If Martin Luther King were alive and had come to the concert at Lutheran Church of Honolulu last night, he would loved the scene, suggested soprano Georgine Stark.
[First of all, did you know that King’s given birth name was not Martin but Michael? His name was changed at age five after his father, a pastor, traveled to Germany and was inspired by the stories of Martin Luther, the Protestant reformer.]
Georgine asked us to consider that the concert took place in a Lutheran Church—and MLK was named after Martin Luther; she is an African-American, her husband Darel Stark, a Jewish violinist, accompanied by Sachi Hirakouji, a Japanese pianist, assisted by a Caucasian choir! (Actually, Georgine, I only counted ten out of twenty-four singers as Caucasian, with others cosmopolitan, Asian or part-Asian. But, who cares?)
Indeed, it was the music, sixteen spirituals born out of slavery, with the full range of emotions—from seething anger to deep sadness to pure joy—that elicited this response from Mary-Jo Estes, “I’m emotionally wrung out!”
Georgine was superb, her voice sometimes dark and charged with emotion, and other times, soaring as light as a feather, her perfect intonation hitting the “sweet spot” every time. Darel added several violin obbligatos to Sachi’s sensitive piano accompaniment, because he thinks “everything sounds better with violin (!),” according to Georgine. In fact, I cannot imagine what those pieces would have sounded like without the violin obbligato!
The LCH Choir, under the direction of Scott Fikse, was also excellent, with a full range of dynamics, beautiful blend and tone, and a clean precision in entrances and cutoffs. They performed “All my trials,” (Norman Luboff), “Were you there” (Moses Hogan), “Soon ah will be done” (William Dawson), “There is a balm in Gilead” (Dawson), and “We shall walk through the valley in peace” (Hogan). The LCH Men’s Schola sang “Rise up shepherd and follow” (Fenno Heath), with Guy Merola singing the solo.
I think some of my favorites included Hogan’s “Give me Jesus,” and “Let us break bread together,” this last song which Georgine sang a fourth up from its normal key, putting the ending notes in the stratosphere!
She ended with her signature, “He’s got the whole world in his hands,” but as Mark Russell said to me after the concert, “I can still hear Carl (Crosier) playing the piano on that piece.”
“Lift every voice and sing,” the national anthem for the civil rights movement, was sung quite reverently as an encore. I must say that I played this song all last week for Punahou chapel, and took it almost twice as fast!
(Thanks to Cathy Baptista for loaning me her iPad to take these pictures when I forgot to bring my phone.)