Guess what — Pentecost 2015 will mark the 40th Anniversary of the Beckerath organ at the Lutheran Church of Honolulu! I can’t believe it, yes, I was there forty years ago at the dedication of this organ. (No, I didn’t play — I only came to listen.) It was absolutely crazy — more than 600 people crowded into that building, and there were about 40-50 people who climbed up the ladder to sit on the Board Room roof, plus lots of people sitting on the floor. You can imagine how big the organ sounded! (Yeah, right!) And of course, no one bothered to inform the fire marshal . . .
The next weekend, organist McNeil Robinson gave two stunning organ recitals, and his concerts were met with such great enthusiasm that a third concert was added. I think I went to all three recitals!
And wouldn’t you know it — this afternoon I sat down to read the latest issue of The American Organist, and there was my former student, Joey Fala pictured along with McNeil Robinson, who played the inaugural concerts on the Beckerath 40 years ago.
Here’s what the article said: New York City. Sept. 8, the chapter opened its season of events with a spectacular double-bill. Joey Fala, winner of the chapter’s 2013 playing competition, presented a recital on the 2005 Coignet-Casavant organ (IV/118) at Brick Presbyterian Church (host Keith Toth, minister of music). He offered a varied and stylish program of works by Bach, Reger, Mathias, and Vierne, demonstrating excellent and restrained control of the organ’s considerable resources. His final piece was Octaves, drawn from Jeanne Demessieux’s devastatingly virtuosic Six études, Op. 5. The performance was fittingly impressive, and the audience responded with rapturous applause. The second half of the entertainment took place in Brick Church’s Watson Hall. After much merriment (and champagne!), Stephen Tharp and McNeil Robinson commenced a predictably amusing, enlightening, and always entertaining discussion of Robinson’s life and career since 1984 (life events before this time are the subject of a planned autobiography). Robinson shared, with the 80 or so gathered members and former students, stories of his performing career and extensive teaching tenure. He also discussed his composing activities, revealing the composition process of several of his major works as well as that of some recent and upcoming Pieces. Personal recollections of figureheads such as Leonard Bernstein, Marcel Dupré, Aaron Copland, Samuel Barber, and many others were particularly appreciated. The most amusing was his vivid description of a certain Igor Stravinsky, whose eating habits were, as some might say, highly idiosyncratic! At the conclusion of the conversation, Robinson was then presented with a certificate commemorating his honorary membership in the New York City AGO, an honor bestowed on those who have made outstanding contributions to the life and work of the chapter. The evening was a great success, and a fitting overture to David Enlow and James Kennerley’s tenures as dean and sub-dean and program chair, respectively. Joey Fala’s performance was braodcast live, and remains accessible at http://tinyurl.com/nu3kxwe. The interview with McNeil is available on YouTube via the chapter’s website. nycago.org (Sebastian Gluck)
So it seems only natural that the person who will be playing the 40th Anniversary concert is the one and only Joey Fala! We’re having dinner tonight to work out some of the program details and I’ll keep you posted.
Here’s a YouTube video I found of one of McNeil Robinson’s improvisations: