The Beckerath B.C. (Before Carl)

The Beckerath organ still looks new.

The 40-year-old Beckerath organ still looks and sounds new! (Photo by Joey Fala)

On Sunday night, Pastor Jeff Lilley acknowledged the congregation of the Lutheran Church of Honolulu for having the vision and then supporting the vision of a fine music program with a quality tracker organ. And in a Facebook conversation, someone marveled at the sight of the 40-year-old Beckerath — still looking fresh and new and having a most beautiful tone — to which Roy Helms commented that most electronic organs of that vintage have bitten the dust. “If nothing else, the parts become obsolete and cannot be replaced if something goes wrong. We fully expect the LCH organ, if properly maintained, will be around in 200 years if the building is still standing or the organ has been moved to another location. Even longer, I expect.” And now that the church has solar panels, from which all of its electricity is generated, you could even say that the organ is completely solar-powered!

Pastor Don Johnson (LCH pastor 1969-2000), one of the key people to convince the congregation to move forward and go for the organ, shared this information about LCH prior to the arrival of the Beckerath:

Pastor Don Johnson and Ruth on his retirement (2000).

Pastor Don Johnson and wife, Ruth, on his retirement (2000).

In 1970 the congregation had a planning retreat at St. Anthony’s, where 30 members tried to envision some fresh winds that might revitalize the congregation. In the five years prior to my arrival nearly half the active congregation had withdrawn over the Vietnam War issue; my predecessor had taken many prophetic stands. The text we drew direction from at the weekend retreat was from an Alban Institute publication. It listed 36 points common to thriving metropolitan congregations. With 40,000 people living within a half mile of the church, that is where we decided we should go. The goals we left the weekend with were three:

1. Develop fine worship with a quality music program.
2. Provide active service in the community, so we decided to challenge the proposed development of a commercial center and high-rise where the Sugar Planters 9-acre site was. Because of LCH’s effort it is now the Makiki Regional Park.
3. Develop active evangelism, so we sent teams of members to visit the homes of every visitor for the next several years.

A three-year capital campaign resulted which had these components: the purchase of the organ, the remodeling of the nave, and the addition of air conditioning. It was a bundled deal —“so if you liked one part of the program you would support the whole package.”

A former LCH organist.

A former LCH organist.

He also recalled previous choir directors Charles Berkstresser, Lou Paff and Joe Hansen who preceded Carl Crosier being hired in 1972, and Lorraine Ziesel and Gloria Moore preceding Carl as organist. That was the time that the aging Aeolian organ was plagued with ciphers, and it would have to be turned off during the service. Instead of buying an electronic organ to serve in the interim, the congregation bought the small 8-rank positiv organ from Beckerath (now at Holy Innocents in Lahaina, Maui). When Joe Hansen moved to the mainland in 1975, Malcolm Tait from the University of Hawaii was hired as the choir director (but not as the Director of Music, the title which Carl retained). There were some tensions which arose, resulting in the brief resignation by Carl in 1977, and the hire of Jane Johansen as organist. I was hired as organist in May 1978, and Carl came back on staff shortly thereafter when Malcolm took a job in Cleveland, OH.

Pastor Johnson closed with this statement:  Rededicating an organ when it is only continuing uninterrupted in support of our spiritual life is unusual, but certainly a good way to emphasize its purpose. Thank you all for that. It seems to me LCH community is the hero in asking for and supporting fine music and worship as part of its vital life.

And here are the pictures of the fantastic food at the reception after the concert! Thank you, Billie Jean Ries, for sharing your photos. Carl would have been so pleased!

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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 The Beckerath B.C. (Before Carl)

  1. NOËL LOVELACE says:

    As always, Kathryn, best wishes and Aloha.
    Thanks for your continuing wit and wisdom.
    Thanks for sharing,

  2. Lou Paff says:

    I am so glad that the Beckerath organ continues to be enjoyed at LCH, and was glad to be a part of the movement to replace the old Aeolian organ with it. Thanks to all who were involved in it, and especially to Pastor Don Johnson for his support of moving forward with it as part of the goal of moving forward with a fine worship and music program!

    Lou Paff

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