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.
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.
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).