It was Mister Fred Rogers who said: “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’ To this day, especially in times of ‘disaster,’ I remember my mother’s words and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers—so many caring people in this world.”
Mister Rogers was of course referring to doctors and nurses, police and firemen, volunteers, neighbors and friends who are ready to jump in to help when things go wrong. We continue to get frightening news following the Paris terror attacks, rumors that America will be attacked next. And you probably think that in my small world, I would hardly be thinking of the quote, “Look for the helpers.” Yet that was exactly what I was thinking when I played the rehearsal for the University of Hawaii Choirs last night and in spite of my horrible jet lag, I somehow got through the Bernstein “Chichester Psalms” with only a few hours of sleep.
You see, the night before was probably the worst in adjusting to this time zone, and I just could not sleep. Of course, I had a Bernstein Chichester Psalms “ear-worm” playing over and over in my head which didn’t help! Giving in to insomnia, I just got on my computer and looked for possibilities for my next international trip. In fact it was not until 5 am that I think I finally hit the sack and drifted off to sleep.
When I got to the rehearsal at Central Union, I was very glad that Megumi Kurachi was assigned to turn my pages. I could not have asked for a better or more skilled page-turner! Not only did she turn the pages in the right order and at precisely the right time, I had also asked her to push ALL the pistons to change the stops which I had clearly marked in the score. Believe me, there was a heap of pistons to push in this music, because after all, I’m playing a transcription of the whole orchestra part.
I had never met Megumi before, and all I knew about her was that she was the regular accompanist for the choirs so she had to know the Bernstein music extremely well. On the internet I found a March 2013 program with her short bio: Beginning her musical studies with piano lessons at the age of three, composer and pianist Megumi Kurachi has been a doctoral student in composition at the University of Hawai’i at Mānoa since 2008, studying with Byron Yasui, Takeo Kudo, Donald Womack, Thomas Osborne, Jeffrey Myers, and Jon Appleton. Prior to her composition studies, she received a Master of Music degree in piano performance from UH-Mānoa in 2005, under the tutelage of Ronald Morgan and Thomas Yee, with additional studies under Bichuan Li.
Another person who became my “helper” was Dr. Alec Schumacker, who “shadow-conducted” near the organ console, since Miguel Felipe, conductor, was hard to track on the television monitor. You see, the organ console is located to the side of the chancel about 40-50 feet away from the conductor, and I have my back to him as well. With Alec close by, it was so much easier to follow and play those 7/4 measures! Here’s his bio from the UHM website: Dr. Alec Schumacker joins the University of Hawai‘i’s Music Department this fall as conductor of the University Chorus. Joining Dr. Miguel Felipe, director of choral activities, and Nola Nāhulu, Schumacker brings a wealth of experience to the choral area. Schumacker is the choral teacher at Sacred Hearts Academy in Honolulu, a position he’d held since 2013, and previously served as the interim director of the Master Chorale of South Florida, a staff conductor for the Miami Choral Academy, the director of the Ocean Reef Chapel Choir, and the co-conductor of the University of Miami Maelstrom Men’s Ensemble.
Thanks so much for your help, Megumi and Alec! I couldn’t do it without you!
Details of the concert can be found on the ArtsHawaii calendar.