How loud is loud?

Naomi Castro conducts the combined band, orchestra and choir.

Naomi Castro conducts the combined band, orchestra and choir.

Ascension Day program

Ascension Day program

One hundred fifty years ago on Ascension Day, 1867, Queen Emma Kaleleonālani, wife of King Kamehameha IV, founded St. Andrew’s Priory School for Girls. Today’s Ascension Day service combined orchestra, band, choir, organ and congregation to celebrate the school’s founding—and the decibel level in St. Andrew’s Cathedral was so loud that when I played full organ on the Aeolian-Skinner, I could not hear myself play! I swear, I could see my fingers moving on the keys, and I had pulled out all the foundations, mixtures and reeds including the festival trumpets coupled together, and I honestly don’t know if I was playing the right notes, because I couldn’t hear myself! Now, that’s loud! But it was oh so glorious!

The opening hymn was “Hail thee, festival day,” and I had no trouble following band director Gordon Tokishi, who held up one, two or three fingers for the three different sections of this piece. Did I ever tell you that I once got lost in playing the eight verses of this hymn, and after playing the refrain, didn’t know which set of verses to go to next? You see, the odd-numbered verses and the even-numbered verses have different melodies. You cannot imagine how scary it is when you are playing the organ and get lost in this piece! Luckily, we only sang four verses today.

The second hymn was called “Priory Hymn,” composed by former Priory organist Michael Markson in the 80s. Mike sadly succumbed to the AIDS virus in the early days of the disease—my husband Carl and I attended his funeral and I remember feeling how tragic it was to lose such a talented musician and composer!

(Naomi Castro directs the Priory Choir in Valerie Shields’ “Ascension Hymn,” with the school’s Petit and Fritsen handbells.

The service was a full-blown Eucharist, ending with a grand procession to the Coral Cross in the Mary K. Robinson courtyard of Kennedy Hall. The final hymn chosen was “Alleluia, sing to Jesus” (HYFRYDOL), and of course I played Carl Crosier’s harmonization as the last verse. Yes, I thought about him a lot today—he spent 29 years of his life employed by the Priory, and every time I come to play chapel, I can’t help but think about him—his presence is still felt in the fabric of this place, this building, these students. A couple of people came up to me to tell me that they were sorry to hear about his demise, even though it’s been over two years.

The Coral Cross is decorated the night before by the Junior Class. There are many speeches, leis, tears, and songs sung to bid the Seniors farewell and thank the teachers and administrators. My only responsibility was to play the Priory Alma Mater on the piano. I was surprised that even I got a lei today!

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Hey, did you know that it has been 29 years since my last Ascension Day at the Priory? You see, all of this is déjà vu, since I was formerly the handbell instructor from 1983-1988, and the Priory organist from 1974-1977.

Speaking of tradition and 150 years, yesterday I played the 150th anniversary Memorial Service at Punahou School in which alumni who have served in the armed forces and paid the ultimate price were remembered. The theme of the service was “patriotism,” and I was requested to play “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” as the postlude, as apparently has been done over the last 30 years. My organ student, Sachi Hirakouji, and I made the Wilhousky arrangement into an organ duet—I played the melody with harmony and the pedals, and Sachi played the bugle calls and piccolo parts. What fun!

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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3 Responses to How loud is loud?

  1. Curt Zimmerman says:

    Mary K Robinson – that’s a name I haven’t recalled in many years. She was a wonderful, quiet, grand Hawaiian tutu. She was descended from the Robinson family of Niihau Island. It was a privilege to share some of her final days and preside at the celebration of her awesome life.

  2. Gordon Tokishi says:

    Haha, I’ve learned that trick over the years because of my juniors who spent the past night decorating the cross. They were running on no sleep the night before. Unless I indicated which section was next, there was always a chance they would get confused, because they were so tired. I’m also one of the few remaining Priory staff who remember Mike Markson. So sad to lose such a gifted musician so early. He was a good friend who really suffered thru the ravages of AIDS before he passed away. I always have a rush of memories whenever I see his name in the program next to the Priory Hymn. Thank you for continuing to play for us, Kathy. We’re blessed to have you play for us in our services!

  3. (From Carl Crosier’s college friend, William “Bill” Livingston, who was responsible for Carl’s moving to Hawaii. Bill went on to have an operatic singing career):

    I love Carl Crosier. We have been friends since 1968 when we did a joint recital together. I moved to Hawaii after graduating from Central Washington University. About a year-and-a-half later, I came home to Bremerton for Christmas and did a Christmas program together at his church. Renewing our friendship, I told him how wonderful Hawaii was and invited him to come over. He immediately accepted my invitation and was in Aloha land in less than a month. He stayed forever. He and Georgia Havens were the two people that were absolutely responsible for my singing career. Unbeknownst to me, they talked it out in secret between them and came to me with a plan. They wanted me to resign from my teaching position and do nothing but study operatic literature and work on my voice. They found me a teacher (Elizabeth Cole) and Carl invited us to move into his second in his apartment, which we did. They told me they believed in me comma my talent, and we’re absolutely confident that I would make it if I was willing to pay the price of dedication and study for years and years. Believe me, I had to think about it as it was apparent to me they believed in me much more than I believed in myself.I never would have had the courage to strike out on my own. I started working with Liz which began a friendship and working relationship that has lasted for decades. Then I began working with Beebe Freitas, musical Queen and Gladiator of the Pan Pacific. Beebe is brilliant, fun-loving, hilarious and musically pulls the very best from whomever she works. She is a musical Lamborghini and finely tuned for excellence. These people were Monumental in my life and I would like to think that I carry a bit of goodness from each of them. Without them, I never would have experienced success in the opéra world. You see, I never would have begun. For me, these are forever people in my life and I am and always will be eternally grateful.

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