Queen for a Day

Since I grew up without television, I had never watched the show, “Queen for a Day,” which began as a radio show in 1945 then ran on NBC Television from 1956-1960 and on ABC from 1960-1964. Every show began with the question, “Would YOU like to be Queen for a day?” A number of contestants would tell a little about their lives, and what they wanted most to lift them out of a miserable life. The winner, “Queen for a Day” was the one the audience deemed in the most pitiful situation, as gauged by an applause meter. According to Wikipedia, “Many women broke down sobbing as they described their plights, and (the emcee) was always quick to comfort them and offer a clean white handkerchief to dry their eyes.”

“The winner, to the musical accompaniment of “Pomp and Circumstance“, would be draped in a sable-trimmed red velvet robe, given a glittering jeweled crown to wear, placed on a velvet-upholstered throne, and handed a dozen long-stemmed roses to hold as she wept, often uncontrollably, while her list of prizes was announced.

“The prizes, many of which were donated by sponsoring companies, began with the necessary help the woman had requested but built from there. They might include a variety of extras, such as a vacation trip, a night on the town with her husband, silver-plated flatware, an array of kitchen appliances, or a selection of fashion clothing. The losing contestants were each given smaller prizes; no one went away from the show without a meaningful gift.”

At Ryan Jacobie’s hair salon.

Well . . . being the honoree at last night’s Oahu Choral Society’s Vivace! fundraising dinner was not exactly like that . . . it was more like listening to the eulogies at one’s funeral! But I certainly felt like a queen—I treated myself to four hours in a salon, having my hair and makeup done and looking waaay more glamorous than I anticipated!

The evening at the Bishop Museum, began in the Atrium, where people had pupus and cocktails. There was a running slideshow off to the side — people had submitted photos of me, besides I sent some of my growing up years which you can see by clicking here. We were then treated to a performance of Hawaiian music by the Oahu Choral Society Chamber Singers, who sounded great in the Atrium’s acoustics!

The OCS Chamber Singers

We moved to a nearby dining area where we were entertained by the Honolulu Barefoot Boys and enjoyed a buffet dinner. Then the real fun began, starting with Wanda Gereben, a long-time presence in the Honolulu choral music scene. She began: “Kathy and I recently had an enjoyable conversation with lots of laughs remembering the ‘Very Early Days: That was some 40 years ago. The fact that we still have that much memory left is remarkable in itself. I originally met Kathy when I hired her to accompany the Honolulu Symphony’s Children’s Opera Chorus that I was directing at that time. That organization later morphed into the Hawaii Children’s Opera Chorus and then into the now Hawaii Youth Opera Chorus directed by Nola Nahulu.” 

Wanda then recalled that she attended Carl’s and my wedding in 1979, and found out that I could sew as we had made a banner and embroidered clergy stoles. Wanda and I shared matching dresses and music folders for the many groups we worked with: a red muumuu and red folder for the Priory Choirs; a green dress and green folder for the Hawaii Children’s Chorus. Wanda further went on to have a blue folder for the Honolulu Chorale and a white folder for St. Christopher’s Church!

Wanda also talked about a choir tour we took to the Big Island, including staying at the Kilauea Military Camp cabins and being awakened in the middle of the night to see the volcano erupting. She also talked about other collaborations we had done together, most recently “The Big Sing” in 2014. Check out my post “The Big Sing” about this event to refresh your memory.

Ian Capps of Early Music Hawaii was next to speak, and recalled Carl’s and my first collaboration with this organization through two historic performances of Monteverdi’s Vespers of 1610. You may recall that in my post about these miraculous concerts, I quoted Karl BachmanIf you did NOT attend the Monteverdi, you missed one of the most amazing musical events to take place in Hawaii since statehood!  Kudos to Carl Crosier for outdoing himself by putting together all the right people and for undertaking to do such an amazing musical work.  In my lifetime it will go down as one of the most significant evenings of my musical life.  Thanks, Carl and Kathy! 

The bridge fell off the theorbo!

The bridge fell off the theorbo!

Ian described the situation at the first concert where the oppressive humidity from all the rain that night melted the glue off the bridge of the theorbo (!), and all the strings became a mass of spaghetti! I was already playing from 140 pages of figured bass, but I was forced to sightread the theorbo part in the movements Carl had previously designated as theorbo only! Go back and read my post about it: Broken theorbo!

Betsy McCreary was the next speaker and she recalled that even though her late husband, John McCreary, called Carl Crosier and me “the enemy” it was all in fun and in admiration, as we were two of the most active church music programs in town. She also revealed that John’s nickname for me was “Catastrophic Kathy,” and recalled some of my unexpected tumbles over the years, forcing me to play the organ with a broken wrist. Her husband, John, had also broken his wrist and done the same!

In my next post, I’ll reprint Karl Bachman’s speech about his experiences. In the meantime, here are some of the pictures which were taken last night:

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Voices of the Baroque

It was months and MONTHS ago that Jeremy Wong asked me to be part of a baroque concert with the University of Hawaii Chamber Singers—in fact, I think it was while I was on some European trip last summer, and I thought, sure, fine, no problem!

It was only after I was asked about being this year’s honoree for the Oahu Choral Society that I finally looked at the entire month of March and alarmingly found out that the baroque concert would take place the very same week! In other words, the concert is Friday, March 2nd and the OCS banquet and fundraiser, Vivace! is Saturday, March 3rd!

Dr. Eric Esparza

The concert features members of the Tresemble of Chamber Music Hawaii, the University of Hawaii faculty string quartet and the University of Hawaii Chamber Singers in a program of well-known and rare works of the Italian and Spanish Baroque. Guest conductor is Dr. Eric Esparza, a Baroque authority and visiting faculty, who is the Director of Choral Activities and Vocal Area Coordinator at DePaul University in Chicago, IL. Dr. Esparza also conducts the DePaul Chamber Choir, Concert Choir, and teaches courses in choral music. He is also the founder and artistic director of International Voices Houston.

I found out that he is originally from San Antonio, TX and got a Bachelor of Music in vocal performance and Master of Music in choral conducting from Rice University. He also got a master’s degree in arts administration from Florida State University and a doctorate in choral conducting from Boston University.

A few weeks ago Dr. Esparza sent links to all the musical scores which I downloaded, where I discovered that the entire concert (for me) as a continuo organ player was in figured bass, a musical shorthand. Shades of the Monteverdi Vespers, Purcell Dido and Aeneas and other concerts which I have played with nothing but figured bass! But, as I discovered after listening to the recorded samples from YouTube, many of the figures were nonexistent, containing ONLY a bass line, and I basically had to listen to the recordings and put in the figures (chords) myself. After weeks of much preparation, I was ready.

You realize that with these two events so close together, I am also preparing for the arrival of my family, who fly in from LAX at 12:50 am (!) tonight! So I have been busy arranging for the rental of a crib, baby bathtub, and high chair for my 9 month old grandson. I was also out this morning buying diapers, wipes and food for him (he only eats organic!) along with getting the safety inspection for my car.

Klaus Grüble’s latest house organ for Oahu.

Last night was the first dress rehearsal, which coincided with the arrival of a new organ to Oahu to a private home, for a student of mine. Oh, I knew it was coming, but I just didn’t know when it would be ready for me to look at. That time happened to be yesterday afternoon, and at the last minute it was suggested that I give an organ lesson to the student on the new organ. Sounded like a good idea, and then when the family asked me to stay for dinner afterwards, that also sounded just fine. We went to Roy’s Hawaii Kai, and I had just finished eating a delicious steak and shrimp dinner when I received a text message : Hi, Kathy! Are you on your way to UH? We are starting with the brass number so not so much rush. This was at 7:05 pm, and the rehearsal had started at 7:00 pm! And I was at least 30 minutes away, and my music was at home!

Yikes! I had been completely distracted and dazzled by the new organ that I had completely forgotten about the first dress rehearsal! The concert venue had recently been changed from St. Theresa’s Co-Cathedral to the Lutheran Church of Honolulu, and because of the weekly Lenten midweek service, the rehearsal had to be held at Orvis Auditorium with me playing the piano.

I drove as fast as I could back home to pick up my music and got to the University about 7:45 pm, just as they were about ready to start the music with the choir—so I really hadn’t missed anything, even though I was 45 minutes late. My heart was just racing with the pressure, and luckily all my musical preparation had paid off. The rehearsal went just fine!

Tonight is the dress rehearsal and I’ll be playing the Beckerath continuo organ. That should be just fine—familiar territory! Then I’ll head off for the airport, and hope that four adults, a baby in a carseat, and all their luggage can fit in my Honda Fit!

The concert is tomorrow night, March 2nd, at 7:30 pm at the Lutheran Church of Honolulu. You’ll love the Italian and Spanish baroque music! The program includes music by Claudio Monteverdi, Francesco Cavalli, José de Nebra, and José de Torres y Martinez Bravo—great stuff! You can see and hear a video preview of the choir here, conducted by Jeremy Wong.


I understand that tickets are going fast, and can be purchased online at the Chamber Music Hawaii website.  Tickets for Saturday night’s Oahu Choral Society dinner are extremely limited and may possibly be obtained by clicking here.

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Joyous homecoming

I’ve enjoyed watching the Winter Olympics lately and wondered if organ playing were ever an Olympic sport, I think we would have all rated this afternoon’s organ recital by Yuri McCoy a Gold Medal performance!

This afternoon was the 13th Annual Organ Concert of the Hawai’i Chapter American Guild of Organists, and all I could say is WOW! The ambitious, brilliant program had something for everyone, including traditional as well as newer repertoire, showcasing the 4-manual Aeolian-Skinner organ as well as a rising star.

Yuri came to Hawaii as a graduate student in piano and completed a Master of Music degree in Piano Performance at the University of Hawaii. While here he was the Organ Scholar at St. Andrew’s Cathedral for four years under Canon John Renke. As AGO Dean Karl Bachman said, this was a sort of homecoming for Yuri, who returned with wife Asuka Okamoto and daughter, Riley. (I wrote a post about Yuri playing for his own wedding at St. Andrew’s which you can read by clicking here.) He is currently a doctoral student with organist Ken Cowan at Rice University in Houston, and has a new post as Organist at South Main Baptist Church.

I feel that when Yuri left Hawaii he did so as an excellent student but he has definitely returned as a master! The first half opened with Robert Elmore’s “Rhumba,” and I was immediately dazzled by Yuri’s athletic pedal glissandos and clean technique. Yet there were many lyrical moments as well.

Then followed Karg-Elert’s “Romantisch” and Bach’s “Prelude and Fugue in D major,” the latter of which was played breathlessly fast, clean and super accurate. By the way, it was mentioned that this Bach prelude and fugue was the recessional at Yuri’s wedding (played by John Renke.)

The first half continued with Dan Miller’s setting of “How great thou art” and a major tone poem on “Prometheus” by Franz Liszt arranged by Jean Guillou. Yuri played this brilliantly, at times fiery, other times pensive and playful, using all the colors of the organ. In this first half, only the Bach was played with the music—the rest of the pieces were all memorized.

During intermission it was mentioned that Yuri and Asuka’s home was flooded by 16″ of water by Hurricane Harvey and they only were able to move back a couple of weeks ago.

The second half included Percy Whitlock’s “Fantasies Chorale No. 1,” Joseph Bonnet’s “Elfes,” a congregational hymn (LEONI), Buxtehude’s “Passacaglia in D minor,” and ended with Vierne’s “Final” from his sixth symphony.

It was a magnificent performance, punctuated by a bunch of sirens from emergency vehicles outside and baby babbling from Yuri’s daughter! (Now that I am a grandmother, this didn’t bother me a single bit!)

Oh, I wish that John Renke could have heard this recital—he would have been SOOO proud of Yuri!


On Friday night the Hawaii AGO had a potluck reception for Yuri and his family at Our Redeemer Lutheran Church. The room was filled with laughter and the sounds of happy people.

Hawaii AGO Reception

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The most popular funeral song?

Heissler tracker organ at Waiokeola Congregational Church.

A few weeks ago, Waiokeola Church’s organist, Gloria Faltstrom, asked whether I would be available to play a funeral at her church on February 24. The reason was that the family of the deceased had requested “Nimrod” as the postlude. Apparently Gloria had agreed to play the funeral before learning of this request.

“I have spent several weeks trying to learn the music and register the tracker to sound sort of Romantic, and I am not succeeding at either,” she wrote. Apparently the deceased’s wife’s memorial service was held in November, and Gloria was able to decline for lack of time to practice and learn it. Now they wanted it again, for the father’s memorial service. (That poor family, with mother and father passing so close together. I learned from today’s funeral that they were married for over 60 years.)

Heissler console

I agreed and scheduled practice time on the Heissler organ. Two years ago I heard the entire Enigma Variations at the Three Choirs Festival Gloucester and learned for the first time that each of the fourteen movements represented important people in Elgar’s life. The ninth movement, “Nimrod,” represents the ‘mighty hunter’ of the Bible. August Jaeger (German for ‘hunter’) was Elgar’s German-born editor, and his most devoted and understanding musical supporter, according to the program notes. This slow movement was inspired “by a summer evening’s conversation about Beethoven.”

Then last Sunday when the Hawaii Symphony Orchestra paid tribute to principal bassoon, Paul Barrett, “Nimrod” was played as  the opening before the concert with Lang Lang. I  thought it was the most beautiful and poignant rendition of the piece I’ve ever heard.

If you are a Facebook user, here is a live Facebook video with the tribute to Paul: .https://www.facebook.com/HawaiiSymphony/videos/1609535452417526/

And here is a stunning and gorgeous choral transcription of this piece, which “will have you weeping in seconds,” according to ClassicFM of the performance by Voces8. They have used the words to the Requiem mass: Lux aeterna luceat eis, Domine, cum sanctis tuis in aeternum, quia pius es. Requiem aeternam dona eis, Domine, et lux perpetua luceat eis. May light eternal shine upon them, O Lord, with Thy saints forever, for Thou art kind. Eternal rest give to them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them.

According to Co-operative Funeralcare, “Nimrod” is the number one most requested classical piece for funerals. Click here for the names of other pieces in the Top Ten.

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Where were you when?

Where were you when you heard about the assassination of President John F. Kennedy? Where were you when you heard about the Challenger spaceship explosion? How did you hear about the planes flying into the World Trade Center and other events of September 11? It was one of those major life events which shake you to the core, and become firmly embedded in your memory when you first heard the news.

Beebe Freitas

Beebe Freitas

On Saturday afternoon, I was diligently working on my taxes (!) when Karl Bachman called me with the news that our beloved colleague, Beebe Freitas, had passed. Oh, we all knew it had been coming—Beebe had not been well, that was why I found myself subbing at Punahou Chapel a lot last year and recently. But when the news came, it was still a shock, especially since it was only three days after the death of another musical giant in our community, Neva Rego.

It’s really an ironic coincidence that I was working on my taxes when I heard the news, because for years and up to the last, my husband Carl Crosier prepared Beebe’s tax returns!

Beebe pays her respects at Carl’s memorial.

Her obituary was published today in the Star-Advertiser, “Gifted isle musician helped others reach their potential” and my takeaway was that Beebe was known first and foremost as THE accompanist in town—she made soloists sound better because of her sensitive piano accompaniment. Her sightreading skills were legendary—she could play from open orchestral scores and not miss a note!

Keoki Kerr wrote an extended tribute with many more stories which you can read here.

Another photo of Beebe

I first met Beebe at the University of Hawaii in 1974 when I was hired to teach organ in the Music Department and she was a lecturer in piano. In the early years, I remember going to her house in Aina Haina for a faculty party.

Later I found out she played the organ for not only Punahou School but also at the First Presbyterian Church of Honolulu. She was a daughter of a Presbyterian pastor in Youngstown, OH, and her mother was head of the sociology department at Youngstown State University. She began playing the piano at age three and played her first memorial service at age 6.

Beebe was a graduate of Oberlin College, and obtained her Master’s Degree in 1959 from Boston University. She continued her studies at Juilliard where she studied piano with Beveridge Webster. While in New York, she participated in the opening performance of Lincoln Center, and was the rehearsal pianist for Leonard Bernstein, William Steinberg, Thomas Schippers, and Robert Shaw.

After moving to Hawaii with her husband, Louis, who took a business and economics professorship at the University of Hawaii, Beebe also joined the UH faculty, teaching piano, accompanying, working with choruses, and coaching opera and music theater workshops.

She began as rehearsal accompanist for Hawaii Opera Theatre in 1972 and later was named its Artistic Director. As Simon Crookall, now Executive Director of HOT, said in today’s obituary: “Beebe was really a power of nature. She was literally the core of the company for many, many years. She was the go-to person for all things musical.”

I’ve posted this video before but here it is again: Punahou School’s Profile of an Organist, which was filmed for “Hiki No” on Hawaii Public Television.

Here are some comments from Beebe’s colleagues on her passing:

Rest in Love, Beebe Freitas. Beebe was a force of nature, a consummate musician and an inspiration to so many. I spent every single Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday evening with her when I first came to Hawaii as a young conductor, as she accompanied both the Symphony Chorus and Opera Chorus, when I was chorus master. She was a wonderful and kind mentor and friend. I loved how she would just casually say, ‘when I played this for Lenny, he wanted it this way’. Beebe and I got through TWO Robert Shaw guest conducting gigs together, and dozens of choral/orchestral masterworks with the Symphony and dozens of operas. She helped so many musicians in Hawaii become their better selves. (Tim Carney)

Beebe. Oh, Beebe. Beebe. I will forever treasure the music we made together. I will forever treasure the heart and soul you gave this community. I will miss you. I thank you. I thank you so much. Beebe Freitas, I thank you so! (Susan McCreary Duprey)

I love you, dear Beebe Freitas. Thank you for showing us what the glory of God looks like during your time on this earth. You were so excellent at EVERYTHING! I guess now I’ll just go on and try to make you proud. (Leon Williams)

Beebe was joy. She helped everyone around her feel good and sound better. She was a selfless collaborator and peerless musician. My life is richer for having known her and made music with her. Play on, Beebe! (Greg Dubay)

I wake up to another very sad morning 😢 last week miss Neva Rego passed away and this week the amazing and beautiful Beebe Freitas.Both amazing women in the world of Opera that touched my life for 8yrs while living in Hawaii and so many others! Beebe was the best vocal coach and accompanist a singer could want and I remember, living so far away from the mainland, that id be just fine, cuz all you needed was one! …May you Rest In Peace dearest Beebe! (Jacqueline Quirk)

Sad to find out this morning that the most amazing pianist I’ve ever worked with has passed away. Beebe Freitas was not only a masterful artist but a true light in the world. I’m heartbroken for her family and friends. (Michelle Blake)

I have no words. Beebe Freitas was the loving, generous spirit who’d nurtured countless musicians and singers … (Nanilisa Pascua)

My world has stopped for a moment and my heart grieves for the loss of such a beautiful soul and talented musician. You have impacted many lives. Rest In Peace, Beebe. (Rose Dino)

Beloved musician, encourager, and friend. Beebe Freitas will be missed by many whose lives she impacted. Beebe accompanied all the chapel songs I led when I taught at Punahou whether it was Kindergarten, 1st grade, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th or 7th grades. Especially with the younger ones, she could help with an adjustment and make me look better. I admired her not just as the fantastic musician she was but as a person full of faith and grace. I loved her and cherish her memory. (Pam DeBoard)

Beebe Freitas and Neva Rego…Two amazing women that greatly inspired me and so many others with their gift of music and song …What a huge loss for our Islands and for all those who knew these humble, strong and remarkably talented women ….And yes, I am thinking there is quite a concert going on in heaven as we speak 🎶🙏 Play on, mighty Maestras….You will be sorely missed 💕 (Melina Lillios)

I’ll miss Beebe sooo much! In addition to being the most talented pianist and organist, she was so warm, gracious, loving, and caring. She is a beautiful person, created in the image of God. Thank you for blessing us, Beebe!! ❤ (Gail Wakatake)

Services for Beebe Freitas have been announced for Saturday, March 10, at 10:00 am, First Presbyterian Church of Honolulu. (I am so sorry that I will not be able to join my colleagues in celebrating her life—I will be in Seattle that weekend.)

Aloha, Beebe!

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Absolutely phenomenal!

If ever there was a two-headed person with three hands, that was what we in a sold-out audience saw and heard at tonight’s stunning Hawaii Symphony Orchestra concert with JoAnn Falletta, conductor. It was absolutely phenomenal! That was my reaction to tonight’s concert with Lang Lang and his 15-year-old protégé, Maxim Lando—their ensemble was so incredibly perfect and dynamics and rhythm perfectly in sync—I’ve never heard two people play with such precision and nuance.

You see, Lang Lang injured his left hand by overpractice and his doctor prescribed complete rest—that was nearly a year ago and the tendinitis has been healing more slowly than expected. Although Lang Lang did use his left hand occasionally, there were so many added notes and harmonics that one could hardly believe that all those notes were played by only two people and three hands! The good news is that Lang Lang plans to resume full use of his left hand by July of this year.

Maxim can certainly look forward to a stellar career—in fact his bio in the program was as long if not longer than Lang Lang’s! Both of his parents are musicians, and he grew up from birth in a music school. He has played the Rachmaninoff 3rd Concerto in St. Petersburg, Russia, and other solo appearances in Moscow, Munich, Beijing, Chicago, Paris, and at Carnegie Hall in New York numerous times. I was thinking that this young man must be having the time of his life, touring with Lang Lang—and he’s only 15 years old!

Lang Lang and Maxim Lindo

On the scheduled program was Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition on the first half, then the two pianists played “Aquarium” from The Carnival of the Animals by Camille Saint-Saëns, “Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy” from The Nutcracker by Peter Tchaikovsky, then “America,” from West Side Story of Leonard Bernstein.

One funny thing happened during the Nutcracker performance—the music had been photocopied and taped together in long sheets. At one point the music started falling forward only to be saved by the quick bow of concertmaster Iggy Jang, preventing it from falling onto the keyboard in just the nick of time!

The concert closed with an absolutely brilliant and exciting rendition of George Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue, and I was left completely breathless. The audience immediately leaped to its feet and we were treated to an encore, Chopin’s “Minute Waltz.”

Paul Barrett, principal bassoon

Two things about tonight’s concert program made this a truly memorable event: The first was a heartfelt and emotional performance of Edward Elgar’s Nimrod in memory of long-time bassoonist Paul Barrett who died of pancreatic cancer on February 1. Read his bio here. Oboe principal Scott Janusch said Paul had played in this orchestra for 40 years and will be remembered for his fine musicianship, teaching, and for his sense of humor and grace during his illness. His wife, violinist Judy Barrett, who played in our Bach Chamber Orchestra for 20 years, sat in her usual chair behind the concertmaster. I was thinking she would have taken a break from the orchestra during this mourning period—imagine how difficult it must have been to get through this music—in fact I saw several of the players wiping away tears. As requested, no applause followed Nimrod—we were told to think of Paul.

However, I also thought about pianist Beebe Freitas, whose death was announced just yesterday. As one of Hawaii’s living treasures, Beebe was a giant in this musical community. I will write a complete post about her later.

The other unusual thing about this concert was that there was a lion dance at the end of intermission, in celebration of Chinese New Year and Lang Lang’s appearance in Hawaii. What fun!

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A total triumph!

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Aloha, Auntie Neva

You may remember my telling you about my husband Carl’s unique voice, in which I wrote:

The child was in great demand as a boy soprano, having a voice “as clear as a bell.” He found himself singing solos not only at church, but at ball games and for Elks and Lions Clubs. Cousin Marie Seastrom often accompanied him on the piano. However, when Carl’s voice changed, he simply stopped singing and focused on his keyboard skills instead. It wasn’t until he moved to Hawaii and landed at the Lutheran Church of Honolulu, that he had to sing again. He used to tell me that it was difficult for him at first — he was so used to playing intervals on the piano, that when it came time to sing he was sometimes off the mark when singing in his natural baritone voice. He was a fairly good sightreader when it came to piano music, but making his throat sing the intervals was a whole new ballgame…

Betty Grierson and Neva Rego

It was in the early 80s, that Carl went to voice teacher, Neva Rego, for several years of lessons. She had just returned from a long sojourn in Italy. She had never trained a countertenor before, but decided she would treat it like any other voice.

That was the beginning of a long and beautiful friendship, which included many dinners together and Carl even doing Neva’s yearly taxes, and that of her housemate and business partner, Betty Grierson, which Carl did until the very last.

In 2008, local television personality Leslie Wilcox taped an interview with Neva for her program, Long Story Short, in which Neva described her childhood passion about beautiful singing, begun when she was just seven years old.

Well, I wanted to something in music. I wanted singing; I loved it. And you know, here’s this little kid from Kaimuki, wanting singing. And you know, I don’t know why, but I felt it. As I recall, when I was seven years old, I heard this beautiful aria on the radio with this Italian singer. And I remember telling my mother that was the most beautiful thing I ever heard in my whole life. All of seven years, yes? And Mother said, You really loved it? I said, Oh, I love it, I just love it. Well, that did it. Mother went down to House of Music, at that time in Waikiki, and she kept buying all these records of Italian singers. And well, that whetted my appetite for opera.

After 26 years in Italy, Neva came home to Hawaii to take care of her ill father. She started the Bel Canto School of Singing in her Kaimuki home, where she became known as Hawaii’s voice coach to the stars: Robert Cazimero, Tony Conjugacion, Jimmy Borges, Jasmine Trias and Jordan Segundo, and a waiting list with more than a hundred names.

Neva Rego, 2008

She ended the interview with this:

My name is not really Neva; it’s Aggreneva. And everybody gets all twisted ‘cause they don’t know who she is. But my mother named me after a Russian opera singer, and her name was Aggreneva Schlovanskaya. I’m kinda happy Mother stopped after Aggreneva. Mother never told me that I had this name. I knew it was a kooky name; at school, they called me Aggrevacious. You know how school kids are. Anyway, all of a sudden, I said to Mother that I was in love with music and I wanted to do music. So Mother said, Well, you know, I think I’ll tell you about your name. And she told me about Aggreneva Schlovanska, who had come here years ago with some Russian group. And they sang at Hawaii Theatre. Isn’t that interesting?

And your mother obviously had a love for opera.

Yeah. But I was the one that was gonna make it my life.

You can listen to the audio or read a transcript of the entire interview here.

And this week, we got the sad news that our dear Neva Rego has joined the choirs of angels on Wednesday, Valentine’s Day and also Ash Wednesday (Carl Crosier’s mother also died on Ash Wednesday—it makes it all the more poignant.) You can read the announcement here. Here are some of the comments which have been posted to Facebook:

… how do I say thank you enough… I am the singer I am because of yours and Betty’s love, support, guidance… I will always be grateful. Rest in Love and Peace…(Malia Kaai-Barrett)

What a loss! She was such an important part of the vocal community and mentored so many. (Phyllis Haines)

I’m so saddened by this news. May she rest in love & peace. (Karli Tario)

She has left an incredible legacy! (Ryan Souza)

She was brilliant and a wonderful inspiration to everyone. Absolutely the best voice teacher I ever had! I am so sad to hear that she is gone from this world. Surely, she will soon be teaching the angels in heaven to sing Bel Canto! (Mary Strong Spaid)

Wow, this is so sad. Neva was a gem. I took lessons with her for a bit. I loved her studio and all her memories on the walls. I was so happy when she recovered earlier, but now I guess was the appointed time. Aloha Neva! (Beth Barry)

I learned so much from her… I wish I had been able to study with her longer. She was and is truly a musical gem. 😔 (Taylor Ishida)

I think of her often and how she inspired me to work hard and fight for my goals. Rest in peace, Neva, and thank you. (Jennifer Wadley)

Oh, this is so sad. Neva was an incredible and generous and kind force of nature. (Timothy Carney)

I cannot even imagine how many voices and hearts she shaped during her time on earth. My deepest condolences to Auntie Betty and to all those that loved Mama Neva Rego. There are some folks that are so larger than life that you cannot imagine their presence no longer being here. There will never be another Neva! (Anita Hall)

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Lang Lang in Honolulu!

I, along with 2,157 other lucky people, will be able to hear world-famous Chinese pianist, Lang Lang, live in Honolulu on Sunday, February 18, 2018 at 4:00 pm. I know exactly how many people will be there because there are exactly 2,158 seats at Blaisdell Concert Hall, and the concert is SOLD OUT! For this I’m happy and relieved—finally Honolulu has recognized that one of the world’s most recognized and popular classical musicians is worth hearing—although it will not exactly be the same as “hearing Lang Lang,” as you will read below. I would be absolutely mortified and embarrassed if there were acres of empty seats, as is usually the case with Hawaii Symphony concerts. (sigh!)

You see, Lang Lang injured his left arm a few months ago and the doctor told him he risked permanent injury unless he gave it a rest. Rather than cancel his busy concert schedule, he came up with a solution.

Teenage pianist, Maxim Lando

At the last concert, Hawaii Symphony Orchestra President, Michael Titterton, explained that one of Lang Lang’s students, 15-year-old Maxim Lando, will play the left hand part to Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue” with Lang Lang playing with his right hand. I found a video on YouTube showing the two doing exactly this. Lando is an alumnus of the Lang Lang International Music Foundation, founded in 2008. He made his Carnegie Hall debut at the age of six and has played in the historic venue more than 15 times.

Years ago, I read Lang Lang’s autobiography (Lang Lang: Playing with Flying Keys) and rather than be horrified about his grueling practice schedule at age seven, I bought several copies of his book and shared them with the parents of my organ students. Here was his schedule:

5:45 am. Get up and practice piano for an hour
7:00 am. Go to school
12:00 pm. Come home for a 15 minute lunch, then practice for 45 minutes
After School: Two hours of piano practice
After Dinner: Two hours of practice, then homework

There was no question that Lang Lang’s overbearing father set the tone for the competitive atmosphere in which he grew up. I frankly could not get one scene out of my head, which happened when Lang Lang was 9 years old and dismissed by his teacher, declaring he lacked talent. Lang Lang had begun to accompany the school choir and one day the rehearsal ran late, so that Lang Lang missed his after school piano practice. His father was in a rage: “You’ve missed nearly two hours of practicing, and you can never get those two hours back … Everything is ruined!”

Despite Lang Lang’s protests, his father continued: “You’re a liar and you’re lazy! You’re horrible. And you have no reason to live. None at all!”

It finally came to this: “Dying!” he said. “You should die! Everything is lost! He even shoved a bottle of antibiotic pills at him, and screamed that he should swallow 30 of them right now in order to die. “Count yourself lucky that you don’t have to live in shame!”

Pianist Lang Lang

Lang Lang responded by hammering the wall with his fists, “like a boxer attacking a punching bag.” He told himself to “pulverize the wall until every bone in his hands was broken.”

To tell you the truth, I gave Lang Lang’s book to my students’ parents, definitely not to have them emulate his father’s example, but to let them know that practicing is serious and needs to be more than “5 minutes per week,” which is what I suspect some of my students do.

As for myself, there were only a few times in my life when practicing consumed me—that was in 1968 when I was in Paris studying with Marcel Dupré, and the other times were when I was preparing all-Bach recitals, which took months of preparation.

I confess that I was not a very good student when I was taking lessons in junior high and high school. If I got an hour a week, that was doing pretty well. You may remember that I basically sightread all my piano and organ lessons throughout high school and my teachers were none the wiser, at least they didn’t say that they were aware that I was sightreading.

Wow, what kind of organist would I have become if I had really practiced while growing up?

Anyway, I am really looking forward to hearing Lang Lang live, even if it is only his right hand. Read the Honolulu Star Advertiser classical music writer Steven Mark’s interview here.


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Tenor High Cs

Audrey Luna and Michele Angelini in HOT’s Daughter of the Regiment (Photo credit: HOT)

Last Sunday, I went to the Hawaii Opera Theatre’s production of Donizetti’s “Daughters of the Regiment,” and what I absolutely loved was the famous tenor aria, “Ah! Mes amis, quel jour de fête!” which features NINE high Cs. The whole opera was characterized by Honolulu Star Advertiser reviewer Ruth O. Bingham as “lighthearted entertainment featuring spectacular vocal displays held together by a slender plot, … the opportunity to hear vocal pyrotechnics.”

Promoters billed Audrey Luna, soprano, who sang the role of “Maria,” as making headlines last November by “singing the highest note ever sung at the Metropolitan Opera in New York.” She appeared in nearly every scene, “lighthearted, carefree and unconstrained by vocal norms,” according to Bingham.

Michele Angelini (Photo: Rebecca Fay)

But the voice which absolutely wowed me was Michele Angelini, who despite his Italian name, is an American tenor. You see, to hear a tenor sing a high C (one octave above middle C), on pitch and without going into falsetto, is considered the very top of a tenor’s range. Even in the opera’s debut in 1840, the opera was “a barely averted disaster,” because the lead tenor, Mécène Marié de l’Isle, was frequently off-pitch. Ooh, I can’t imagine anything more painful than a tenor out of tune singing all those high notes!

Not so with Michele Angelini, who was “right on the money” with every C, absolutely effortless and beautiful, right on pitch. I tried to find a video with Angelini singing this, but alas, couldn’t find one.

There is a whole blog post devoted to this aria in OperaWire, which showcases four tenors singing this role: Alfredo Kraus, Juan Diego Florez, Lawrence Brownlee and Luciano Pavarotti. Apparently, Pavarotti’s whole career started with the singing of these 9 high Cs, when he sang at the Royal Opera House in 1966 and gained the title “King of the High Cs.”

I was trying to think of the equivalent feat in the organ world, and I can think of a number of difficult, almost impossible passages in pieces like Mozart’s “Fantasy in F minor, K. 608,” or perhaps Jehan Alain, “Trois Danses,” or Franz Liszt’s “Ad nos, ad salutarem undam,” which stretch the performer to the outer limits.

Even though it’s now been a week since my last post in this blog, I’ve been on a virtual treadmill trying to get things ready for my Vivace! night with the Oahu Choral Society, scheduled for Saturday, March 3rd. You can find out how to buy tickets and more information on the OCS website. I compiled a guest list for sending invitations in addition to writing my “acceptance speech.” Thank you, members of the Academy, oops, I mean, the Oahu Choral Society … 

For the slideshow I had to look through dozens of photo albums plus 39,000 digital photos on my computer to come up with pictures which showed me at various stages of my career. My sister Margo even looked through old family photo albums to find pictures of me at the piano and organ as we were growing up. I was surprised to find pictures that I had never seen before now (!) like the one taken at my senior organ recital in 1972:

Photo taken at my senior recital, 1972. My sister was my page-turner.

I have walked the length of Ala Moana Shopping Center so many times now in an effort to buy my dress, shoes, and accessories—this task is now DONE! I also made an appointment to have my hair and makeup done on that day.

My son, daughter-in-law, grandson, and the other grandma will be coming to Hawaii for just three days to attend the event, and I was happy to find a local company which rents cribs, strollers, and all sorts of baby equipment for tourists and other people like me—grandmas who have babies coming to visit.

In addition to getting ready for Vivace! I have been subbing at the United Church of Christ Judd Street, learning all kinds of praise music, plus have produced a newsletter for my condo building and taught organ lessons. I’ve also spent hours helping Roy Helms, a tenor in the Lutheran Church of Honolulu choir, with the website for his company, Contemporary Crafts Market.

And the real kicker is that I’ll be playing in a concert with the University of Hawaii the very night before! Jeremy Wong, the interim director of the UH Choirs during Miguel Felipe’s sabbatical, asked me about playing a concert of Spanish and Italian baroque music a long time ago last summer, when I knew nothing about Vivace! It’s an entire concert with me playing from scores containing nothing but figured bass (a musical shorthand)—which always takes a lot of preparation on my part.

Why do I always do this to myself?! (Groan!)



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Sneak peek!

My new shoes for March 3rd.

Hey, want to have a sneak peek at what I’m going to be wearing on Saturday, March 3rd? Some of you may have seen my Facebook page about Ala Moana Shopping Center, where I’ve been going a lot lately. Business Insider has recently named Ala Moana the most valuable mall in America, with nearly $6 billion in total assets, with over 350 stores, all the way from Neiman Marcus and Bloomingdales to Ross’s and Target.

And — the reason I’m going to be wearing my Sunday best (even though it’s a Saturday!) is because I have been named the 2018 Dale Noble award recipient by the Oahu Choral Society (!) Here is a portion of the letter which was emailed to me:

Mele Aku, Vivace! will take place March 3, 2018 from 5-9:30 pm at the iconic Bishop Museum. Every year we take one night in the spring to celebrate the members and supporters of the Oahu Choral Society and the greater fine arts community. The Dale Noble Award has been an honor we have reserved for those outstanding musicians that exemplify OCS’s mission; to contribute to the rich tradition of choral singing, bringing the finest choral music to Hawaii. Over the years, Kathy, you have promoted choral singing in Hawaii not only by your contributions as a talented organist but
also with the passion you share for music on your blog. In today’s changing media climate you have created a true “buzz” for the musical community, not an easy task! You are a true champion for the arts!

When Malina Maneevone, the chair for the Vivace! event, called me on the telephone to give me the news a couple of weeks ago, I told her: You have got to be kidding! I’m someone who stays in the background—I do stuff like type programs and send out publicity releases. I’m just stunned that you chose me!

And … I’m not a choir director waving at people to try to get them to sing! I just sit at the organ (or piano) and give out pitches for other people to sing.

Furthermore, as you may recall, it was just six years ago (2012) that Carl Crosier was named to this prestigious honor. I was going to protest, “Isn’t there some sort of law about not giving the award to two members of the same family?!” I’ll save you the trouble of looking for the 2012 Vivace! photos because here are just a couple:

Carl and Kathy Crosier.

Carl and Kathy Crosier at the Vivace! fundraiser, 2012

Vivace! honoring Carl Crosier

Vivace! honoring Carl Crosier

Being that this year’s dinner will be at the Bishop Museum, the event will have a different look and feel. There will be music from the Oahu Choral Society Chamber Singers, the Honolulu Barefoot Boys, an exciting Silent Auction including an excursion on Maui including a 2-night stay at the Grand Wailea, tickets to premiere events, private art tours, concerts, restaurants, Maui Divers exclusive jewelry line and a night at Oahu’s The Modern Hotel.

Psst—There will also be a slideshow of yours truly, including some of my baby pictures!

Here’s the invitation:

This year’s Vivace invitation.

Tickets are available on the Oahu Choral Society website. I would be so honored if you would join us that night. It will be a great night of music and speeches—aw shucks!


Posted in Carl Crosier, Choral Music | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments