Okay, I admit that when I was listening to Franz Biebl’s “Ave Maria” last night at the Evening Prayer service to honor Carl, I was missing something — and that was hearing Carl’s voice sing the top part as he always did. (However, I must say that last night’s performance by the choir was very much heartfelt and full of emotion.)
You may remember from Carl’s obituary printed in the funeral program, this paragraph:
The child was in great demand as a boy soprano, having a voice “as clear as a bell.” He found himself singing solos not only at church, but at ball games and for Elks and Lions Clubs. Cousin Marie Seastrom often accompanied him on the piano.
However, when Carl’s voice changed, he simply stopped singing and focused on his keyboard skills instead. It wasn’t until he moved to Hawaii and landed at the Lutheran Church of Honolulu, that he had to sing again. He used to tell me that it was difficult for him at first — he was so used to playing intervals on the piano, that when it came time to sing he was sometimes off the mark when singing in his natural baritone voice. He was a fairly good sightreader when it came to piano music, but making his throat sing the intervals was a whole new ballgame.
It was in 1975 that he along with music director, Joseph Hansen, decided to use a Josquin mass in the re-creation of the Martin Luther’s Formulae Missae for a festival service. Carl found that by using falsetto, or his countertenor voice, he could sing for long periods of time without straining. Eventually, he went to voice teacher, Neva Rego, for several years of lessons. She had never trained a countertenor before, but decided she would treat it like any other voice.
It was in the 80s, I think, that he was engaged by the Honolulu Symphony to sing the countertenor solo for Leonard Bernstein’s Chichester Psalms on the island of Kaua’i. I was in the audience during the performance, and I remember when Carl started to sing, the person behind me whispered to the person next to her, “WOW! What an unusual voice!”
His was a voice that no matter what ensemble he sang in, I could always pick his voice out whether he was singing alto or tenor — it was that distinctive. And unless he was also conducting an orchestra, he always sang along while conducting the choir — many times out of necessity because one of the choral parts may have been weak. Like any other choral conductor, he could sing all the parts if necessary — soprano, alto, tenor, or bass.
And do you remember how many times he would be conducting an orchestra for a Bach cantata, then turn around and sing the alto aria? Too many times to count!
So today it was with a mixture of sadness and happiness that I listened to a recording sent by Stan Baptista, a former Compline Choir member. It was the link to the last Compline service that Carl sang in (August 14, 2011, Feast of St. Mary the Virgin), and the anthem was, you guessed it, Franz Biebl’s Ave Maria.
Here is the link so you can listen to it. And I bet you’ll be able to hear Carl sing both in his low voice and his high voice, too.