“Bravo to Maestro Dana Marsh and the members of Early Music Hawai‘i on a fantastic (and Spanish!) open to their 2016–17 season!” This was the post on Miguel Felipe’s Facebook page following last night’s concert at the Lutheran Church of Honolulu.
Any fears that there would be only a small audience (owing to slow advance ticket sales) were erased as the people kept coming and coming—the building was comfortably full without being overstuffed.
I was really able to enjoy the first half of the concert because I only had one solo and one ensemble piece to play, and got to listen to the amazing results Dana Marsh accomplished with the Early Music Hawaii Choir. We truly were on a journey last week, as Dana arrived on Monday to a mostly motley crew of singers faced with very challenging music—which he transformed in four rehearsals to a very tight, transparent choral ensemble.
After the concert, Dana told me that some of the choral singers in this group were as good as any he has worked with—and that is a huge compliment, as Dana has been a part of many, many world-class ensembles on two continents.
A number of people came up to me to comment on the organ pieces I played. I have to admit, they were really “funky” and I deliberately tried to make the Beckerath organ sound as un-German as possible by playing on all the reeds coupled together. You see, the Spanish organs were known for their fiery reeds.
During intermission, Miguel commented that I had a “deer in the headlights” look, and I told him it was because of going cuckoo reading all that figured bass! (Figured bass is a shorthand for basso continuo players which means all I had was a bass line with numbers above it to indicate what the right hand plays.)
Surely one of the best moments of the night was during Georgine Stark‘s amazing solo, “Oycan una xacarilla” by Rafael Castellanos, accompanied by Richard Savino and Hideki Yamaya on baroque guitars and Fred Mariano on percussion. I especially loved Fred’s playing of the castanets during this piece! Georgine absolutely brought the house down with her stunning singing, all the more amazing when asked whether she knew Spanish, and her answer was “no!”
I did have a terrible “oops” moment, when I gave the wrong starting pitch for the last piece, “Ay andar.” That was because I sat back and enjoyed the group perform the previous piece, “Dime amor,” when I should have been up there on the organ bench! (Oh, dear!) Luckily, I was quickly corrected—it’s a good thing Dana has perfect pitch!
As we were performing the last piece, the infectiously happy “Ay andar,” I looked around the room and saw many people tapping their toes and keeping the beat in time with the music. Just then, I had the realization that Carl Crosier had a hand in making all this happen—in establishing the Early Music Hawaii Choir in the first place. He would have conducted this concert himself except for now conducting heavenly choirs.
I think everyone went home happy! Thank you, Dana!