Are organists the only musicians who never know what to expect when they have to perform on their instruments? I can’t tell you the number of times I have come to the church and found something not working on the organ. There was the time I was scheduled to play Jeremiah Clarke’s Trumpet Voluntary in D for a dedication concert, and then when I got to the church, discovered the D note was dead! I briefly thought of transposing everything to D-flat, but then quickly dismissed the crazy idea! (I ended up substituting a cornet for the trumpet!) And the times that other things have gone wrong with an instrument are too many to enumerate.
Last Friday night, I played the 4-manual Aeolian-Skinner organ at St. Andrew’s Cathedral for the Iolani Chorus concert. The major work was John Alexander‘s gorgeous Requiem, for choir, soprano and tenor solos, English horn, flute, cello, harp, timpani and organ. The organ part calls for very dramatic and very quick crescendos and decrescendos. No problem, I thought, I’ll just use the crescendo pedal — a handy, dandy gadget which brings on more stops quickly with the press of the pedal — like stepping on the gas. Closing the crescendo pedal works in reverse, and takes off stops. Well — that idea went out the window when I operated the pedal and nothing happened. I confirmed with John Renke, the Cathedral organist, that the crescendo pedal didn’t work, so I had to opt for Plan B, that is, to set up 8 thumb pistons, each getting successively louder and with more stops drawn. With one hand I had to play the chords, and with the other I used my thumb to hit the pistons rapidly in order 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8 and the reverse, 8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1, all in the space of two measures, and then repeated for the next two measures! This particular sequence was repeated over and over — good thing I’ve done this kind of thumb crescendo before!
I’m glad to report that all went well. John wrote me an email message after the concert: Thanks again for a gorgeous concert, Kathy! Your playing was exquisite, and you’re quite the magician to have figured a way around the broken crescendo pedal — I’m impressed!! John McCreary would have been proud.
Then tonight, I’ll be playing the dress rehearsal for Bach’s Mass in B Minor, with the Oahu Choral Society and the Hawaii Symphony Orchestra, under the direction of Esther Yoo. They have moved the Beckerath continuo organ to Blaisdell Concert Hall. But this time, it’s me who is handicapped. Wouldn’t you know it, this afternoon was my monthly eye injection for macular degeneration, so everything is super blurry in my right eye! I am hoping that by the time of the rehearsal tonight, I will have recovered sufficiently enough to see the music!
Tickets are still available for Friday night’s concert, which you can book by clicking here. Soloists are Youngmi Kim, Georgine Stark, Jennifer Lane, Randall Umstead, and David Dong-Geun Kim. I see that Georgine’s bio is listed on the OCS website as follows:
Georgine Stark, soprano, a native of Buffalo, New York, has mesmerized Honolulu audiences in the Handel Gloria, Mozart Requiem, Bach Mass in B Minor at the Lutheran Church of Honolulu, and the Monteverdi Vespers of 1610, also at the Lutheran Church of Honolulu. [not quite correct; we did the Monteverdi Vespers at St. Theresa’s and St. Andrew’s Cathedral!]