Defining moment

Young Joey is shown with John and Betsy McCreary while Roy Helm (background) looks on.

Young Joey is shown with John and Betsy McCreary while Roy Helms (background) looks on.

“Turning point,” “critical moment,” “decisive moment,” “moment of truth,” “pivotal moment” — these are some of the descriptions of the term defining moment — a point in your life when you made a very important decision or had an experience that changed you forever. Even though the term has only been around since 1980-1985, it could well describe what happened to Joey Fala in 2002 when he was a fourth-grader at Iolani School. Here’s what he wrote in his bio, which appears in today’s concert program:

Joey's first time on the Beckerath organ.

Joey’s first time on the Beckerath organ.

I can trace my earliest memories of hearing a pipe organ back to Christmas pageants at Holy Nativity School, where I attended preschool. The organ was a “mystical musical machine” with its pipes shrouded behind a translucent scrim, and its console hidden from view in an obscure corner of the altar.  I have no doubt that this element of mystery is what first captivated me about the instrument. While my fascination grew as I began attending Iolani School and heard the organ played in chapel each week, it wasn’t until I joined the choir in 4th grade that I had a profoundly impactful experience when the late John McCreary (St. Andrew’s Cathedral and former Iolani choir director) substituted for our class one week. Having heard of his history as a world class concert organist, I somehow had him agree to play for us after class.  He opened up the small rehearsal organ in the choir room and began playing Bach’s D Minor Toccata. For the first time, I was able to see the instrument up close and more importantly, watch the organist’s hands and feet in action. At that moment I knew that it was what I wanted to do.

Norma Chun accompanied Joey to his first PipeWorks program.

Norma Chun accompanied Joey to his first PipeWorks program.

My 5th grade teacher, Ms. Cindy Scheinert, was the first to take seriously my interest in the organ after reading a poem I wrote about the instrument for her English class. She introduced me to chapel organist and personal friend, Katherine Crosier, and had me meet her at the organ one morning before the service. To Crosier’s surprise, I hopped onto the bench and played through the first few pages of the Bach Toccata, my legs barely long enough to hit the right pedal notes. More intriguing to her than the performance was the fact that I had downloaded the score off the internet!  (J.F.)

Jordan McCreary, John McCreary and Joey Fala in the pipe chambers of the McCreary Nuuanu home.

Jordan McCreary, John McCreary and Joey Fala in the pipe chambers of the McCreary Nuuanu home.

After speaking also to Joey’s classroom music teacher, Norma Chun, I was able to arrange a PipeWorks demonstration for over thirty youngsters at the Lutheran Church of Honolulu which Joey attended. And the rest is history — we had lessons together over the next seven years. Joey went off to college to study architecture and in the meantime, he received coaching from Alfred Fedak of Westminster Church in Albany, and Christian Lane of Harvard University. He is currently the organist and choir director at First United Presbyterian Church in Troy, and has previously served as organ Joeyscholar at Central Union Church, Honolulu. A recipient of the American Guild of Organists Hawaii Chapter and Eastern New York Chapter scholarships, the Robert T. Anderson Award, and the Pogorzelski-Yankee Memorial Scholarship, he has also received first prize in the NYC chapter AGO/Quimby Competition for Young Organists and most recently performed as a finalist in the Arthur Poister Organ Competition. This summer, he will present a recital as a featured artist at the Organ Historical Society’s national convention in Springfield, MA. In August, he will begin the Master of Music program in organ at Yale University under full scholarship, studying with Thomas Murray and Martin Jean.

Today, Joey Fala is back at the Lutheran Church of Honolulu, and this time he is the concert organist celebrating the 40th anniversary of the organ at 5 pm. We are expecting a big crowd and suggest that you arrive early as parking may be a bit of a challenge.

Congratulations, Joey, on realizing your dream!

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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