Remembering Neil

In this week leading up to the anniversary of the Beckerath organ, I can’t help but think that there were three important people forty years ago who are no longer with us: Rudolf von Beckerath, Carl Crosier and McNeil Robinson who were so instrumental in putting this organ on the map: Rudolf von Beckerath, for building the instrument; Carl Crosier, who was the church’s organist from 1972-1977, and then its Director of Music and Cantor, 1975-2011; lastly, McNeil Robinson, who played three stunning inaugural concerts and who died May 9, 2015.

Although he was writing about Neil’s concert in Palo Alto, the following comment could well have been applied to those concerts forty years ago and guess what! Joe Hansen mentioned below is the same Joe Hansen who was LCH’s Director of Music and suggested Neil’s name for the Honolulu concerts:

Part of Carol Langner's courtyard bulletin board display on the organ.

Part of Carol Langner’s courtyard bulletin board display on the organ. Click to enlarge.

I cherish in my memory the first concert I heard McNeil play at St. Marks’ Episcopal Church, Palo Alto, CA. The organist of the church Joe Hansen, had invited all the organ cognoscenti in the Bay area, and he urged me to attend. The first piece on the program was Bach’s Trio Sonata in C, which was wonderfully played. The program included some Franck and then proceeded to the extremely challenging Salve Regina by Manari replete with 32nd note runs in the pedals. [N.B. Neil played the same piece in Honolulu.] He was now handed an envelope which contained two three-measure themes and a tone row by Schoenberg. The concert had already lasted more than an hour, and here he was improvising a 45 minute organ symphony. His improvisation was in the manner of Dupre. About halfway through one could feel the visceral excitement building as he launched into the the Schoenberg theme, then towards the end he combined all three themes. The sense of the audience was that we were sitting in the presence of genius. At the end, the ovation was immediate–loud, long, and heartfelt. I know that he will be deeply missed by all with whom he was connected. -Thomas G. Kuhn

Thanks to Carol Langner, whom I call the “Queen of the Bulletin Boards,” there was a whole panel devoted to McNeil Robinson, as part of this weekend’s festivities. I also suggest that you read Neil’s obituary, which was written by Neal Campbell. The New York Times obituary may be found here, while the tribute by F. Anthony Thurman may be found on the AGO website.

And here is Carol’s bulletin board in all its glory! Gorgeous, isn’t it!

The bulletin board display in the courtyard.

The bulletin board display in the courtyard.

Here are close-up views of the various sections of the board (click to enlarge)

What is a tracker organ?

What is a tracker organ?

The versatile Beckerath

The versatile Beckerath

McNeil Robinson and Joey Fala

McNeil Robinson and Joey Fala

 

About Katherine Crosier

In addition to playing the organ I am interested in documenting life's special moments through journaling, scrapbooking, photography and slideshow production. My family just groans.
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2 Responses to Remembering Neil

  1. pauline Lomas says:

    Dear katherine,
    I found your blog after finding out that Neil had passed away last year. I was so sorry to only just now finding out as i have been living in Europe and sadly out of touch. I knew Neil well , as he was married to my good friend Cristina. Sadly I have also lost touch with cris and am searching everywhere to find her. I know her mother passed away in brazil, and Cris moved house from Dobbs ferry and I lost her new phone number.
    Please if you have any information i would appreciate it. many thanks, pauline

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