Along with playing for services, organists are frequently called to accompany choirs. I myself started accompanying choirs when I was fifteen and got my first church job at Westminster Presbyterian Church in Burbank, CA. (I was paid $66.67 a month which included two weekly choir rehearsals plus a Sunday morning service and warmup!) When I entered tenth grade (which was the entry point at Burbank High School), I also started accompanying a number of the school’s choirs under Mr. Regnal Hall, who made a huge impression upon me. I was even asked to play for his funeral a few years ago, which you can read about in a post I wrote called “Regnal Hall, Music Man.” (That’s on the other blog I write, for Burbank High’s Class of 1968.)
Add the nearly 35 years I spent accompanying the choirs at the Lutheran Church of Honolulu, plus short-term stints with the First United Methodist Church of Van Nuys, Holy Nativity Episcopal Church, St. Andrew’s Priory School, Hawaii Children’s Opera Chorus and Hawaii Pacific University, I would have to say that I’ve been in choir rehearsals nearly my whole life!
Well, now that I no longer have a regular Sunday morning commitment, guess what — I’m still accompanying choirs. It’s my nineteenth year as the Chapel Organist at Iolani School, and every Friday morning at 7:30 am, I meet the Lower School Choir just prior to the service at 7:45 am. We have a quick, 15-minute rehearsal of the anthem which follows the homily. John Alexander is the director.
This year, though, I’m also playing the organ for the entire Iolani Chorus of 150+ singers which will rehearse this coming Tuesday for Thanksgiving chapel on Wednesday. The anthem will be Leo Sowerby’s Benedictus es, Domine which has a huge organ part.
A couple of weeks ago, I accompanied the select choir Hokuloa Singers, which sang for the wedding of a former Iolani student who graduated from the Class of 1991. They sang John McCreary’s Missa Puer Natus which has a big organ accompaniment. The multi-movement work will also be performed at the Christmas concert at St. Andrew’s Cathedral, in addition to a number of other Christmas works accompanied by organ.
On November 30th and December 1st, I will be in Kona to play organ continuo for the Kona Music Society’s performances of Messiah, under the direction of Susan McCreary Duprey, daughter of long-time St. Andrew’s Cathedral organist, John McCreary, whom I have written about extensively. (Read about John McCreary’s funeral here, and the eloquent eulogy by John Alexander.) I think I first met Susie when she was about five years old! You can read about the upcoming Kona performances in the West Hawaii Today, “Time to rejoice.”
So when people come up to me and ask how I like retired life, I say, “Huh? What’s that?!”