I really wasn’t expecting to play for church this morning; in fact I was looking forward to a morning off when I got a message from Fr. David Gierlach of St. Elizabeth’s Episcopal Church yesterday: “Good morning, Kathy… Just on the off chance that you are not in Paris or Rome and are totally bored—tomorrow morning might you be available?” Apparently their organist had a medical emergency and wouldn’t be able to play.
Easy enough, I could play what I played last Sunday for Easter, since it’s a totally different crowd of people (Last week I was at the United Church of Christ.) Besides, it’s Low Sunday, which means not many people would be in church anyway. According to the Catholic Encyclopedia, Low Sunday is the Sunday after Easter and is apparently intended to indicate the contrast between it and the great Easter festival immediately preceding. Many churches experience a huge drop in attendance from the week before, hence “Low Sunday.”
Was I surprised to find that St. Elizabeth’s was nearly full! What was really nice was to see all the familiar faces–you see, I was St. Elizabeth’s parish administrator for twelve years and got to know many people in the congregation. Many people came up to the organ console to greet me after the service—how nice it was to be warmly welcomed. Because I had worked in the office, not too many people had heard me play the organ. What was so perfect, was that the last hymn was “The strife is o’er” and I played Michael Helman‘s joyous setting of this hymn for the postlude.
In the afternoon, my student Steven Severin played a most ambitious program at Central Union Church—I say ambitious, because he played some pretty difficult music for only having studied the organ for two years. In fact, last week at his lesson (which was during Holy Week), I told him he must be a glutton for punishment! First of all, there was all the music of Holy Week and Easter which he had to play last week for St. Mark’s Episcopal Church, and then this week, all the music for this recital! Plus today after the concert, he was going to go back to St. Mark’s to play Evensong!
The program was:
Herbert Howells, Psalm Prelude No. 1, Set No. 1
Ad Wammes, Miroir
Olivier Messiaen, L’Ascension (complete)
J. S. Bach, Passacaglia and Fugue in C minor, BWV 582
I really enjoyed hearing the complete Messiaen suite—it really transported me to the historic churches of Paris where this music is most at home. What was so remarkable was that you could hear the birds singing outside during the performance of this piece! You may not know that Messiaen was enthralled with birdsong and went out into the mountains to transcribe their songs. I’m so glad Steven asked me if I could teach him this piece. So far as I know, no other student has learned the entire suite with me.
You could say the same for Bach’s Passacaglia, which I consider one of “my” pieces which I played for my master’s recital and several times after that. I was happy to reacquaint myself with these works, and although I don’t have plans to play them again in public, I got this sense of “this is the upcoming generation of organists in Hawaii!” You see, another of my students, Sachi Hirakouji, turned Steven’s pages.
Steven asked me to come forward to thank me for helping him with the recital, and presented me with a vanda orchid lei. I had no idea he was going to do this, so it’s a good thing I wore purple to match!