My post about the passing of our colleague, John McCreary, has generated a lot of pageviews, remembrances and comments. For those of you who are not FaceBook users, you haven’t been able to smile at all the “Johnisms” that have been posted to the Memorial Page set up by Maestro Tim Carney. And it’s hard not to smile at some of the humorous accounts of John that have surfaced in the last few days. So if you don’t mind, I’d like to share some of these with my “Insanity” community: (Thanks to John Alexander, Gloria Faltstrom, and Joe Pettit for many of these!)
“Gentlemen and ladies, bulldogs and babies.”
“Enough is too much!” “As I live and breathe pollution!” “Hot digital dog!” “Why use a little word, when a great big word will do ALMOST as well?”
With regard to composition: “Always steal from the best!”
Regarding grammar and writing: “Prepositions are terrible things to end sentences with!” “One must perennially endeavor to eschew obfuscation!” “To ruthlessly split infinitives is something up with which I cannot put!” “You should avoid clichés like the plague!” “When dangling, always check your participles!” “And those sentence fragments!!!”
Gloria Faltstrom shared these: To talkative singers: “Pardon me for interrupting the beginning of your sentence with the middle of mine.” To a men’s section that was having trouble learning their part in a Cathedral Choral Society rehearsal: “The rest of us are getting border and borer; pretty soon we’ll turn into a lumber yard.” The arrival of the garbage truck during a rehearsal: “Here comes the salad wagon.” “I’m a little pony today,” when he was a little hoarse.
John McCreary referred to organists as Honkenpuffenwheezenspielers and organists’ cars as Honkenpuffenwheezenspielerwagens, stored in the garage called Honkenpuffenwheezenspielerwagenhaus. Oh, and don’t forget to bring your ligno-graphite manual display generators (pencils) to the rehearsal! A piano was a Bong-&-hammer-thumper.
Joe Pettit shared that “trying to file things in his Dungeon office was near impossible. He told me to put the Friday recital offering in the organ finishing fund (to be matched by corporate funds via Franklin Meyer). After searching in vain and informing John that the money was missing, he told me to look under P. I asked politely what file exactly I was looking for. He replied, “Phabulous Phranklin’s Phinishing Phund.” Naturally.”
Then there was John’s phrase Carl Crosier quotes all the time: “Anything worth doing is worth OVERdoing!” Carl remembered something John said to him after a performance with a motley crew of choristers: “Carl, you could get music out of a turnip!”
My former student, Joey Fala, attributed his interest in the organ to John McCreary and said that “right before I’d have to play, he’d always point to the audience and say “look at all the cabbages, kiddo!”
Here’s a collection of nicknames that John gave his choristers and colleagues: (I already told you that Carl Crosier was Carnivorous Carl):
Audacious Anna, Adorable Anne, Cheerful Charlie (Scharbach) Chirping Cherubically, Loveable Louie (X), Jaded John the Automaton (John Alexander) Peppermint Pat (Weissich) Prodigious Paul (Beck, Weissich), Effervescent Ella, Galloping Guy, Marvelous Mark, Jovial Jesse (Blackwell, who didn’t sing, but who fed us and brought us water), Dirty Dave, Pebbles/Cupcake (Susie McCreary Duprey), BamBam (son Kendall), Dreamboat (wife Betsy). Kathy Meyer was also Karniverous. Lecherous Larry (Paxton), Daffy Dick and Hot Lips Helen!! Catastrophic Clint, Bodacious Betty, and Bellicose Bill. Dirty Dave (Kayner) shared this one: “But the most serious nickname, never to be forgotten, was the one bestowed on the middle-aged (at least), unsmiling, long-time waitress at the Columbia Inn: Garçonette.”
But John wasn’t always humorous and irreverent, as evidenced by his compositions. It was in fact, his piece, Na Ke Akua, that his family sang around his deathbed, and I hope they don’t mind that I share this story as it was told by John’s daughter, Susie, a fine choral conductor in her own right. “We sang a newly printed (and corrected version of the Hawaiian) of it last night at my father’s side. The corrected version/reprint was one of the last requests Dad made from the hospital before passing. Mahalo to John Starr Alexander for making that happen and entering Dad’s hospice room with the corrected reprint right before his last breath. Mom read a translation of it to Dad, we (kinda) sang it, and then Dad passed.” According to Teresa McCreary, they didn’t sing it very well, and some wondered whether they should try again. At that point, they noticed John wasn’t breathing, and John Alexander wondered whether John McCreary at that moment decided that a heavenly choir would sing it better!
Here is the Hawaii Pacific University Choir singing John McCreary’s Na Ke Akua, conducted by daughter, Susan McCreary Duprey.
The funeral for John McCreary will be Saturday, April 27th at 11:00 am. The organ prelude will be played by his former organ students and the St. Andrew’s Cathedral Choir will sing Fauré’s Requiem.