my Iolani colleague, John Alexander (and former LCH pianist), came the news that our colleague and friend, John McCreary, passed from this earthly life to life with the angels, and is now conducting the heavenly choir. It was just this morning that my husband Carl was reminiscing about his first Easter in Hawaii in 1972, and before he ever had a church job. Not knowing the time of the services, he arrived at St. Andrew’s Cathedral, Honolulu, where John was the Organist/Choirmaster for over thirty years. At the 9:30 am service, girls from the St. Andrew’s Priory School sang and were dressed in beautiful Easter dresses (complete with Easter hats!). Carl remembers hearing John play the Widor Toccata as the postlude. Carl was so impressed that he then stayed for the 11:00 am service.
“It was at St. Andrew’s Cathedral that I heard Gregorian propers for the first time,” Carl said, “and I was so amazed by the quality of the choir. And I was so happy to hear quality church music in Hawaii.”
Former Organ Scholar Joseph Pettit said it best, “A great musician is silenced. Canon Organist and Choirmaster Emeritus John McCreary of St. Andrew’s Cathedral, Honolulu, has just died this night. This night. This is the night. This is the night my friend, mentor, colleague chose to depart this life, the most important moment in the Christian liturgical year, the annual sacred cycle with which his life was inextricably entwined and which informed every note of music played and led by him. No greater tribute, no more profound anthem can be sung in his honor at this moment than the Exsultet, appointed for this very moment, proclaiming the deepest mystery of the faith, resounding around the globe as it spins its daily course. This, this is the night.”
John McCreary (who called himself “Da Greatest”) was known for his skill in organ registration and truly made the organ sound like an orchestra. He could push pistons like no one else! We also can never forget his great humor and his onomatopeic names for all his choristers and friends; he called us Carnivorous Carl and Kathy-kins, Others were Dirty Dave, Wicked Wanda, Lecherous Larry, Galloping Guy, and Cheerful Charley. (St. Andrew’s Choir people, can you please help me with more of John’s nicknames for you?!)
Even though John lightheartedly referred to us at the Lutheran Church of Honolulu “the enemy,” he in fact sang with the LCH Compline Choir for a number of years after his retirement.
John of course was for many years the Director of Choral Activities/Organist at Iolani School, where I had very big shoes to fill as Chapel Organist following his retirement.
Knowing John, he’s probably already busy tuning the heavenly organs!