Obituary for a music program

Today I received this news release from Karen Sender of St. Andrew’s Cathedral, announcing the last Choral Evensong this coming Sunday, October 9 at 5:30 pm. As you read it, you will realize that you are reading the obituary for a music program.

The late afternoon at St. Andrew's Cathedral brings a myriad of colored light.

The late afternoon at St. Andrew’s Cathedral brings a kaleidoscope of colored light.

Choral Evensong will be sung at the Cathedral of St. Andrew on Sunday, October 9 at 5.30pm.  Music will include the setting of the Evening Canticles composed by Herbert Howells for King’s College,Cambridge, England, and the stunningly beautiful “Evening Hymn” by Balfour Gardiner. This will be the final Choral Evensong with the Cathedral Choir under the direction of John Renke.   At 5 pm, listen to the great Cathedral bells as the Saint Andrew’s Ringing Society rings changes from the Mackintosh Tower. Evensong has been sung in cathedral churches for centuries and, through prayer and song, offers to God our thanks for the day that is past and seeks the light of God’s presence through the coming night. All are welcome. Parking is free. Calabash offering gratefully accepted. 

 After his appointment as Organist and Director of Music of The Cathedral of St. Andrew in 2007, John Renke fostered a deep connection with the wider cultural life of Honolulu.  By establishing a weekly concert series and hosting many other concerts each year, the Symphony, Symphony Chorus, Chamber Music Hawaii, the Morning Music Club of Honolulu, Hawaii Youth Opera Chorus, local schools and universities, and touring ensembles from around the world have experienced the unique acoustics and beauty of St. Andrew’s Cathedral.  He was the 2015 recipient of the Dale R. Noble Award, presented by the Oahu Choral Society “in recognition and appreciation of outstanding contribution to choral music in Hawaii.” 
As the Director of Music at St. Andrew’s Cathedral, John has done much to fulfill the cathedral’s desire to be a dynamic presence in the cultural life of Honolulu.  The St. Andrew’s Cathedral Choir, composed of Choral Scholars and volunteer singers, has been considered one of the premier choral ensembles in Honolulu.  John has particularly enjoyed working with the Cathedral’s Hawaiian community and directing the Hawaiian Choir for the Sunday services.  He has been passionate in his various roles as an organist, conductor, composer, liturgist and teacher and has strived to embrace the richness of Hawaiian and Western culture that blesses these beautiful islands.

Imagine a massive letter writing campaign!

Imagine a massive letter writing campaign!

As the word has spread about John’s resignation from St. Andrew’s and the loss of the choir program, so many people have texted me, sent me emails, or have even called me on the phone to ask what they can do. Never one to give up, I thought that a massive letter-writing campaign might at least let those in the Episcopal Diocese know that there are many, many people not only in Hawaii, but around the world, who wish to express their sorrow at this turn of events. While writing a letter may not reverse any decisions that have been made, at least it may provide comfort to John and to those in the choir to know that their music has been cherished, appreciated and loved.

You may address letters to Bishop Robert L. Fitzpatrick, The Episcopal Church in Hawaii, 229 Queen Emma Square, Honolulu, HI  96813, or send an email message here.

Here is a sample, recently posted to Facebook: I direct three different choirs, I work with countless others as a ringer, soloist, and/or guest conductor, I started my own chamber choir group, and I teach singing privately and in group settings. I owe my entire professional career to John Renke and the St. Andrew’s Cathedral Choir. . . . It is shameful how easy it is for some churches and schools around the country to cut the music budget and dismantle functioning, sometimes even thriving music programs. It is even more shameful to see the people making those decisions not owning up to their actions. . . .St. Andrew’s Cathedral has had a tradition of musical excellence in sacred repertoire for decades. In more recent years, it has also become a favorite venue for local, mainland and international performers. The Cathedral music program provided a great service to the music community in Honolulu by hosting music presentations that ranged in everything from student recitals to major concerts featuring internationally renowned ensembles. . . . (K.N.)

If you’ve ever been touched by the music at St. Andrew’s, whether it was a religious service or a concert by local or visiting artists, please come support the music program at the final Choral Evensong (Sunday, October 9th, at 5:30 pm).

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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17 Responses to Obituary for a music program

  1. Roger Barton says:

    I read through the press release carefully, and while it says “…final choral evensong under the direction of John Renke,” it doesn’t appear actually to say that the cathedral choir and music program are being discontinued. Could it be that the diocese is simply putting the program on hiatus until they find someone to replace him?

    • Elizabeth Conklin says:

      It appears to be discontinued for now. Who knows when, how, or if it can be resurrected in the future. There’s always hope, and your letters (addressed as described in the article) can help.

  2. Randy Mills says:

    Dear Katherine,
    A children’s choir in Peterborough, Ontario is about to purchase a two-octave set of handbells (my 18th and 19th octaves, I think), all started when Bill and Ellen Hill in Hanover, Ontario (in 1986) told me of their experience at St Andrew’s hearing the work of Carl and Katherine Crosier. I am so sorry to read of the end of the rich music programme at St Andrew’s, and will write to the Bishop. I wanted you to know that the influence you and Carl have given the world of church music is truly incalculable. Bill, a retired music teacher, raved (the only word) about what he hears in Hawaii. He and Ellen have passed away, but the spark he provided for me still has its impact: thie year on about 100 teen ringers and singers at a school and two churches (Anglican and RC). Thank you.

    • Thank you for your words of support. Our long musical tenure was at the Lutheran Church of Honolulu, but after retiring in 2011, Carl sang in the choir at St. Andrew’s Cathedral under John Renke.

      • Randy Mills says:

        My mistake, and I apologize! Of course, I now remember the Hills speaking of you and Carl at the Lutheran Church in Honolulu. The sad change at the Cathedral is still effective. We have had these in Canada. Please do take all the credit though, through what the Hills started! Handbells are relatively rare in Canada, and without Bill’s nudging and planning, I can’t think I’d be so busy now!

  3. Chris Gardner says:

    Someone please clarify to everyone what has actually happened at Honolulu.
    So many of us connected with Anglican cathedral music have been disquieted by the demise of so many venerable choral institutions in the Anglican Communion, hoping that this is not the end of our wonderful traditions there.

  4. Pegram Johnson III, PHD says:

    A similar decision happened at the National Cathedral in Washington. I am not sure that there are any paid singers are left. It is demoralizing for sure.

  5. Don jose says:

    The article mentions also John’s resignation from the program…..Now, did he, was he made, what is the truth?


    Shouldn’t this decision have been tabled until there is a new Dean? Or aren’t we going to have one? During the past decade or so, since John McCreary retired, we’ve had a “Cathedral Musician” who didn’t last long, and then John Renke, who not only helped St Andrew’s regain a large measure of its appeal but also fostered the “music is family” vibe that is important to so many.
    I first sang in the St Andrew’s choir 70 years ago – mercy! – under William Thaanum. I was confirmed there and married there (in a choral ceremony that was an amazing gift). After John McCreary’s departure, the Cathedral dried up and froze over – but my husband’s funeral at St Clement’s was made especially meaningful by the “real” choir, who sang everything they’d sung at our wedding. I’m no longer Cathedral choir material, but I’ve enjoyed returning to the family in the Diocesan Choir which, presumably, won’t be available any more either.
    Someone remarked that the Cathedral music had become the “tail that wags the dog.” If so, perhaps we need a better, more comprehensive dog.

  7. David Draggart says:

    For heaven’s sake, will someone explain, clearly and simply, what is going on here?
    Has the man been sacked? If so, for what reason? If not, what is this all about?
    I wish someone would just let me have the facts, and then I would know what to make of it.

  8. robert mayo says:

    There must be some problems. The former dean left w/2 weeks notice, now this. The Bp could be on a ego trip, or there are serious $$ issues.

    Nothing has been said about the organ restoration project.

  9. Phil Hines says:

    I am truly devastated by this news. For years, my wife and I would visit a dear friend in Waikiki and i would take the opportunity to visit with John Robert Renke and play the big Aeolian-Skinner/Walker/Colby. A couple years ago, I played a recital on the new Rodgers at St. Augustine by the Sea, and time ran out on our vacation before I could get over to visit John at the cathedral. I wish I had seen him then. John is one of the finest musicians I have ever known, and a truly wonderful person. The program he established at St. Andrew’s did honor to the greatest traditions in Anglican liturgical music. I am truly at a loss for words, and so very sad.

  10. Joseph Hansen says:

    Unfortunately, once a program has been shut down, it is almost always for good. Choirs and programs are built over many years and cannot be suddenly resurrected after its ending. People disperse, even move away, or become involved in other activities or churches, and don’t wish to return to something which has been a source of so much hurt and alienation.

  11. Kurt R Hansen says:

    I had the great blessing of being part of the Cathedral Choir from 1970-72 under John McCreary. I learn sooo much as a musician and as a person of faith from the music and liturgy. I was there during the debacle of ending the boy’s choir program John had worked so hard to build. I am fortunate enough to be in my 25th year as the Director of Music at St. Pauls UCC in Chicago. We work very hard include and honor Western classical music in addition to gospel, spirituals, and jazz. It saddens me to see St. Andrew’s jettison part of it’s very rich tradition. This has the dull ring of familiarity with what has happened to many church music programs that are deemed to traditional.

  12. Lou Paff says:

    This is all sad news. What is happening with the Aeolian-Skinner? The last I heard (from some time ago) was that there had been water leakage and 500+ pipes no longer played. There was a plan to raise funds and have Schoenstein of San Francisco rebuild the instrument. Is any of that happening?

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