Editor’s Note: Today I’ve turned this column over to my local consultant following the death of Peter Hallock.
How does one properly acknowledge a person who ultimately influenced your life in such a profound way that it totally informed the direction of your artistic life? For me, that person was Peter Hallock. I don’t think this process was particularly intentional
or even conscious. It came about over nearly 40 years of much personal time together, constant sharing of musical and philosophical ideas and lots of editing of musical scores.
My first contact with Peter Hallock was in the early 1960s (before the Flentrop organ was installed). As a student at the University of Washington my attendance at Compline in those years was sporadic, as was the general attendance, nevertheless the “seeds were planted.” I continued to attend Compline and many other Cathedral Associates concerts and events during those years. When the Flentrop’s arrival was finally celebrated, I remember going to the Cathedral to hear Peter perform some stunning interpretations of Buxtehude, Pachelbel and French Baroque classics which all sounded excitingly “new” to my ears on such an instrument.
After graduating from the University of Washington and being released from basic training for a medical deferment, I relocated to Oahu, Hawaii. I pretty much walked into a “blank slate” at the Lutheran Church of Honolulu, which had just completed a re-envisioning (strategic planning) process, that included a complete remodel of the nave and enclosing and air-conditioning the worship space; the revitalization of its music program; and the installation of a major tracker pipe organ to replace its badly termite-damaged Aeolian.
Of course, I thought immediately of Peter Hallock and contacted him quickly for not only copies of music I could use for the liturgy, but also some advice on the organ installation. This communication was continuous and active and ultimately resulted in the Seattle Compline Choir’s first tour to Honolulu in 1979 to participate in the American Guild of Organists Far West Regional Convention. Peter, the Compline Choir, Gregg Carder, Ken Peterson and several others participated in workshops, services, concerts and opened the conference singing Compline at St Andrew’s Cathedral and closed it with a joint double choir Compline, sung across the rear gallery of Kawaiahao Church (The LCH Compline Choir had been established with Peter’s blessing and assistance in 1976).
Peter Hallock’s music has always spoken to me personally, and so when I found myself responsible for shepherding a music program, it seemed his music continued to resonate as a primary point of reference.
What are the qualities that make his music so extraordinary? I think the most striking feature is the mysticism inherent in nearly every one of his compositions I know. In this respect, I think of Hallock as the Tomàs Luis de Victoria of twentieth century liturgical music. So much of the music also seems to grow out of the plainsong idiom—the line, the movement, the intensity, the shape. Even though the harmonic vocabulary is definitely modern with masterful use of dissonance, there is somehow a link with the ancient monody of Gregorian chant. There is a great sense of drama in this music—the music always amplifies the text. I would think that even if one did not understand the text, that one would still be able to understand the ideas of a particular text through their musical realization.
I have also found Peter Hallock’s music to be extremely accessible to both the congregation (the listeners and the participants) as well as to choristers. There are certainly those pieces which will challenge choirs and their abilities, but I find nearly all of Hallock’s music is able to be performed by any choir willing to work seriously. Many of the larger works have been profoundly moving for the listener, old and young alike, and have always received a positive response. At the Lutheran Church of Honolulu, we continue to be touched and enriched by the wonderful music of Peter Hallock. He was truly our “composer in residence” and I dare say that outside of St. Mark’s Cathedral, Seattle, The Lutheran Church of Honolulu contains the second largest library of Hallock works.
Since the late 1970s, Peter probably visited Hawaii at least 20 times, to conduct workshops, concerts, participate in festival occasions and celebrations. His last visit here was in November 2010 (my retirement season) at which time we performed the Advent Litany (with Peter at the organ), “The Dawning”, “The Great ‘O’ Antiphons” and the Advent Processional “Behold, a Mighty Prophet”.
Peter Hallock, Carl and Kathy Crosier went into the music publishing business in 1986. Peter joked that we ought to call it “C & H” (using the initial letters of our last names, after the C & H Sugar Company, leading to bylines such as “The sweetest music around”) or “CROCK.” The name that was ultimately settled upon, “Ionian Arts, Inc.” was chosen at Kualoa Park, Oahu, Hawaii (right opposite the small island affectionately known here as “Chinaman’s Hat” because of its unique shape.) Kathy was named President, because she was the only practical one! Our initial thrust was to publish a complete set of responsorial gradual psalms for the three-year lectionary and lesser feasts and fasts. Peter had already been writing these for St. Mark’s but there were lots of missing psalms. Because the Lutheran Book of Worship, 1978 used the same Psalter texts as The Book of Common Prayer, 1976 we decided to make it available for both lectionaries. When it was finished, we both agreed that this was our most successful project and the one of which we were the most proud. The Ionian Psalter is still in wide use today and is available complete in electronic form with permission given for churches to “customize” the version of the lectionary that they use.
Of course, we have published a great many other Hallock pieces that were lying around only in manuscript form, together with other repertoire we deemed worthy from other sources, many long out of print or not in good editions. Also, a great number of the large works were finally engraved, with Peter always tweaking and revising right up to the last proofs. This was in hindsight not only a very satisfying collaboration artistically, but we had an enormous amount of fun doing it. This was truly a labor of love, made all the more enjoyable primarily because the high quality of the music in the first place.
In our many, many wonderful evenings together, often over pupus, martinis and dinner, we had many thought-provoking and enlightening discussions.
I often remarked, that Peter was a true innovator, always coming up with the new and innovative and treating it in such creative ways. I, on the other hand, often told him that I had never come up with anything original myself, but I was great at adapting someone else’s ideas and making them work in my situation. He was particularly encouraging to me on the many Bach projects at LCH over the years, and thought it was a perfect legacy for me to establish at a Lutheran Church founded by Germans in Honolulu in 1900. Just as he had enriched the lives of so many in the Northwest with his work at St. Mark’s, he said I was doing the same through the Bach legacy in Honolulu.
So how does one say “thank you” to such an inspiration, mentor, respected musical colleague and devoted friend, when words are truly inadequate? I guess it comes down to this — if there had been no Peter Hallock in my life, I would have been a very different person. What enrichment and joy he brought to me and to the countless others I have been able to touch through his musical legacy. I am profoundly grateful that this wonderfully gracious and generous man became such an important part of my life. I look forward to being in his presence again in that marvelous world of light that he so often gave us a glimpse of through his music.
In blessed peace and love,