Totally at home. That’s how I felt last night sitting at the fabulous Flentrop organ at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in Berkeley. In fact, I told George Emblom, the church’s music director, that I felt like I had more and better practice than I did at home—no interruptions, not having to stop to give a lesson, etc. In spite of not having electric stop action and having to pull all of the stops by hand, I had no trouble moving from piece to piece because the stop knobs came out so easily and effortlessly. And the sound of the organ was so delicious!
I took the BART to St. Mark’s for the 10:00 am Eucharist since I didn’t want to get up so early to go with George since he also plays a 7:30 am service at a Catholic Church before going to St. Mark’s. After the service I went to coffee hour where they had substantial food, including sandwiches and pastries. Then I was invited to go to the Newcomers Brunch where they had even more food: several varieties of quiche, salad, brownies and pumpkin-cranberry cake. Apparently I picked the right Sunday to visit! The Newcomers Brunch is offered to people who are new to St. Mark’s who are interested in getting more involved with the parish’s programs and activities. It is a wonderful way to meet people as well as a way to find out more about the church.
Afterwards I went to the organ and it only took me less than 15 minutes to play the first section of each piece before moving on to the next. And that was all I needed. I spent the next 4-1/2 hours just chilling out in the church library, studying my score away from the keyboard and relaxing. A couple of times George reminded me that the organ was free for me to use, but I told him that I was fine.
And so it was that I became completely relaxed while listening to the men’s Schola sing Evensong. When I sat down to play my program, I was able to be super focused and listen to every note, a mantra I repeated to myself throughout.
The music never went better, and I was tremendously relieved!
Did you know that this was the first time ever that I have been invited to play a concert outside of Hawaii? I am so sorry I didn’t record it but I simply didn’t have room in my backpack for my recorder, small that it is. Oh well, I will just have to come back again!
Afterwards the church put on a fabulous reception with veggies, cheese tray, meatballs, chicken wings, pizza and many desserts. So many people came up to me to thank me for making the organ come alive.
One person told me that they had never heard the Flentrop sound like that! (Aw, shucks!) Someone else told me I not only showed all the colors of the organ but that my program showed off the varieties of Bach’s composition and his genius. Another told me they were aware of every single note I played, beautifully shaped and “sung.” (That’s what we call articulation.)
One man talked to me extensively and later wrote on Facebook: Let me gush. The recital: I felt like I opened a closet door and found something that I had always owned and realized it was the only thing that really mattered. When I talked with her afterward I realized the diamond I thought was there was one of the best cut and among the highest number karat that I’ve heard. I was awed…so special, so brilliant. My buddy, Michael Hiller is as always the model of a priest and what he had to say made my hope for the next day impossibly brighter. (L.D.B.)
Other comments: Yes, yes, it was a wonderful concert!!! I agree with Lewis (above) in that Fr. Hiller’s sermon was also wonderful. So glad I was able to be there. (M. S.)
In response to my post about Bach’s music being a means to healing, this comment was written: And your recital accomplished all that. Thank you, Kathy! (M.H.)
By the way, I learned that the interim rector, The Rev. Michael Hiller referenced above, is a classmate of Paul Lillie, rector of St. Mark’s Honolulu (himself an organist and a member of the Hawaii Chapter AGO! Plus: a faithful reader of this blog—Hi, Paul!)
When we got back to George and Jonathan’s beautiful home, Jonathan had a delicious salmon and fresh vegetable dinner waiting. How wonderful these last few days have been, playing this fantastic organ and spending time with good friends!