Why the organ?

I’m preparing my young organ students for a recital just two weeks away now, and as part of the printed program, I’m including short bios. One question I’m asking all of them is: “Out of all the musical instruments, why did you pick the organ?” The answers may surprise you! [My comments are in brackets, LOL!]

“I already was taking piano and wanted to learn a new instrument—I chose organ because it has a keyboard but has so many sounds and colors.” [Yeah, and you get to play with your feet!]

“The organ is way cooler than any other musical instrument!’ [You got it!]

“So I can play for church services.” [No more weekends and holidays for you!]

“Because the organ is so powerful.” [Yup, the loudest instrument of all! We can outplay ANYBODY!]

“Because the organ is B-I-G! [My favorite answer of all!]

Family and friends are invited, of course, and everyone else is welcome to see what these kids can do. I’ve already been told about one student, “He has quite a following!” That’s great—invite them all!

And psst—there will be a little surprise performance at the end!

Oh, and we’ll get another chance to put the Orgelkids pipe organ kit together, but this time the KIDS will do it! Go back and read how much fun the adults had in doing this! (“How many organists does it take to…“)

Clay Logue puts on the finishing pieces. Jieun Newland, Gary Kahn and Karen Leatherman look on.

 

 

 

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Free means more?

‘Aha Mele Benefit Concert poster

A year ago, there was a fundraising concert at All Saints Episcopal Church in Kapa’a, Kaua’i, Hawai’i,  to benefit the reconstruction of its pipe organ. Please notice that the concert was advertised as FREE, but that donations were welcomed.

You may ask: But how are they going to raise money if the concert is free?

What I have learned over the years is that if you advertise the concert as “free,” you are likely to attract not only MORE PEOPLE to your concert, but also MORE MONEY for your fundraising project—at least here in Hawaii!

Thirteen years ago, our Hawaii Chapter of the American Guild of Organists presented a concert by famed Juilliard organist, Paul Jacobs. It was a true leap of faith, since we did not have much money in our treasury, but we wanted as many people as possible to be able to experience his thrilling playing, as I had experienced when I heard him in person both in Los Angeles and in New York. I sold it to the local AGO Executive Board as “when they hear him play, people will just throw money!” And that they did, along with our necessity of bringing in about 100 extra chairs for the people that came to the concert. They just kept coming and coming! And when the offering was counted, there were not only mostly $20 bills, but many checks for $50 and $100—more than enough to pay his fee, which at that time seemed almost unreachable by our small AGO chapter. In fact, it was enough to kick off our now Annual Organ Concert all these many years.

About a year ago, I decided to dust off my Bach fingers to present all the large settings of the Clavierübung III, Bach’s monumental set of organ chorale preludes sometimes referred to as “The German Organ Mass,” or the “Catechism.” I decided again to try to present this as a “free” concert, relying upon people’s generosity, and their satisfaction at hearing this great music.

If you go back and read my post, “Flabbergasted,” I wrote:

And why am I flabbergasted? It’s because I asked Bill Potter, the financial secretary of the Lutheran Church of Honolulu, how much money came in as donations for my recent Clavierübung concert on October 30. You may recall that I advertised the concert as a “free concert,” with “donations welcomed.” I figured that people might be more inclined to give to the Carl Crosier Memorial Fund, the beneficiary of the concert, if there was not a set dollar amount. Yes, rather than selling tickets, I thought we might even come out ahead if we let people give of their own free will. You might recall that in the advance publicity we “suggested” a donation of $25, but in the actual program, no dollar amount was specified. The fund is in essence a Music Endowment, to fund special musical outreach projects, in memory of the church’s long-time director of music.

So how much came in? More than $4600— with possibly more yet to be counted!

I’m still in awe of how much was raised in essence for a “free” concert!

Exterior of All Saints Kaua’i

Here’s some information about the All Saints organ project. [You know, Carl Crosier and I spent our honeymoon in Kaua’i, and in fact went to church on the Sunday we were there in 1977.] You can also go to their website to find out more information about the project.

All Saints’ is the home to Kauai’s only remaining “true” pipe organ. This pipe organ is a unique feature of All Saints’ Church and an integral and popular part of our worship. Unfortunately age and the environment have taken their toll on the wood, metal and leather parts of the mechanism with the result that minor repairs are becoming a routine necessity and maintenance costs are rising. Many of the repairs have been “stop gap” measures which enable us to continue to use the organ but do not resolve the underlying major problems. Now it is in great need of rebuilding and updating.

The organ is an Austin Organ Company “Chorophone unit organ” Opus 1351. The original contract was signed April 25, 1925 and the organ was finished at the factory by October, 1925. The original cost was $3,400.00 and installation was completed by Ernst Gieseke. The organ is free-standing, is encased in a birch case and has four ranks (Diapason, Bourdon/Harmonic Flute, Viole and Dulciana). The organ’s pipe work was is organ was amended in 1982-1983 by Terrence Schoenstein.  All of the pipes in the organ were replaced at that time except for the lowest pedal notes of the Bourdon 16’.  The new pipes included a Spire Flute and it’s mate a Spire Flute Celeste, a new Principal (in place of the Diapason) and a 3 rank mixture.  Under the new scheme the organ has 6 ranks of pipes and reflected 1980’s interest in baroque music and a different approach to the sound of the organ.

Manuel Rosales, organbuilder

From the website: All Saints’ is grateful to be working with Rosales Pipe Organ Services, Inc. of Los Angeles, California. Manuel Rosales and his team bring an impressive background to this extraordinary project. Manuel has restored organs throughout the United States and is a leader in the preservation of historic organs; he is considered by his colleagues to be one of the best in the industry. Rosales Pipe Organ’s signature project is the world-renowned organ at the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles. The unusual and innovative façade of the Disney Hall organ was designed jointly by architect Frank O. Gehry and Manuel Rosales.

Shane Morris Wise

Shane Morris Wise, one of the Hawaii Chapter AGO members, and a former colleague of Manuel Rosales, is actively involved in the rebuilding effort of the organ. He is volunteering his time to serve as the Senior Project Manager and Organ Consultant for All Saints’. His leadership and expertise has and will be invaluable for the congregation moving forward with this project.

DONATIONS WELCOME!  If you would like to make a donation towards the organ fund, you may mail in a check payable to All Saints’ Church, P. O. Box 248, Kapa’a, HI  96746.  Please make a notation in the memo portion “Organ Fund”.  Mahalo! (You can donate online through this link.)

 

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Pipe organ birthday greetings

This video from my sister, Doris, is what greeted me when I opened up Facebook this morning. (Yes, it’s my birthday, and I’m going out to dinner three different nights this week!)

Of course, I recognized the organ right away from the preview picture—I didn’t need to play the video in order to confirm my hunch. It is the Hazel Wright organ (1982) at the former Crystal Cathedral, now called “Christ Cathedral,” by the Roman Catholics who purchased the building. After 30-some years of dust, heat and harsh sunlight, the organ was dismantled and shipped back to Padua, Italy, where it is undergoing restoration. It is scheduled to be returned to California late in 2018. The building will be rededicated in 2019.

In case you are wondering what the renovation of the building is all about, check out these articles:

Crystal Cathedral enters a new era as it transforms into Christ Cathedral

Take a virtual reality tour of Christ Cathedral’s new sanctuary

Changing course: Diocese works to trim price tag of renovating iconic Christ Cathedral

What is amazing is that the organist is Mark Thallender, who recorded this version of ‘Happy Birthday’ on “Hazel’s 30th birthday.” As some of you know, Mark was in a serious auto accident in 2003 where he lost his arm. He has continued to concertize and play the organ, and you can read his story here. [UPDATE: Mark told me this recording was taken without his knowledge. The video has garnered over 100,000 views!]

Carl Crosier and I went to an organ recital in this space, and it was SO LOUD (!) that we had to plug our ears with our fingers. Carl used to tell people that it was like being underneath a jet engine!

I also found this video with four different organists improvising on “Happy birthday” at Oberlinger Orgel in St. Joseph, Bonn-Beuel: Olivier Latry (Paris / Frankreich), Vincent Dubois (Soissons / Frankreich), Paolo Oreni (Italien) und Michael Bottenhorn.

Leave it to organists to be creative, right?!

 

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Another Sunday, another organ

Heissler organ at Waiokeola Congregational Church

This Sunday I’ll be filling in for organist Gloria Faltstrom at Waiokeola Congregational Church (UCC), across the street from Kahala Mall. Waiokeola is a Hawaiian phrase meaning “Water of Life.” The name reflects both the Hawaiian tradition of name giving as well as the positive characteristics of the Christian faith. The name is a fitting acknowledgement of the past with connotations of prosperity for the future.

As you look at the picture of the organ case above, doesn’t it remind you of a waterfall?

I believe this is the first time I’m going to substitute at Waiokeola, however, the Heissler organ is somewhat familiar to me, as my former organ student, Andrew Moore, (grandson of choirmaster emeritus Henry C. “Bud” Klein) grew up in that church before going to college. (He’s now a sophomore). Andrew and I had several lessons on that instrument before he played for church services. However, I still had a few challenges, namely…

As I’ve told you before, sometimes one of the most challenging things in going to a strange instrument is knowing how to turn the organ on! When I went to practice this morning, there was a key hanging from the left side of the console. As the secretary showed me, however, it’s not a matter of just turning the key, you also have to push the key in. I tried unsuccessfully to do this, and finally the secretary just turned it on for me.

The other challenge was getting light on the music desk. There was a switch located on the upper right corner of the console, but both the secretary and I tried and failed to get the light on. I emailed Gloria and she assured me that the secretary learned today how to turn on the light, which must have been sometime after my practice session. In the meantime, today was an unusually dark and gloomy day in Hawaii and so I struggled to see the music in the dark.

The instrument was built in Germany at the Heissler factory and installed in 1988. It has three divisions, 19 stops, 21 ranks and is unusual in that it has three manuals: one is the Great, another is the Swell, and the bottom manual is a coupling manual. (If you don’t understand this, it’s OK—it’s just organ talk!)

It was on my late husband Carl’s and my recommendation that organist Robert Poovey came to give the dedicatory organ recital. We had just heard him play at the Regional Convention the year before as the winner of the Regional Competition and he was just starting his career. He is now the organist at St. Paul’s in Rochester, NY, following a 12 year tenure at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in Atlanta. Wow, that’s a bunch of years ago! I notice that in a recent program, though, he performed at Indiana University four years ago, he still referenced the Hawaii concert in his bio!

I was talking with my friend, Jieun Newland, this afternoon, and she and I agreed it is much more pleasant “subbing” rather than having a regular church organ job. No more politics! When you finish playing the postlude, you are DONE!

 

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Ear candy

Scenes from last night’s concert: Half of the choir with the early brass ensemble

The other half of the choir with string orchestra on the opposite end of the church.

Last night, I went to the first of the two-concert series, Echoes and Refrains, and of course, I recognized a lot of people from my life before—when I was the organist at the Lutheran Church of Honolulu for 35 years. Of course, I go to the church four days a week to teach organ lessons so the building and organ are no stranger to me, but of course I don’t see all the parishioners like I used to.

Soloists Jeremy Wong, Rachel Lentz, Naomi Castro and Karol Nowicki. Anna Womack is nearby, playing the viola.

The concert began and ended with the choir divided in half on opposite sides of the church. The opening piece was W. B. Olds’ arrangement of Martin Luther’s A mighty fortress is our God and the concert ended with Heinrich Schütz’ Alleluja, lobet den Herren. Both pieces had that “ear candy” appeal, with many antiphonal and echo effects, both with solos and ensemble. Accompanied by the mellow sound of the cornetto and sackbut ensemble on one side of the church, playing off the string ensemble on the other end, the two choirs filled the room with warmth, one beautiful chord after another.

The rest of the concert featured smaller groups of instruments with vocal duets, plus Bach Cantata 38 Aus tiefer Not schrei ich zu dir. I was asked whether the choir had ever performed this before, and my answer was “I’ll have to look it up!” After getting home and consulting Carl Crosier’s detailed spreadsheet of the major choral works performed with their corresponding date, I can say with authority, “Yes, it was done on March 7, 2010!”

I think I especially enjoyed the duet pieces: Heinrich Schütz’ “Domine, labia mea aperies” with Karol Nowicki and Naomi Castro; and Johann Hermann Schein’s “Mach dich auf, werde licht, Zion” with soloists Georgine Stark and Eric Neuville.

By the way, for those of you who were not at the concert, you can view the program here. (Yes, quite a number of people complimented me on the layout of the program, and my response was “Yikes! I found two typos!”)

Tomorrow night’s Bach Cantata 80 Ein feste Burg was performed five times before: on October 13, 1984; October 28, 1984; October 26, 1986; October 15, 2000; and October 29, 2000. Hmmm, do you see a pattern here? All performances in October, of course, in celebration of the Reformation and Martin Luther’s most famous hymn.

After intermission, Linda Pearse, director of the visiting early brass ensemble, ¡Sacabuche!, welcomed the audience back to the second half, and rightly credited director Scott Fikse for doing the lion’s share of the work to pull these concerts together.

Hearing all this antiphonal music reminded me so much of our 2007 visit to the Kreuzkirche in Dresden, where Heinrich Schütz was the church musician for 55 years.

The Kreuzkirche in Dresden

Three years after that visit, I wrote this:

Carl and I visited the Kreuzkirche in Dresden, where Schütz was a church musician for 55 years. We marveled at the wonderful acoustical space with its many galleries, and could easily imagine why Schütz composed music for multiple choirs, located all over the building.

At intermission, a number of people came up to me to tell me they read this blog. Why, thank you! I have to admit, however, that I am presently involved in a HUGE non-musical project which is consuming most of my waking hours. When I’m not teaching organ, I’m absolutely glued to my computer, 8-10 hours a day, working on the 50th Class Reunion blog and website for my alma mater, Burbank High School. We sent out a “Save the Date” notice last week to my graduating class which had over 600 alumni, and I’ve been answering about 30-40 emails per day. When someone emails an RSVP, I scan their picture from the yearbook, in addition to engaging with many of them to write up “their story” for the blog. In case you’re interested to see what I’ve been up to, check out this link: burbankhigh1968.net. I have written 9 posts just in the last week for this blog! Egad!

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Young organists ROCK!

Sophia will be playing the postlude.

Raphael will play during communion.

This Sunday, two of my young organists will be playing during the 8:00 am service at the Lutheran Church of Honolulu. Both of them are younger than when I started the organ—I started at age thirteen, so these kids and a bunch more of my students really have a leg up on me.

Dominic Pang

But just this week, when I sat down to read The American Organist magazine, I read about Dominic Pang, one of the youngest winners of the West Region American Guild of Organists AGO/Quimby Regional Competition for Young Organists. Here’s his bio as printed in the magazine:

Dominic Pang is a home-schooled ninth grader from San Jose, California. He studies piano with William Wellborn in San Francisco. He has studied organ and composition since 2015 with Angela Kraft Cross. Dominic performed the third movement of Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 1 with the Auburn Symphony when he was eleven. On Organ, Dominic received his Service Playing Certificate and substitutes at local churches. He also attended the Pipe Organ Encounter at Stanford University in 2016. Dominic received a scholarship to travel to France for organ study organized by the San Francisco Peninsula Organ Academy. Dominic is a Davidson Youth Scholar.

A few years ago, I sat with the judges panel at the Regional Competition so I know what fine playing Dominic probably competed against.

Photo of Dominic Fiacco in the Catholic Sun

I also read with interest about another Dominic, 11-year-old Dominic Fiacco, a remarkable organ student of Stephen Best, who was interviewed by Tom Maguire in The Catholic Sun, How can a kid do this?”

“He’s a well-kept secret,” his grandfather Joe Fiacco said, but, oh, how that is changing. Already, Dominic is known as the assistant organist who plays for as many as three Masses on weekends at St. Joseph-St. Patrick, where the chiseled depictions of saints come right out of the walls as if drawn to the music. Next year, Dominic will be the youngest organist to perform at Manhattan’s famed Cathedral Church of Saint John the Divine since the renovation of the Great Organ in 2008.

Dominic was eight when he started taking lessons from Best. “I was a little hesitant since I had never taught anyone that young and he wasn’t able to reach the pedals,” Best said, “but I agreed to give it a try, and the rest is history.

   “In 40+ years of teaching, I have worked with hundreds of students, many of whom have gone on to be conservatory-trained full-time musicians. But when it comes to sheer talent at so young an age, Dominic is clearly the most astounding.”

   Best said he keeps asking himself: “How can a kid do this?”

Here is a video of Dominic from YouTube:

These young organists ROCK!

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The most powerful organ sounds

The Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York City

One of the most thrilling emotions an organist can experience is playing on full organ — that is, playing with the loud stops drawn. You can be a very small person and can make a big sound with little effort, simply by pulling out the stops, playing a chord and holding on for dear life. There is a tremendous sense of power that you can feel which is unlike the playing of any other instrument—the “WOW” factor.

When the late Carl Crosier and I were in New York City in 1996 for the Centennial of the American Guild of Organists, one thing we experienced was standing underneath the horizontal trumpets (en chamade) at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine during a performance of Aaron Copland’s Fanfare for the Common Man. You can hear this piece in the video below with Bill Randolph, the assistant organist at the cathedral, showing off this amazing instrument’s big reed stops. including the world-famous State Trumpet. (Unfortunately, the sound is rather distorted as played on my computer speakers, but I guess that’s what you get when try to record such a loud sound). In fact, this recording was made from the choir area, 600 feet away!

Can you imagine how loud it was standing underneath these trumpet pipes! Yes, it was painfully loud. We tried to escape by ducking into the gift shop, and my ears were never the same again!

The Cathedral itself is the fifth largest Christian church in the world, with a length of 601 feet and height of 201 feet. It was designed in 1888 and construction began in 1892. It is sometimes called “St. John the Unfinished” because of the ongoing construction and restoration. There are altogether six pipe organs in the cathedral, the largest of which was built by Ernest M. Skinner in 1910, rebuilt and added to in 1954 by G. Donald Harrison.

On December 18, 2001 there was a massive five-alarm fire which destroyed the Cathedral gift shop and forced the removal and cleaning of the large pipe organ. It was then painstakingly restored by the firm of Quimby Pipe Organs.

On the church’s website you can read:

The Great Organ is widely considered to be the masterpiece of American pipe organ building and is an acclaimed national treasure. It is a four manual and pedal, seven division, electro-pneumatic action instrument of 151 ranks and 8,514 pipes. The Great Organ has several extraordinary features, including the world famous State Trumpet above the Cathedral’s West End, one of the most powerful organ stops in the world.

So, it is to no one’s surprise that former student, Joey Fala, is there playing a recital this weekend—Sunday, October 15 at 5:00 pm! Here is the description from the website:

Joey Fala’s concert at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine is Sunday, October 15 at 5:00 pm.

They still list him as from New Haven, CT, but he is now in Durham, NC as the Organ Scholar of Duke University.

Go, Joey! Wonder if he’ll play on the State Trumpets?!

 

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A sister organ

Felix Schoenstein organ at Hawai’i Baptist Academy chapel.

A couple of days ago, I met a new organ student at a location I had never been before: the chapel of Hawai‘i Baptist Academy’s elementary school. It turns out the organ was built by Felix Schoenstein, the same builder as the organ at Sacred Hearts Academy. What was amazing was that I was not only totally aware of the building itself, but also the pipe organ—especially since it is located only 5 minutes from where I live—and on the same street no less!

You may remember that when I visited Sacred Hearts Academy chapel a year ago last May, I was stunned to find such a beautiful building in Honolulu, and with a Felix Schoenstein organ. Go back and read my post “Baccalaureate time,” for history of the Schoenstein organ company.

Today it became clear. I found out from my student Elizabeth Wong that the reason that the two organs were by the same builder, and of the same vintage, was that the nuns who founded Sacred Hearts Academy had once owned the buildings which were sold to Hawai’i Baptist Academy.

Here’s a picture of the Hawai’i Baptist Academy chapel. The organ is located in the rear gallery.

Hawai’i Baptist Academy chapel (Elementary School)

The Felix Schoenstein console.

Sadly, both Felix Schoenstein organs are in disrepair. At Hawai’i Baptist Academy we found many dead notes in the pedal which will make it difficult to be a satisfactory practice instrument. Also one of the stop tabs was broken and was stuck in the “on” position, resulting in always having the 4′ sound on the Great manual. I understand that it has been years since this organ was used, and no wonder it is in such poor shape.

Nameplate on the organ

Andrew Druckenbrod, Post-Gazette Classical Music Critic in Pittsburgh wrote: “The pipe organ may be the most faithful parishioner a church has — never missing a single service. But it’s often taken for granted, and without annual maintenance and costly repairs, many of these grand old instruments [in Pittsburgh] have fallen into disrepair.

Add to the fact that there is a shortage of organists to play these instruments compounds the problem. What a pity!

 

 

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How many organists does it take to …?

Last night was the first meeting of this season’s Hawaii Chapter of the American Guild of Organists—it was the debut of our Orgelkids pipe organ kit. To refresh your memory on what Orgelkids is, I refer you to my previous post: Orgelkids coming to Hawaii!

The members of the board decided that we should try to put it together first before trying to show kids how to do it! (Good idea!)

But first things first! We feasted on five different kinds of pizza plus a caesar salad. Our Chapter Dean, Karl Bachman, made two kinds of brownies for dessert, called North Korea and South Korea—one had nuts and the other did not. You can figure out which kind most people liked!

Everyone was directed to the nearby restrooms to wash their hands afterwards and Karl even threatened us with an app on his phone which could scan for any grease!

There were three long tables set out with the many parts: frame, toeboard, pipes, wind supply, etc. We were told to divide up into groups of four to stand around each pile.  Then we were instructed to read the directions which were on laminated sheets. “The frame should only take a few minutes,” he said. (Hah!)

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It was intended that everyone would watch each group try to assemble its defined section, but of course, people did not listen and jumped right in. When we came to assembling it, sometimes the next group ended up undoing the work of the previous group! Like when our one child visitor had carefully arranged the keys in the right order, the next group got them all out of order when inserting them into the frame. Someone said, “This is like buying an organ from IKEA!”

Yikes, how many organists does it take to assemble Orgelkids?! Especially those who do not listen to instructions!

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It had taken us all of 50 minutes, but in the end, we put it together!  SUCCESS, as you can hear from these video clips.

The first performance of the finished kit, as demonstrated by Karl Bachman.

Then Jieun Newland improvises.

What fun!

 

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The Lamb “warhorse”

Rejoice in the Lamb

Lately my Sunday morning routine is to do my usual 2 mile walk, and then return home to watch a livestream of Evensong from Duke University Chapel where former student Joey Fala is the Organ Scholar.Today’s anthem was Benjamin Britten’s “Rejoice in the Lamb,” considered one of the “warhorses” of the choral repertoire and one with which I am very familiar.

I used to think “warhorse” was one of those Carl Crosier idioms, along with “chestnut,” but then I found it on the Internet, defined as “a music, theatrical, or literary work that has been heard or performed repeatedly.”

In fact, I performed the work on June 10, 1984; May 19, 1991, June 11, 2000 and May 4, 2003 with the Lutheran Church of Honolulu Choir. (Aren’t we glad that Carl Crosier kept meticulous records about such things!)

St. Matthew’s Northhampton which commissioned Britten’s “Rejoice in the Lamb”

Benjamin Britten wrote this 17-minute work in 1942 on a commission by St. Matthew’s Church of Northampton in celebration of its fiftieth anniversary. The text is by English poet Christopher Smart (1722-1771) who was thought to be a lunatic because he was in an asylum. What happened is that his father-in-law had him locked away for his religious beliefs, and then because he incurred a lot of debts and couldn’t pay, Smart went to debtors prison. What a way to treat a son-in-law!

Christopher Smart’s text speaks of all the ways one can praise and worship God by all beings, each in his own way. Most memorable to me (for a person who doesn’t pay attention to lyrics) is the section about his cat Jeoffry, who apparently lived with him in the St. Luke’s Hospital for Lunatics (now occupied by Argos and The Co-operative.)

In fact, I found a whole blog post about Smart’s cat Jeoffry, which you can read here. Here is an excerpt:

Art by Paul Bommer

Whenever I walk along Old St, I always think of the brilliant eighteenth century poet Christopher Smart who once resided here in St Luke’s Hospital for Lunatics, with only his cat Jeoffry for solace, on the spot where the Co-operative and Argos are today. So when artist Paul Bommer asked me to suggest a subject for an illustrated print, I had no hesitation in proposing Christopher Smart’s eulogy to his cat Jeoffry, the best description of the character of a cat that I know. And, to my amazement and delight, Paul has illustrated all eighty-nine lines, each one with an apposite feline image.

In an age when only aristocrats with private incomes were able to exist as poets, Christopher Smart was a superlative talent with small means who struggled to make his path through the world and his emotional behaviour became increasingly volatile as a result. He fell into debt whilst a student at Cambridge and, even though his literary talent was acknowledged with awards and scholarships, his delight in high jinks and theatrical performances did not find favour with the University. Once he married Anna Maria Canaan, Smart was unable to remain at Cambridge and came to London, seeking to make ends meet in the precarious realm of Grub St. His prolific literary career turned to pamphleteering and satire, publishing hundreds of works in a desperate attempt to keep his wife and two little daughters, Marianne and Elizabeth Ann.

… “For I Will Consider My Cat Jeoffry” was never printed in Smart’s day, it was first published in 1939 after being discovered in manuscript amongst Smart’s papers, and subsequently W.H. Auden gave a copy to Benjamin Britten who wrote a famous setting as part of a choral work entitled “Rejoice in the Lamb” in 1942.

Here’s the YouTube video of the Duke University’s performance of “Rejoice in the Lamb,” directed by Christopher Jacobson with Joey Fala playing the organ. (To watch a video of the entire service, click here). There are several camera shots of Joey at the organ console.

After watching the livestream, I texted Joey: “Absolutely LOVED Rejoice in the Lamb! That was a fantastic performance — really enjoyed the soprano who sang Jeffrey [sic] the cat.”

Even though it has been fourteen years (!) since I played “Rejoice in the Lamb,” I did remember that the organ part of “The Mouse” section was pretty challenging for me, to which Joey asked if I had played the piece on the Beckerath. (Of course!) He remarked, “I can’t imagine doing any of the stuff I’ve been playing on the Beckerath… The Aeolian is very forgiving and makes crescendoing very smooth.” On the other hand, when you play the Beckerath you are very exposed — like playing naked!

Esther Yoo conducts the Oahu Choral Society Chamber Choir.

By the way, last weekend I attended the Oahu Choral Society Chamber Choir’s fundraising concert at the Lutheran Church of Honolulu (a new venue for them). The program consisted of mostly solos and small ensembles from within the Chamber Choir, plus several large group numbers including the monumental motet, “Singet dem Herrn” by J. S. Bach. Their conductor is Esther Yoo.

Steven Severin

According to Carl Crosier’s list, the LCH Choir sang this motet on three separate occasions, on April 11, 1982; May 9, 1982; and September 10, 1995. I remember that when we first learned it in 1982, I thought it was the most difficult piece that the Carl had ever attempted to teach the choir. I am reminded of Carl’s oft-repeated remark, “Bach is not for amateurs!”

My organ student, Steven Severin, sang tenor in the choir and also played Dietrich Buxtehude’s “Prelude and Fugue in F Major, BuxWV145” on the organ. We worked out a colorful registration with many echo passages. He did a fantastic job!

With Esther Yoo.

After the concert, there was a catered reception in the courtyard, where this picture of Esther Yoo and myself was taken. I’ll be playing the organ for their Christmas concert at St. Andrew’s Cathedral in December.

 

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