“Bach is not for amateurs!” This was one of the first statements Carl made at his lecture yesterday for the Oahu Choral Society, held at the Kokokahi YWCA. The choir will be preparing Bach’s Mass in B Minor for a performance on May 16th, under the direction of Esther Yoo, and she invited Carl to speak to the group at a special retreat. Since Carl directed the work only three years ago (and Esther was in the audience), the experience was still fresh in his mind. He said, “You are all beginning a journey with one of the great masterworks of western art, and you won’t be the same person as you are now.”
Carl said his own personal journey with the great works of Bach actually began in his childhood church, Holy Trinity Lutheran in Port Angeles, WA where Pastor Carl Fischer was equally talented on the organ as well as in the pulpit. Pastor Fischer used to play the great organ preludes and fugues of Bach on feast days, and young Carl Crosier yearned to play Bach as well. Carl then began keyboard studies at a young age and “always needed to be playing Bach,” as he did throughout his high school and college days. However, his first exposure to Bach’s vocal works was when he moved to Honolulu in 1972 and came to the Lutheran Church of Honolulu where they were preparing Cantata 140, Wachet auf ruft ins die Stimme. He said, “Little did I know that I would be on a Bach pilgrimage,” and go on to conduct 70 different Bach cantatas, the St. Matthew Passion, the St. John Passion, the Christmas Oratorio, the Brandenburg Concertos, the Magnificat (both E-flat and D versions), and his “swan song,” the B-Minor Mass.
Carl went on to explain that the B-minor Mass was not written in one fell swoop, but was instead a compilation of works written over a 35-year period. Only the opening four measures of the Kyrie and the Confiteor in the Credo were newly-composed. Everything else had been composed earlier and re-cast to fit into the grand scheme of the B-Minor Mass. Nine sections were parodied from earlier cantatas.
Carl had these words of advice to the choir, “This is a BIG sing and the technical demands on the chorus as well as the instruments are great. Passages don’t go where you think they will and the double soprano parts are constantly crossing. The tessitura is very high, but goes very low as well.”
But, the most important thing is, “It is worth all the hard work!”
P.S. At the end of the lecture, Esther asked if I would play continuo organ for their performance on May 16th. After checking my calendar, I said ‘yes”.