In the last four days, I have attended three concerts and gotten my chance to be an audience member. I used to remember Carl Crosier saying that as performers it was our job to make it Christmas for everyone else—now I’ve had my chance to hear someone else’s hard work.
On Sunday, I was at the Neil S. Blaisdell Concert Hall for the Hawai’i Symphony Orchestra’s performance of Jeff Peterson’s Concerto for Slack Key Guitar and Orchestra, in addition to Beethoven’s Overture to Egmont, op. 84 and Sergei Prokofiev’s Symphony No. 5 in B-flat. One of my favorite and most enlightening aspects of going to these concerts is the Concert Conversation with the conductor and soloist beforehand.
What I took away from this week’s program was that Iggy Jang, concertmaster, remarked that it was incredible to him that Maestro Carl St. Clair conducted the rehearsal without a score—he had it so thoroughly memorized that he could refer to rehearsal letters (“Let’s go back to two measures before letter C”) and so on. He asked the maestro how he did that, to which St. Clair recalled his time with the great Leonard Bernstein who told him, “Do your homework.” He said that for every minute of the performance, it took him one hour of preparation! For example, a forty-five minute piece like the Prokofiev took him 45-50 hours of preparation in order to conduct it. He conducted both the Beethoven and Prokofiev from memory during the concert.
Another thing that St. Clair told us was that he grew up in a tiny town in Texas with a population of only 36 people and didn’t even hear his first classical concerto until he was 17. Yet he was able to attend the University of Texas at Austin on a trumpet scholarship even though he had not ever had a private lesson before then. Well— he certainly fixed that! He said that outside of the bass clarinet, he has taken private lessons on every single instrument in the orchestra! And not just one or two lessons—he took years of private lessons so that he could really find out how each and every single instrument works. Isn’t that remarkable!
Yesterday, I went to two concerts—the first one was at Iolani School where I was the chapel organist for twenty years. Every year they invite the retired faculty and staff to the Christmas concert in the gym with a nice luncheon following. I was interested in the choral part of the program, especially since I will be accompanying two of the pieces on organ for Friday’s concert that Joanne Watanabe played on the piano yesterday. Both the pieces are nearly impossible on the piano, particularly because of the wide range of the music (I use the pedals to play the bass line where Joanne had to cover all the notes with just her hands.)
Then last night I was at St. Andrew’s Cathedral for the Priory Choirs and Orchestra concert with Naomi Castro and Chad Uyehara, conductors. You would have thought you were at a rock concert, with all the screaming and cheering after every single piece! I was hard pressed to find a seat, even though I arrived about twenty minutes early—the entire Cathedral was filled with adoring family and friends. I must say that both the choirs and orchestra have come a long, long way since I was the accompanist at the Priory over thirty years ago! The choir was just outstanding, with the girls singing in many parts, in perfect intonation and simply gorgeous tone.
I simply could not stop thinking that Carl Crosier would have been so pleased at both the turnout and the high level of performance from both the choirs and orchestra. If you remember, he was the accompanist for the choirs for a couple years—in addition to his many years of service as the chief financial officer and business manager.
At the concert I saw mezzo-soprano Jennifer Lane and her husband, Jim Carr, who just arrived for their semi-annual visit to Hawaii. She posted these pictures of the concert on Facebook, which I hope she doesn’t mind me reposting. She and Jim will be taking me to the airport next week for my trip to Mexico.