On all accounts, Sunday’s funeral service for Peter Rasmussen Hallock (Nov. 19, 1924-April 27, 2014) was a church musician’s dream: absolutely sublime and beautiful music (performed to perfection), outstanding homily, liturgical actions done with beauty and care, and a full-capacity crowd of people who loved Peter, the man and his music. All of the music was chosen with such care and was so appropriate for the season of Easter and the message of the resurrection. And all of it was composed by Peter Hallock!
The pre-service music started about 4:45 pm with Mel Butler, Canon Musician, playing all the Easter chorales from Bach’s Orgelbüchlein: Christ lag in Todesbanden; Jesus Christus unser Heiland; Erstanden ist der heil’ge Christ; Erschienen ist der herrliche Tag; Heut triumphieret Gottes Sohn; then Roger Sherman, associate organist, played Komm, heiliger Geist (Dietrich Buxtehude) and Bach’s Schmücke dich, o liebe Seele from the Great Eighteen Chorales.
The service opened with the Compline Choir stationed in the front of the nave and alternating with the Cathedral Choir in the loft singing Hallock’s Psalm 121— (1962, 1978) the Compline Choir sang the chants while the Cathedral Choir sang the fauxbourdons. During the singing of the Psalm, the Paschal Candle led the ministers to receive Peter’s ashes at the baptismal font.
Then at the Solemn Procession, Carl Crosier conducted Hallock’s I saw a new heaven and a new earth (1979). You may recall that this was one of three Advent processionals which we alternated over the course of three years at the LCH Advent Procession service. In the program, it was listed as “conducted by Carl Crosier, Peter’s friend and business partner of 40 years. Carl was choirmaster of the Lutheran Church of Honolulu for 38 years.”
After the first reading, a cantor sang the antiphon to Psalm 116:10-17 (Hallock, of course), the congregation repeated it, then the Cathedral Choir sang the verses. The Gospel Acclamation after the second reading was Hallock’s The Lord is my light.
Dean Steve Thomason’s homily was based on Peter’s oft-repeated mantra (actually Rudolf Otto said it first) that religious experience is numinous, containing these three elements: Mysterium tremendum et fascinans. As mysterium, the numinous is “wholly other”– entirely different from anything we experience in ordinary life. It evokes a reaction of silence. But the numinous is also a mysterium tremendum. It provokes terror because it presents itself as overwhelming power. Finally, the numinous presents itself as fascinans, as merciful and gracious.
The offertory anthem was Peter Hallock’s Phoenix (1975, 1982) for choir, organ, cello and harp. We have performed this piece many times, for Easter, for funerals, and for Peter’s 80th birthday concert in Honolulu. I think it was the perfect choice for this occasion as you can see by the text: Awake, my soul; awake, lute and harp; I will awake the dawn. As the Phoenix wings from the woodland tree, swift of pinion, soars to the sky, so will I rise and give thanks to you, O Lord . . . As the Phoenix with youth refashioned out of the ashes wakes again, to the life of life by God’s grace (the body’s death). Page Smith (cello) and Naomi Kato (harp) had performed this work with Peter conducting, and so it was especially memorable to hear them play this piece at the service.
The Sanctus was from Peter’s Missa Brevis, a work we hope to publish soon and the Fraction Anthem was Peter’s Easter Canticle (1970) for voices and bells which we have sung many, many times at LCH. In fact we used the same music for our wedding processional in 1977.
Two communion anthems followed, both by Hallock: I will magnify your name (1989) and Come Holy Spirit (1979) then we sang two hymns, “Deck thyself my soul with gladness” and “Come my way, my Truth, my Life.”
The most solemn part of the service was at the Commendation when the Compline Choir sung the Kontakion for the Departed (Kievan Chant). I think this moment was my favorite during the whole service. Carl turned to Vernon Nicodemus and said he remembered the Compline Choir singing it around Tschaikovsky’s grave on their trip to Russia. As some of Peter’s ashes were interred in the niche in the Compline Corner, the choir sang his ‘Marilyn’ setting of the Nunc Dimittis (1984):
Lord, let your servant depart in peace, your word is now fulfilled. These eyes have seen salvation’s dawn, this child so long foretold. This is the Savior of us all, the Gentile’s promised Light, God’s glory dwelling in our midst, the joy of Israel. All glory to the Father be, all glory to the Son, All glory Holy Ghost to thee, while endless ages run.
One final hymn, Hyfrydol, then Mel Butler played an absolutely stunning performance of Charles Tournemire’s Choral-Improvisation sur le ‘Victimae paschali’. Unfortunately a few people either ignored or failed to read the instruction in the program: “Given the solemnity of the occasion, please refrain from applause at the end.”
I can just hear Peter now: “It was too damn long . . . but it was glorious!” Thank you to Mel Butler and Jason Anderson for planning such a wonderful afternoon of honoring Peter Hallock’s memory. We loved it all!